Shoulder-Season Mountain Biking in the Northwest

Nowhere is the collision between seasons more apparent than fall and winter, where conditions can transition from fall colors to a skiff or even drifts of snow overnight. And although March might come in like a lion, late autumn often comes in like a snowball to the face. The upside for mountain bikers?

Every ride is a bonus after the mad scramble of peak riding season. And low stakes along with snow-day excitement usually only reserved for elementary school can combine for some of the most surprisingly satisfying rides of the year.

Photo Essay

Mountain biker riding under an evergreen tree branch laden with snow and getting a face full of powder.
Fall-Winter: Seasons collide quite literally on a ride through Riverside State Park first snowfall of the season. // Photo: Aaron Theisen

This page, upper right: Sliding in snow, skidding in leaves, stomping in puddles; low-stakes late-season riding is a reminder of the pure child-like joy of cycling.

Mountain biker taking time off the bike to jump in a puddle, and have bonus fun, along the trail.
Shoulder-Season Riding Conditions: Sliding in snow, skidding in leaves, stomping in puddles; low-stakes late-season riding is a reminder of the pure child-like joy of cycling. // Photo: Aaron Theisen
Snowfall on the High Drive Trails doesn’t often linger, so it’s a race to put in first—or any—tracks.
Early Winter: Snowfall on the High Drive Trails doesn’t often linger, so it’s a race to put in first—or any—tracks. // Photo: Aaron Theisen
Mountain biker getting air riding off a jump along a snowy trail with their husky dog gleefully running along.
Send It: The best way to maintain traction on early-season snow on Bernard Peak? Stay in the air. // Photo: Aaron Theisen
Cold, clear mornings on the Spokane River often bring sun, steam, and frost, as well as the opportunity to ride in a puffy. Biker is stopped along a trail gazing in the distance at the Spokane River below and forested hillside across the river.
Not Winter Yet: Cold, clear mornings on the Spokane River often bring sun, steam, and frost, as well as the opportunity to ride in a puffy. // Photo: Aaron Theisen

Aaron Theisen is a long-time contributor to OTO, based in Spokane, as well as a professional author, photographer, and expert outdoor storyteller. He founded Whiskey Ginger Media and his work can be found in magazines published in the United States and Canada. His guidebook “Day Hiking: Glacier National Park & Western Montana” was published by Mountaineers Books in 2018.

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