The 50 Best Bike Rides in America, State by State
The best bike ride in every state
Some parts of America are famous for their wide-open spaces, while others take pride in their mountains or coastal views. But no matter what a state’s best features are, chances are they’re even better when explored on a bike.
So we rounded up some of the best places to bike across the country, from gravel rail-trails to scenic byways to technical mountain singletrack. All routes are point-to-point, and distances listed are one way, unless otherwise noted. Before you head out, check trail websites for hours, pricing information (some charge fees), and safety information. Happy pedaling! (Not a cyclist? Check out the 50 Day Hikes You Must Add to Your Bucket List instead.)
Oak Mountain State Park, Pelham
The park’s 22-mile Double Oak Trail—also known as the Red Trail—is a mix of skinny singletrack and wider doubletrack sections, and its terrain is varied enough to delight any mountain biker, beginner to expert. No wonder the International Mountain Bike Association inducted Oak Mountain into its Epic Rides Hall of Fame. Ride the entire loop, and you’ll climb about 1,600 feet.
Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Anchorage
This 11-mile stretch of paved, car-free road meanders easily along the Cook Inlet coast and through scented forests, and offers sweeping views of North America’s highest peak, Mount Denali. Keep an eye out for moose, bald eagles, and beluga whales.
Fantasy Island Mountain Bike Trail, Tucson
The League of American Bicyclists designated Tucson a gold-medal bike-friendly community, so you’ll be right at home no matter what type of ride you pedal. For a true treat, mountain bikers love the 20-plus miles of Fantasy Island trails right within the city limits. Small hills and varied terrain throughout make them great for all skill levels; those looking for a truly unique experience can even try riding at night.
Arkansas River Trail System, Little Rock area
This 88-mile loop connects 38 parks, six museums, more than 5,000 acres of parkland, and countless gorgeous views of the Arkansas River. It’s flat and easy riding, on a mix of off-road paved trails, bike lanes, and rural roads. It’s a favorite among both locals and tourists: AAA’s Southern Traveler magazine has even called this the best bike trail in the south.
American River Bike Trail, Sacramento to Folsom
Choosing one “best ride” in California is nearly impossible, but this 32-mile route makes a pretty convincing case for itself. It runs from Discovery Park in Old Sacramento to the historic Folsom Prison, following the American River the whole way. “The smooth paved road is simply spellbinding,” wrote Bicycling magazine, as it named the trail one of the 10 best car-free bike paths in the country.
Trail 401, Crested Butte
The town of Crested Butte is an outdoor-lover’s paradise, and is known as one of the birthplaces of mountain biking. You can choose from hundreds of miles of high-alpine trails, including the super popular Trail 401 loop: It’s 14 miles of intermediate-level ups and downs, leading to an 11,339-foot summit and 360-degree views of the Elk Mountains.
Litchfield Hills B&B Bike Trails, North Canaan to Woodbury
One of eight Connecticut B&B Bike Trails (all with bed-and-breakfasts along the way), this 97-mile road route takes you through the foothills of the Berkshires, the Housatonic Meadows, and Dennis Hill State Park. The route is rated moderate to difficult, with lots of hills and low mountain ranges.
Bicycle Route 1, Montchanin to Fenwick Island
Bike from one end of the state to the other on this scenic route that passes beaches, dunes, boardwalks, marshes, and even World War II submarine watchtowers. The entire route stretches 150 miles from the Pennsylvania border to Maryland; the last section, from Rehoboth Beach south, runs along the coast. You’ll share the road with cars, but the generous shoulder provides security for two-wheeled travelers.
Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail, Jacksonville to Baldwin
This 14.5-mile paved asphalt trail gets you away from the noisy city and deep into the woods. It’s a popular route for road and recumbent touring bikes, although the 20-mph speed limit keeps everyone to a recreational pace. The trail abuts Camp Milton Historic Preserve, an important Civil War site.
Coastal Living named this upscale vacation destination home to one of the country’s best coastal bike trails. An easy 16-mile loop runs beside the beach on a mostly paved, flat path. Not only will you take in the island’s natural beauty, you’ll get a close-up look at the historic Jekyll Island Club Hotel in all its grandeur. Can’t take your bike from the mainland? There are plenty of places to rent one for your stay.
