8 of the Best Bike Trails in the U.S.

Within the early twentieth century, the patchwork of the US was quilted collectively by nearly 300,000 miles of railroad traces. When practice transport fell into disuse within the Fifties and ’60s, a motion started to remodel these deserted industrial corridors into leisure house. These miles of observe had the potential to be very best bike paths, due to restricted incline and their proximity to cities which stood to profit from a brand new sort of tourism.

There are various methods, and many steps needed, to show a observe with metal rails and spikes, picket sleepers and stone ballast right into a clean, inviting bike route. However whereas the rails-to-trails motion began within the ‘60s, it received a significant increase in 1986 with the event of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nationwide group that has helped native communities plan, fund-raise and execute their very own path growth. Now, Rails-to-Trails is basically centered on connectivity — linking already present trails (over 25,000 miles of them) to create bike networks that span the nation, specifically, the Great American Rail Trail, which is able to cross the nation from Washington, D.C., to Washington state. Different long-distance tasks embrace Peaks to Plains in Colorado, the Great Redwood Trail in Northern California, and the Route of the Badger in Wisconsin.

“We’re at a very thrilling time on this nation when it comes to a never-before-seen understanding of the worth of protected, outside actions,” mentioned Ryan Chao, president of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

One of many main advantages of the rails-to-trails motion is the sheer variety of trails. Listed here are eight to get you began.

Maryland & Pennsylvania

For an approachable, multiday journey via Northeast mountains

The Nice Allegheny Passage connects Cumberland, Md., to Pittsburgh, passing round and thru the Allegheny Mountains, the Laurel Highlands and 10 cities in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Whereas its 150-mile span might sound daunting, the complete through-ride presents ample alternatives to relaxation, eat, swim and sleep: There are bed-and-breakfasts, eating places and ice cream outlets in cities like Frostburg, Md., and Confluence, Penn.; campsites and shady spots within the mature forests of Ohiopyle State Park; and the Casselman, Youghiogheny and Monongahela rivers provide dips for drained toes and alternatives for kayaking, canoeing, rafting and fly fishing. Plan on spending three days and two nights on the complete journey, or go for a shorter journey. One one-day journey between Meyersdale and Rockwood, Penn., permits bikers to discover outdated railroad constructions (just like the Salisbury Viaduct, a vacation spot for 360-degree views) or attempt an in a single day journey from one path city to a different with an obtainable shuttle service. (Amtrak’s Capitol Restricted line additionally runs parallel to the route.) The path is a stellar instance of how prioritizing biking infrastructure generally is a boon to native communities — in keeping with Bryan Perry, the chief director of the Nice Allegheny Passage Conservancy, the path created approximately $121 million in economic impact for the area in 2019 alone.

Variety of miles: 150

Issue: Reasonable; you’ll acquire as much as 1,700 toes in elevation, however the climb is gradual and clean

Good for kids: Sure, each the entire path or shorter day journeys and overnights

Don’t miss: Absorb 360-degree views from the Salisbury Viaduct, which spans 1,908 toes throughout the Casselman River west of Meyersville, Penn.

Time to journey: Three days and two nights for the complete journey, with ample choices for day journeys and overnights


For straightforward windings via putting surroundings

For a motorbike path with beautiful surroundings, user-friendly terrain and approachable path cities, search out the Path of the Coeur d’Alenes. The 73-mile route, components of which are maintained by the Coeur d’Alene tribe and Idaho Parks and Recreation, runs between the cities of Plummer and Mullan, Idaho, and is absolutely paved — so cyclists of all ranges (and with all types of bikes) can benefit from the journey. Winding via the putting mountains and valleys of the Idaho panhandle, the path takes about two days to journey to completion, and that itinerary leaves ample time for stops like a meal at the Snake Pit in Enaville (the oldest restaurant in Idaho), swimming at Heyburn State Park and wildlife recognizing alongside the Coeur d’Alene River. Riders trying to get a style of the route with lakeside surroundings and fewer distance ought to attempt using from the city of Harrison to the Chatcolet Bridge, an satisfying 8-mile jaunt.

