For the past two years my wife and I have called Iowa City, Iowa our temporary home. We moved here for my wife to pursue
a pediatric residency. A priceless decision for a major career accomplishment. This two year commitment brought us to a place that I would have never imagined I would live. For a boy that grew up around rivers full of rapids and trout, mountains with ample single-track and long winter runs; Iowa was really the last place I would have visualized myself calling home. My knowledge of Iowa was little more than a bit of knowledge about that big cross state bike ride, RAGBRAI.
However, being in Iowa I have been pleasantly surprised to find one of the best technical single-track trail systems where no one would expect a strong mountain biking community. Iowa City is home to one of the better single-track systems in the midwest, the Sugar Bottom Trails. The two years spent here have treated me well with ample opportunities for some great single-track and providing a new drive in my MTB passion. Matter a fact Iowa City was ranked as one of the best towns in 2007 by Outdoor Magazine. Sugar Bottom Trails were a major contributor to that ranking.
If you are cruising through Iowa, an afternoon pit stop at Sugar Bottom may just change your outlook about the drive across the state. The Iowa Coalition of Off-Road Riders (ICORR) is the local non-profit formed to promote, preserve and improve mountain biking trails access in Iowa. ICORR slightly modifies Sugar Bottom trails every year to keep the area refreshed and minimize the erosion of the natural area and fragile native soils. Surprisingly, the trail system has a little bit of everything for everyone. There are smooth cruising tracks for beginner to novice riders, black diamond routes with great stump jumps and bridges, and plenty of up hill climbing to get the lungs burning for those riders who demand a little more challenge. The access is easy to find and there are always locals to meet and talk to about the trail conditions. Some of the locals can really show you what MTB in the middle of the United States is all about.
In one week, my wife and I will be moving back to the mountains; saying our goodbyes to Iowa and some great single-track. I will miss this solid mountain bike system on the shoreline of the Coralville Reservoir, but I know that I have thoroughly experienced all it has to offer, and I can tell you that there is some outstanding mountain biking in Iowa. If you pass through Iowa, definitely consider making this a pit stop.
More information about Sugar Bottom:
Trail Map: http://www.icorrmtb.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/SugarBottom_r6_Topo.pdf