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a winter mountain bike destination in the USA, Hurricane, Utah offers some great riding
Travel

5 Winter Mountain Bike Destinations in the USA: The Best Times to Visit!

It happens every year. What we hoped would be an endless season of riding suddenly turns into fall. We keep riding, trying to ignore what is inevitably on the horizon—winter. But those cold dark days loom large and for many of us in the northern hemisphere, our thoughts turn to escape. Even before the snow starts to fly and we hang up our mountain bikes for the season, we begin planning our liberation from our icy prison. Luckily there are a number of winter mountain bike destinations in the USA that can provide relief from winter’s frosty embrace.

But when is the best time to ride?

Many of these destinations are considered riding meccas and their names and locations are by no means secret. But how do you decide which one to choose? Each has its own merits when it comes to character, riding terrain, and amenities such as dining and nightlife. What you prefer in these instances is strictly a matter of personal opinion. There is, however, one thing we can probably all agree on when we’re looking to escape winter, and that’s climate. We want to go somewhere warm and dry. Not every winter destination is created equal; some still have some form of winter, even if it’s more abbreviated than the version we’re used to. 

You will be able to escape to one of these locations and know the weather will be on your side!

It can be time-consuming to search through temperature and precipitation reports and can even take some of the fun out of trip planning. So I’ve put together a list of five popular winter mountain bike destinations in the USA with a special emphasis on when to visit based on each location’s climate. Each one is different, so no matter what time of year you want to travel, you will be able to escape to one of these locations and know the weather will be on your side!

The winter MTB hot spots – so to speak!

In this article, we’ll be looking at the following five destinations:

    • Moab, UT
    • Hurricane, UT
    • Fruita, CO
    • Sedona, AZ
    • Tucson, AZ

These are some of the most popular winter mountain bike destinations in the USA and this list is by no means exhaustive. My intent with this article isn’t to tell you about secret locations or the next up-and-coming riding hub. Nor is it to list every possible winter riding destination. I’ve chosen these places because they all have well-developed mountain biking infrastructure such as food, lodging and trails. In addition, they offer a good range of climate variation that covers the entire winter season (in the northern hemisphere). This is important because when I travel to a place to escape winter, I only have a limited amount of time and I want to be sure that where I’m going will have nice warm, dry weather. Let’s take a look at how each of these destinations stack up!

Please note: Below, when I refer to winter, I mean November through April.

Moab, Utah

Moab needs no introduction. There are few, if any, winter mountain bike destinations in the USA that have more name recognition than Moab. It’s one of the most well-known mountain biking hot spots on the planet. Its history as one of the world’s most sought after mountain bike destinations is nearly as old as mountain biking itself. Moab is home to an endless variety of trails including classics such as the Slickrock Trail and Porcupine Rim. But Moab doesn’t just rely on its historical credentials. If you haven’t visited the area recently, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the amount of trail building that has been done as of late (and is still ongoing).

The Hymasa trail near Moab, Utah
The Hymasa/Captain Ahab loop is an example of the great new trails that have been built around Moab in recent years. (Luke Marshall/RideSphere)

The mountain biking industry in Moab is highly developed. If you’re visiting from out of town, you’ll be able to find everything you need, from mountain bike tours to a wide selection of bike shops and souvenirs. During the spring season, Moab is very busy with tourists. But because there are so many trails, they rarely feel crowded with mountain bikers. For more information on things to do around Moab, check out Discover Moab.

Also, for some suggestions on rides in the Moab area have a look at the RideSphere article, “3 of the Best Trails in Moab for Different Skill Levels”.

When to visit Moab!

Based on average winter temperatures and precipitation/snowfall (see tables below), it looks like the months of March and April would be your best bets. The daytime highs are pleasant, and the overnight lows remain above freezing. The precipitation is higher during these months than in other months but they are the only two that don’t have an average monthly snowfall. If I’m trying to escape cold and snow at home, I’m not interested in traveling to a place where snow might be an issue.

Apart from March and April, your next best bet would probably be November. There is a small amount of average snowfall that month, but chances are it wouldn’t be enough to affect riding. The daily high and low temperatures aren’t too bad either, but the nights are a bit cool, so a hotel may be preferable to camping at this time of year.