Old Mamaloa Highway to Waipio Valley Overlook, Big Island
This 40-mile out-and-back (and out-and-back again) starts with a four-mile, 1,000-foot climb and features views of Mauna Kea volcano, the Kohala Mountains, and the Waipio Valley. The Hawaii Cycling Club says this could be the best ride on the Big Island, and Bicycling magazine called the return downhill trip a “glorious, twisty, forest-shaded” ride.
Bald Mountain, Sun Valley/Ketchum
Sun Valley’s 400-plus miles of singletrack trail earned it a place in National Geographic’s best mountain biking towns—and its 30 miles of paved paths make it a great place for road cyclists, too. Downhill enthusiasts can access 13 miles of world-class trails on Bald Mountain, via a chairlift at Sun Valley Resort.
Illinois Prairie Path, Maywood to the Fox River
Midwest Living named this 61-mile multi-use trail one of its 14 great Midwest bike trails. It winds past prairies, ponds, wetlands, and forests, for a varied and always eye-pleasing view. The path is paved from Maywood to Wheaton, then branches off into four gravel spur trails that run west to the towns of Elgin, Aurora, Geneva, and Batavia.
Cardinal Greenway, Marion to Richmond
Expect lots of spacious skies, fruited plains, and amber waives of grain: according to the Rails to Trails Conservancy, the Indiana countryside along this route may have inspired the lyrics to “America the Beautiful.” The 60-mile greenway serves as a great way to get around the city of Marion, or to escape from downtown and get out into the open air.
Raccoon River Valley Trail, Jefferson to Waukee
This flat, paved rail-trail is a great way to see Iowa’s countryside. It runs 89 total miles, with a 72-mile interior loop. You’ll pass through wide-open prairies, shady wooded areas, and several small towns with rest areas and amenities—like restaurants, bars, and shops—for tired, hungry riders.
Flint Hills Nature Trail, Osawatomie to Herrington
The longest rail-trial in Kansas, this 117-mile route passes through five counties while crisscrossing the Flint Hills—one of the last remaining tall grass prairie ecosystems in the world. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy recommends mountain or hybrid bikes, since certain parts of the path may be a bit rough for skinny tires.
Land Between the Lakes Canal Loop, Golden Pond
These 11 miles of trail in the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area feature “fast and flowy” singletrack and good views of Kentucky and Barkley Lakes, says MTB Project. It’s rated moderate to difficult, with 3 miles of additional connecting trails for those who are up for a longer ride. The nearby rural highways are popular destinations for road biking, as well.
Mississippi River Trail, New Orleans to St. Charles Parish
Also known as the Levee-Top Trail—because it’s literally on top of the city’s levees—this 60-mile system of multi-use, car-free trails runs along both banks of the Mississippi River in southern Louisiana. One of the most popular sections for cyclists is the 25-mile stretch the zoo in Audubon Park upriver to the Bonnet Carré Spillway.
Carriage Trails, Acadia National Park
“If you only have a day to spend biking in Maine, this is where you want to be,” said Bicycling magazine in its roundup of the country’s top 10 car-free bike paths. These 45 miles of hard-packed gravel roads have it all: waterfalls, stone bridges, coastal views, and Somes Sound, North America’s only fjord.
The Delmarva Peninsula, Easton area
Gear Patrol named this stretch of land one of its best cycling routes in America, calling it “a crazy quilt of fields, small towns, coves, and sinuous tributary rivers.” Start from the historic city of Easton, stop in St. Michaels for a seaside lunch, take a ferry from Bellevue to Oxford, and pedal back to Easton for about 50 lovely miles.
Cape Ann Loop, Gloucester and Rockport
Less than an hour’s drive from Boston, this series of rural roadways circumvents the coast of Massachusetts’s North Shore. You’ll get ocean views, coastal breezes, and small-town vibes the entire way, with plenty of places to stop for rest and refreshments. Choose from a 10-, 14-, or 16-mile loop, or combine them for all-day scenic riding.
Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, Empire to Port Oneida
This paved, multi-use trail passes through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and provides access to (and great views of) Lake Michigan at its finest. It currently runs about 20 miles, with several more miles of expansion planned in the near future. Bicycles aren’t allowed on hiking trails or beaches within the Lakeshore, but mountain bikers may also want to explore some of the secondary, non-paved roads within the park.
Root River State Trail, Fountain to Houston
The Root River Valley’s soaring limestone bluffs are on full display along this 42-mile paved rail-trail. Ride the whole thing and you’ll cross dozens of bridges and pass six bike tune-up stations (with air pumps and bike maintenance tools), installed as part of the state’s Pedal Minnesota initiative.
Natchez Trace Parkway, Natchez to Tupelo
The Natchez Trace Parkway travels 444 miles from Mississippi to Tennessee. The entire route is a National Park Service bike route, with a 50-mph speed limit for cars. (Commercial traffic is prohibited.) If you get tired of the gorgeous natural scenery, along the way you'll find plenty of bike-friendly bed and breakfasts—and even some bicycle-only campgrounds.
Katy Trail, Clinton to St. Charles
One of the longest rail-trails in the country, this route runs 225 miles across the entire state. There’s a five-day Katy Trail Ride every summer, or you can explore smaller sections on your own. (For a small additional fee, you can even take your bike on Amtrak to several of the trailheads.) The road is flat and scenic, passing through forests, wine country, prairie, and a stretch of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.
Going-to-the-Sun Road, West Glacier to St. Mary
Gear Patrol called this legendary climb in Glacier National Park one of the best road cycling routes in America. Bikers share the road with cars on the 50-mile stretch from the park’s west entrance to Logan Pass, near the east entrance. You’ll gain more than 4,000 vertical feet, but the breathtaking views of mountains and glacial lakes will make you forget how exhausted you are.
Cowboy Trail, Norfolk to Valentine
“You haven't seen Nebraska scenery if you haven't been on the Cowboy Trail,” writes the Omaha World-Herald. Nearly 200 miles have been developed for bike use; when the entire 321 miles is complete, it will be the world’s longest rails-to-trails route. Start (or end) your ride in Valentine for a chance to cross an old 148-foot high railroad bridge over the Niobrara River.
Tahoe Rim Trail, Lake Tahoe
The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s charity ride held here every year isn’t called America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride for nothing. Two options—a 72-mile or 100-mile loop—follow the highways around Lake Tahoe, starting and ending in Nevada but passing through California on the way. The altitude—and the more than 4,000 feet of elevation gains—make for a challenging (and breathtakingly scenic) ride.
Franconia Notch State Park, Franconia/Lincoln
The nine miles of dedicated pedestrian-and-bike path in this state park are family-friendly and great for all bike types (and skill levels), with fun surprises around every turn. After you work up a sweat pedaling, cool off with a dip in Echo Lake or the Basin swimming hole. You can also visit the famous “Old Man in the Mountain” rock face, or hike down into the magnificent Flume Gorge.
Island Beach State Park
When you think of the Jersey shore, you probably don’t think of secluded shoreline, dense forests, and wildlife sightings at every turn. But that’s what you get at this state park, located on a barrier island just south of Seaside. The park’s 8-mile road with bike lanes in both directions leads to views of the Barnegat Lighthouse, on the tip of Long Beach Island.
South Boundary Trail, Angel Fire to Taos
There are some challenging sections on this 23-mile singletrack route, including a hard four-mile climb in the beginning and a long, sometimes steep descent toward the end. Topping out at over 10,000 feet, the trail offers scenic overlooks with views of Taos and the surrounding mountains.
Erie Canalway Trail, Albany to Buffalo
About a third of this trail is built on former railroad tracks, offering a mostly smooth and level ride for cyclists of all levels. The route runs 360 miles along the historic Erie Canal, and offers stunning views of the Adirondack Mountains and the Hudson, Mohawk, and Niagara rivers. The route has some history, too: in the town of Lockport, for example, you can see an original lock built to accommodate the canal’s 600-foot elevation change.