North American Bike Park Review Tour
MAMMOTH BIKE PARK
Los Angles is better know as a concrete jungle than a MTB destination, but thankfully its residents are spoiled for choices if they’re willing to brave a road trip. The Sierra Mountains lie just 5.5 hours north of LA and make for a veritable playground to anyone looking for outdoors fun. Whether it’s fishing on the Owen’s river, soaking in natural hot springs and lakes, enjoying fine dining, or riding some top notch MTB trails there’s plenty to keep you busy. Especially if you set your destination to Mammoth Mountain.
The area is one of the best West Coast ski areas during the winter, and each summer it transforms into a bike park that was the first in North America to allow eMTB access to the entire park. Mammoth is also the closest full amenities resort to Los Angeles, with a massive selection of trails, restaurants and things to do. Of course that’s what all the pamphlets say too, so let’s dig in and see if this place is actually as cool as it’s cracked up to be.
Mammoth has a massive and incredibly diverse trail selection. Whether you’re a first time mountain biker or a seasoned pro racing the world cup, you’ll find terrain catered to your skills. In fact, there’s only a few parks we’ve visited that have such a well rounded trail network.
For beginner riders, Mammoth dedicated the entire Discovery chair to terrain that encourages gentile progression. It’s so well rounded that there are even trail options for riders who are just getting used to riding on dirt. From there, they can progress in the small skills area, or step it up to the other green trails in the zone that have slightly more built up features. The best part is that beginner riders can buy tickets exclusively for this zone that are cheaper than the rest of the park. Mammoth also offers a full demo fleet of bikes and lessons. If pedaling isn’t your thing at 11,500 feet of elevation, they also have e-bikes that are permitted to go anywhere on the mountain.
At 3,500 acres with over 80 miles of trail, there’s also lots to ride for non-beginners. For more advanced riders, there is a plethora of options from physically taxing XC trails to world class technical terrain on trails like Velociraptor, which was laid out by none other than Aaron Gwin himself. Mammoth’s terrain is highly unique, and makes the riding experience unlike anything else we’ve been to. A volcanic mountain that’s turned to granite, the area has lots of granite slabs, rock, and loose decomposed granite as a base soil. You won’t find any loam here.
Instead, you’ll be surfing and sliding around on decomposed granite the locals refer to as “kitty litter.” It’s about as perfect of a describer as one could pick to explain the soil type in this bike park. While it takes some getting used to, it’s makes for a fantastic time as you slide around and kick up massive roosts. On technical trails, the contrast between the hard granite slabs and embedded rock and the loose soil around it makes for a challenging and very fun time. Corners will sometimes have kitty litter that’s a foot deep in them, which is one of the funnest parts of riding in Mammoth. If you ride here, your foot out skills will definitely get a good sharpening!
It’s easy to see how Mammoth would be home to some proper technical trails, especially when you consider that the summit is at 11,500 feet, which is several thousand feet above the elevation of the town and gondola below. You can get in some seriously long laps in this park, especially if you work your way to the back side by Red’s lake. One of the must hit trails is Kamikaze, which has played host to lots of early MTB racing history.
When it comes to built features and jump trails, Mammoth struggles with construction and maintenance because of the loose, kitty litter soil they have. While they do their absolute best by using pavers on corners and lots of wood, it’s still not an easy task. Mammoth has done the best they can to make their jump trails worth riding however, with a solid progression in feature size and difficulty. Despite that, many of our favorite jumps were actually located on the tech trails since there’s ample natural gaps, drops and technical lines that involve some air time. The drop on Flow is also a stand out. It’s a drop that can either be sent small or absolutely massive depending on your commitment. The jump trail Pipeline is also a stand out, with a massive wooden shark fin that’s a blast to ride.
If you’re bringing an e-bike to Mammoth, you not only have full access to the bike park trails, but also have the ability to ride the uphill climbing trails. In a bike park this large and spread out, an e-bike actually makes a logical choice since it lets you easily explore many of the outer trails that are typically out of the normal list of options for pedal bikes.