Bike riding is becoming an increasingly popular activity in the United States for recreation, exercise, and environmentally friendly transportation. With the growing interest in cycling, many cities and towns are investing in building and improving bike trails. For bike enthusiasts looking for scenic routes for road biking, mountain biking, or leisurely rides, the US offers some fantastic bike trails stretching across different terrains and landscapes.
Let’s look at five of the best bike trails across the US that are worth experiencing.
1. Columbia River Gorge, Oregon And Washington
Forming the border between Oregon and Washington, the Columbia River Gorge offers epic scenery along its rushing waters. The Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail traces the gorge for 22 miles, providing a magnificent bike path with waterfalls, mountain vistas, and lush forests.
Cycling highlights include:
- Multnomah Falls, Oregon’s tallest waterfall, plunging 620 feet
- Oneonta Gorge, with its unique logjam tunnel
- Horsetail Falls flowing down a cliffside
- Views of the Columbia River from the trail
- The historic Vista House
You can extend your ride by connecting to the Eagle Creek Trail or the Mosier Twin Tunnels route. For those seeking a cycling challenge, the trail also connects to the grueling Mark O. Hatfield West Coast Scenic Trail. With its combination of jaw-dropping scenery and cycling-friendly grades, the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail is a marvelous ride along one of America’s great rivers.
2. Cape Cod Rail Trail, Massachusetts
Stretching 22 miles from Dennis to Wellfleet, the Cape Cod Rail Trail follows a former railroad right-of-way along the Cape Cod National Seashore. The paved path provides a scenic route for cycling on the coast, with beaches, marshes, ponds, and forests.
Many riders have found that using electric bike conversion kits enhances their experience on this trail, allowing them to cover more distance with ease and enjoy the picturesque surroundings without tiring themselves out. It’s especially handy for those who might not be regular cyclists but want to experience the beauty of the Cape Cod Rail Trail.
- Swan Pond River with opportunities for spotting herons, egrets, and ospreys
- Nickerson State Park with its kettle ponds
- The historic Wellfleet Drive-In theater
- Beaches along Cape Cod Bay
The trail is relatively flat and family-friendly. You can stop for a swim along the bay before continuing your ride. Benches, picnic areas, and restrooms allow you to take breaks. The Cape Cod Rail Trail offers cyclists sweeping coastal views as it winds past iconic Cape landscapes.
3. The Great Allegheny Passage
The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) stretches 150 miles from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Cumberland, Maryland, following the course of rivers and abandoned railroad lines. This crushed limestone and paved rail trail passes through the Allegheny Mountains and offers cyclists gorgeous scenery.
You can bike past rolling farmlands, cross over soaring bridges, and see historic railroad tunnels on this route. The gentle downhill slope from Pittsburgh to Cumberland makes it a great bike trail for a multi-day cycling trip. Places to see along the GAP include:
- Ohiopyle State Park with rapids, waterfalls, and nature trails
- The Eastern Continental Divide and Big Savage Tunnel
- Frostburg and its shops, restaurants, and museums
- The historic railroad town of Cumberland
The GAP connects cyclists to the 184.5-mile-long C&O Canal Towpath to Washington, DC, allowing you to extend your ride. With stunning mountain vistas, forests, rivers, historic towns, and more, the Great Allegheny Passage is one of the finest rail trails in the country.
4. Going-To-The-Sun Road, Glacier National Park
Cutting through the heart of Glacier National Park in Montana, Going-to-the-Sun Road spans 50 miles, offering cyclists an unforgettable alpine experience. Recognized as one of the most scenic drives in the US, this route is equally mesmerizing for riders.
The road winds past glacial lakes, waterfalls, and towering mountain peaks, providing non-stop stunning views. Cycling the Going-to-the-Sun Road takes you from verdant valleys to high alpine terrain. The climb is demanding but rewarding, with spectacular sights around each bend. The highlights along this route include:
- Mary and Virginia Falls
- Lake McDonald
- Logan Pass at the Continental Divide
- Wild Goose Island
- Triple Arches
Due to heavy snowfall, Going-to-the-Sun Road is usually open from early June to mid-October. Summer sees the most crowds, so spring and fall are ideal times for bicycling. With a high elevation gain of 3,000 feet, you must be prepared for changing mountain weather. Going-to-the-Sun Road offers one of the most scenic and thrilling bike rides in the country.
5. Monument Valley Scenic Road, Utah And Arizona
In the heart of the Colorado Plateau lies Monument Valley, with its iconic sandstone buttes and monoliths rising hundreds of feet into the air. The 17-mile Monument Valley Scenic Road loops through the valley, providing a magical landscape for cycling.
As you bike this dirt road, the towering Mittens and Merrick Butte dominate the landscape around you. The road passes close to the massive mesas and rock formations, letting you marvel at the stripes and colors swirled through the sandstone. Some key sights include:
- Elephant Butte
- Three Sisters
- John Ford’s Point with the view of the Mittens
- Cly Butte
- Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei
Since the road is unpaved and rough in parts, mountain bikes are ideal. While the route is not long, cycling is moderately difficult due to sandy stretches. But the magnificent scenery makes it worthwhile. Sunrise and sunset offer dramatic lighting on the buttes. Monument Valley Scenic Road lets you pedal through an iconic landscape straight out of classic Westerns.
From coast to coast, the United States offers boundless opportunities for scenic cycling on both on-road and off-road trails. The bike paths covered in this article wind through some of the country’s most spectacular landscapes. You can immerse yourself in the history of pioneer trails or railways, pedal past towering peaks and canyons, and enjoy lush forests and pristine lakes. Have fun exploring the trails!