According to the U.S. Travel Association (USTA, www.ustravel.org), biking vacations attracted more than 27 million travelers in the past five years and ranks as the third most popular outdoor vacation activity in America – following camping and hiking. People who take biking trips tend to be young and affluent, according to the USTA Adventure Travel Report. About half are between the ages of 18 and 34, and one-fourth are from households with an annual income of $75,000 or more.
According to the Houston Chronicle, more than 200 tour companies offer bike tour itineraries. Tours range from one-day, all-downhill excursions to luxurious trips across Europe that break for museum visits, shopping, and gourmet dining.
Mountain biking has afforded ski resorts the opportunity to attract off-season tourists. Approximately 200 ski areas – from Vermont to California – now have bike trails carved into their slopes.
Bed, Breakfast and Bike trails have been established throughout the U.S., where riders finish each day’s travel at an inn that caters to cyclists. Several regional guideblogs describe these trails and provide trail routes.
According to 2015 SFIA Participation Topline Report, published by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA, www.sfia.org), 39.7 million people bike at least once a year – 19.3 million are casual participants (<26 times per year) and 20.5 million are core participants (>26 times per year). Participation has been as follows:
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Top Bicycling Trails
Among thousands of great bicycling trails in the United States, the following
Big Bend National Park (Texas)
• Lightly traveled roads and varied terrain make Big Bend National Park (www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/biking.htm) a premier bicycling location. Over 100 miles of paved roads and 160 miles of backcountry dirt roads provide challenges for riders of all levels. The National Park Service recommends nine trails ranging in distance from 20 miles to 35 miles and in difficulty from easy to strenuous.
Big Boulder Trail (Downieville, CA)
• In recent years Downieville has become the premiere West Coast mountain bike riding destination. In fact, a number of mountain biking pioneers have purchased second homes in the area. The consensus is that Big Boulder (www.imba.com/epics/big-boulder-trail), a 130-year-old mining trail, is the best trail in the region.
Buffalo Creek Trail (Pine, CO)
• The diverse Buffalo Creek Trail (www.singletracks.com/bike-trails/buffalo-creek.html), an hour west of Denver, features smooth, rolling singletrack and lots of variety. The total climb on the 14-mile trail is about 1000 feet.
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Centennial Trail (South Dakota)
• Built in 1989 to mark the 100th anniversary of South Dakota’s statehood, the Centennial Trail (www.howtoenjoytheblackhills.com/recreation/centennial-trail/) is an 111-mile route through prairies and mountainous areas. The trail begins at Bear Butte State Park, travels through the Fort Mead Recreation Area, Black Hills National Forest, and Custer State Park, and ends in Wind Cave National Park.
Crested Butte Trail 401 (Colorado)
• Trail 401 (www.visitcrestedbutte.com/ride.cfm?rideid=11) is set among some of the most awe-inspiring scenery in Colorado. This 14.5-mile trail is often rated by mountain bikers, magazines, and blogs as the Best Singletrack Trail in the U.S. At the peak there are spectacular views with the Maroon Bells (two peaks in the Elk Mountains) to the east. The Red Mountains and Crested Butte provide the backdrop on the down hill track.
Gauley Headwaters Trail (West Virginia)
• The Gauley Headwaters (www.singletracks.com/bike-trails/gauley-headwaters.html), a 37-mile winding track through the Allegheny Mountains and the hardwood forests of Monongahela, is the best of several popular tracks in the Appalachian range.
The trail highlight is a single track decent to the headwaters of Tea Creek.
Golden Gate Bridge (California)
• Biking the Golden Gate Bridge (www.goldengatebridge.org), one of the classic rides in the U.S., offers some of the most breathtaking views of San Francisco found anywhere. Riders generally start along Marina Green, pass the city’s swankiest yacht clubs and lots of kite-flyers, traverse over gravel paths at Crissy Field, and take in views of the Farallon Islands and the Marin Headlands as they cross on the bridge’s western side. Catching a ferry back to the city from Sausalito is an option.
Greenbrier River Trail (West Virginia)
• Originally a part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, the Greenbrier River Trail (www.greenbrierrailtrailstatepark.com) was ranked by Backpacker magazine as one of the top 10 biking trails in the United States. The 76-mile trail runs from North Caldwell to one mile south of Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. Traversing 35 bridges and two tunnels, the trail parallels the Greenbrier River, is less than a 1% grade, and features some of the best pastoral and woodland scenery the state has to offer. Novice and intermediate mountain bikers appreciate the packed gravel surfaces on the majority of the trail. Twelve rustic campsites are available along the trail. The Greenbrier River Trail was inducted into the national Rail-Trail Hall of Fame in 2012.
Katy Trail (Missouri)
• Missouri spent $2.2 million (donated by Edward D. Jones) turning an abandoned rail bed from St. Charles to Sedalia into Katy Trail (www.bikekatytrail.com), a biking and
hiking path. The Katy Trail, a state park 10 to 12 feet wide and 185 miles long, is the longest rails-to-trails conversion in the United States. An estimated 300,000 to
400,000 people use the trail annually.
Minuteman Bikeway (Massachusetts)
• The Minuteman Bikeway (http://www.minutemanbikeway.org/) runs through Cambridge, Arlington, Lexington, and Bedford. The 10.4-mile trail passes several historic battlefields of the American Revolution. An estimated 2 million people use the bikeway each year, making the Minuteman one of the busiest trails in the U.S.
Natchez Trace Parkway (Mississippi)
• The Natchez Trace Parkway (www.nps.gov/natr/index.htm) offers an opportunity for less experienced riders to get a taste of the more epic, wilderness trails usually reserved for hardcore off-roaders.
San Juan Islands (Washington)
• The San Juan Islands (www.visitsanjuans.com/what-to-do/san-juan-islands-bicycling) provide three tiers of cycling adventures, from moderate to challenging. Lopez Island, the least hilly of the San Juan Islands, offers a couple of 30 mile trails with beautiful ocean vistas and stop-offs for picnics, wildlife viewing, or short hikes. The 20-mile trail of San Juan Island is more challenging. While the island can be circumnavigated in a day, visitors often allow two or three days so they can also explore the parks, beaches, and communities along the way. Orcas Island, a popular destination for orca whale watching during summer, provides a challenging ride, even for experienced cyclists, and a 2,409 foot view from Mount Constitution.
Shark Valley (Florida)
• The Shark Valley trail (www.nps.gov/ever/planyourvisit/shark-valley-trails.htm), in the heart of Everglades National Park, is a 14.5-mile paved loop trail. Along the way riders see alligators, birds, and other wildlife up close. The trail’s 65-foot observation tower offers panoramic views of the “river of grass.”
Slickrock Trail (Utah)
• World-renowned Slickrock Trail (www.utah.com/bike/trails/slickrock.htm) is credited with transforming Moab into a mountain biking mecca. Hosting over 100,000 visitors per year, Slickrock is the most popular mountain bike trail in the world. The unique slickrock medium allows a mountain bike to be ridden to its fullest expression as the traction between stone and tires can hold a bike at gravity defying angles. The 12-mile trail takes riders along petrified sand dunes and an ancient dry seabed, with expansive views of the vast rock hills of Utah’s canyon lands.
Underground Railroad Bicycle Route (Mobile, Alabama, to Owen Sound, Ontario)
• The Adventure Cycling Association (www.adventurecycling.org) developed the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route in 2007. There are five segments totaling a distance of 2,006 miles. This is the only U.S. trail ranked by National Geographic in the world’s Top 10 Cycling Routes.
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