10 best backpacking trails in the US. So you’ve caught the backpacking bug and are ready to head out on your first big adventure. The open road is calling your name but with countless trails spanning sea to shining sea, where do you even start? Don’t worry we’ve got you covered. We’ve scoured the country to find some of the best backpacking trails the US has to offer. From the red rocks of Utah.
Red rocks amphitheatre to the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest to the sandy beaches of the Atlantic coast there’s something for every type of cyclist on this list. Whether you’re a hardcore mountain biker looking to test your skills or a casual rider wanting to take in some stunning scenery you’ll find an epic trail perfect for your next bike packing getaway.
The Top Bike-packing Trails in the Western US
The American West is a backpacker’s paradise with scenic trails ranging from deserts to mountains. Here are some of the best:
1. The Colorado Trail
This 486-mile trail crosses Colorado from Denver to Durango winding through forests and alpine terrain with jaw-dropping views. Riding it in sections is popular like the 140-mile Collegiate Loop passing by historic mining towns.
2. The Arizona Trail
Crossing Arizona from Mexico to Utah this 800-mile trail leads you through Sonoran desert ponderosa pines and the Grand Canyon. Highlights include single track through saguaro cacti descents to desert washes and riding the hance Trail in the Canyon.
4. The Oregon Timber Trail
This 460-mile route loops through Oregon’s diverse landscapes from oak savannas to rainforests to volcanoes. About 75% single track, it’s a mountain biker’s dream to climb over 50,000 feet through old-growth forests and rocky ridges with panoramic views.
5. The White Rim Trail
This 100-mile loop circumnavigates the White Rim sandstone plateau in Canyonlands National Park. A multi-day ride with stunning desert scenery it descends 1300 feet into the Green River canyon and climbs back up switchbacks carved into the cliffs. An epic adventure.
Must-Ride Bike-packing Routes in the Midwest
The Midwest has some epic bike packing routes that showcase the region’s natural beauty. Here are two must-rides:
1. Great Allegheny Passage (GAP)
This 150-mile rail trail through Pennsylvania and Maryland offers a bit of everything. You’ll ride along rivers through forests and over bridges with jaw-dropping views. The trail is mostly flat making it ideal for cyclists of all abilities. Campsites and bike shops along the way provide opportunities to rest and refuel.
2. Katy Trail State Park
Missouri’s Katy Trail winds for 240 miles through some of the prettiest parts of the state. Following the path of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad, the trail takes you through wooded areas prairies, and along the Missouri River. Highlights include the limestone cliffs at Rocheport and the railroad tunnels near treloar. The trail surface is crushed limestone so hybrid or mountain bikes are recommended. Camping is permitted along much of the route or you can overnight in nearby bed and breakfasts.
With epic scenery welcoming towns and a variety of lodging options along the way, the GAP and Katy Trail are bucket-list bike-packing adventures for any cycling enthusiast. So round up your friends, pack your bags, and hit the road—or trail! These Midwestern routes will give you memories to last a lifetime.
East Coast Bike-packing Trails for Scenic Forest Rides
The eastern United States offers some fantastic backpacking trails for scenic rides through lush forests. Here are a few of the best:
1. Great Divide Mountain Bike Route
The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route extends over 2700 miles along the Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. The northern sections of Montana and Idaho traverse mountainous terrain with stunning vistas. For an easier ride tackle just a portion of the route. The 325-mile section from Helena to Missoula in Montana is ideal for a week-long backpacking trip.
2. Allegheny Mountains Loop
This 380-mile loop trail in Virginia and West Virginia ventures through the picturesque Allegheny Mountains. Ride through verdant forests filled with maple, hickory, and oak trees. Stop to view striking waterfalls along the way like cascades at Dolly Sods and Spruce Knob Lake. With over 50,000 feet of elevation gain the full loop is best left to experienced bike packers. Novices can ride sections for shorter trips.
3. Green Mountain Gravel Growler
Vermont’s Green Mountain Gravel Growler winds through the bucolic Green Mountains. The 150-mile route travels on dirt and gravel roads traversing maple syrup farms mountain vistas and rolling meadows. Ride in the fall to experience the colorful autumn foliage. With 10,000 feet of climbing the route can be completed in 3 to 5 days. Camping spots and small towns provide places to rest along the way.
4. Mid-State Trail
Central Pennsylvania’s Mid-State Trail extends over 330 miles. The northern section from Woolrich to State College passes through dense forests and quiet farmland. Ride in solitude only occasionally encountering other cyclists or hikers. The route has some technical sections with rocks and roots so mountain bikes with wider tires are best. Camping is allowed anywhere along the trail giving you flexibility in trip length.
After reading about these epic backpacking trails you’re no doubt itching to hit the road and go on an adventure. The open road is calling your name. What are you waiting for? Pack your bags hop on your bike and get out there. Experience the thrill of pedaling through stunning scenery spotting wildlife in their natural habitat and camping under a blanket of stars. You only live once so make the most of it. Get lost in the moment push your limits and create memories that will last a lifetime. The road may not always be easy but the rewards of bike packing are well worth it. Now go – adventure awaits!