Mountain biking in protected areas

Mountain Biking in Finland © Matti Möttönen - Metsähallitus

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Mountain bike tourism is undoubtedly a growing trend in Europe, but what are the challenges for its implementation in protected areas? How can sustainable destinations include this practice in their areas?

On the 22nd April, EUROPARC participated at the International Mountain Bicycling Association – IMBA Europe Summit 2016 to present the potential link between sustainable tourism strategies and mountain bike practices. The Federation was kindly invited by the IMBA Europe to share an overview about the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas (ECST) and some good practices arising from Europarc’s network of sustainable destinations. Over 70 participants from 19 countries attended the Summit, a 3 days event that took place in Schweinfurt, Germany.

During the conference, the ECST principles and methodology received great interest from the audience, which was mainly composed of professionals in the field of mountain bike who are willing to better cooperate with protected areas. The main questions concerned the possibilities of integrating the local Charter Forum (of each sustainable destination awarded with the ECST) and, thus, the future possibility of having local bike clubs and groups actively engaged and contributing for the sustainable tourism strategy locally implemented.  New trends, like e-mountain biking, were also briefly discussed.

In order to collect best practices, EUROPARC made a call to the ECST network and received good examples coming from Finland, France, Italy and Spain. Below you can find a brief description and a link about each case presented or download here the full presentation.

EUROPARC Federation considers important the further development of indicators and a monitoring methodology, to assess and evaluate the impact of mountain bike activities in protected areas – in an economic, environmental and social perspectives. Therefore, all contributions in this field, being implemented by areas awarded with the ECST, are very welcomed.

Examples from the Network


Mountain Biking in Finnish Protected Areas – a few principles and guidelines

“Cycling and mountain biking are allowed by public right of access, generally also in protected areas. They are usually practiced using existing trails, routes, and roads… Mountain biking can cause erosion on hill slopes, fell areas, and other vulnerable habitats, such as sandy heaths and rocky areas with light vegetation cover. Mountain bikers and other path users can generally use the same routes, though on the busiest routes, mountain biking can be restricted for security reasons. If a management plan is drawn up for a protected area, it should take mountain bikers into account and should involve enthusiasts and mountain biking clubs in the planning process…”

Extract from the document: Principles of Protected Area Management in Finland (2014), Parks & Wildlife Finland


Faced with the development of demand for recreation and outdoor sports, the French Cycling Federation and the French Regional Parks Federation signed a national agreement on the development of cycling and mountain biking in the regional nature parks. The French Regional Parks, through this cooperation, will strengthen the development of cycling practices, responding to the needs of both practitioners and the challenges of the Parks territories. The national agreement, valid for a period of 6 years, will be completed by departmental or local agreements on specific projects. Signed on 24th March 2016. Parks that contributed to the content of the agreement are: Parc du Luberon, Parc Scarpe-Escaut, Parc Boucles Seine normande, Millevaches en Limousin, Caps et marais d’Opale, Volcans d’Auvergne, Parc Massif des Bauges, Parc Perche.

Examples from French Parks

PNR Livradois-ForezMountain Bike best practices

PNR Vercors Inspiration Vecors

PNR Pilat Circular mountain bike trails


Alta Murgia National Park Transmurgiana


EUROPARC-Spain – The working group on mountain races in Spanish Natural Parks

EUROPARC-Spain is coordinating a working group on mountain races in Spanish Natural Parks. In the working group, key members are the Spanish environmental administrations, the mountain Federation, the University, environmental experts consultants and racers. At the time being, it has been drafted a document on “Best practices for the development of mountain races in protected areas”.

Torre Blanca, Valencia   Centros BTT

The Comunidad Valenciana supported the creation of BTT Centers – a freely accessible facility for mountain bikers, which has a network of well-signposted routes and a series of equipment and additional biking support services. Whatever your level, BTT Centres will allow you to discover the most beautiful areas of the Region of Valencia and ride safely and comfortably. Each BTT Centre offers various trails with different levels of difficulty, taking you through areas with little motorised traffic, generally on untarmacked paths. Routes are also implemented in protected areas or use old train tracks (called green tracks).

Zona Zero Pirineos Private initiative

Offer routes inside protected areas (Parque natural Sierra y Cañones de Guara, Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido)

Examples from Spanish Parks

Sierra de Gredos Regional Park Centro BTT

Montsant Nature Park   BTT Trails Catalunya

Sierra Nevada   Route TransNevada

Sierra de Espuna Regional Park   The Espubike Challenge

National Park Sierra de Guadarrama Trails in Guadarrama

GeoPark de Sobrarbe Pyrenees Route

About the IMBA Europe

mountain biking, protected areas, parksIMBA Europe (International Mountain Bicycling Association) is a young organisation, established in 2012, operating with some professional staff since 2013. IMBA has a longer history in the US where the association has its roots and was founded in 1988. IMBA has 4 core values, speak-build-respect-ride. It’s about advocacy, sustainable trail development, education (e.g. trail etiquette) and promotion of mountain biking as outdoor recreation. The focus is at the grassroots level, and the organization is not involved in competition.

IMBA Europe was founded as an umbrella for national mountain bike groups / associations across Europe. At the IMBA Europe Summit, mountain biking was the main topic but different stakeholders were present. Ranging from member organisations to people who are working in the tourism industry, bicycle industry, land managers, Universities and nature conservation agencies.

All presentations of the IMBA Summit 2016 can be found at the following link: