Tag Archives: biking

Top 10 NPS Sites for Biking

Many visitors to the National Park Service (NPS) system bring along their bicycles to fully enjoy their vacation, planning to ride on paved pathways or bumpy trails.  Although some NPS hiking and horse trails are closed to bikes, many allow them and some have been built just for them.  For example, a paved bike trail now connects Jackson, Wyoming with Grand Teton National Park.  The NPS sites we chose for this list all have trails specifically designated for bicycle use.  Click here to see all of our Top 10 Lists.

10. Canyonlands National Park (Utah)

Moab, Utah is a mountain biking mecca and the 100-mile White Rim Road is a popular challenge

9. Point Reyes National Seashore (California)

Although excluded from Wilderness areas, there are plenty of other roads and trails to explore north of San Francisco

8. Indiana Dunes National Park (Indiana)

The park has several designated bike trails, including the 9-mile Calumet Bike Trail

7. Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)

Mountain biking the 32-mile Ferry Loop includes a ferry trip across the Green River, or try the 10-mile Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike and Hike Trail

6. Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park (Maryland-West Virginia-District of Columbia)

You can bike the entire 184.5-mile graded towpath that follows the Potomac River, camping at designated sites along the way

5. George Washington Memorial Parkway (Virginia)

The 18-mile Mount Vernon Trail passes NPS sites like Theodore Roosevelt Island and Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove on the Potomac

4. Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (Minnesota)

A 72-mile bike path follows the mighty Mississippi River through Minnesota

3. New River Gorge National Park and Preserve (West Virginia)

Stone Cliff, Southside, Kaymoor, and Keeney’s Creek Rail Trail all track the New River, or try the 13 miles of mountain bike trails built by the Boy Scouts of America

2. Acadia National Park (Maine)

The 45 miles of carriage roads are excellent for biking, but remember to yield to horses

…and finally the #1 National Park Service site for biking:

1. Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)

A popular day trip is to bike 20 miles of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail then pick up the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for a cheap return ticket

Honorable Mentions

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming-Montana-Idaho)

Every spring when snow plows are working to clear roads, bicycles get exclusive access to the Great Loop Road, but come prepared because there are no services

Glacier National Park (Montana)

Many cross-country bikers choose to take Logan Pass (6,646 feet) across the Continental Divide, but keep in mind that the 50-mile long Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed to bicycles between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee-North Carolina)

Most trails are closed to bicycles, but there are designated times when Cades Cove Loop Road is closed to motorists to allow bikers

Tiff at Great Basin National Park in Nevada

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Overview

If you did not know there was a National Park in Ohio it is understandable since Cuyahoga Valley National Park was not officially designated until 2000.  It is centered around the historic Ohio and Erie Canal, which opened in 1827 to connect Akron to the port of Cleveland on Lake Erie.  Cuyahoga is an American Indian word meaning “crooked” and you will see why if you walk or bike down the 19-mile Towpath Trail where mules once pulled line boats through a series of locks (be sure to stop at Canal Visitor Center at Lock 38).  If you plan it right, you can take your bike on board the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for a cheap one-way ride.

Learn more in our guidebook to the National Parks, A Park to Yourself: Finding Adventure in America’s National Parks (available on Amazon).

Highlights

Brandywine Falls, Lock 38, Hunt Farm, Everett Road Covered Bridge, Gorge Parkway

Must-Do Activity

In the park’s southern end near Akron-Canton, you will find a great blue heron rookery and beaver marsh along the crooked Cuyahoga River.  In the central section, you must stop to see the cascades of Brandywine Falls (see it depicted below in our original logo).  Closer to Cleveland, discover the Bedford Reservation along Gorge Parkway, including beautiful Bridal Veil Falls.  For a little culture in the outdoors, look up the summer schedule for Blossom Music Center or Porthouse Theatre.  Fall is an especially popular time to visit when the leaves change, but with over 100 miles of trails within the park, there is plenty to explore in every season.

Best Trail

We highly recommend a hike on the two-mile Ledges Loop Trail where mossy sandstone cliffs are cloaked by a dense forest of hemlock and hardwood trees.  Once a popular destination on the trail, Ice Box Cave is closed to protect the resident bat population, but similar spots nearby still offer a chance for exploration.

Instagram-worthy Photo

In the southern end of the park, Everett Road Covered Bridge has been rebuilt to demonstrate this once common construction method.

Peak Season

Fall

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/cuva/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There is no official campground in the park, but there are a variety of other lodging options including the historic Inn at Brandywine Falls.

Related Sites

Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site (Pennsylvania)

James A. Garfield National Historic Site (Ohio)

First Ladies National Historic Site (Ohio)

This design we created to celebrate Cuyahoga Valley National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – Who manages the Hale Farm and Village where costumed re-enactors bring history to life?

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

Overview

Similar to the other National Park Service (NPS) sites in the Atlanta, Georgia metropolitan area (see Related Sites below), visiting Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area requires navigating many suburban streets.  Established in 1978, this park is a combination of government jurisdictions and private land that protects 48 miles of the Chattahoochee River downstream from Lake Sidney Lanier northeast of the city.  Due to its lack of large rapids it is popular with canoers, although a release from Buford Dam can lead to a quick rise in river levels and the water is typically a chilly 44° to 58°F.

