Top 10 Bikepacking Routes in the US

If you’re like me, January is the time of year when you start planning epic mountain bike trips for the summer. And sure, some day trips qualify as epic but for the truly adventurous, here are some multi-day bikepacking routes you should consider tackling on your mountain bike this year.

Kokopelli’s Trail

photo: bonkedagain.

If you’re a mountain biker you’ve heard about Moab and you’ve probably also heard about the miles of singletrack in Fruita, CO. But did you also know you can ride your mountain bike from Fruita to Moab? Kokopelli’s Trail is a 142-mile multi-use trail that starts in Loma, CO (just a few miles NW of Fruita) and ends on Sand Flats Road in Moab, UT where it passes by Porcupine Rim and Slickrock trails, among others. While there’s officially no water along the route, there are 8 small camping areas with toilets and some even have picnic tables. Most folks count on a sag vehicle to deliver their gear but with a little planning, a self-supported bikepacking trip is totally doable!

Continental Divide Trail (CDT)

This epic trail is roughly 3,000 miles long and stretches across the Rockies from Canada to Mexico. Much of the route follows gravel roads and bikers will have to take a few detours to avoid bike-free Wilderness areas. Still, there is singletrack to be ridden and some of the most amazing scenery in the country to enjoy. Each year mountain bikers compete in posting the fastest times during the Great Divide and Tour Divide races but for those with a more leisurely pace in mind, plan on a solid 2 months of continuous riding to complete this route.

The Arizona Trail

photo: agmtb.

The Arizona Trail (AZT) is a recently completed 817-mile route spanning from the Mexican border to Utah through deserts, mountains, and canyons. After 26 years of hard work, the entire route will be officially opened later this month and on February 4 there will be a big celebration luncheon in Tempe. Each April, mountain bikers race (unofficially) either a 300-mile or 750-mile section of the trail which is a good opportunity to ride the route with others.

Tahoe Rim Trail

Officially 165 miles of singletrack, the Tahoe Rim trail features several sections that are closed to bikes – but even with potential detours it’s an amazing route! If the views of Lake Tahoe aren’t enough, the singletrack and alpine scenery make this a must-ride. Camping is generally plentiful in the surrounding National Forest but you’ll need to do a little research to put together a solid custom route.

White Rim

photo: jkey6.

The White Rim trail in Moab is a 103-mile jeep road loop with conditions unlike anywhere else on earth. Truly rad riders can complete the loop in a single day but for mere mortals, there are several campsites along the way (reservations often fill up a year in advance so plan ahead!). There’s also no water along the route so it’s usually best to have a support vehicle. Read about Luke_E’s White Rim trip to get more info.

Colorado Trail

Stretching nearly 500 miles from Denver to Durango, the Colorado Trail cuts through the heart of the Rockies and features some the most challenging – and beautiful – singletrack you can imagine. Like some of the other routes listed here, portions of the trail are closed to mountain bikes so detours are in order. Fortunately there are plenty of places to camp and the route is well marked with trailheads at various intervals.

Maah Daah Hey Trail

photo: davebab.

The Maah Daah Hey trail stretches 97 miles between Theodore Roosevelt National Park North and South Units across North Dakota’s rugged badlands and rugged prairie. Each designated campground (there are 6-7 along the route) features potable water, though you’ll often find natural water sources along the trail. Mountain bikes aren’t allowed inside the National Park boundaries but an alternate route for bikers is provided across Buffalo Gap.

Trans North Georgia

Pinhoti trail

This is a fairly new, unofficial 350-mile MTB route across North Georgia, starting at the South Carolina border and ending in Alabama to the west. If you’re thinking this might be a good beginning bikepacking route to tackle, think again – the Trans North Georgia boasts 56,000 feet of climbing, more than a quarter of the climbing along the 3,000 mile Continental Divide Trail! Portions of the Trans North Georgia route follow the 165-mile Pinhoti Trail, another good multi-day option available to bikepackers. Both routes stick mostly to National Forest land where it’s easy to find camping and water sources.

C&O Canal Towpath

photo: diddleydawn.