Variety of miles: 73 miles

Issue: Simple, principally flat and completely paved

Good for kids: Sure, the path is paved from one finish to the opposite

Don’t miss: Gas up on the Snake Pit, the oldest restaurant in Idaho, and cease for a photograph on the official Heart of the Universe in Wallace, Idaho

Time to journey: Two days


For a family-friendly style of the wilderness

Biking between path cities has its enchantment, however there’s one thing to be mentioned for a path that looks like a correct wilderness journey. The Drugs Bow Rail Path, a 21-mile gravel path that cuts via the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest in southern Wyoming, presents simply that, in a rugged, forested panorama with frequent wildlife sightings. Whereas the path is decidedly distant — Laramie, Wyo., is the closest large metropolis and is 30 miles away — it’s nonetheless family-friendly, with little elevation acquire and a beneficiant width permitting dad and mom to journey alongside their youngsters. The realm is wealthy with historical past, too — many native tribes, together with the Arapaho and Cheyenne, incessantly visited the world to conduct ceremonies, and parked on the path’s northern finish close to Lake Owen (a worthy vacation spot in its personal proper) are the stays of a practice caboose from the observe’s railroad previous. Plan on the complete journey a technique taking round 5 to 6 hours, relying on how usually you cease to search for moose, elk and different wildlife, and also you’ll have to depart a automotive at every finish — there isn’t a shuttle service. One other trace: Deliver loads of water as there’s none obtainable on the path (you’ll discover restrooms and picnic tables, although).

Variety of miles: 21

Issue: Simple to average, 688 toes of elevation acquire whole, however at excessive altitude

Good for kids: Sure, the trail is 10 toes broad so dad and mom can journey alongside their youngsters

Don’t miss: Try Lake Owen, the place you’ll discover a footpath and the stays of an outdated railroad caboose

Time to journey: 5 to 6 hours for a one-way journey

West Virginia

For a multiday bike-packing journey via lush greenery

West Virginia’s Greenbrier River Path strikes a wonderful stability between accessibility — it’s comparatively flat and reachable at numerous factors alongside its 78-mile size — and remoteness. The path, which cruises downhill between the cities of Cass and Caldwell, runs alongside the Greenbrier River via lush West Virginia forest. This makes it a superb bike-packing path, with water, bogs, campgrounds and primary cabins obtainable alongside the route, together with on the Greenbrier and Seneca State Forests and Watoga State Park. The flat grade makes the path accessible for kids, too, whether or not you go for shorter segments or the entire 78-mile, multiday journey. Since remoteness is a significant a part of this path’s enchantment (cell service is intermittent to nonexistent), creature comforts like fish tacos and a chilly beer on the Dirtbean Cafe and Bike Shop in Marlinton are all of the extra appreciated. You should definitely cease for a photograph on the curving, 230-foot Sharps Tunnel Bridge 10 miles north of Marlinton.

Variety of miles: 78

Issue: Reasonable, goes downhill at a one-percent grade

Good for kids: Sure, the path is basically flat and accessible for shorter sections

Don’t miss: The 230-foot Sharps Tunnel Bridge is a must-stop for a photograph

Time to journey: Two to a few days


For adrenaline-rush mountain biking on former mining trails and roads

The Downieville Downhill in Northern California — although persistently named among the best mountain bike trails within the U.S. — is technically not a former railroad observe. As an alternative, the path is part of the bigger Lost Sierra Route, a work-in-progress trail network at present spanning 600 miles of decommissioned mining infrastructure that run via the Japanese Sierra Nevada, bringing biking and climbing tourism to former Gold Rush cities together with Portola, Quincy, Susanville and, in fact, Downieville. About 16 or 17 miles and a 5,000-foot drop via verdant evergreen forest, this route shouldn’t be a newbie path, however intermediate and superior mountain bikers can count on a high-velocity adrenaline rush in some of the lovely components of the nation (shuttle providers are extremely really helpful, and make it straightforward to get to the highest of the path for a number of rides, for those who can’t get sufficient). The path can also be the anchor of the Downieville Classic, an annual mountain bike competition, race and fund-raiser that can be returning to the city and celebrating its twenty fifth yr in 2023.

