Sun Valley Singletrack, Idaho
The mountains surrounding the Sun Valley resort in Ketchum, Idaho, are so free of rocks and roots that riding here leaves many mountain bikers pondering whether the most apt description is "butter" or "velvet."
More than 700 miles of trails wind through dark subalpine forests and high desert pocked with sage and Indian paintbrush. Locals prefer Chocolate Gulch, Oregon Gulch, and Fox Creek. The sweet-sounding Chocolate-Fox loop may be the most popular ride here, but many first-timers are bewildered by the abundance of choices--or they simply get lost trying to navigate this maze of trails.
Western Spirit offers two trips that sample the best rides. The Backcountry Hot Springs trip travels relatively mild trails and finishes each day at a natural soaking spot. Its Sawtooth Singletrack tour, on the other hand, explores more daunting trails. The climbs are steep and the high-speed descents will challenge even seasoned riders. You'll need advanced skills and prodigious lungs--much of the riding takes place between 6,000 and 9,000 feet.
But on trails like Fisher Creek, one of America's best, hours of hard climbing lead to a 7-mile descent that screams through aspen groves and across fields bursting with purple lupine. There's even one scenic apex in Sawtooth National Forest where a sign reads, "Mountain Bikers: Long Descent Ahead." That's a new one: the federal government warning you of a good time.
Best time of year to go: July and August