Mountain biking is a quintessential Northwest sport. What’s better than working up a sweat, feeling some adrenaline pump and getting a little muddy at the same time – all while soaking up our beautiful landscapes with a little time in the good old outdoors? And it turns out that you don’t have to go very far to experience some great mountain biking trails. There are plenty of options right here in the South Sound.

Swan Creek Mountain Biking
At Swan Creek, you can try out freeride trails like Major Tom that offer advanced technical features. Photo credit: Matt Breuer

Swan Creek

The closest and most convenient spot for those in the Tacoma area is Swan Creek Park, offering the only mountain biking trails in the city. This 290-acre greenspace is an urban getaway with community gardens, hiking and biking trails, a stream and more. An entire section of the park is designated for mountain biking, with easy to advanced trail options (cross-country, freeride and more – all well-labeled) along with skill-building areas. Plus, the trails stand up well in the wet winter months, which is a huge upside when living in the Pacific Northwest. Native South Sound resident Matt Breuer says of the park, “Even though it is small, it’s really well-built and designed, and the trails flow nicely together. It’s awesome to be able to go mountain biking right in Tacoma.”

Getting there: Swan Creek Park is located in East Tacoma. The closest access to the mountain bike trails is at the parking lot on E 56th Street E off of Portland Avenue, but you can also park on E T Street near Lister Elementary school, or at 42nd and Roosevelt.

South Sound Mountain Biking
There are plenty of places to get out in the woods on two wheels around the South Sound. Photo credit: Matt Breuer

Fort Steilacoom

If you are newer to mountain biking or hoping to develop your skills, head to Fort Steilacoom Park, a 340-acre park in Lakewood. While many people head to this park for peaceful walks in the woods or around the lake, it’s also a great option for local, easy-to-access mountain biking – most suitable for a simpler ride or for training. With single track, wide and even trails, some big hills, and even a clearing in the woods with jumps and obstacles, you can get in a good workout.

Local Lakewood resident Bill Clark appreciates having this trail system practically in his back yard. “It’s a friendly, inviting space to go for about an hour and get in some good exercise. I like to head over there for a quick workout on my bike after work,” Clark says.

Check out this map to orient yourself to the area before heading out. The best mountain biking trails are located in the southeast portion of the park in the woods and in the northwest portion, but there are plenty of trails throughout the whole park to explore. And don’t forget take your eyes off the trail and look up once and a while. “There are some really spectacular viewpoints,” Clark adds.

Getting there: The main entrance to Fort Steilacoom is located at 8714 87th Avenue SW, Lakewood. You can also choose to park at the small lot at the corner of Angle Lane SW and 87th Avenue SW.

Black Diamond State Park
Experience some of the wonder of the Pacific Northwest, like this old tree in Black Diamond, on mountain biking trails around the South Sound. Photo credit: Bill Clark

Capitol Forest

Just outside of Olympia, this state forest has 166 miles of single track and 575 miles of gravel road, creating plenty of options when it comes to great rides. It’s one of the largest mountain biking spots in the region. You can plan anything from a short loop to a full, high-mileage day of riding at Capitol Forest. This Ride Guide and trail map can help you plan your trip. Friends of Capitol Forest helps maintain the trails; check out their Facebook page for work party dates and other info.

Getting there: Capitol Forest is just west of I-5, south of Olympia. There are several entrances, so check out this map to help you decide where to park. Since Capitol Forest is a state forest, you’ll need a Discover Pass to park at trailheads. Purchase one here before you head out.

Black Diamond

Just a short drive from the Tacoma area, you’ll find a ton of great mountain biking trails in Black Diamond. In Clark’s opinion, it’s a must-try. “Black Diamond is probably ones of the best go-to spots within an hour of Tacoma,” he says.

There are four different mountain biking areas here, all connected but each offering something unique. Be sure to explore Lake Sawyer, Henry’s Ridge, Summit Ridge, and BDOS. You’ll find lots of different terrain here, including free-ride and cross country opportunities and both man-made and natural features to test your skills. Plus, there’s a lot of great trail building and maintenance going on here, with new trails and features being added in constantly. “Every time I go out there, there always seems to be something new. It keeps getting better and better,” says Breuer.

Lake Sawyer
Features like this bridge make Lake Sawyer an exciting spot for local mountain biking adventures. Photo credit: Matt Breuer

Getting there: A central parking lot is located just off of Highway 169 to the east. Check out the maps for Summit Ridge, BDOS, Lake Sawyer, and Henry’s Ridge for more navigation information.

Banner Forest

Located on the Kitsap Peninsula, just a little over half an hour from downtown Tacoma, is Banner Forest Heritage Park. It’s a great choice if you want to get out of town to a more remote area without having to drive too far – you might even get the chance to see some horses or llamas while you are at it. There are mostly cross-country trails here, making up a maze of fun, twisty, flowy riding built specifically for mountain bikers. This trail map can help you navigate the park and plan your ride.

Getting there: Park off of Banner Road SE or off of Ollala Valley Road near a white gate. Signs are posted at both locations.

Check out Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance for more trails in Washington, along with information on local events like trail work parties, group rides, and more.

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