These are some of the best mountain bike descents the UK has to offer, from technical to flowing, rocky to rooty, beginner to expert, and everything in between.
Love the rush of gravity when you ride? These descents are a selection of the best the UK has to offer, covering iconic locations, and everything from natural and techy gnar to fast, flowing and fun. All you need to do is make sure you have the best mountain bike for the job!
For most riders, descents are the reason we ride. A climb can be satisfying, but it’s when the bike starts pointing downhill that the fun really starts. The sound of a freehub clicking faster, the rush of air on your face (the Germans call this ‘fahrtwind’…) and the feeling of gravity doing its best to pull you back down the hill – it’s addictive.
There’s a bit more to it than that though. How the trail uses that elevation drop, the terrain, turns, technical sections and features all come into play in creating a great mountain bike descent.
The rush of air on your face (the Germans call this ‘fahrtwind’…)
For that reason, putting together a list of the UK’s best descents is no mean feat. For a start we’re spoiled for choice. From old mountain tracks that predate bicycles to up-to-the-minute purpose-built trails designed for modern bikes and riding styles, the UK is pretty well served for downhills. Not bad going for a relatively flat little island.
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What constitutes best anyway, and how do we sort the best trails from the merely good? Within the MBR extended family we have a wide range of riding styles and equally wide preferences in terms of what we ride. From loam-loving flow-riders to rough and rocky tech-heads, we’ve got all bases covered.
The best singletrack descent in Scotland? Quite possibly.
Our criteria for defining the best descents was that they had to leave you buzzing by the end. That feeling of elation and excitement that comes from either going flat out, feeling in the zone and at one with the bike and the trail, or that sense of accomplishment you get from clearing a gnarly section. Talking amongst ourselves revealed some definite favourites as well as some more obscure choices, but all matched our criteria in one way or the other.
So, whatever kind of descent gets your adrenaline glands pumping, we’re sure there’ll be something for you in this list of the UK’s best descents.
1. Snowdon – Ranger Path
Wales’ highest mountain is, unsurprisingly, home to several of its best descents. We’ve picked out the Ranger Path descent as our favourite as it manages to pack in everything you want from a proper mountain trail.
It’s got rocky technical sections that require commitment and precision line choices, flat-out sections that demand handling skills and bravery, and views that deserve a photo. It’s the complete package, and regardless of what the weather’s doing (usually raining), it never stops being fun.
2. The Highlands – Fort William DH Track
One of the most prestigious and storied tracks on the World Cup Downhill race circuit, Nevis Range is a lot of fun even if you’re not racing against the clock. With a gondola ride up to the top it feels like a real occasion, and the track itself doesn’t disappoint. Long, brutal and demanding of bike and rider, it’s everything you’d hope it will be.
And – arm pump allowing – you can ride it again and again until you get your lines dialled in. For reference, this year’s fastest time at the Fort William World Cup was four minutes and thirty seven seconds. Something to aim for anyway.
3. Shropshire – Long Mynd
A great descent isn’t just about how much elevation it drops but how it delivers it. The Minton Batch bridleway descent may not be the longest or the steepest but it metes out its height so perfectly you’d swear it had been designed for mountain bikes.
The singletrack trail requires full concentration to avoid a tumble down the hill but if there’s a trail that will help you find that zen-like flow state where everything just seems to happen automatically, it’s this one.
4. Sheffield – Steel City DH
The freshly renovated Steel City DH track in Grenoside Woods on the outskirts of Sheffield is in contention for the most beautifully built trail in the UK, as well as the most fun. Built by a team of trail builders who shape dirt for the likes of Josh Bryceland and Brandon Semenuk, it’s a rollercoaster ride, full of jumps, bumps and berms that require nothing more than good pumping technique to get the most out of.
The gradient may be mellow, but the speed and thrills are anything but.
5. The Lake District – Warnscale
Often ridden as part of the infamous Four Passes ride, Warnscale is one of the most impressive descents in the Lake District.
Starting high up amongst the spoil heaps and old workings of Honister slate mine with a view down towards Buttermere, the trail requires a mix of maximum concentration – to pick out a smooth line – and brute strength to wrestle your way through the chunkier rock sections. There’s little let up until you’re right at the bottom, but this beautiful beast of a trail is everything you want and expect from a Lakeland descent.
