Traveling by bike is one of the most memorable adventures someone can go on. And what’s more memorable than visiting some of the best cycling routes in the country? We scoured all 50 states to come up with these 10 bikepacking route suggestions, each one unique in its own right. No matter if you are a seasoned biker, or have been dreaming about getting a bike since you were 12, this list will surely spark some inspiration and get you out riding again.
Bikepacking offers everything the trail and ultra-running world has to offer: self-reliance, exploration, overcoming uncertainty and physical challenge in a far-flung place. It’s not a race, it’s an adventure. This article gathers ten routes and mountain bike rides that any rider can attempt in the United States, one of the hottest places in the world for bikepacking.
1. Denali National Park
On the surface, Denali National Park sounds one of the least bikepacking-friendly places you can imagine. Just getting to it from Anchorage takes nine hours of driving and another three to Denali Park Road , which most cyclists approach via a backpack or a shuttle. The park is huge with nearly 1 million acres, most of which is inaccessible to the public. And even inside the park proper, only 92 miles of road are open for vehicles.
But deep inside Alaska’s Denali National Park is a road that’s only open to cyclists and hikers. North from Cantwell, this dirt road winds 92 miles into alpine country, passing beneath snowfields and over high passes to the park’s northern border, the Arctic Circle. You’ll pedal through stunning mountain scenery on crushed gravel and dirt. The road goes right up to the northern border of Denali National Park, so keep your eyes peeled for bears and wolves!
2. Ojito BLM Area, New Mexico
A short drive inland from the outskirts of Taos, New Mexico, a dirt road named Cabezon Road winds between towering rock monuments and through dense forest. A short distance in, you’ll reach the wilderness boundary of the 11,000-acre Ojito Wilderness. Although you can’t bike within the wilderness boundaries, the BLM land on just across the road from the wilderness is open to cyclists for primitive camping.
Cabezon Road makes an excellent backpacking destination for those looking to take in some of northern New Mexico’s otherworldly geological formations and natural wonders. This backcountry escape also provides an opportunity to ride area singletrack trails like The Big Red Traverse and Maroon Bells Connector or wander far-off trail finding hidden sites.
Located in the scenic valley between the Cabezon and Maroon mountains, Ojito Wilderness also offers an alluring option for National Forest campers. New Mexico road biking at its finest, this area features a variety of trails and outdoor excursions to get your feet off the ground. Not only is this a great place to camp; but also an excellent, interesting destination for family outdoor adventures.
3. Oregon Timber Trail
The Oregon Timber Trail forms a 670-mile, half-singletrack bikepacking route through the state of Oregon. This route is a rugged vision of what an American singletrack bikepacking route could be: wild and beautiful, traversing long timber bridges, and following several high-elevation ridges. The trail was created by Oregon’s Western Trails Coalition and is maintained by a coalition of local trailkeepers. It is fully accessible to both mountain bikers and bikepackers (backcountry cyclists).
Just a 70-mile drive from the Pacific Ocean, the Oregon Timber Trail (OTT) travels north to south and traverses 670 miles of rugged and rural terrain. It’s a back-route along the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail corridor and is also an alternative segment of the Trans America Trail.
4. Virginia Mountain Bike Trail
The 430-mile Virginia Mountain Bike Trail (VMBT) connects the Allegheny and Blue Ridge mountain ranges through some of the east’s most scenic public lands. It provides an epic adventure for two-wheeled travelers seeking single-track, remote camping, wilderness views and a touch of history.
“The VMBT is a combination of top-of-the-line, bike-specific trails all connected together,” says Joe Cruz, a certified ACA and IMBA Level II mountain bike guide who runs the Appalachian Outdoors adventure travel company in Charlottesville. “It’s one huge network of singletrack.”
The Virginia Mountain Bike Trail offers everything a cyclist needs to enjoy a good bikepacking trip. It’s challenging but not treacherous.
5. Maah Daah Hey Trail, North Dakota
The Maah Daah Hey Trail winds 144 miles through the Little Missouri National Grasslands in the Badlands of North Dakota and is the longest continuous singletrack mountain bike trail in North America. Overlooking the Montana border, the majority of the trail is easily accessed from the community of Watford City, North Dakota and is open year-round for use by hikers, mountain bikers or equestrians.
Riders can choose between two classes of the trail: 100 and the more difficult 144. You will need a permit to ride, which you can obtain from the Maah Daah Hey Trail Association online. There are also other rules for riding that must be observed including: always yielding to horses, leash pets when you encounter livestock, and requiring riders to carry out all trash they produce during their trip. Riders must also make sure that they understand how to navigate around all obstacles such as rivers, creeks and roads within the singletrack corridor.
