Skip to main content

What is the Cairngorm National Park, and why should you visit?

The largest of the UK’s national parks, located in the heart of Scotland, the Cairngorms is made up of over 4,500sq km of un-spoilt countryside, 5 of the UK’s 6 highest mountains, 43 munros, 9 nature reserves, an abundance of majestic wildlife, glistening lochs, fast flowing rivers and huge swathes of forests containing ancient Caledonian Pine trees.

Cairngorm 1

Laggan Wolftrax

Laggan is one of Scotland’s favourite trail centres. It offers great trails for families and less experienced riders with the green route, and the amazing new blue and red grade trails allow riders to have fun progressing up to the classic rocky Laggan trails. The black route is an absolute classic, blurring the boundaries between technical cross country and enduro – it has flow but you need to find it between all the technical rock features! Laggan is a popular venue for the Scottish Enduro series, with the steep and rocky trails being a favourite of riders, putting it on the map as a must ride for technical trail and enduro riders. There is a good café on site, and its location halfway between Aviemore and Fort William makes it a great way of linking the popular outdoor towns for mountain bikers.

1 23

Family fun on 'Slaba-Dabba-Doo' blue trail.

1 17 2

Laggan black


Glenlivet’s location at the northern edge of the national park gives it a different feel – its more remote, and the trails pass over the tops of the lower more rolling hills, but hidden in the forest are some delights. Glenlivet has some great cross country trails that allow a longer ride than many trail centres. The trails have been evolving though, and over recent years Biek Glenlivet have built 'Bazzas Berms', a fantastic jump and berm laden blue trail, The Orange Jump line - a 1km jumptrail that is great for building skills, and the exciting new Keiran's Line - a progressive trail with pretty huge jumps. Their are also numerous handbuild enduro trails to explore. Glenlivet’s café is surrounded by great wee skills trails to keep kids lapping while parents take time to enjoy lunch, making this a great place for an active family day out.

Glenlivet jump


Cairngorm Mountain

In summer 2023, after many years of interest from riders, Cairngorm Mountain developed bike facilities. The Cairngorm Mountain Bike Park is a bit different, having a real focus on being a family bike park, with lift assisted (by magic carpet lift!) gravity blue and green trails, as well as flowing blue and reds with berms and jumps, all with the scenic surroundings of the Cairngorm Mountains and Glenmore. So whether you have a family and are looking for accessible high quality trails, or an experienced rider wanting a day of riding fun flow trails in a Scottish Mountain location, Cairngorm Mountain is worth a look!

Cairngorm mtb visit 1 23

Gravel riding

The vast network of easier tracks and trails makes the area great for longer gravel rides between communities and out into the wider landscape. Add in some great cafes and the Cairngorms could be the perfect place to get the miles in through the inspiring landscape around the Cairngorm mountains.

Visit Cairngorms has been working with local bike shops to collate a collection of off road cycle routes on generally well surfaced gravel tracks. These routes have been planned to avoid sensitive habitats to reduce disturbance to nature, building a network of great rides from villages through inspiring landscapes, visiting great cafes along the way.

Cairngorm sally

Gravel riding in the Cairngorms


The Cairngorms is well set up for families with attractions like Landmark and Kincraig wildlife park.

The accessible routes in the area make family cycles a great way to spend an active day out. Hire a bike from one of the great bike shops in the area and explore the area, stopping for a break at cafes and viewpoints along the way. Popular routes include the Old Logging way to Glenmore and the Speyside Way that has some good riding for families between Kingussie Aviemore and Boat of Garten, on easy well maintained and relatively flat trails.

For good simple fun, the village of Boat of Garten has an amazing Pumptrack that is well worth a visit or linking into a ride along the Speyside Way from Aviemore. For a step up to singletrack, trails Annagach Woods in Grantown in Spey has a series of short fun trails from green to red grade, or Laggan and Glenlivet are have great options for all abilities.



Cairngorms trail riding

The Cairngorms area has some truly classic Scottish trails - singletrack trails weaving their way through beautiful rolling forests and out into the rocky lower slopes of the Cairngorm mountains. The landscape constantly changes, and inspiring views are guaranteed around every corner, whether the mountain panorama, a tranquil loch or a passing glimpse into the Scots pines with the forest floor laden with blaeberries. The Badenoch and Strathspey area around Aviemore has a great network of paths that can be linked to make great routes. To the East, Ballater has gained a reputation as a technical trail riding destination, with the village well set up for mountain bike visitors and brilliant trails like Heartbreak ridge. For more information on the eastern Cairngorms check out our Aberdeenshire Ride Guide


Ballater singletrack

To minimise our environmental impact we are promoting riders to visit our key destinations and stay for as long as possible.