6. Innerleithen – New York, New York
The hills around the Scottish Border’s town of Innerleithen are crammed with stunning trails, so whatever kind of descent tickles your fancy, there’s something to please.
New York, New York is the easiest trail to recommend though, as however you like your trails you’ll get something out of it. From the open berms at the top, to the tight and technical ruts and roots in the trees, this is a trail that sums up all that’s good about the fabled Golfie hillside and the trail builders who maintain it. So good they named it twice.
7. BikePark Wales – Wibbly-Wobbly into Rim Dinger into Insufficient Funds
Putting together a combination of trails to get you from the top of the hill back to the uplift van is part of the fun of riding at BikePark Wales. This trail combo is one of our faves though.
Why? Well, the outright speed of Wibbly-Wobbly, the absolute carnage of rocks that is Rim Dinger, and the jumps and feel-good flow of Insufficient Funds combine to make for maximum fun in a variety of ways. In a professional capacity, it also makes for the perfect bike test loop with everything needed to put a bike through the wringer. If you see us on any of these three trails, we’re probably working. Honest.
8. Risca Bike Park – Busy Lizzie
Risca and CwmCarn have a long history of downhill tracks. Busy Lizzie has elements of an old-school downhill course but with a new-school trail bike twist – and there are plenty of twists.
This trail is all about the corners and with more turns than you can shake a handlebar at, it’ll have you exploring the furthest edges of traction and your tyres. This singletrack trail isn’t all hip-swinging corners though. Steep sections, drops and loose rocks – sometimes all at once – keep you on your toes.
9. Revolution Bike Park – Vision Line
Revolution Bike Park is filled with incredible trails, but Vision Line is something truly special. With a road gap, on-and-off jumps, and landings that could constitute downhills in themselves airtime is not only mandatory, it’s the entire point. This means it’s not for the faint of heart or crap of jumping, that’s for sure, but it really is, well, visionary.
By building a track that is all about big and beautiful jumps, Revs has created a trail that aesthetically looks incredible, and seeing riders who can make the most of the jumps only makes it look better.
10. Quantocks – Smith’s Combe
Short, sweet and you’ll get wet feet. The Quantocks delivers some of the UK’s finest downhill singletrack in a bite-size portion.
Starting smooth and grassy at the top it then gets steeper before adding in rocks and roots before becoming a slice of prime heather-bordered singletrack and sending you through the stream that runs the length of the combe. If there was a trail we really wish was longer it would be this one, but if you find yourself wanting more, the pedal back up for another go is worth the effort.
11. Forest of Dean – Sheepskull into Ski Run
The expansive trail network that runs through the Forest of Dean means that riders have multiple options when it comes to finding their way down the hill.
Sheepskull is rough and rooty with flat turns and small jumps, picking the right line and staying smooth is vital to keep momentum up. It’s the perfect warm up for what comes next. Ski Run is one of the forests’ original downhill tracks, so you know it’s going to be good. It amps up the speed as well as the root and rock factor, but offers a few lines to choose from. Huge fun, even in the wet.
12. Ballater – Heartbreak Ridge
Heartbreak Ridge has stolen many hearts over the years. The Aberdeenshire landscape would be enough to make this a ride worth doing on its own, but the trail is stunning in its own right, too. Fast and open, it weaves through the heather hillside, granite crunching under tyre. That same granite provides the iconic slabs that Heartbreak Ridge has become best known for.
The best singletrack descent in Scotland? Quite possibly.
13. The Lake District – Stake Pass
Approach Stake Pass from the north and you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about. A relatively dull track and then a tedious climb don’t seem like they are going to offer up anything other than more of the same.
But reach the top of the pass and start the descent into Langdale and things get interesting quickly. A mixture of natural rock sections and paved sections that switchback down the side, the trail starts steep before gradually mellowing out. This doesn’t mean it gets easier though, just faster.
By the time you get to the bottom of the valley your arms and suspension will have had the kind of working over that only comes from a real mountain pass descent.
14. Kinlochleven – Ciaran path
The Ciaran path is a technical trail that takes in some of Scotland’s wilder places – which is saying something. This is not an easy descent, nor is it easily accessible, but if you’re up for a big day in the Highlands then it is hugely satisfying. As you might expect given the location, this is a trail that features rock in all its varieties. Loose, fine, large, solid, wet, slippy, dry, grippy.
There’s no easy going and there’s no easy way back, but for those willing to commit to the ride it’s also easily one of the best descents in the UK.