Moab average daily winter temperatures by month

MonthAverage Daily High Temperature (Farenheit/Celsius)Average Daily Low Temperature
(Farenheit/Celsius)
November56 / 13.330 / -1.3
December44 / 6.821 / -5.9
January43 / 6.320 / -6.8
February51 / 10.726 / -3.3
March63 / 17.335 / 1.4
April72 / 22.442 / 5.5

Moab average precipitation by month

MonthAverage Monthly Precipitation (inches/mm)Average Monthly Snowfall (inches/cm)
November0.75 / 191 / 2.5
December0.71 / 183 / 7.6
January0.63 / 161 / 2.5
February0.63 / 161 / 2.5
March0.83 / 210 / 0
April0.83 / 210 / 0

Hurricane, Utah

Hurricane is probably one of the lesser-known destinations on this list. It has come into its own more recently and is certainly worth checking out. Because Hurricane is newer to the scene, the mountain bike tourism industry is less developed than in more established locales. You won’t find the same selection of hotels, campgrounds and bike shops. But this isn’t to say that they don’t exist. Hurricane has everything a mountain biker needs and is missing the one thing they don’t: crowds! If you’re looking for a place to escape the throng of tourists that descend on places like Sedona and Moab, then Hurricane might just be for you.

mountain biking in Hurricane, Utah
Spring winds can be an issue in Hurricane, so I would suggest November as the best ‘winter’ month to visit the area. (Luke Marshall/RideSphere)

If that’s not enough, Hurricane is also close to two interesting, yet different attractions. One of them is Virgin, Utah, the small town that plays host to arguably the biggest event in freeride mountain biking, the Red Bull Rampage. It’s also only about a two-hour drive from Las Vegas, Nevada. So if you feel like having a day off the bike, you won’t be left wanting for things to do. For more information check out the City of Hurricane official website.

When to visit Hurricane!

At first glance, the winter riding season in Hurricane looks to be pretty similar to Moab. Average daily high and low temperatures are mild in November, March and April, and precipitation and snowfall amounts are minimal all winter long (see tables below). But as the name Hurricane suggests, temperature and precipitation don’t tell the whole story. I know from personal experience that spring can be a very windy time. Hurricane was given the name for a reason!

Personally, I didn’t find the wind to be much of an issue while riding, but it did start to get to me once the ride was over. It can wear a person down when you’re trying to relax at the end of the day and can make it difficult to cook outside on a barbecue. Now that you know about the wind, you may want to avoid March and April and visit in November when average daily high and low temperatures are pleasant. If spring is the only time you can travel, I wouldn’t avoid Hurricane. Just be aware that it could be very windy!

Hurricane average daily winter temperatures by month

MonthAverage Daily High Temperature (Farenheit/Celsius)Average Daily Low Temperature
(Farenheit/Celsius)
November64 / 17.537 / 2.8
December53 / 11.829 / -1.4
January54 / 12.330 / -0.9
February58 / 14.633 / 0.8
March66 / 1938 / 3.5
April74 / 23.544 / 6.6

Hurricane average precipitation by month

MonthAverage Monthly Precipitation (inches/mm)Average Monthly Snowfall (inches/cm)
November1.42 / 361 / 2.5
December1.61 / 411 / 2.5
January1.81 / 461 / 2.5
February1.97 / 501 / 2.5
March2.05 / 521 / 2.5
April1.3 / 330 / 0

Fruita, Colorado

Like Hurricane, Fruita is a great destination if you want to beat the crowds. It’s well known in the mountain bike community, but the town is small and uncrowded. And while it doesn’t attract the crowds that Moab does, it also doesn’t have the same volume of riding options. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The riding around Fruita is great! The terrain is varied and there are more than enough trails to keep visitors busy.

mountain biking near Fruita, Colorado
Of all the destinations on this list, Fruita is at the highest elevation. It also has one of the shortest ‘winter’ riding seasons. April would be your best bet for a visit! (Luke Marshall/RideSphere)

The town itself has everything a mountain biker needs: multiple bike shops, plenty of places to stay, and great restaurants. One of the highlights is a pizza place called the Red Tomato. If you’re looking for post-ride pizza and beer, you can’t go wrong there. For more information on places to stay and things to do in the Fruita area, check out Go Fruita.

