The U.S. Bike Trails with the Best Views
Bicycling takes you places you can't reach on foot, whether you're looking to explore the next town over or tackle a famous climb to add to your bucket list. From pastoral mountain passes to calming coastlines, these are some of the most scenic bike trails in the U.S.
Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail, Monterey, California
Follow the 18-mile Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail from the towns of Pacific Grove to Castroville and you’ll have a perfect view of one of California’s most famous and dramatic coastlines. Photo ops include everything from otters lounging on the shore to surfers tackling the waves along the rugged, scenic peninsula. For shops, cafés, and a side of entertainment on the way, check out Fisherman’s Wharf, Cannery Row, or both. If you’re traveling with kids, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, considered one of the best in the nation, is also en route. Just beyond Monterey State Beach, don’t miss the eucalyptus forest between the trail and road; it’s a haven for monarch butterflies. A picture-perfect seaside town filled with luxury inns, upscale eateries, galleries and boutiques, nearby Carmel-by-the-Sea is a storybook spot to spend the night. Bike rentals are available from several outfitters on either end of the trail. Don’t miss these stunning hiking trails while you’re at it.
The Greenville Health System Swamp Rabbit Trail, Greenville, South Carolina
This 22-mile trail in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains runs between the cities of Travelers West and Greenville along the Reedy River on an old railroad bed. Named after the native cottontail found in the area, most riders begin the trail in Greenville, with its revitalized historic downtown teeming with shops, museums, galleries, and restaurants. Pick up provisions at the Swamp Rabbit Café and Grocery before heading out through popular Falls Park, with its shaded paths, occasional waterfalls and Liberty Bridge, a pedestrian suspension bridge connecting back to the downtown district. You’ll ride past the Monaghan Mill, which served as working mill between 1900 and 2001 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Put your feet up in Travelers West, a mountain town with several bike-friendly eateries, including the Café @ Williams Hardware. No surprise here: Greenville also makes our list of most bike-friendly cities in America.
The Cape Cod Rail Trail, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Got kids? What was once known as the Cape Cod Central Railroad in the 1860s is now the Cape Cod Rail Trail, one of the prettiest family-friendly rides in the United States. Connecting the towns of South Yarmouth and Wellfleet, the relatively flat, 25-mile-long trail winds through the interior portion of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Salt-tinged ocean breezes will lure you towards the shoreline for a run (or a rest) in the dunes of Coast Guard Beach. Also on the way is Nickerson State Park, home to eight clear swimming holes known as kettle ponds. Pick up supplies at the Pleasant Lake General Store in Harwich and find a spot on the way to pop a squat for a scenic picnic lunch. Plentiful scoop shops, bike rental companies, and more are also en route as the trail takes you through seven New England towns oozing 17-century charm. Explore pristine beaches and a picturesque lighthouse on the northern end of the trail.
The Island Bike Trail, Burlington, Vermont
For spectacular views of New York’s Adirondack Mountains to the west and Vermont’s Green Mountains to the east, hop on the gorgeous Island Bike Trail alongside Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont. This hip college town is the start of an easy 14-mile ride that strings together a series of shoreline parks before reaching the Colchester Causeway, a unique, narrow stretch of road that leads three miles into the dead center of the lake. Once there, cross the 200-foot gap known as “The Cut” via the Local Motion Island Bike Ferry and continue exploring the Champlain Islands, or turn around and head back for a well-deserved meal at any of the charming cafés you passed along the way. Bike rentals are aplenty in Burlington. At press time, the Colchester Causeway is closed until further notice.
Captain Ahab and Slickrock Trails, Moab, Utah
Considered one of the top mountain biking spots in the United States, Moab is close to not one, but two, of the most gorgeous national parks in the country: Arches and Canyonlands. Whether you’re looking for a scenic ride through red rock canyons and mesa tops, or you’re an experienced mountain biker in search of challenging cliffs to conquer, Moab has some of the most stunning landscapes on earth. Take the Amasam Back or Hyamasa Trail to the four-mile Captain Ahab singletrack, with its gorgeous views of the Colorado River and rock formations. Experts can test their skills on the Slickrock Bike Trail. Full of steep climbs and jumps, it’s a roller coaster of a bike trail that’s been the setting for myriad adventure films. Book a guided tour with the experts at Moab Cyclery. Off the bike, experience everything from horseback riding to rafting the Colorado River. Moab is the ultimate mountain town, with plenty of local breweries, restaurants, and a slew of outfitters offering everything from basic equipment to trail guides.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road, Whitefish, Montana
This 32-mile ride through Glacier National Park is definitely a bucket list item for avid cyclists who ride as much for its challenging climbs as its awe-inspiring natural beauty. You’ll climb a whopping 3,300 feet on a path essentially carved out of the side of a mountain, providing jaw-dropping views of McDonald Creek as it cascades down toward Lake McDonald. Closed to cars during the spring and fall, the Going-to-the-Sun Road eventually whizzes past pristine Lake McDonald and snow-capped Heavens Peak as you slip under rock overhangs. Be sure to check out the tiny stalactites that poke out from the ceiling of the Heaven’s Peak Tunnel. If the climb is too much for you, there’s a reason this is also one of the most scenic road trips in the U.S., as many flock to drive here, most notably during the summer. Nestled on the shores of Whitefish Lake and the base of Big Mountain, the town of Whitefish is the ideal home base. The area offers a variety of lodging, from quaint inns to ski-style lodges, cabin homes, and condos. Bike rentals available from several outfitters in Whitefish, with many providing shuttle service to and from the trail. Prefer four wheels to two? Here are some of the best road trips in America.
The Shark Valley Trail, near Miami, Florida
If it’s a wild ride you’re after, the 15-mile Shark Valley Trail inside Everglades National Park will likely thrill you, thanks in part to the languid gators you’re almost sure to find basking in the sun here. Keeping them company along the trail are wading herons and egrets, turtles and deer you’re also likely to see on the way. Climb the 45-foot observation tower and take a minute to enjoy the panoramic views of this “River of Grass,” with its trifecta of wetlands, prairies, and clusters of tree islands called tropical hardwood hammocks. Bring binoculars and you’ll likely see bobcats, otters and even more wildlife. After your ride, stretch your legs on the Otter Cave Hammock Trail. Carved almost entirely of limestone, it leads through a tropical forest and over footbridges that cross a small stream. Miami, with its beautiful beaches and pulsing nightlife, is the closest major city to the trail, about 30 minutes by car. Bike rentals available near the Shark Valley Visitor’s Center. Read on for the 13 best bike tours you can take around the country.