15. Glentress – Super G
Glentress is the UK’s most popular trail centre, for good reason. So how do you pick the best descent in a forest full of great trails? You pick the most rounded, likeable one, that’s how.
Red graded Super G is a well judged combination of all the feel-good bits of mountain biking in one trail. It coaxes you to stay off the brakes, push a bit harder, tuck in, try harder and let the speeds rise. And if you do, as with all the best built trails, it will look after you.
16. Dyfi Bike Park – Original DH
The original and still the best? In a bike park full of mega trails, Original DH still stands out thanks to the variety along the track. Other trails at Dyfi have more jumps, others more technical sections, but as a package ODH is still the OG.
Being a double black diamond graded descent it demands your respect, but delivers back the kind of thrills you’d expect from a track built by the most successful racing family in mountain biking.
17. The Lake District – Nan Bield
A sunken wiggling snake of a trail high on the Lakeland Fells, the top section of Nan Bield looks like it should flow all the way down to Kentmere Reservoir. And in places it does.
But it also has rock steps, ditches, ruts and all manner of obstacles to make sure you are well and truly earning those turns. The lower you go, the smoother things become and the faster you roll, so by the time you finish back down in Kentmere you’re grinning your face off.
18. The Highlands – Torridon
This has always been a superb trail but it was relatively unknown until a video starring one of the UK’s greatest downhill racers, Steve Peat, turned Torridon into one of Scotland’s must-do descents and pushed it into classic status.
Part of the appeal is just how remote it is – Torridon is a long way north, and the start of the descent requires plenty of effort to get to. But it’s worth it. The trail links together huge rock slabs that encourage you to pop, drop and carve across them but in all the excitement just watch out for the drainage ditches – they’ve claimed many a rim.
19. Elan Valley – Blue Trail
Some might look down their noses at anything less than a red graded trail, but often blue is best. The new blue trail in the Elan Valley is a case in point. A flowing, fun-filled trail from top to bottom.
The highlights are the huge berms that give you the confidence to stay off the brakes and pull some serious Gs, and whether you’re new to mountain biking or a seasoned pro, you will finish the trail with a grin. To top things off it’s only a short pedal up to the top for another go. It’d be rude not to.
20. Rogate B1kepark – P Plate into Main Line
Winning the award for cramming as many trails onto one hillside as possible is Rogate B1kepark. Proving that a great descent is more about good trail design and execution than how much altitude it drops, P Plate kicks things off with ladder drops and gap jumps and then feeds you into Main Line.
Deep turns, jumps of all description and some lovely moisture-resistant dirt make this feel more natural than you might expect.
21. The Black Mountains – Llanbedr
On a map this descent doesn’t look like much, but look closer and you’ll see this seemingly straightforward downhill smashes through contour lines at pace. From the saddle this isn’t a mega technical descent but it is properly fast and deserves respect, especially if it’s wet. A grassy slalom through the bracken – and often sheep – you’ll likely be foot out and flat out, especially if racing, sorry, riding with friends.
22. BikePark Wales – Roots Manoeuvres
A banger of a trail and a real crowd pleaser. If you thought bike park trails were all hard packed, formulaic and sterilised then you need to experience Roots Manoeuvres. Long, technical and relentlessly punishing, it’s a trail for riders who like to get their tyres muddy and prefer dirty lines to sculpted jumps.
The feel is definitely more towards something you’d build in your local woods than an officially built trail. And it’s all the better for it.
23. Afan – Blue Scar
Afan is one of South Wales’ oldest trail centres, but there’s some gold in the valleys, as Afan proves. Leave your ego at the trailhead, know that this isn’t a trail for wannabe mountain bike heroes and just enjoy this trail for what it is – simple fun.
For riders who like to get into a groove and go with the flow, or those looking for a gentle but rewarding introduction to the buzz of mountain biking, the descent on Blue Scar is easy to love.
24. Kirroughtree – Black Craigs
We reckon this is one of the best black trails in the UK. A technical and testing trail, the highlight is the McMoab section – Scotland’s tribute to Utah’s famous red rock riding hotspot. Instead of red sandstone though, McMoab is all about granite monoliths and sheer rock faces that need full commitment to hit.
Mixing the rough with the smooth, there are enough dropped-spaghetti singletrack sections to keep you limber and give your arms a break.