Cairngorms Mountain Biking


If you’ve chosen to go mountain biking in the Cairngorms, you’ve made an excellent decision. The UK’s largest national park encompasses glorious swathes of pine forest, heather-covered moorlands, beautiful lochs, glittering rivers and five of the six highest mountains in the country. It’s a landscape that could have been designed for mountain bikers, honeycombed with peaceful forest tracks, gravel paths and boulder-strewn backcountry trails, all peppered with natural obstacles and home to rare wildlife including ospreys, wildcats and red deer.

Whether you’re a beginner, an experienced rider looking for an adventure, or a family seeking to discover the sport, our guide to the Cairngorms’ best mountain bike routes has something for you. Read on to discover everything from mountain bike centres with purpose-built tracks and on-site rental facilities to remote mountain trails. All you have to do is choose the one that's right for you.

Top mountain biking routes in the Cairngorms

There are no end of great Cairngorm mountain bike trails, but we’re highlighting three of our favourites. When it comes to detailed directions, we’d definitely recommend a little research before you set off. Experienced riders will know that a GPS device or an app for your phone is invaluable. With one of these, you’ll be able to download a comprehensive route map. AllTrails, Komoot and Strava are all good places to find them.

Lairig Ghru Pass

Distance: 10 miles/16 kilometres circular trail
Difficulty: Advanced

Considered a local classic, this circuit around the Lairig Ghru Pass takes in 400 metres of climb and descent, with plenty of rocks, gravel, boggy areas and tree roots to negotiate. Most sections are fairly straightforward, but the downhill part of the loop has a steep descent that’s rated black – take care here, make sure you’re wearing the right protective gear, and be prepared to get off and push for a bit if the conditions are poor.

The path up to Lairig Ghru is signposted from both the Rothiemurchus Camp and Caravan Park and the Glenmore Forest. Everyone has their own favourite route to take. Depending on your preference, you could check out this version on AllTrails, Fatmap’s version (with a description), or this shorter route from the Highland Bike Academy (6.5 miles/10.5 kilometres, with good directions). Whichever you choose, we think you’re going to have fun.

Burma Road, Aviemore 

Distance: 28 miles/45 kilometres
Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced

This testing loop follows both roads and trails, ascending the famous Burma Road, with more than 700 metres of climbing and a welcome downhill return. We’d recommend starting from Aviemore Bikes, who can talk you through the route, and also provide this handy online guide.

From Aviemore, head south out of town to the A9 and follow signs for Lynwilg.

Follow the track for about a kilometre to the gate where the Burma Trail begins.

The climb (2 kilometres or so) on the first section is a stiff test, but rewards you with superb views when you reach the second cairn at the summit. 

Head downhill to the River Dulnain, follow it through the forest to Station Road, then continue into Carrbridge, via either the road or the Carrbridge Singletrack loop (which is more fun).

From Carrbridge, head through Docharn Woods on the main forest road for 5 kilometres to the A95, then join the cycle track to Boat of Garten.

From Boat of Garten, take the Speyside Way (Route 7) back into Aviemore.

The Ryvoan Pass Route

Distance: 21 miles/34 kilometres round trip
Difficulty: Intermediate

This circular route through the Pass of Ryvoan starts in Abernethy and continues to Glenmore Forest, passing the Ryvoan Bothy and Lochan Uaine (famous for its green-tinged water) on the way. The varied terrain includes winding paths, steady climbs and steep descents, with a welcome downhill section through Glenmore. The tea room at Glenmore Campsite is a good place to reward yourself with a break.

The return journey (via An Slugan) takes you along the shore of Loch Morlich, through the Queen’s and Abernethy forests and back to Nethybridge.

As ever, there are plenty of route variations that you could choose, including doing the whole thing in reverse. Local cycle centres will be happy to give you some advice and, as always, GPS is your friend.

Official trail centres in the Cairngorms

For those of you who are less familiar with GPS and exploring remote areas, the Cairngorms’ mountain bike parks are a great alternative, with easy-to-follow, purpose-built routes that still offer plenty of thrills. As an added bonus, they also have on-site activities for those who don’t want to ride. 