Highlights

Hewlett Lodge, Vickery Creek, Cochran Shoals, Sope Creek mountain bike trail

Must-Do Activity

A good place to start your visit is the NPS headquarters at Island Ford, which is housed in Hewlett Lodge, a beautiful Adirondack-style mansion built in the 1930s.  There you can get information about hiking, canoeing, and fishing within the National Recreation Area.  You can also walk down to the river’s edge to watch boaters and wildlife from shore.  Not far away in Roswell, Georgia, a short creekside trail leads to the ruins of a textile mill and a dam.

Best Trail

Most sections of the park have some type of hiking trail and there is a wetlands boardwalk within the Cochran Shoals unit.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The covered walking bridge is quite photogenic at the old mill in Roswell, Georgia.

Peak Season

Summer (although we have heard from an Alan Jackson song that it can get “hotter than a hootchie cootchie”)

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/chat/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

Parking fee of $5 per day or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

No camping is allowed along the river.  The U.S. Corps of Engineers manages campgrounds on Lake Sidney Lanier at the northeastern end of Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.

Related Sites

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park (Georgia)

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park (Georgia)

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park (Georgia)

Explore More – How long is the Chattahoochee River from its mountain headwaters to its confluence with the Flint River at Lake Seminole?

Glacier National Park

Overview

Officially, since 1932 this American-Canadian natural reserve has been called Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.  We will focus on the U.S. side since you still need a passport to cross the border (when it is open).  The million-acre Glacier National Park was established in 1910 as a tourist destination and to protect its wildlife, including grizzly/brown bears.  It is open year round, but sees more than half its visitors in July and August.

Learn more in our guidebook to the National Parks, A Park to Yourself: Finding Adventure in America’s National Parks (available on Amazon).

Highlights

Going-to-the-Sun Road, St. Mary Lake, Logan Pass, Many Glacier Hotel, Iceberg Lake

Must-Do Activity

The world renowned Going-to-the-Sun Road was built to cross the park from east to west in the 1920s.  At its highest point (6,646-foot Logan Pass), the road crosses the Continental Divide, an imaginary line where a raindrop drains all the way into the Atlantic Ocean on one side and into the Pacific Ocean on the other.  Hidden Lake Overlook near the Logan Pass Visitor Center is known for sightings of mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and hoary marmots.

Best Trail

Avalanche Lake is located at the end of a two-mile one-way hike from the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road.  We spotted a grizzly/brown bear on the way back from our hike there.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Hidden Lake often reflects the image of Bearhat Mountain, which is why we chose it as our logo design for Glacier National Park (see below).

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$35 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

Vehicles over 21 feet in length or eight feet in width are prohibited in the middle sections of Going-to-the-Sun Road.  Good dirt roads lead to campgrounds at Bowman Lake and Kintla Lake on the west side of the park.

Camping

St. Mary and Fish Creek Campgrounds accept reservations and several others are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Related Sites

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming-Montana-Idaho)

Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site (Montana)

Big Hole National Battlefield (Montana)

This design we created to celebrate Glacier National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – When were the iconic “red jammer” buses first introduced to the park?

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail

Overview

Not as well-known as the parkway it parallels, Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail is one of only three National Scenic Trails officially managed by the National Park Service (NPS).  The trace (or trail) started as an American Indian footpath.  Some of the mound builder sites protected here were inhabited when Hernando de Soto led the first Europeans into this area in 1540.  The Natchez Trace was heavily used in the 1800s by “Kaintuck” flatboatmen returning from New Orleans who left the Mississippi River from Natchez, Mississippi and continued on foot north to Nashville, Tennessee.  Today you can follow portions of the “sunken” trail worn down by travelers for centuries.

Highlights

Rocky Springs, Owens Creek Waterfall, Tupelo-Baldcypress Swamp, Grindstone Ford, Witch Dance Horse Trail, War of 1812 Memorial

Must-Do Activity

The Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail does not follow the entire 444-mile parkway, but exists in five segments totaling 67 miles in length.  The two longest sections are near Leipers Fork, Tennessee (Miles 408-427) and north of Jackson, Mississippi (Miles 108-130).  There are many other places to go hiking along the Natchez Trace Parkway, including one of our favorite spots, Tishomingo State Park (Mile 304) in Mississippi.  Near Tupelo, the Parkway Visitor Center at Mile 266 is another must-do stop to learn the history of the trace.

Best Trail

There are eight miles of the original trail around the Rocky Springs Campground near Mile 58 in Mississippi, which provides access to Owens Creek Waterfall and a historic town site.

Instagram-worthy Photo

In early April the dogwood trees bloom along the Natchez Trace.  At Mile 275 is Dogwood Valley, which also has a short section of “sunken” historic trail.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/natt/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

The entire 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway is paved from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee, but not all trailheads are RV accessible.

Camping

There are three NPS campgrounds along the route, as well as those in sites like Mississippi’s Tishomingo State Park.  The three NPS campgrounds are primitive and free, plus there are also five bike-only campsites along the route.

Related Sites

Tupelo National Battlefield (Mississippi)

Natchez National Historical Park (Mississippi)

Vicksburg National Military Park (Mississippi)

Explore More – The Natchez Trace Parkway officially joined the NPS system in 1938, but when was construction of the road finally completed?