Economic Benefits of Mountain Bike Tourism for Santa Cruz County

Benefits studied:
Uses studied:
Place: Santa Cruz County


This report on the potential for mountain bike tourism in Santa Cruz County, California demonstrates how trail advocates can use existing research studies to help make a case for trail development in their community. The authors argue that the presence of significant bike industry companies, a large existing social trail network, and appealing climate and terrain create a strong potential for mountain bike tourism.


This report demonstrates a straightforward approach to using existing economic research to advocate for mountain bike tourism. However, because the authors do not evaluate how comparable the Santa Cruz area is to the cited research in Moab, Utah; Whistler, British Columbia; and the Yukon Territory, it is difficult to understand how relevant these success stories are to this community. The report’s strongest arguments are around the area’s appealing landscape and climate, bike industry presence, and trail infrastructure, not economics.


This study was conducted in Santa Cruz County, California. The population was 271,804 in 2014.

Trail Type

The study addresses mountain bike trails across the county, many of which are accessible from town. Some are legal, designated trails but many are non-designated “social” trails.


The purpose of this study is to make a case for city support of expanding and promoting the local trail network to raise the area’s profile as a mountain bike destination. When the report was written, many of the area’s trails were not officially mapped or recognized and the official trail system was limited. The authors argue that legalizing existing social trails would increase tourism revenue for the county.

This study was conducted by a local mountain bike advocacy organization. It is unclear whether they received outside funding.


  • The area has strong existing support for mountain biking, as evidenced by the presence of several significant mountain bike-related companies.
  • The area is known for high quality mountain biking. Marketing this reputation nationally or globally will require formal designation of existing social trails, expanding the legal, mapped trail network.
  • Increasing mountain bike tourism is consistent with the city’s interest in expanding the tourism sector, particularly during shoulder seasons.


This study provides a qualitative description of existing mountain biking infrastructure and related businesses, as well as community support. The authors point to other studies of mountain bike tourism in Moab, Utah and Whistler, British Columbia, and a study of potential mountain bike tourism in the Yukon as evidence of success in other communities.


Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz. 2007. Economic Benefits of Mountain Bike Tourism for Santa Cruz County. Santa Cruz, CA: Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz.