Like that rowdy older brother who has broken-in the parents for the other siblings, the success of Free Lunch has already segued into another experts-only trail called Pucker Up, which challenges riders with bigger hits and fewer ride-arounds.
> Miles in network: 35 > Length of Free Lunch approval process: 5 years > Length of time to build: 3 weeks
Sandy Ridge Trail System, Sandy, Oregon
WHISTLER-INSPIRED TERRAIN—NO LIFT PASS REQUIRED
A 40-minute drive east of Portland, six miles outside the small town of Sandy, is a four-mile road climb you want to do. It's worth it, because it leads to the unconscionably fun Hide and Seek, built with the tender love of IMBA's Trail Solutions, many volunteers and the BLM, and with lots of input from IMBA maestro Jason Wells.
"It's all about minimal brakes, maximum pleasure and minimal pedaling on the descents," Wells says of Hide and Seek. "Once you learn the trail, your tires touch ground only on g-outs—just long enough to set up for the next air."
Wells has overseen much of the construction here, and last summer added the Three Thirty Eight trail, inspired by Whistler's A-Line. The trail kicks off with a five-foot rock drop that leads into a long, swooping series of waist-to-head-high berms interspersed with big tabletops and hip jumps.
The quality of these trails is over the top, and with a little pedal power riders can turn out laps at Sandy on par with any bike park. Plus, there's another eight-mile trail loop in the works, along with a second trailhead under construction, which will come complete with generous parking, covered public space, a bike wash and a pump track.
> Miles: 7 (8 more pending) > Percent machine-built: 80 >Cost to build: $250,000 > Unintended hazards to be watchful of: The mountain beaver, which likes to bore wheel-swallowing holes in these trails
Forks Area Trail System, Clark Hill, South Carolina
35 MILES OF DIRT SO ROCK-FREE, PERFECTLY ROLLING, AND DOUSED WITH BERMS THAT YOU BARELY HAVE TO PEDAL
The Forks Area Trail System—"FATS " for short—is a three-hour drive east of Atlanta, just across the Savannah River that separates Georgia from South Carolina. But in contrast to some of the terrain you'll find in the Smoky Mountains to the north, with 2,700 feet of climbing over the entire 35 miles of trails, FATS is proof that actual mountains aren't necessary for building Grade-A mountain bike trails.
The existence of all this buttery smooth singletrack proves something else, too: Persistence pays. Just ask Bill Victor, who lobbied the Forest Service for the better part of a decade before he finally got the go-ahead to start building. "Ten years of advocacy, and just seven months to build the first 25 miles," Victor says.
And these trails, with dips, rolls and banked contours, ride as fast as they were blazed; think of the system as one great big unfurled pump track, the signature of which might be the aptly named Brown Wave, a ribbon of dirt that flows so quickly you can rip along for nearly a half-hour, barely turning a pedal.
> Miles: 35 > Percent machine-built: 100 > Elevation: 190-625 ft. > Year completed: 2007 > Rocks: Practically zero