Love mountain biking? There’s no better place to head out on two wheels than the great Yorkshire countryside.
Yorkshire was made for mountain biking. All its natural hallmarks are the mountain biker’s dream – we’re talking rough terrain, big hills and oodles of off-road routes. God’s own country couldn’t be more perfect whether you’re looking for short, easygoing routes to start on or all the thrills and spills of the most challenging trails in the region. So next time you’re getting the bikes out, these are the must-try rides you need to tick off.
Scar House Reservoir
Scar House Reservoir is one of the most popular places to go mountain biking in the Yorkshire Dales. It’s a testing off-road cycle route that starts in nearby Horsehouse. You can take on a series of good countryside tracks that lead both up and down steep hills as you weave between the villages. The terrain is tricky with sharp turns and stony tracks, particularly as you make your way along Scar House to Angram Reservoir and through the long stretches of woodland by Lul Beck.
Check out the Scar House Reservoir trails.
Dalby Forest is England’s largest MTB trail centre, it’s even hosted a Cross Country World Cup, so if you want a taste of professional mountain biking, get yourself over there. It has a huge selection of trails, the big one being a whopping 34-kilometre red route, which will test your stamina as much as your technical skills. If you’re looking for a more leisurely ride, there are over 50 miles of tracks in the forest which include easygoing green and blue routes. Most start from Low Dalby and take you up into the Ellerburn Valley where the twisting paths offer views of the picturesque North York Moors.
Check out the Dalby Forest trails.
If it’s good enough for Steve Peat, former Downhill UCI Mountain Bike World champion, to use as his training ground, you can bet that Wharncliffe Woods in Grenoside near Sheffield is good enough for the rest of us. It’s best known for its highly technical downhill runs across steep and rocky terrain, so the routes are more suited to intermediate and advanced mountain bikers. These are natural trails, which means they’re also used by walkers and runners, but they’re just as rewarding for mountain bikers with downhill runs full of technical features to make every visit worthwhile.
Check out the Wharncliffe Woods trails.
You can experience the wonders of Brontë Country on this rewarding 21.4-mile mountain bike trail across Oxenhope Moor. It starts with one of the greatest climbs in Yorkshire, as you make your way from Hebden Bridge to Oxenhope village on the A6033. Then, it’s time to go off-road and across the sweeping moors, along rocky bridleways and muddy trails. When you join The Brontë Way, you’ll enjoy the leg-burning climbs towards Ogden Water before you head back to the start. Get ready for a mixture of tough and easygoing terrain on the descent, with the dramatic scenery as your backdrop.
Check out the Oxenhope Moor trails.
One of Yorkshire’s famed Three Peaks, Pen-y-ghent is a must-visit for avid mountain bikers. The 30-kilometre route combines sensational Yorkshire Dales scenery with demanding yet doable trails. There are two significant ascents to reach a height of 670 metres, followed by a particularly satisfying descent that takes you down the shoulder of the mountain. Be careful though, the trail is mainly off-road with a mixture of rocky pathways and grassy moorland to tackle. If you’ve got enough time, you can extend your ride by heading over to Hull Pot, which is the largest natural hole in England.
Check out the Pen-y-ghent trails.
Leeds Urban Bike Park
Leeds Urban Bike Park is mountain bike heaven. There are four trails around the state-of-the-art complex in Middleton Park, with something for all ages and abilities. Take on the jumps and winding downhill runs of the Blue Trail or you can step it up on the Red Trail, which is packed with calf-crushing climbs, tricky descents and technical challenges. Want an adrenaline rush? The Black Trail has a trio of very steep descents and is reserved for the most experienced riders. If all that sounds a bit too much, you can always stick to their easygoing Green Route, which is designed to be a family-friendly trail.
Check out the Leeds Urban Bike Park trails.
The charming Yorkshire village of Arncliffe is surrounded by incredible countryside, perfect for a day of riding their MTB trails. There are loads of routes here, with something for all abilities, including the easygoing run through East Arncliffe Wood and the more testing climb to Arncliffe Cote. But the must-try trail is an 18.8-mile run nicknamed ‘Godspeed’ (and with good reason). It starts with a brake-testing descent before you join the tricky terrain of Long Lane which will take you past Hull Pot and into Horton-in-Ribblesdale, before a heavy-duty ascent back to the start.