6. Kokopelli Trail, Colorado and Utah
Fruita, Colorado and Moab, Utah are two of the nation’s mountain biking meccas. They also happen to be 40 miles apart. Thankfully, a 160-mile dirt pathway named Kokopelli Trail travels between the two. This trail was constructed to link rugged mountain biking in the southwest with an old Native American trail system from Utah. The annual Bikerpelli Tour provides a group ride for racers and support riders alike that travel the same route, stops at the same campsites, eats and drinks at the same places and enjoys mechanical support while riding a loop of Fruita and Moab.
The Kokopelli Trail is a multi-day mountain bike point-to-point route from Moab to Fruita, Colorado. It is considered a traverse of sorts because it follows SR349. The trail can easily be segmented into three 50-mile days with each day providing a full range of landscape. The trail begins in the slickrock of Moab and traverses through the slickrock of Utah along the Colorado state line before finally resurfacing on the other side of the border via a jeep road climb through red rock country to the high mesas and plateaus of Colorado.
7. Olympic Adventure Route, Washington
This 66-mile route begins at the Elwha River and ends at Lake Crescent in Washington’s Olympic National Park, where there are campsites at the Fairholme campground. The mostly singletrack route makes an excellent weekend out-and-back. The trail can be ridden either direction, and you can shuttle car from the Elwha to speed up your trip. Most of the route rides on the Pacific Crest Trail, but a few miles also share its bed with the Olympic Discovery Trail. The PCT and ODT ride over the top of exposed ridge sections before dropping into lush forest on their way to Lake Angeles. The main climb is just a mile long, but each 5-percent grade gains 1,800 feet.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, Olympic Adventure Route is a 66-mile trek along the roads and trails of Elwha River Road and Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge that “captures some of the most scenic vistas found anywhere in the state of Washington”.
8. Colorado Trail
While the Colorado Trail, technically not an uninterrupted bikepacking route, has lovely sights and lunch stop benches, there are plenty of other bikepacking adventures to be had in Colorado. The best of southeast Colorado is the ridgeline riding found along the Kansas Creek Loop. This ride traverses a series of mountains that reach over 9,000 feet elevation and cross little used dirt forest service roads––not ideal bikepacking. In southwest Colorado, near Durango and Durango Reservoir, bikepackers can find some of the best high-alpine saddle-riding in the country.
Hundreds of adventurers attempt the Colorado Trail each year. From professional racers to family outings, brave cyclists embark on a journey through one of America’s most famous mountain ranges. The length and difficulty of this bikepacking route are impressive by themselves, but it is the scenery that makes this trip so unique.
9. The Arizona National Scenic Trail
The Arizona National Scenic Trail (AZT) is one of the premier long distance bikepacking routes in the United States. The 800-mile-long trail travels the Grand Canyon State north and south from near Fredonia to the Huachuca Mountains and Coronado National Memorial on the Mexican border. While many trails spiral lazily up to lofty summits, this route plunges into deep gorges and rambles through every state and national park in Arizona, hugging steep cliffs above breath-taking canyons teeming with bighorn sheep, javalina, bobcats, and other desert animals and plants.
This epic 800-mile-long trail travels the Grand Canyon State north and south from near Fredonia to the Huachuca Mountains and Coronado National Memorial on the Mexican border. The Arizona National Scenic Trail (AZT) is a mostly continuous path for bikepackers, though they must bypass or carry their bikes down and up through Grand Canyon National Park and other designated wilderness areas that total approximately 50 miles. 10. Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, Canada and U.S.
Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) is considered the grandfather of all bikepacking routes in North America. This trail was established way back in 1983, with the first organized bike race being started in 1989. It covers a distance of 2,745 miles from Canada to Mexico and traverses through 8 states; Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and ends in Big Bend National Park. Of course you can break this trail down into shorter segments if you want to make it more manageable or to ride less elevation during each trip.
Featuring everything from forested remote first-class dirt to forlorn desolate highways, the route spans altitudes of 1,000 feet and over 13,000 feet with everything in between. It’s one of the few bikepacking routes in the world that offers legitimate single track, which makes it a must for any adventure seeking rider. Trail builders have constructed some of the best singletracks I’ve ever ridden.
Wrapping Up: The 10 Greatest Bikepacking Routes in the U.S.
There are more than 8,500 miles of trails in the National Park Service—that’s enough to circle the equator nearly 13 times. The diversity of these incredible trails is astounding, so for our purposes we’ll focus on bikepacking. From long-established touring routes to recently developed singletrack, these ten trails will have you pedaling through all four seasons.
There is no shortage of awesome places across the United States to bikepack. The next time you’re looking for a beautiful destination that lets you sleep beneath the stars, consider one of these 10 top bikepacking routes in the United States.