- Nice variety of trails for a wide range of skill levels and preferences within an hour drive. Fast and flowy lowland areas, element parks, challenging “mountains” (well, they used to be really big mountains but they’ve shrunk with age a bit) with great climbs, fun downhills, and lots of challenging craggy rocks/boulders.
- Great MTB community with lots of volunteers that help build and maintain trails and elements, great bike shops, and friendly and outgoing online groups that make it easy to connect with fellow mountain biking enthusiasts.
- No massive downhills where you take a chairlift to the top. You have to earn your downhills here.
Best Mountain Biking Trails for Beginners
Quick Tip: Download the Trail Forks app before you go and it will track your progress and help you figure out where you are and how much further you’ve got to go.
1.) Cliff Cave – Beginner’s to mountain biking at Cliff Cave should probably start at the the Spring Valley trails. They are smooth, hard-pack dirt with not too much slope. A good place to get comfortable. But, to be honest, a bit bland. What really makes Cliff Cave a great place for beginners is it has nice options to step up just a bit to the next level. Once you are comfortable with the greens, you can have a LOT more fun on the blue (intermediate) Bluff View North trail. It’s got their banked turns, small jumps, and gradual hills but is still on the easier end of intermediate and a lot of fun. The dirt is still largely smooth and there are only a couple technical rock gardens that can easily be avoided. While at Cliff Cave, make sure to ride the paved trails to the overlook and down to the river. So much to see and enjoy. Learn more at GORC.
2.) Castlewood- Riverscene – This is where I introduced my kids to mountain biking (they were probably 6-10 at the time) and in retrospect, I still think that was a good choice. Take the main road (Kiefer Creek Rd) until it goes under the railroad tracks and then park in the first parking lot on the right. Then ride the River Scene trail loop starting on the other side of road from the parking lot. Smooth, flowy, great dips and bumps. Lots of fun and very scenic. My kids loved it immediately. Don’t worry too much about staying on “the trail” for the first part as there are a variety of fun offshoots and loops but they all end up going the same place. For some reason, TrailForks has this area as Blue (Intermediate) but that’s just silly, definitely beginner-friendly. My wife who DOES NOT mountain bike was very happy riding here. If it is hot out, cool off and relax at the beach after your ride. More info from GORC.
3.) Bangert Island – Smooth dirt, flat terrain, fast and flowy, with a few fun features (jumps and drops) to keep it interesting. Also, a nice view of the Missouri river. Only real issue is the sand can get deep on the trails that run close to the river. Learn more at GORC.
Best Intermediate mountain bike trails near St. Louis
1.) Bluffview/Zombie West – A nice mix of flow, technical, and fun elements. A favorite of many people I’ve talked to. Park at Bluff View Park in Glenco/Wildwood. Bluffview is at the low-end of intermediate for most of the trail but there are a few spots that are quite challenging that I have yet to master. But mostly, it is a smooth, fun, flowy trail. It’ll take you down to the Al Foster trail to meet up with Zombie West or the Rock Hollow trail. We recommend for first-timers here, heading up the Rock Hollow trail and then riding Zombie West counter-clockwise as it reduces the amount of climbing you have to do on Zombie.
On Zombie West, you are very aware that you are riding on the side of of a hill most the time. It’s be a rather steep uphill on your right and a rather steep downhill on your left for the majority of your ride. Occasional rock gardens and banked turns keep it all interesting. I find Zombie West to be right in the middle of the intermediate level and is perfect for my skill level. Challenging but still fun. Learn more at GORC
2.) Beulah at Greensfelder – A fun and challenging 4.3 mile single-track intermediate mountain bike trail with lots of technical rock gardens strewn among a hard pack dirt trail in Greensfelder County Park tucked in behind Six Flags St. Louis. A great place to develop your skills as a mountain biker as it has a nice mix of terrains that keep it fun and challenging. Read our full write-up.
3.) Bootlegger at Creve Coeur County park – I haven’t ridden this one yet but lots of people speak highly of it. Learn more at GORC
4.) Castlewood – The Mountain Ridge Connector and Grotpeter trails are lots of fun and solidly intermediate. They aren’t nearly as well maintained as some of the other trails in the area and sometimes there are spots with deep ruts but still some of my favorites. Mostly smooth hard-pack with more roots than rocks when their are slightly technical spots. Most the challenge here is the good long climbs and very fun downhills. Learn more at GORC
Great Places to Learn More
This page will be somewhat limited because there are so many great resources already. Definitely take a look at these:
- Gateway Off-Road Cycling (GORC) – This site gives a thorough description of all the trails in the area and provides ratings (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced) to help you find the trail that is right for you. It also lists the trails by area so it is easy to find ones that are close to you or in the area to which you are heading.
- STL Mountain Bikers Facebook Group – Great way to meet other mountain bikers in St. Louis, learn about area trails (and excursions to further away places), and buy and sell gear.
- TrailForks – Has maps, ratings of difficulty, current condition, lots of detail, and there’s also a great TrailsForks App for Android or Apple that helps for finding trails, learning trail conditions, tracking your progress along the trail in real time through GPS, and providing stats such as distance, average speed, feet climbed, and more as you ride through your phone’s GPS. I’ve found it hugely useful for seeing where I’ve been and ensuring I am where I think I am as I navigate a new trail. It even has gamification to help incentivize you and compare your stats to others.