Bike trails offer nearly car-free access to some of America’s most stunning landscapes. National Bike advocacy groups — like Rails to Trails Conservancy, People for Bikes and localized efforts such was Washington Area Bicyclist Association — are primarily responsible for the growth of bike trails in America. Working with governmental authorities, there are now 25,000 miles of converted rail-trails, with more to come.
As fall approaches, find a local trail to traverse or venture out to one of these road-bike friendly routes:
SHARK VALLEY TRAIL
Everglades National Park, Florida
Distance: 15 miles
This 15-mile loop is in the heart of the Florida Everglades. Paved, flat and typically with great weather, the Shark Valley Trail won’t overly challenge you physically, but how fast you pedal once you encounter your first alligator is another story. Don’t miss the 45-foot high observation deck.
RIVER MOUNTAINS LOOP TRAIL
Distance: 34 miles
Completed in 2012, this trail takes you into the Mojave Desert, toward Hoover Dam and then back to civilization. A strip of asphalt acts as your guide as nature wraps around you. Exquisite rock formations, panoramic landscapes and the occasional encounter with desert wildlife keep you smiling on your trek.
MISSISSIPPI RIVER TRAIL LOOP
New Orleans to St. James Parish, Louisiana
Distance: 60 miles
Part of a larger 10 state, 3,000-mile path, this subsection snakes the banks of the Mississippi River and the occasional levee on this picturesque trail. Be on the lookout for historic Audubon Park in New Orleans. A perfect place to celebrate the end of the journey or fuel up before starting.
SCHUYLKILL RIVER TRAIL
Philadelphia to Pottsville, Pennsylvania
Distance: 76.6 miles
Ride the paved path through Philadelphia’s lush architecture and fabulous botanical garden to the midpoint at Valley Forge National Historical Park and venture into the gravel and crushed rock to the terminus in small-town America.
SILVER COMET TRAIL AND CHIEF LADIGA TRAIL
Smyrna, Georgia to Anniston, Alabama
Distance: 94.5 miles
There are several towns, which means places to rest or eat, along this multi-use trail which connects the Silver Comet trail in Georgia with the Chief Ladiga trail in Alabama. It’s fully paved, and you can expect farmlands, a few rolling hills and plenty of shade on this former rail line.
OC AND E WOODS LINE STATE TRAIL
Klamath Falls to Sycan Marsh, Oregon
Distance: 109 miles
If you like gravel, this trail has four sections, each with its own character. The paved section near Klamath Falls grants spectacular views of Mount Shasta. The pavement then turns to gravel, then rock and finally to grass as it meanders through the valley, inviting interaction with wildlife and agriculture. The Merritt Creek Trestle is a “must dismount” moment on the trip.
Machens to Clinton, Missouri
Distance: 238 miles
The longest continuous trail in the United States, the Katy Trail spans nearly the entire length of Missouri — with half along the Missouri River. Enjoy the foliage during the fall while riding on a crushed limestone surface which ensures a smooth ride over the rolling hills. B&Bs, wineries and eateries are situated along the trail allowing for frequent rest stops.
NATCHEZ TRACE PARKWAY
Nashville, Tennessee to Natchez, Mississippi
Distance: 444 miles
The Natchez Trace Parkway was once an important passageway connecting the Mississippi territory with the ‘new’ United States. It’s now a scenic bike route, dotted with farms, unique rock formations and a few swamps. Not technically a trail, but sans commercial traffic (trucks) and a max speed limit of 50mph, it’s pretty darn close.