There are many great Bicycle touring routes in the USA with a wide variety of destinations.
These are different than what a local cyclist might think as I am viewing this from the viewpoint of a foreign visitor.
These are 10 of the best bicycle touring routes in the USA you may wish to consider
Route 1 East Coast Greenway – also known in sections as U.S. Bicycle Route 1 spans almost 3,000 miles from the Canadian border in scenic Maine to Key West, Florida and links all the major eastern seaboard cities. About one-quarter is on traffic-free bicycle paths. Maine, and in particular the Acadia National Park area are very popular with cyclists.
Route 2 Vermont – is well known for its beautiful scenery, particularly in September and October when the leaves change color. Many trips are available from adventure tour companies usually inn to inn. There are many unsigned Vermont bicycle routes throughout the state. What is good about Vermont is you can cycle in hilly terrain or along the Champlain Bikeways which provide great lake views and less hills.
Route 3 Finger Lakes, New York – not top of mind but this is a popular wine region with numerous waterfalls and quiet hilly roads visited by many cyclists. It is best to base yourself in the typical New England towns of Hammondsport, Watkins Glen or Ithaca and do a series of day trips. Plenty of campgrounds, rental vacation homes, B & B, hotels in the region. The Eire Canal route goes through this area.
Route 4 Lancaster County, Pennsylvania – is a unique part of the United States with one of the largest Amish and Mennonite communities in the country. There is an extensive network of quiet roads for cycling which can be hilly at times.
Route 5 Kentucky – is famous for its love of horses. There are many miles of quiet roads available passing the horse farms.
Route 6 Blue Ridge Parkway – is a 469 miles scenic route in North Carolina and Virginia. Cyclists find this route popular because of lower traffic levels compared to most highways and you have those wonderful views.
Route 7 Trans America Bike Route – also know as U.S. Bicycle Route 76 it is a cross country bicycle route of 4,200 miles running from Oregon to Virginia along quiet backroads. It is one of two original U.S. Bicycle routes.
Route 8 Mississippi River Trail –Bicycling Guide To The Mississippi River Trail This is a bicycle route that travels from the headwaters of the Mississippi River at Lake Itasca, Minnesota to the Mississippi Delta in Louisiana. It is a 3,000 mile route of bicycle friendly roads and multi-use pathways.
Route 9 Pacific Coast – Central California which includes the famous wine country of the Napa Valley north of San Francisco is popular with more casual recreational cyclists. The Oregon coast to the north with its numerous ascents and stunning ocean views is more for those experienced in bicycle touring. Cycling the Pacific coast route is particularly popular to get you started.
Route 10 San Juan Islands, Washington State – a scenic artists haven with an unhurried pace. You will want to park yourself in a delightful bed and breakfast or small inn and do some day cycles. This has been voted the most bicycle friendly state for the past few years.
Yes I have left out some great regions such as Wisconsin but there were so many choices. Whichever top bicycle touring routes in the USA in the USA you choose have a fun time!
Bicycle Touring U.S. Rail Trails
Planning bicycle touring along rail trails is one easy way to incorporate a safe route into your longer ride. When I was visiting Wisconsin with some cycling friends we camped in a county campground right on Madison bike route system which connected to a number of rail trails which headed out in all directions into the countryside, perfect for day trips.
On other bike tours where we are riding with loaded panniers and moving each night we may use rail trails for a short distance. Surfaces along rail trails vary from gravel to paved so check it out, especially if using loaded panniers. Sometimes we find the routes not as scenic as along a road so will vary the way we travel. One thing is that rail trails are safe (particularly for families with younger riders) as there is no traffic.
Here’s the list of the top 10 states for rail-to-trails, according to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy [To find out about each state’s trail, go to Trail Link and browse by state in the upper right-hand corner of the page]
1. Michigan – 2,379 miles in 126 trails; 28 ongoing projects for 336 miles
2. Minnesota — 2,291 miles in 72 trails; 15 projects at 198 miles
3. Wisconsin — 1,841 miles in 78 trails; 19 projects at 212 miles
4. Pennsylvania — 1,470 miles in 156 trails; 57 projects at 428 miles
5. Washington – 1,047 miles in 76 trails; 15 projects at 93 miles
6. Ohio — 794 miles in 84 trails; 36 projects at 296 miles
7. Iowa — 792 miles in 68 trails; 20 projects at 362 miles
8. California — 713 miles in 110 trails; 56 projects at 976 miles
9. New York — 703 miles in 82 trails; 60 projects at 596 miles
10. Florida — 653 miles in 40 trails; 29 projects at 420 miles
The state with the fewest miles of rail-trail is Delaware at 19 miles…More at Top 10 rails-to-trails states; Michigan is No. 1 » Biking Bis
One rail trail I was on went from Bath to Bristol in England, part of the Sustran routes across England. This paved route still had the platforms of the former train stations, now graced with statutes.
Another long distance rail trail, Le P’Tit Train du Nord goes for 232 km (144 miles) from Montreal into the Laurentian mountain (of course the route is on a gentle grade) and they even had a program where for a small charge a van will return you back to the start.
The major comment I get is that they are flat and boring, however some of the long distance route such as the Great Allegheny Passage from Pittsburgh to Washington and Le P’Tit Train du Nord through the Laurentians are popular for cycling vacations. Need some help getting started, check out this book on rail trails in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Rail trails are being created in all sorts of interesting ways and some can be a 3 or 4 day bicycle tour as well. So consider bicycle touring along trail rails on your next journey.