Vacations in U.S. national parks bring to mind scenic vistas, days
of hiking and remote camping. But how about bicycle riding?
Our national parks, not to mention national wildlife refuges and
national recreation areas, can be fantastic places to go cycling.
You’ll find bike trails accessible to kids and casual bike riders, as
well as paths to please advanced cyclists.
Packing for a cycling trip isn’t too different from any other
outdoor vacation. The 30-liter
Wayfinder backpack has discreet pockets and loops for items you
want to keep handy—like sunglasses, helmet, and electronics. And it
keeps your hands free for wheeling your bike. Then use the Pack-It
Specter packing system inside of your bag to keep sweaty clothes
and dirty trail shoes away from your clean items, pack more compactly,
and keep everything organized.
Here are eight protected parks that offer fun and scenic
opportunities for road and mountain biking.
Best Bike Trails for Casual Cyclists
1. Zion National Park, Utah
Zion is a great park with a wide range of hikes, but getting to all
these trails requires riding a shuttle bus. Waits can be long at peak times.
Hopping on bicycles allows you to skip the shuttle, see the park at
your own pace, and stop places the buses don’t for unique
views you don’t
have to share with everyone else.
The road has a gradual incline on the way out, but even most kids
can manage it.
You’re sharing the road with the shuttle buses, so if you get tired
of pedaling, you can mount your bike on their rack and hop aboard.
Planning your bike trip: You can BYO, or rent bikes at
outfitters just outside the park.
2. Yosemite National Park, California
traffic can rival L.A’s during peak summer travel months. One of the
best ways to bypass all of that and get up close to the park’s natural
wonders is on a bicycle.
The national park’s 12 miles of designated bike trails pass through
the Yosemite Valley and are fairly flat, making them doable for both
kids and casual cyclists.
The most popular loops pass through the park’s two villages, hiking
trailheads, iconic scenic vistas, and picnic spots.
Planning your bike trip : You can rent
bikes at Yosemite
Valley Lodge and Half Dome Village right in the park.
3. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia
This protected area off the east coast of Virginia offers several
miles of mostly flat, paved trails that lead through woods and
They range from a bit more than a mile to just over three miles,
making them a good option for family-friendly bike trails.
The short Woodland Trail is your best bet for spotting the island’s
famous wild ponies on bikes. On other trails you’re sure to spot
wading birds, and you might spot deer, muskrats, or otters on early
morning and evening rides.
Planning your bike trip: Chincoteague Town, on the island
that sits between the refuge and the mainland, has a handful of
outfitters offering bike rentals.
4. J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Refuge, on Sanibel Island off the coast of Southwest Florida, is
another family-friendly destination.
It’s flat four-mile loop offer stellar views of some 220 kinds of
waterbirds and shorebirds, including flocks on flamingos.
Take a break from cycling to climb the bird observation tower, or
try a few short hikes. Keep your eyes peeled for more than 50 types of
reptiles and animals, including raccoons, alligators, marsh rabbits,
otters, and bobcats.
Planning your bike trip: Several of the island’s hotels
and resorts offer bikes for guests to borrow, and there are rental
companies in town for adult bikes, kids bikes, and trailers.
Bike Trails Great for Serious Road Cyclists
5. Glacier National Park, Montana
50-mile Going-To-The-Sun Road crosses the Continental Divide and
offers views of jagged peaks, green forests, clear blue lakes, and waterfalls.
When you pause to admire the scenery, look for grizzly bears or any
of hundreds of other animals that wander the park. You’ll want to park
your bike and spend some time hiking
in Glacier, too.
It’s uphill most of the way, on a narrow, shoulder-free mountain
road that you share with cars on most days. In June, cyclists flock to
the park to enjoy a few weeks for car-free riding as plows clear
away the winter snows.
Planning your bike trip : Another popular option for
car-free cycling is the park’s moonlight rides. Gail Godwin, who
owns a vacation
home inside the park
says, “Nothing beats the full-moon midnight ride down the mountain
from Logan Pass into West Glacier. It's so bright, you don't even
need a headlamp or bicycle light!”
6. Acadia National Park, Maine
James Kaiser, author of the book “Acadia: The Complete Guide”, says
this coastal park is “one of the best national
parks for biking” thanks to “45 miles of car-free carriage roads
that pass by some of the park's most beautiful scenery, including
lakes, ponds, and waterfalls.” The trails pass over “17 gorgeous stone
bridges that make you feel like you’re stepping into a fairy tale.”
Planning your bike trip: Choose bikes that can handle the
gravel roads along the trail. You can rent them in nearby Bar Harbor
and take a free shuttle to the carriage road trailheads. Kaiser says
to reserve ahead in busy summer months, or wait
for fall when the crowds disappear and foliage
Bike Trails Great for Adventurers
7. The New River Gorge National River, West Virginia
gorge park is a mecca for mountain bikers, with roughly 75 miles
of trails. The best bike trails range from easy 1-mile loops to
rougher and steeper trails ideal for intermediate and advanced cyclists.
Planning your bike trip: You’ll find places to rent
mountain bikes near the trailhead for the extensive Arrowhead Trail
system, which was created by more than 1,000 Boy Scout volunteers in 2011.
8. Death Valley National Park, California
Shawna Newman, who writes the Active Weekender blog says, “It might
not be on everyone's radar due to the desert climate, but Death
Valley is an amazing place to go both road biking and mountain biking.”
Casual cyclists can find short easy rides like the Furnace Creek
bike trail. Advanced riders can tackle the hills on the longer
Artist's Drive route.
“I'm a big fan of the 20-Mule-Team Canyon Road, which takes you on a
3-mile dirt road loop,” says Newman. “You'll see a contrast of colors
on the route. You might also recognize some of the scenery from
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.”
Planning your bike trip: Rent bikes near the general
store in Furnace Creek.
Biking offers a different way to explore both national parks that
are familiar and those you’ve never visited before. So pack
your bags , rack the bikes, and head out!
Specter Shoe Sack
Specter Stuffer Set Mini
Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):
Challenging Hikes in Glacier National Park
Best National Park Hikes for Families
To Pack When Heading to a National Park