When to visit Fruita!

During the depths of winter, temperatures in Fruita can get pretty cold (see tables below). Of the five destinations in this article it is at the highest elevation (1375m / 4511ft) so this may have some effect. Average overnight lows in Fruita are below freezing from November through March. With this in mind, I would suggest April is the best month to visit the area. If an April visit isn’t in the cards, your next best bet would be March. The daytime highs and overnight lows are cooler than April, but they are a few degrees warmer than in February.

There is no data available for average monthly snowfall amounts in Fruita (see table below), but precipitation in general is fairly consistent throughout the November to April period. As such, precipitation shouldn’t have much of a bearing on determining the best time to visit. For reference, the lowest average monthly precipitation is in February and the highest is in March (although not by much).

Fruita average daily winter temperatures by month

MonthAverage Daily High Temperature (Farenheit/Celsius)Average Daily Low Temperature
(Farenheit/Celsius)
November53 / 11.423 / -5.1
December41 / 4.915 / -9.7
January37 / 312 / -11.3
February46 / 7.818 / -7.6
March57 / 13.827 / -2.8
April65 / 18.333 / 0.7

Fruita average precipitation by month

MonthAverage Monthly Precipitation (inches/mm)Average Monthly Snowfall (inches/cm)
November0.75 / 19NO DATA
December0.67 / 17NO DATA
January0.67 / 17NO DATA
February0.55 / 14NO DATA
March0.94 / 24NO DATA
April0.79 / 20NO DATA

Sedona, Arizona

This article covers some of the best MTB destinations in the USA. So it’s not a small thing to say that Sedona may just have the most to offer of them all. But it’s true. Sedona is one of the oldest and best-known mountain biking destinations on the list and offers a comparatively long winter riding season. In addition, it has a vast array of amenities catering to mountain bikers. And, as a medium-sized municipality, it retains some of the small-town charm while also offering great shopping, food and entertainment. If you’re a spiritual person, Sedona is also well-known in that regard for hosting spiritual retreats and other related activities.

Sedona is a place you can escape to right in the heart of winter.

If you’re looking for things to do off the bike, Sedona doesn’t disappoint either. For more information on things to do, check out visitsedona.com

When to visit Sedona!

Up until this point, the winter getaways haven’t really been winter getaways at all. Sedona is different in that it has pleasant riding temperatures into February. As such, Sedona is a place you can escape to right in the heart of winter. This isn’t to say that February is the warmest month. Average daily highs and lows are warmer in November, March and April. And these would all be great times to visit, but if winter is getting you down and you’re looking to get away during one of the colder months, Sedona is a great option.

As far as precipitation goes, March is the wettest month and April is the driest (see table below). February falls into the upper mid-range for average monthly precipitation. It is worth noting that Sedona has the highest average precipitation over the November through April period of the five destinations.

Sedona average daily winter temperatures by month

MonthAverage Daily High Temperature (Farenheit/Celsius)Average Daily Low Temperature
(Farenheit/Celsius)
November64 / 17.936 / 2.4
December57 / 13.731 / -0.7
January56 / 13.631 / -0.8
February61 / 15.933 / 0.7
March65 / 18.437 / 2.7
April73 / 2342 / 5.5

Sedona average precipitation by month

MonthAverage Monthly Precipitation (inches/mm)Average Monthly Snowfall (inches/cm)
November1.38 / 35NO DATA
December1.5 / 38NO DATA
January2.09 / 53NO DATA
February2.17 / 55NO DATA
March2.48 / 63NO DATA
April1.14 / 29NO DATA

Tucson, Arizona

With a metro area population of almost one million people, Tucson is by far the biggest municipality described in this article. This means you don’t have the small-town charm and character of the other locales, but you gain some things in return. For example, Tucson has a much larger selection of restaurants, bars and other nightlife. And, in addition to all the amenities a mountain biker would need, Tucson also has a large selection of other places to shop for clothes, souvenirs, etc. If you’re traveling by air, Tucson will also have more flight options for you to choose from.

