When it comes to riding, Glenn Glover of Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance declares often and with great certainty: Washington is the best place to be a mountain biker in the continental United States.
"There's a lot of diversity -- from riding on the edge of the blast zone in Mount St. Helens, to the high subalpine Colville National Forest, to the rain forest of the Olympics," Glover said.
An engineer by training, Glover came to this nonprofit as interim executive director, agreeing on a three-to-six-month stint until a replacement could be found. That was about four and a half years ago, "and he's still executive director, he said, laughing.
He and his staff maintain a database of more than 200 bike trails on the group's website .
The irony of leading the state's largest mountain-biking group is that Glover has less time to ride, what with all the trails to build and biking seminars to lead.
"I get to ride once or twice a week around the state," he said. "I follow the season. As snow begins to melt, we head to Eastern Washington for the high mountain riding experience. (During the winter) we ride around Western Washington and enjoy the low-elevation trails."
Here are Glover's top 10 places to mountain-bike in Washington, listed in no particular order. Comments are his.
-- Ape Canyon / Plains of Abraham, south side of Mount St. Helens. 22 miles round trip. Intermediate. 3,000-foot gain.
Why ride it? Scenic
It's unlike any place in the country. Climb through old-growth forest to the starkly beautiful Plains of Abraham, which was devastated by the 1980 eruption. Cross the Plains, then ride all the way to Windy Ridge viewpoint. There are some stairs and a few miles of gravel road.
-- Highway 410 trails, outside town of Greenwater, Pierce County. Trails can be ridden as a round trip or combined into loops. Intermediate to advanced. 700- to 2,800-foot gain.
Why ride it? Scenic and sometimes challenging backcountry riding
This area has something for all types and skill levels -- rushing rivers, wildflowers, and views of Mount Rainier from the higher trails.
From the beginner-friendly -- with a bit of walking for most riders -- Skookum Flats, Noble Knob and White River trails, to the more technically challenging alpine trails of Palisades, Ranger Creek and Suntop, this area offers miles of stellar trails to explore.
--w Cooney Lake/Angels Staircase/Horsehead Pass loop at north end of Lake Chelan (30 miles south of Winthrop). 25 miles. Advanced. 5,000-foot gain.
Why ride it? Alpine epic
This classic loop, packed with stunning scenery, takes you to the highest single-track trail open to bikes in Washington, at an elevation of about 8,100 feet. It's a physically demanding ride with some technical challenges and "hike-a-bike" sections, but worth the effort for fit and experienced riders.
-- East Tiger Mountain trails at Tiger Mountain State Forest. 12 miles of trail plus fire roads (seasonal). Intermediate to advanced. 1,900-foot gain. Trails are open to ride April 15 through Oct. 15, depending on condition.
Why ride it? Convenient to Seattle; quality forested trail network
The six multiuse trails (including three newly opened this spring) range from wide, with the occasional technical challenge, to root-filled with tight and technical descents. Ride the fire road 3.5 miles up to the summit then descend via single-track, or enjoy a loop on the lower mountain.
-- Duthie Hill Park, Issaquah. 8 miles. Beginner to expert. 130-foot gain.
Why ride it? Designed specifically for mountain biking
The most-visited mountain-bike trail system in the state. Six miles of cross-country trails ranging from beginner to advanced. There are two miles of free-ride and jump trails to keep expert riders happy and a large clearing with progression features and pump tracks that's ideal for learning.
-- Kettle Crest Trails, Colville National Forest, Eastern Washington. More than 70 miles. Intermediate to advanced. 3,000-5,000-foot gain.
Why ride it? Scenic subalpine forests and long ride
This is the state's largest nonmotorized trail system for mountain biking. The Kettle Crest Trail alone stretches 40 miles. Most rides include parts of the Kettle Crest Trail, but at different segments, following routes such as the Jungle Hill Loop (Sherman Pass Tie to Kettle Crest North to Jungle Hill) and Sherman Peak Loop. This area is becoming a must-do destination.
-- Galbraith Mountain trail network, Bellingham. More than 45 miles. Beginner to expert. 1,800-foot gain.
Why ride it? Wide variety of quality trails
This privately owned forest is a gem, with a network of well-built trails. It has a mix of cross-country, all-mountain and freeride-style trails.
-- Sage Hills, Wenatchee. 12 miles. Beginner to intermediate. 1,000-foot gain.
Why ride it? Fun, wildflower-filled trails
Sage Hills contains a network of nonmotorized trails that meanders over rolling hills on the edge of downtown Wenatchee. It's a combination of views of the Wenatchee Valley and miles of yellow arrowleaf balsamroot, scarlet Indian paintbrush and purple lupine in spring and early summer. You can extend Sage Hills another 20 miles or so via a mix of double-track and single-track trail.
-- Stafford Creek, at Cle Elum/North Teanaway Ridge. 12 miles round trip. Intermediate to advanced. 3,288-foot gain.
Why ride it? Scenic/alpine
This beautiful trail winds along Stafford Creek up to Navajo Pass with breathtaking views of the Stuart Range. Leave your bike at the pass and hike up the steep County Line Trail to Navajo Peak for a not-to-be-missed 360-degree view, including Mount Stuart. For an adventure -- including significant "hike-a-bike" stretches and challenging route-finding and terrain -- you can connect to other trails and drainages including Stand up, Bean, Beverly and Eldorado.
-- Mount Constitution trails at Moran State Park, Orcas Island. 30 miles of trails (seasonal). The best trails are open to mountain bikes Sept. 15 through May 15, though some low-elevation trails stay open year-round. Beginner to intermediate. 2,400-foot gain.
Why ride it? Scenic winter riding
Moran State Park has some of the most spectacular mountain-biking trails in Western Washington, offering views from Puget Sound to Mount Baker, plus mossy forest and mountain lakes. Get your exercise with a ride up. Or skip the climbing and car-shuttle to the top for multiple laps on the various trails. A round trip on the wide, rolling Mountain Lake Trail is ideal for kids and beginners.