Mountain Bike Trail - Colour Grading Explained

In the UK - there are many businesses and trail centres investing masses of time and money in creating a fantastic network of mountain bike trails, at their dedicated trail centres, which are usually based in beautiful countryside.

Trail centres typically provide single track riding - which are trails which can only fit one rider at a time across width wise. These routes are colour coded, much in the same way that ski runs are. Different colours correspond with different levels of difficulty, although it’s worth noting that the conditions of trails can vary throughout the year, depending upon weather conditions. If you are riding after a lengthy wet spell, the route may be more challenging. 

It’s important when mountain biking, especially for those mountain biking as a beginner - to only ride within your own capabilities, building confidence and skills gradually. 

Below, we run through some of the typical colours you will see at a mountain bike trail centre, describing what these trails look like. 

Green - Easy

Green routes are the easiest trails to ride. Green trails vary, but are usually family friendly - and can be ridden with by kids, adults with bike seats, as well as by cyclists with special needs. Green trails can cover old railways lines, reservoir trails, fire roads through forestry and quiet rural roads. 

Gradients on these routes are usually pretty tame, so there’s no massively difficult ascents and descents to deal with. Typical surfaces of Green routes include compacted stone and gravel - and you can usually ride two to three abreast on these routes. The maximum climb on any of these routes is fifty metres, and these routes are usually pretty short, almost always under 10 kilometres. 

Blue - Moderate

Blue cycle routes are classed as ‘moderate’ and a reasonable level of fitness, alongside a reasonable level of mountain biking experience will see most riders find these trails challenging but very enjoyable. In many cases, these blue trails can run through some sections of green trail - with the addition of unsurfaced areas in the mix as well as the previously mentioned typical green routes. 

Blue routes will typically see an increase in the severity of ascents and descents - with some short sections which are slightly technical. Riding across rougher surfaces, means that a rider can expect to encounter loose surfaces, as well as uneven trails, stones and rocks, as well as roots. 

The shortest blue trails are usually around 10km - running up to 20km trails. The maximum climb you can expect to encounter is around 100 metres. 

Red - Difficult

Red trails have been designed for the more experienced mountain biker, and mountain bikes are 100% required for these trails to be passable. These trails cover longer distances, so encompass any rideable terrain, including parts of green and blue routes - right across to difficult trails. 

Riders can expect to encounter a range of challenging ascents and descents and tracks here are often singletrack - meaning they are not wide enough for two riders to ride alongside. Mountain bike experience is essential, and riders can expect to encounter any of the following obstacles and hazards:





Drop Offs


Streams and Becks


The maximum climb you will find on a red route is 500 metres and typically ranges vary from 10k right up to 50k. 

Black - Severe

Black Trails are well suited by the most ominous colour within the range - no friendly Greens and Blues here. Black Mountain Bike routes should only be attempted by those with plenty of experience in mountain biking - these tracks are designed to be testing - with tough terrain across long distances. Terrain is best categorised as ‘whatever is rideable’ so loose surfaces are common - there is usually continuous testing terrain, so no long stretches of easy terrain which can be found on other routes. Rocky and rooty natural surfaces can be found here, alongside some man made jumps and steps. 

Black mountain bike trails can be up to 61 miles long, and the maximum climb on these trails is a massive 1000 metres. Black trails are the ultimate challenge.