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IMBA and the National Park Service

IMBA and the National Park Service

Mountain Biking In Our National Parks

IMBA and the NPS first signed a formal partnership agreement in 2005, and this step was instrumental in bringing mountain biking to our National Parks. Prior to 2010, off-road riding wasn't permitted in these iconic locations, but as the two organizations worked together, opportunities developed across the country.  

In 2012, the National Park Service announced changes designed to expand access. “Bikes are a great way to exercise, get healthy, and experience the great outdoors,” said NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis at that time. “This new rule gives park superintendents greater flexibility to determine where bikes can be allowed in a park and additional authority to shut areas where cycling is jeopardizing visitors or park resources.” The 2012 rule was another step forward in that relationship, providing park staff with a more streamlined administrative process and localized decision making about where the best opportunities for mountain biking exist. 

Over the years, the partnership yielded countless hours of volunteerism, enhanced opportunities for youth involvement and new shared-use trails that seamlessly blend with the character of our nation’s parks.  

Some highlights include:

Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, where IMBA Chapter the Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association teamed up with the conservancy group for the park to raise money for ongoing singletrack development. The East Rim trail is currently two miles long, with the next segment of five miles nearly complete. The planned route will measure 10 miles and connect to several other local trails outside the park. There are already several other multi-use paths and trails open in the park to use for longer rides. 

New River Gorge National River in West Virginia, where about 15 miles of singletrack are open to mountain bikes. This park has the benefit of being easily accessed from several metropolitan areas, and visitors can enjoy other activities there, such as epic white-water rafting.

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in Kentucky and Tennessee has 24 miles of trails, several of which have been designed, built and maintained by the Big South Fork Bike Club as bicycle-only. In addition, there are dozens more miles of hiking and horse trails open to bikes. The park welcomes riders and promotes mountain biking as one of its prime attractions.

In the past, IMBA and the NPS have teamed up with Trips for Kids, a nonprofit organization that has been helping disadvantaged youth discover mountain biking since 1988. Many Trips for Kids chapters organized events in their local parks, doing service projects and enjoying the trails. Others organized their Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day events at a nearby National Park. 

IMBA Trail Solutions assisted several parks with trail design and layout, building, and hosting trail schools. Another former IMBA program, the Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew, visited many parks over the years to help with trail education and partnerships with local organizations. 

There are more than 40 NPS properties that allow mountain biking on dirt roads and trails. Some groups have questioned whether mountain biking is compatible with the NPS’ conservation values, but current research shows that the impacts of mountain biking are similar to those caused by hiking. Studies indicate that when it comes to trails, the major issue is not the type of user but the way the trail is designed and built.

About the project lead
Image Aaron Clark

Aaron is a gearhead by birth and dropper-post lovin' weight-weenie by choice. Having discovered a lifelong love for all things bikes back in Detroit in the early 90's (aboard his fully rigid, budget-minded Nishiki Crossroads, no less) he began racing his bike all over the Michigan woods. This…

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