The Trail Less Traveled: National Park Bike Adventures
You’ve got your vehicle inspected, added a bike rack and checked out the weather forecast. Now you just need to have a destination and information about local places to stay.
The National Park Service oversees a host of trails for beginners and advanced riders within convenient travel distance no matter where you live in the 50 states.
Bikes are welcome in most national parks. Yet, some trails were designed specifically with bikers in mind. Here’s some of popular but lesser-known destinations:
The Bunsen Peak Loop (Yellowstone National Park)
This nine-mile bike trail that circles Bunsen Peak and offers varied terrain. It begins flat for a few miles then goes steep before dropping nearly 1,000 ft. to Glen Creek. It takes in Joffe Lake and follows a service drive to the Grand Loop Road where it continues to Osprey Falls. A few words of caution: Be prepared for curves with steep drop offs.
The Cowboy Trails (Niobrara National Scenic River in eastern Nebraska)
The trailhead from Valentine begins adjacent to the Niobrara National Scenic River. Bicyclists can tour the Sandhills prairie, mixed grass prairies and a 148-foot high bridge.
For riders who want to experience the entire 192-mile trail, some towns along the route offer camping for Cowboy Trail visitors. Most towns and trailheads are about 10-15 miles apart. Some distances are even further, so the National Park Service recommends planning your route carefully.
Province Land Bike Trail, Massachusetts
The location inspired Henry David Thoreau to pontificate about the area’s beauty--for good reason. Cape Cod National Seashore abounds with beaches, marshes, ponds and a wide range of wildlife.
This 5.45-mile loop passes through cool pine forests and is one of three bike trails at Cape Cod National Seashore. You can take side routes to Herring Cove, Race Point Beach and Bennett Pond.
Tea Kettle Trail, Idaho
Located in the city of Rocks National Preserve in Idaho, the Tea Kettle Trail affords stunning landscapes for mountain bikers. The trail begins at Bread Loaves parking lot and extends to Elephant Rock. Although only three miles long, the trail also leads to other trails for longer exploration.
Bolinas Ridge Trail, California
Point Reyes National Seashore offers panoramic views and coastal climates not far from major metropolitan areas. The 23-mile, out-and-back trail goes through forests and rolling hills. There is plenty of flora to brighten the landscape.
Prairie Duneland Bike Trail, Indiana
A 22-mile round trip takes riders through Indiana dunes on the southern part of Lake Michigan. The trail links to several cities as well as other rail trails. It takes riders through wetlands, prairies, forests and rivers.
Lost Man Creek Bike Trail, California
Redwood National & State Parks
John Steinbeck described the redwoods as mysterious ancient titans. The Lost Man Creek trail is a 22-mile single-track trail for mountain bikes that begins through old-growth redwoods then travels adventure across bridges and fern-covered forests.
San Antonio River Hike & Bike Trail, Texas
Riders can bike to five missions within the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. The river parkway includes abundant wildlife, native plants and scenic waterways. Each of five missions--The Alamo, Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan, and Mission Espada--is located along a 13-mile stretch of the San Antonio River.
7-Mile Hiking/Biking Loop, District of Columbia
The 7-Mile Biking Loop is part of Rock Creek Park and offers a quiet refuge from the bustle of Washington, D.C. It takes visitors on a tour of colonial history and also offers an educational pitstop--a nature center that includes the National Park Service’s only planetarium.
Biking at Shark Alley, Florida
The Everglades National Park offers a 15-mile trek to see the hundreds of animals and plants that make up this unique ecosystem. The loop passes by sloughs and prairies. Riders can take a respite in hardwood hammocks, a type of forest found in the humid climates of Florida. Get a birds-eye view of the everglades by taking a moment to visit Shark Valley Observation Tower.