The new rides offer remote singletrack riding and a ‘true backcountry riding experience.’
Looking for a place to escape the urban grind, experience nature, and rip switchbacks under two wheels? You’re in luck – for years, the International Mountain Bike Association has compiled a list of such places. The EPICS represent rides the IMBA believes epitomize backcountry immersion and “should be on every mountain biker’s bucket list.”
And this month, the nonprofit announced nine new routes inducted into the EPICS pantheon. These rides span the globe, provide at least 80 percent singletrack, and stretch a minimum of 20 miles each.
IMBA 2017 EPICS MTB Trails
From a 24-mile dash through the Alaskan wilderness to a 50-mile “ghost road” in the New Zealand highlands, there’s a lot of variety in this year’s class.
The IMBA uses rider suggestions and regional MTB groups to vet EPICS candidates. Though IMBA’s judging is ultimately qualitative, it only considers rides that meet six criteria:
- Mostly singletrack trail experience in a natural setting
- True backcountry riding experience in remote settings
- Technically and physically challenging
- More than 80 percent singletrack
- At least 20 miles in length
- Mapped on mtbproject.com or other online mapping source
With that, here are this year’s EPICS inductees!
Aspen Snowmass Mega Loop – Aspen, Colo.
Despite beginning and ending in the populous town of Aspen, this ride meanders into backcountry stillness. Riders climb more than 2,000 feet to an elevation over 10,000 feet – so keep your lungs healthy.
Galena Grinder – Sun Valley, Idaho
Enjoy 3,000 feet of climb on this marathon-length loop. This trail won recognition after the Blaine County Recreation District worked to improve it three years ago. This year’s induction comes just in time, as 2018 marks the 30-year anniversary of the Galena Grinder.
Heaphy Track – Nelson, New Zealand
Dubbed “the most scenic backcountry ride in New Zealand” by the MTB Project, the Heaphy Track offers six huts for overnight stays. Riders can tackle the forest-to-coastline trek in either direction, but it’s only open May–November.
Johnson Pass – Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
Mind off-leash dogs, downed trees, and water crossings along this true backcountry Alaskan ride. This ride typically lasts 4–6 hours, but two lakes offer respite and views.
Mohican State Park MTB Trail – Loudonville, Ohio
Steep, sustained climbs followed by rock gardens and pump-track weed out most beginners on this 25.2-mile course, Ohio’s longest singletrack.
Old Ghost Road – Nelson, New Zealand
With a name like Old Ghost Road and drop-offs known as the “Suicide Slips,” your first instinct might be to pass on this ride. But this 50-mile trek offers real backcountry immersion with “no civilization within miles of this trail,” according to the IMBA.
Sininen Saavutus Trail – Hossa National Park, Finland
This 31-mile jaunt through the Finland wilds is rideable for just about any skill level. Bears, reindeer, and elk are just some of the wildlife you might encounter along the way. See the trail map here.
South Boundary Trail 164 – Taos, N.M.
The ride will take all day, but it’s mostly technical downhill skill. This 21-mile ride ascends 1,600 feet but descends more than 4,300 feet.
Tsali Loops – Bryson City, N.C.
Four loops and 42 miles of singletrack offer multi-day adventure – and variable challenges. IMBA calls the rides “fast and flowy,” with loop distance marking degree of difficulty. Expect most rides to last about two hours.