Glenlivet Mountain Bike Trail Centre

In the north of the park, the Glenlivet Estate encompasses 23,000 hectares of hills, rivers, woodland and mountains. Its Mountain Bike Centre has a number of purpose-built trails for both beginners and experienced riders, as well as bike rental facilities and a repair shop.

Families and those new to the sport can try out the Blue Trail or Bazza’s Berms, which provide a great introduction to off-road riding. The Red Trail is a challenge suitable for more experienced riders, while Keiran's Line and the Orange Trail are among the best free-ride routes in the whole of Scotland.

The centre’s pleasant café serves breakfast, lunch, coffee and snacks, and also provides useful local information. There’s a pump track (with turns, rollers and bumps to negotiate with minimal pedalling) and a skills area nearby. Bikes are available to hire for half or full days (10am to 4.15pm); it's best to book in advance. For further information, visit the Bike Glenlivet website.

Tip: The estate also has a thrilling zipwire course (age 8+), so you could combine half a day’s riding with a treetop adventure.

Laggan Wolftrax Centre

In the southwest of the park near Newtonmore, the Laggan Wolftrax Centre in the Laggan Forest has more than 20 miles of purpose-built tracks for all abilities. They range from green trails for beginners to more tricky blues and reds, while the Wolf of Badenoch, a black run with drop-offs, boulders and staircases, will provide an intense technical challenge for any rider.

On site, the Bike Bothy Laggan has facilities for bike hire, service and repairs, plus essential spares and accessories. There are changing rooms with coin-operated showers, and the café serves breakfast, coffee and simple lunches.

Tip: Non-cyclists can keep themselves busy while the rest of the family takes on the trails by following waymarked walking paths through the forest, including the Dun da Lamh Trail (4.5 miles/7 kilometres, 3 hours), which leads to a hill fort on the slopes of Black Criag with fabulous views.

Cairngorm Mountain Bike Park

Ten miles from Aviemore, the Cairngorm Mountain Bike Park is a purpose-built facility with green and blue (downhill) trails for beginners and intermediate riders, and a conveyor track to the start point in the lower zone. Experienced riders can pedal their way up to the blue and red trails in the upper zone. You can check out all of the routes on their detailed online map.

The Cairngorm Cafe (with views over Loch Morlich) serves breakfast, sandwiches and snacks, and there are bike hire facilities, toilets and a shop on site.

Tip: For younger children and family members who don’t want to ride, there’s a mountain garden to explore, several waymarked walking trails and an all-weather tubing track (age 2+).

Planning your mountain biking trip

Spring and summer (April to September) – when the weather is more reliable, trail conditions are better and more local facilities are open – are the best times for mountain biking in the Cairngorms. Riding is possible throughout the year on many of the Cairngorms’ mountain biking routes, but winter trips in particular require careful planning and extra safety measures.

Many of the places we’ve mentioned in this guide offer bike rental, as well as expert advice on which trails to choose and ensuring that you have all the correct gear. The following companies are just some of those that offer guided mountain biking tours:

Aviemore Bikes

Elite Guides

Atlas Ride Co

The Lazy Duck

For both rentals and tours, we’d recommend booking in advance.

The organisation Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland has useful advice on safety and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code on its Do The Ride Thing page, and its excellent Ride Guide highlights great mountain bike routes in the Cairngorms and throughout the country. 

If you prefer a smoother ride, have a look at our Cairngorms cycling guide.

If you’re looking for a place to stay, check out Pitchup’s list of campsites in the Cairngorms.


From purpose-built tracks to challenging off-road routes, the Cairngorms National Park is home to some of Scotland’s best mountain bike trails. Bike shops and rental facilities throughout the park can set you up with everything you need for an exciting day out, whatever your age, experience or ability. It’s time to start planning your next adventure…

A number of images within this article have been generously provided by Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland (DMBinS)