We hope that riders will consider their impact - travel as sustainably as they can, eat and drink local, give back to the trails they ride, and ride responsibly - considering their impact on other users, mountain rescue teams, landowners/managers, and the environment.

There is so much riding, and other activities, in the Cairngorms we really recommend this as a base for your holiday.

For some great advice and information see Visit Cairngorms: The Official Cairngorms website | National Park , a One Stop Shop for accommodation, other activities in the area and where to get the best food.

Visit Cairngorms have a great section on their website with lots of cycling content, including inspiration for planning your bike trip Cycling: Cairngorms National Park | Visit Cairngorms | Visit Cairngorms

Train: You can access the Caringorms National Park via the ScotRail Edinburgh to Inverness line, or to the east the nearest station is Aberdeen with great information from Visit Cairngorms . Trains have limited availability for bike storage and we recommend (attempting) book your bike onto the train in advance of travelling. If you are unable to book your bike on the train, and although it is not guaranteed, we do find the train guard's and staff generally take a reasonable approach to taking your bike on a train. If there is no space then please be polite and considerate towards all staff (we know you will but just in case). The train also opens up potential for bigger adventure rides through epic scenery.

Bus: There are bus services into and around the Cairngorms National Park, with handy information available from Visit Cairngorms. The Stagecoach AviemoreAdventurer bus runs between Aviemore and Cairngorms Mountain, allowing outdoor enthusiasts to carry gear to the start of their adventures.

Car: We recognise that a car, or van, is a really flexible and handy option for mountain biking trips. Covid considerations/restrictions should be taken into account, however, when possible we would recommend sharing lifts and minimising any unnecessary journeys. Where possible, park up and ride from your accommodation. Electric car charge points are available in various locations in the National Park.

Hotels: There is a good selection of hotels in the Cairngorms National Park. Please consider booking with Expedia through this link and 5% of your booking will go to the Badenoch and Strathspey Trail Association or Aberdeenshire Trail Association to help them maintain and develop the trail network you will be riding.

Camping: We highly recommend staying in a recognised campsite which has facilities including toilets, showers, and waste disposal onsite. Their are campsites to suit all tastes in the Cairngorms, whether you want to be based near the trails, town, in forests or next to a loch.

You may also, under Scottish Outdoor Access Code, choose to 'wild' camp - especially if you want a bikepacking adventure. Please be aware that you only have this right if you are a responsible camper - click away for more details on what that means in practice from our friends at Nature Scot.

Campervans: Visit Cairngorms have created a great guide and map to help you plan an enjoyable and responsible campervan visit.

Self-catering: Visit Cairngorms can help you find the perfect self catering accommodation for your visit.

The incredible network of paths across the Cairngorms National Park covers the Speyside Way and the Old Logging Way up to more remote mountain paths. These routes are maintained by many different landowners - far too many too mention here! The specific formal and informal mountain bike trails in the area are looked after by:

Trail Association for Western Cairngorms: Badenoch & Strathspey Trail Association

Trail Association for Eastern Cairngorms: Aberdeenshire Trail Association

Glenlivet: Bike Glenlivet

Laggan Wolftrax: Forestry and Land Scotland and Laggan Forest Trust

The land around the Cairngorms National Park is known for producing high quality good and drink, whether whisky, river caught fish or beef and venison - check out Visit Cairngorms for inspiration on local produce.

The Cairngorms National Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, and many routes are not specific bike trails so are shared by others, so bear this in mind - be prepared to share the experience with others you meet whether hillwalkers, climbers, dog walkers, horse riders or families. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code gives us great access to the outdoors in Scotland.

The landscape around the park supports many sensitive habitats, from the Tundra of the plateau to the native pine forests. The Badenoch and Strathspey Trail Association, a volunteer community group is part of the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project which helps to protect this species of bird which is threatened with extinction.

Trail Maps & Apps for Destination

To help you plan your visit to the North Highlands we have collated the official trail centre maps and rider-driven apps which can help you discover the best trails across the area.

Rider populated apps are a great way to discover new trails however they may not be up to date with trail conditions and we recommend doing further research before you ride.

Please ride responsibly on all trails - follow our Do The Ride Thing guidance.

You may also like


Become a Supporter