Check out the Arncliffe Long Line Loop trails.
This 20-kilometre mountain bike trail is everything that’s great about riding in the Yorkshire Dales. Walled lanes, rock slabs, stony tracks and old clapper bridges – it’s a rider’s dream and the perfect introduction to the area. The route is easy to follow, as you leave the village of Clapham to tackle a series of cool tunnels that lead to a stretch of straight-forward riding along Thwaite Lane. You can enjoy incredible views in every direction before you take on narrow tracks and winding paths past Oxenber and through Wharfe Woods which leads you to a very manageable descent to finish.
Check out the Clapham Tunnel trails.
Nestled in the heart of Three Peaks country, Austwick is great for mountain biking. Whether you’re looking for fast, technical tracks or wide open fells, long swooping descents and lung-bursting climbs, you’re positively spoilt for choice. Gisburn Forest has loads of great single-track routes, but the must-try is the 37-kilometre ride that takes you down the slopes of Whernside and under the incredible Ribblehead Viaduct. Want to go all out? Take on an epic ride across Malham Moor and come back via Littondale – at 50-kilometres, you might as well make a day of it!
Check out the Austwick trails.
Swaledale and The Dales Bike Centre
Swaledale is one of the best places for mountain biking in the Yorkshire Dales. The picturesque scenery acts as the ideal backdrop to challenging trails that wrap around The Dales Bike Centre, a hub where you can refuel or even stay the night. But what should you do first? Try The Edge, a twisting 34-kilometre trail with an adrenaline-inducing final descent, or hit the technically-challenging Hurst and Gill route. If you’re feeling brave, there’s a 30-kilometre MTB Challenge Route, full of hard-going climbs, spectacular views and brilliant descents.
Check out the Swaledale and The Dales Bike Centre trails.
If it’s a classic mountain bike ride you’re after, head to Threshfield Moor. Also known as The Weets Loop, it’s 19.1 miles long, with a total climb of 1,625 feet, but that’s not what makes this special, oh no. This the whole package – endless drystone walls, rocky rubble tracks and wheel-swallowing bogs, they’re the hallmarks of a good day’s riding. The toughest climb leads you up to Weets Top, where you can join a smooth trail across the ride’s highest points, before you make your way to the end via a die-straight drop into the village of Hetton.
Check out the Threshfield Moor trails.
Stainburn Forest is a longtime favourite for mountain bikers in Yorkshire. Said to be the most technical trail centre in the UK, it has one of the country’s oldest pump tracks, and it’s just been upgraded, so if you haven’t been in a while, now’s the time to go back. There are four trails, all short but designed to be ridden time and time again. The 4-kilometre Warren Boulder Trail is the toughest of them all, known as ‘The Black’, it requires skill and control at speed. But fear not, because if you’re not at that level yet, The Descent Line, The Red Loop and The Norwood Edge will keep you busy while you work up to it.
Check out the Stainburn Forest trails.
If you’re looking for family-friendly mountain bike trails in Yorkshire, head to the Swinton Bivouac estate. There are 8 kilometres of off-road natural trails here and they’ll take you right through the picturesque Druid Woodland and across surrounding fields. If you’re an inexperienced mountain biker, the gentle green routes offer wide, flat tracks, but keep an eye out for the walkers who share the paths. Prefer gravity-defying thrills and spills? The black run is full of steep downhill descents with jumps and bridges – not one for the faint hearted!
Check out the Swinton Bivouac trails.
Mary Towneley Loop
Best suited to the hardiest of mountain bike riders, the 47-mile Mary Towneley Loop forms part of the Pennine Bridleway National Trail and is named after one of its biggest supporters. You’ll need a well serviced bike and plenty of spare brake pads as this ride takes full advantage of Yorkshire’s high, punchy hills. You’ll take on centuries-old packhorse trails and newer bridleways, crossing open moorland as you go. It’s the gradients and surface that makes this tough, but if you want just a taste, the track over Rooley Moor and Limersgate is perfect for beginners.
