When someone asks you to create a list of the best spots you’ve ridden around the world that are accessible for most people, a conflict of interest arises within. Riding the trails, I feel, "These trails are amazing! I want to tell everyone about them," immediately followed by, "Do I really want to tell anyone about them?"

I don't want to upset trail bosses, worry about over-crowding a quiet spot or be the one to fuel trail legality issues. Since Vital isn’t a place full of derelict poachers, I figured I’d let you in on some places that are easier to get to than Sven’s 1K-frequent-flier-club destinations, but equally fulfilling. These are locations that I thought were pretty awesome, or are just places you should ride because, well, why not? - Nate Riffle

Presented by REI

1. Plattekill Bike Park,  Roxbury, New York

photo by Matt Delorme

I think this place has more of a cult following in my foggy memory bank, than it does actually in the real world. This happens to be the place where I was "lucky" enough to first try my hand at DH racing. Little did I know, until I got there and stumbled all over myself, that those would be some of the craziest trails that I would have ever ridden. They weren’t crazy because they were well built with big lines that required a tow-in, they were insane because they were raw, steep and composed of the shale make-up of the Catskills. They changed every run and that could be “not such good news for you” as some of my former work colleagues would say. It seemed more often than not a race run or practice run was a bit of dumb luck, making it down in one piece without taking a break on the side of the trail to practice your geology up close and personal.

​To boot we rode them on bikes that were much less equipped than the enduro bikes of today. I look forward to actually going back now on a modern bike to see if some of those monsters that haunted me (and I’m sure a few of you) still exist. Don’t let this turn you off. Plattekill and the Lower Hudson Valley area is worth visiting. Meet the locals and ride their amazing lifts and consider yourself "lucky", too

2. Graeagle, California

This place is most certainly not a disappointment. The biggest reason is because of the Sierra Buttes Stewardship. This group can build a trail. I went up there for the first time this year (thanks Sean Estes) and I can’t wait to go back, plain and simple. Graeagle is near the more-famed trails of Downieville, but this place is far better in my opinion. Mt. Elwell is like nothing I’ve ever ridden. It’s a pretty long ride that takes you up and around some of the most scenic alpine lakes in the Sierras and then you get one of the longest, most dynamic descents in the country. The ride starts in Alpine terrain and descends down into amazing, dark organic dirt with flowing and scary high-speed turns, before dropping into some Bend-style terrain to wrap up the 20+ minute descent. The whole thing takes the better part of the day, a lot of water and some calorie-rich snacks. When you’re done, you finish near the town of Graeagle and can stop at the local roadside burger joint. The shakes and fries make the already-good ride, even better. This I can promise. If you decide to make a weekend out of it you can kill two birds with one stone and ride the infamous Downieville “DH” pretty easily the next day.

3. Pemberton, British Columbia

Rider, Tobias Pantling. Photo by Todd Hellinga

About an hour past the booze, clinics and "love bugs" that Whistler has to offer is Pemberton, B.C. A small, sleepy town with not much going on but a bunch of cool people at the Bike Co., some amazing trails through town and not much farther up the road via helicopter. Pemberton can be a bit dry in the summertime, so plan accordingly, but the variety and accessibility that this bike-friendly town has to offer is a nice escape from the commercialization that is Whistler.

​I recommend saving some hard-earned pennies and treating yourself to the Mount Barbour Heli drop. The 10 mile, 6000ft descent is something that I still talk about. Pack a lunch and have it by the lake followed by some amazing (and possibly over-grown) descents that will keep you on your toes the whole time. If you say you have never had arm pump, I challenge you to ride this "loop" and report to me post-ride. It’s exposed, remote and you can’t ride like an lunatic to impress your crew. If you go down out there, only Bear Grylls could give you pointers to keep you alive, or you better a lot of friends to carry you and your bike out, right Clayton Wang?

4. Coast Gravity Park – Sechelt, British Columbia

I don’t know what can be said about Coast Gravity Park that hasn’t been said already. Clearly all of the edits that have come out of this place from big time riders should be enough to draw you in, but if that didn’t work, maybe this little blurb will. Dylan Dunkerton and Curtis Robinson aren’t just some of the most stylish guys on bikes, it turns out they can build trails, too. From a mellow line you can take your noob friends on to Flight Deck where you can try to do your best "Finn Iles", this place has everything. Keep in mind, you don’t need a DH bike to have a good time at Coast Gravity Park. Your trail bike will do you just fine on most of the trails here. I heard they are building even more trails in coming months to make the place bigger and better. The real bonus is that it will never be too crowded. Daily passes are limited so you won’t be standing in line for an hour working on your tan. A stop at Lucky’s Smokehouse is the best way to restore your empty gut after a day of ripping trails.

5. Lake Tahoe, California

I know, I know, Tahoe is not some exotic location that needs a Humvee or a helicopter to get access. I will say, however, that Lake Tahoe as a whole has a lot of variety... like lots of it. Northstar on the north side (shocker) for the all-day DH runs, the Flume Trail for a good group/family/noob experience with the bluest lake I’ve ever seen as a backdrop. Then on the South Lake side there are awesome pedal trails like Toads, Corral, Armstrong and a host more that are easily accessible and far too fun to be so easy to get to, fully legal and close to town. As an added bonus, there is an easter egg in this for the beer lovers - there is a restaurant in town that has Pliny on tap! That’ll be for you to hunt down, I can’t give everything away. Finally, let me be Captain Obvious and say don’t forget your swim gear and sunscreen, it is lake Tahoe after all.

6. Santa Cruz, California

​This is where I live, so don’t come here. Seriously.  These trails are second-to-none. Demo Forest has some really good trails for people of all skill levels and a new flow trail that is worth a ride; just bring your pedal legs, it’s grind to get out so be warned. Most of the trails at Demo are well worth the effort. Along with Demo are plenty of other trails near educational institutions to keep you occupied for days. If you're new to the area, do some homework and latch onto a local to show you the goods. I don’t know how I lived so close (in SoCal) for so many years and never made it here. It’s also the home to Verve Coffee and some legendary surf spots, like Steamer Lane.

There are so many places I’d add to "the list" because some aspect stood out - who I rode with or maybe the small things I look for in a good trail; multiple lines, a vista to crack a cold one, lakes, “that one turn” (which is probably a left, because I’m American). Almost every trail or locale has something unique that makes it memorable. There are so many good trails these days it’s really hard to pick a few. You might not like one or any of the places listed here, but for me there was something that stuck and made me think that you may want visit. Anytime I’m not behind my keyboard and I’m out riding it’s never a bad day. Round up your crew and some beverages and chase the brown pow. I challenge you to have a bad time on the trails.

Vital thanks Nate for this look into fun, accessible trails in our backyard. For more help finding your next adventure on two wheels, visit www.mtbproject.com for rides, maps and information.

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