a view from Mt. Lemmon, near Tucson, Arizona. Tucson might be one of the most versatile winter mountain bike destinations in the USA.
In addition to a world-class road climb, Mt. Lemmon (near Tucson) is also home to great mountain biking. (Luke Marshall/RideSphere)

In addition to being one of the most popular winter mountain bike destinations in the USA, Tucson is also known for its road cycling. If this is your cup of tea then bring your road bike along for the trip. Mount Lemmon offers one of the longest road climbs in North America. On it, you climb from the desert up into evergreen forest and, depending on the time of year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see snow at the top. For more information on things to do in Tucson check out the Visit Tucson website.

When to visit Tucson!

Of the five destinations we talk about here, Tucson is the lowest in elevation (2648ft / 807m) and the farthest south. It’s no surprise then that it is also the warmest. All of the months from November through April have pleasant daytime highs and overnight lows. January is the coolest month and April is the warmest. That’s for both daytime highs and overnight lows. If you come from a cooler climate and you have an aversion to very warm temperatures, you may want to avoid visiting in April as that’s when the daytime highs really start to pick up. What makes Tucson unique in this list is that it is the only destination with mild temperatures in December and January, so if you’re looking for a holiday season getaway, give Tucson a try!

Precipitation in Tucson is lowest in November and April. All other months have fairly comparable levels of average monthly precipitation (see table below). Overall, precipitation is quite low and shouldn’t be an issue when it comes to riding.

Tucson average daily winter temperatures by month

MonthAverage Daily High Temperature (Farenheit/Celsius)Average Daily Low Temperature
(Farenheit/Celsius)
November74 / 23.248 / 8.8
December66 / 1942 / 5.6
January66 / 18.942 / 5.5
February70 / 21.145 / 7.1
March75 / 23.749 / 9.3
April82 / 2854 / 12.4

Tucson average precipitation by month

MonthAverage Monthly Precipitation (inches/mm)Average Monthly Snowfall (inches/cm)
November0.67 / 17NO DATA
December1.02 / 26NO DATA
January1.02 / 26NO DATA
February0.94 / 24NO DATA
March0.87 / 22NO DATA
April0.31 / 8NO DATA

The condensed version!

So here we are. We’ve discussed five great winter mountain bike destinations in the USA. They all have winter riding windows that overlap to some degree. Let’s narrow it down even further. Based on the discussion above, here are my recommendations for where to visit in each of the winter months:

November – Hurricane, Utah

December – Tucson, Arizona

January – Tucson, Arizona

February – Sedona, Arizona

March – Moab, Utah

April – Fruita, Colorado

Why not visit them all?

If you’re fortunate enough to be able to leave all of winter behind, why not visit all five destinations? Use the recommendations in the condensed version above to plan your trip. Spend November in Hurricane, then head down to Tucson for December and January and continue on to the next three destinations over the next three months. You’ll spend the winter months touring world-class trails and you’ll be back home in time for spring riding on your local trails!

All you need to do now is pick a date!

All of these winter mountain bike destinations are in the USA and they offer top-notch riding and cater to mountain bikers with amenities like hotels, restaurants, campgrounds and bike shops. It doesn’t matter which of the five you choose to visit— the riding will be good in all of them. Where they differ, is climate. If you’re planning to leave the cold weather at home and spend your hard-earned money to ride somewhere warm, you want to be sure the weather will be nice!

Start making plans to have some fun in the sun while the rest of us are at home dreaming of summer!

In this article, I’ve done the research and condensed my findings into an easily digestible format. My hope is that after just a few minutes of reading, you will be able to match a riding location with the timing of your winter escape—whenever that may be. The mountain bike destinations discussed here provide enough climate variation that at least one of them will have great riding weather every month between November and April. Now it’s up to you to decide when you will make your escape from winter and give one of them a try. Don’t let winter get you down. Start making plans to have some fun in the sun while the rest of us are at home dreaming of summer!

I’d love to hear from you!

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section below, or you can contact me directly from our Contact page.

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Sources:

https://www.usclimatedata.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tucson,_Arizona

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