Check out the Mary Towneley Loop trails.
The Brimham Loop & Blast
Brimham is home to two of the best mountain bike trails in Yorkshire and they both start from Stif Cycles in Summerbridge. The Brimham Loop is a modest 11-mile ride that brings together off-road sections, quiet country roads and steep climbs. The highlight is a highly technical descent along a rough, stony bridleway in Smelthouses that leads you to the natural wonders of Brimham Rocks. If you prefer an all-out challenge, try The Brimham Blast. It’s an intense 9-mile ride, full of incredibly challenging uphill and downhill sections, largely on very rough bridleways that will leave a proper sting in your legs.
Although there are several unofficial mountain bike routes through Guisborough Woods, the only officially maintained one is the Guisborough Forest Blue Route. It’s just 4.5-miles long, but it’s perfect for beginner or moderate riders looking for a quick, technical blast on two wheels. You’ll take on steep ascents along forest roads with stunning views across the valleys and out to the North Sea, before making your way back downhill along fairly even bridleways. If you want more, the bridleways lead to longer loops that will take you up to Roseberry Topping and Great Ayton Quarry.
Check out the Guisborough Woods trails.
Not many people know that part of the Peak District is in Yorkshire, and even less know it’s one of the best areas for mountain biking. Gritty but fun, the rides here are a trademark of the Peaks. On this 17-mile route, you’ll start with a series of gradual climbs as you pass local landmarks like Blackmoorfoot Reservoir. Then it’s time to put your calves to work as you take on a rocky bridleway with a punishingly steep ascent all the way up to Wessenden Head. The terrain gets tricky, flitting between stony tracks and muddy trails, but it’s worth the challenge, especially when you reach the free-flowing descent back down to Meltham.
Check out the Meltham Moor trails.
Voted the ‘Finest View in England’ by Bike, Sutton Bank offers some of the best traffic-free cycling in England. There are five different mountain bike trails for you to choose from. If you’re a beginner or a moderate rider, have a go on the Cliff Trail, Drovers Trail and the two Fort Trails. Up for a challenge? The Paradise Trail is famous in mountain bike circles. This 17.5-mile route takes on rocky, twisting single tracks, combined with various natural but technical features. Its standout feature is the K2 Climb, the steepest section of the whole system, which you can tackle while riding through breathtaking scenery.
Check out the Sutton Bank trails.
The Settle Loop
At just under 10 miles, The Settle Loop is surprisingly short, but it certainly isn’t easy. This Dales mountain bike trail will push you to the limit. It starts with a very steep ascent and this really does set the tone for the entire ride. Get ready for quiet tracked roads, tough bridleways, limestone grassland and stony lanes. The most challenging part is the rocky ascent to Stockdale Lane, but the reward is arriving at the ride’s highest point near Malham Cove, which is full of beautiful exposed hills and limestone outcrops. It gets a bit easier on the way back down, with a fun, flowing track all the way into Settle.
Check out the Settle Loop trails.
If you’re looking for a short, sharp blast of pure, unadulterated MTB fun in Yorkshire, head to Rosedale Abbey. The trail here is only 2.8-miles long, but it’s utterly tantalising for experienced riders. It’s a route from the Abbey up to High Askew, lined all the way with tall bushes so it almost feels like you’re riding in a tunnel. You can put the pedal to the metal and ramp up your speed as you test your technical skills on a series of subtle twists and turns. It’s just as good in both directions, so once you’ve reached the end, you can turn around and do it all over again!
Check out the Rosedale Abbey trails.
Whether you’re a beginner or just want to ride on a series of easygoing MTB trails in Yorkshire, make a beeline for Bolton Abbey. Right on the edge of the Dales, it offers long, straightforward loops in the heart of God’s own country. There are two must-try routes. You can head north from the Abbey to try the calf-stretching trails up to the villages of Burnsall and Appletreewick before enjoying the steep descent along the side of the River Wharfe. Or cycle east from the Abbey and you can test your technical skills on the tough terrain across Embsay Moor on the way to Weets Top.
Check out the Bolton Abbey trails.