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There’s a reason cycling is growing in popularity — not only is it a fun activity for all ages, but it’s also a healthy, endorphin-boosting way to explore an area or city. And since the U.S. is filled with trails for every type of cyclist — from mountain bikers seeking an adrenaline rush to relaxed weekend cruisers — the possibilities are endless, no matter your skill level. If you’re seeking the freedom of two wheels, here are eight of the best bike trails in the U.S.
Boise River Greenbelt (Boise, Idaho)
Extending along its namesake river through downtown Boise, the Boise River Greenbelt covers 46 miles of paved bike trails, connecting the outer suburbs to the city. The Greenbelt crosses through the “Ribbon of Jewels,” a network of 12 parks named for female civic leaders, offering scenic views of the surrounding foothills. With plenty of opportunities to see birds and other wildlife that flock to the river, much of the path is lined with deciduous trees, keeping it cool in the summer months. As an added bonus, the trail provides access to plenty of wineries, breweries, cafés, and restaurants with outdoor seating and live music along the river. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, the Greenbelt even features a whitewater park, where locals surf in man-made rapids!
High Trestle Trail (Central Iowa)
At a total length of 25 miles, High Trestle Trail runs across central Iowa, connecting four towns and five counties. With a number of access points throughout the trail, High Trestle is a decommissioned Union Pacific Railroad line, commonly referred to as a “rail trail.” The trail’s pièce de résistance is the High Trestle Trail Bridge, which runs for a half-mile across the Des Moines River Valley and stands 13 stories tall. The bridge’s spiraling frames are meant to mimic the descent into a mine shaft, an acknowledgment of the region’s industrious history. Since the bridge is illuminated by blue lights in the evening, it’s a mesmerizing sight to see after the sun goes down.
Slickrock Trail (Moab, Utah)
Referred to as the “mountain biking capital of the world,” Moab is renowned by mountain bikers from around the globe. The city’s surrounding red rock terrain and abundance of cycling trails serve as a draw for expert bikers looking to test their skill levels. Of all the bike trails in Moab, Slickrock Trail is perhaps the most famous, and a must-ride for any mountain biker. Unlike typical single-track trails, the 10-mile loop trail runs over Moab’s characteristic slickrock, which is smooth, weathered sandstone that makes for fun riding. The trail is rated intermediate to difficult, although more novice riders can enjoy the nearby 1.7-mile Practice Loop, which is just as challenging but notably shorter than the main trail.
Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail (Gulf Shores, Alabama)
Located in the city of Gulf Shores, Alabama, the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail offers cyclists a well-rounded view of Gulf State Park. With seven different trails totaling 15 miles, the Backcountry Trail crosses through six different ecosystems, including freshwater marshes, coastal hardwood swamps, coastal dunes, and live oak maritime forests. A much-beloved stop on the trail is the Butterfly Garden, which features bright flowers that attract pollinators and plenty of greenspace for picnics. To add to the excitement, spying alligators along the trail is not unusual during mating season, although it’s always best to steer clear of the reptiles.
Rio Grande Trail (Pitkin County, Colorado)
A 42-mile rail trail located in the heart of the Rockies, the Rio Grande Trail links the towns of Glenwood Springs and Aspen, Colorado. For cyclists who want to complete the route in its entirety, buses fitted with multiple bike racks circle between the two end destinations. (Start at Glenwood Springs to go uphill and Aspen to go downhill.) Otherwise, the partially-paved trail offers a wide variety of access points, which allow bikers to tailor their ride to their abilities. With mountain views, historic ranch buildings, and flower-filled meadows, the Rio Grande Trail gives adventurous cyclists plenty of opportunities to see the beauty of the Rockies firsthand.
Kingdom Trails (East Burke, Vermont)
Kingdom Trails is a large mountain bike trail system located in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. As a charitable nonprofit organization, the trail system is located on the properties of 100 landowners, who generously donate their land to be available for public use. The result is a vast, 100-mile network of mountain biking trails for all ages and abilities. Burke Mountain is the largest landowner in the trail network, and an ideal starting point, as it allows direct access to the trail’s mid-mountain section. A detailed trail map is also available for people looking to find the beginner, intermediate, and expert trails that traverse the mountain and surrounding countryside.
Banks-Vernonia State Trail (Washington County, Oregon)
Repurposed from an old lumber railway, Banks-Vernonia State Trail extends for 21 miles through Oregon’s bucolic landscape. Featuring 13 railway trestle bridges, the mostly-paved path crosses clear streams, traverses through canopies of trees, and meanders through open meadows dotted with wildflowers. Thanks to its status as a rail trail, Banks-Vernonia is a relatively easy grade — to coast downhill, begin in Vernonia, and for a workout, start in Banks. In addition to these two endpoints, there are four other access points along the trail, making it easy for cyclists to enjoy the gorgeous Pacific Northwest setting at their leisure.
Leelanau Trail (Leelanau County, Michigan)
The Leelanau Trail runs from Traverse City up to Suttons Bay, following an old railroad line in rural Michigan. Although the 15-mile trail mostly comprises packed gravel, 6.2 miles are paved along the middle of the route. Since the trail passes through Michigan’s pastoral countryside, the ride is beautiful, crossing forests and farmland for much of its entirety. Wine tasting is also a popular activity that coincides with the Leelanau Trail, as northern Michigan is home to several local wineries. The Leelanau Wine Trail Bike Tour is a self-guided tour that uses the bike trail to lead you to seven wineries along the way. Luckily, the local Bike-n-Ride transportation system makes it easy to get home at the end of the day.