Slow Down & See More with 10 Great American Cycling Adventures

David Landsel, April 15, 2016
Fares from Washington DC:

    It may be the wrong year to come out swinging against the road trip, with gas prices where they are and fuel economy standards approaching historic highs. Still, you could hand out Tesla Model 3's to every American above driving age and it would do nothing to change the fact that when it comes to travel, there's only so much you can experience of any destination behind the wheel of a car.

    To truly take things to the next level, wherever you are, two wheels are so often much greater than four. You don't need a ton of gear or a ton of time, either – from coast to coast, in all sorts of surprising places, there are some great trails and routes to explore, all with handy, affordable bike rentals to get you outfitted. (Some even offer guided tours, if you prefer.) Here are ten ways to get it in gear.

    1. Great Allegheny Passage, Pittsburgh

    Winding out of the City of Bridges, past Frank Lloyd Wright's famous Fallingwater, across the rapids at whitewater capital Ohiopyle and into the mountainous wilds of Western Maryland, the GAP is one of the East's most scenic bike trails, covering 150 miles of surprisingly gentle terrain, considering the impressive surroundings. It's just one piece of the epic, 335-mile, non-motorized route between the 'Burgh and Washington, DC.

    Gear up: Just off the trail in downtown Pittsburgh, Triangle Bike Rental offers equipment, maps and tours.



    2. Maah Daah Hey Trail, North Dakota

    Nearly 100 miles of rugged singletrack connects the two patches of Dakota badland that comprise the already off-the-beaten-path Theodore Roosevelt National Park, along the way achieving approximately 13,000 feet in elevation change. (And you thought you had the  Dakotas all figured out.) In-the-know mountain bikers call the trail one of the country's best.

    Gear up: Dakota Cyclery at the trailhead in Medora offers gear, advice and the Slowpoke tour, a 2 hour trail ride great for families ($115 each for first two riders).



    3. Arkansas River Trail, Little Rock

    The focal point of this 88.5-mile trail is a well-kept waterfront loop route at the heart of the capital city, but more serious cyclists heading northwest along the river are rewarded with extraordinary scenery at Pinnacle Mountain State Park, just twenty miles or so from town.

    Gear up: Bobby's Bike Hike is a full-service outfitter, located along the trail in the lively Little Rock River Market.



    4. Monuments @ Nite Bike Tour, Washington, DC

    If the opening title sequence to "House of Cards" was one of your favorite things about the show, this is definitely the ride for you. The guided (and easy) four-mile route along the National Mall includes photo ops at the newer World War II and Martin Luther King Jr. memorials, along with stops at the classics (Jefferson, Lincoln and more).

    Gear up: $45 adults, $35 children, offered through Oct. 31.



    5. NOLA Social Ride, New Orleans

    One of the most pleasant cities to see on two wheels offers myriad ways to do so; tours both organized and self-guided are easy to find. Better, maybe, is the chance to mingle with locals on regularly scheduled social rides that are often themed (ugly sweaters, superheroes) and always a good time.

    Gear up: The American Bicycle Rental Company in the French Quarter offers bikes, tours and advice.



    6. Acadia National Park, Maine

    John D. Rockefeller, Jr. felt that a place as beautiful as Mount Desert Island should be experienced via horse-drawn carriage, not a car. From 1913 to 1940, he worked to build a maze of narrow roads expressly for that purpose, leaving nearly a nearly 50-mile network to be enjoyed today by cyclists of all ages and experience levels.

    Gear up: Acadia Bike in Bar Harbor rents bikes and offers guided tours.



    7. The Katy Trail, Missouri

    Stretching very nearly across the entirety of the Show-Me State, this 240-mile dedicated pathway (formerly the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad) can take up to five days to complete, but you don't need to be that intrepid to enjoy its mostly-rural charms – you just need two wheels and a few hours.

    Gear up: Find a complete list of outfitters along the route at bikekatytrail.com.



    8. Mohonk Preserve, New York

    On more than thirty miles of scenic roads in the Shawangunk Mountains where horse-drawn carriages once carried affluent New York City sightseers, cyclists now share the road with hikers and rock climbers gearing up for a day on the preserve's legendary limestone cliffs.

    Gear up: Bicycle Depot in the nearby village of New Paltz.



    9. Shining Sea Bikeway, Cape Cod

    A retired rail bed running for nearly 11 miles along Buzzards Bay has become one of the Cape's most popular recreation sites, offering oceanfront, salt marshes, cranberry bogs, ponds and farm fields in the way of scenery as the trail makes its way towards the Martha's Vineyard ferry dock at Woods Hole.

    Gear up: A stone's throw from the trail in Falmouth, Corner Cycle rents gear and offers trail advice.



    10. Texas Bike Tours, Austin

    The Lone Star State's curious capital city is a cyclist's dream, featuring miles of pathways to explore. This boutique tour outfit, run by friendly local experts, helps visitors make sense of it all, offering a "Becoming Acquainted" tour that over 12 easy miles (and in 3 to 4 hours), will have you feeling right at home.

    Gear up: $60 per person, all experience levels welcomed.

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