Variety of miles: 16 to 17

Issue: Intermediate to superior; the path drops greater than 5,000 toes in about 16 miles

Good for kids: No, except they’re little rippers

Don’t miss: The Downieville Classic, an annual mountain bike competition and race that can be celebrating its twenty fifth anniversary in 2023

Time to journey: Relies upon how briskly you shred


For swimming stops galore

One of many first rail-to-trail conversions within the U.S., the Heartland State Path is a largely flat, 49-mile path that runs between Park Rapids and Cass Lake, Minn. Fittingly for the Land of 10,000 Lakes, the path presents a number of, simply accessible spots for swimming and wading in lakes and rivers. Along with metropolis seashores alongside or close to the path within the cities of Park Rapids, Nevis and Walker, maintain an eye fixed out for locations alongside the journey the place steps have been constructed to permit riders to achieve the river. Water isn’t the one attraction on this well-maintained, appealingly forested path — you’ll need time to discover small but bustling path cities like Dorset, Minn., and cease for photographs on the Paul Bunyan statue in Akeley. Skilled cyclists can definitely deal with the complete 49 miles in someday, however these in search of a extra leisurely (and kid-friendly) journey would do properly to take a weekend, cease for an evening in Dorset and go away loads of time for swims.

Variety of miles: 49

Issue: Simple, the path is usually flat

Good for kids: Sure

Don’t miss: The Paul Bunyan statue in Akeley

Time to journey: One to 2 days


For city exploring amid desert landscapes

The Chuck Huckelberry Loop in Arizona, connecting unincorporated Pima County, Marana, Oro Valley, South Tucson and Tucson, is an instance of newer city infrastructure being reclaimed for recreation. After main floods within the Nineteen Seventies and ’80s, Pima County constructed soil-cement financial institution safety alongside the Santa Cruz and Rillito Rivers, and observed that residents have been utilizing the embankments as multiuse paths. Following their lead, the county started creating river parks with paved paths, connecting the river parks with neighborhood bike lanes and finally making a full loop that was accomplished in 2018. The 137-mile paved loop features a 68-mile circle round Tucson plus extra out-and-back rides alongside the banks of the Cañada del Oro Wash and Santa Cruz River, making for a novel mixture of city exploration — a Sunday farmers market within the Rillito River Park or a pit cease for espresso, beer and southwestern fare at downtown Tucson’s Mercado San Agustin close to the Santa Cruz River Park — and putting desert landscapes with views of the Santa Catalina and Rincon Mountains.

Variety of miles: 137

Issue: Simple; whole elevation acquire is about 1,000 toes, however the common gradient is one p.c. There are brief sections of as much as 5 p.c gradient at underpasses.

Good for kids: Sure

Can’t miss: Try Tucson’s Mercado San Augustín close to the Santa Cruz River Park

Time to journey: One to a few days for the complete loop

Connecticut & Massachusetts

For a multigenerational historical past lesson

The historical past of the Farmington Canal Heritage Path is instantly evident in its identify — the largely flat path runs alongside the previous Farmington Canal, which was as soon as used to move agricultural merchandise and manufactured items on horse-towed boats. The canal, which ran from New Haven, Conn., to Northampton, Mass., was changed by a railroad that was decommissioned within the Nineteen Eighties. A neighborhood residents’ group remodeled a bit of the hall right into a leisure path in 1993, and over the a long time added extra miles with a roughly 81-mile related path now the objective. Whereas some gaps nonetheless stay, the finished 64 miles present a draw for cyclists of all ages. Study extra concerning the route with stops on the Lock 12 Historical Park in Cheshire, the Southington Train Depot in Southington and the Lock Keeper’s House in Hamden, the place you’ll discover a small exhibit on the canal’s historical past in a restored dwelling. This yr marks the two hundredth anniversary of the incorporation of the Farmington Canal Firm and a number of events are occurring via the summer season and fall to have a good time, together with a historical walking tour alongside the F.C.H.T. in New Haven on June 17.

Variety of miles: 64

Issue: Simple, about 600 toes of whole elevation acquire

Good for kids: Sure

Don’t miss: The Lock Keeper’s Home in Hamden, Conn., which has a small exhibit on the canal’s historical past

Time to journey: One to a few days

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