Sure, the C&O trail isn’t singletrack and the grade never goes above 2-3%. Still, this 184-mile route is unpaved and offers a great opportunity for beginning bikepackers to get on the trail. The C&O trail starts in Washington, DC and ends in Cumberland, MD with plenty of places to stay along the way (read: you can do this without bringing a tent).

Paradox and Tabeguache Trails

Although technically two different 100+ mile trails, the Paradox and Tabeguache form a rough triangle with Kokopelli’s trail for an epic tour of western Colorado and eastern Utah. These trails aren’t as well traveled as some of the other bikepacking routes mentioned here so planning a trip can be a challenge. Trail surfaces range from singletrack to jeep roads to forest road riding.

Which of these trails is on your bucket list?

Related posts:

  1. Mountain Biking the “B” Trails: 5 Routes You May Have Missed
  2. Bikepacking the Colorado Trail: Days 1-3
  3. Bikepacking the Colorado Trail: Days 4-6
  4. Singletracks Topo Map Updates: New Background Maps, Recommended Routes, and Downloadable PDFs
  5. Load GPS routes on your Garmin Edge Cycling GPS

17 thoughts on “Top 10 Bikepacking Routes in the US

  1. Other than the Canal trail in DC, every single one of those is on my bucket list. (I think I’d go out of my mind riding a flat towpath for 180 miles.) I probably wouldn’t want to bikepack every inch of trail on the list but I certainly want to ride long sections of each. They’d all be on my bucket list even if this wasn’t a top 10 bikepacking route list.

    I guess I could technically check off the Trans North GA route since I have ridden 90% of the non paved sections at some point or another and 100% of the singletrack.

  2. Nice. Yeah, that’s a totally acceptable way to do these routes if you ask me. It’s still a big accomplishment to ride every inch of one of these trails, even if it takes several trips.

  3. I am missing two sections of the Bike friendly trail on the Tahoe Rim Trail. It took me two years to finally ride what I have. I’d like to go back and finish them, but I moved to Texas. The continental divide trail seems like a beast!!

  4. Just the other day I asked about hiking/mt biking on the Catamount Trail. This is a 300+ mile x/c ski trail in VT spanning from Canada to the MA border. It stays in the valleys mostly, unlike the Long Trail which is off limits to bikers, and stay on the ridge lines and peaks. Looks like parts are open during the summer months some are not.

    • brianW, I’m new to MA and heard of a trail that went from here to Canada but have had zero luck finding anything. Would you mind helpig me out? You mentioned Catamount? Are there any others you know about or know how to find? Would greatly appreciate any help you could give. jasonknight

  5. Thinking it would be cool to get a group together to maybe do the entire Pinhoti Trail sometime this spring. Would be a good start to trying to complete the entire Trans North Georgia one day.

  6. RE: the Maah Daah Hey

    The Buffalo Gap Trail provides a viable route around the Teddy Roosevelt National Park’s South Unit. However, there is a two mile stretch that clips a corner of the North Unit with no viable alternative as the area around the park boundary in that location is all private property with no trail. Some out-and-back is required from both sides if you want to complete all legal portions of the trail. It’s really kind of a bummer as that part of the trail sees almost no traffic whatsoever. Letting bikes through that short stretch would have negligible impact on anything.

  7. Taking my son out to Colorado to do 4 days on the Co trail in durango for his graduation late summer, early fall.Hermosa tours has it set up for a minimal cost. All you do is ride and when you get to camp they have it all set up for you. Just need to carry enough for a long day ride. We might do kokopelli also. Love taking a new adventure trip each year on the bikes.

  8. Don’t forget you can tack on the Great Allegheny Passage trail onto the C&O Canal. Sure, its even more low-grade trails, but its in a beautiful area and will take you all the way to Pittsburgh. Consider it a nice warm-up for some of the stuff out west.

  9. I want to post here today to possibly draw some readers’ attention to this article which was written back in 2012. Great article. I would add to the list of backpacking trails for consideration: (1) the Centennial Trail in the Black Hills of SD, (2) the Ozark Trail in Missouri and Arkansas, and (3) Ouachita Trail (137mi) in Arkansas. I like the Ozark and Ouachita trails because they give you additional options to consider for the eastern half of the US and for the late fall and winter riding.

    • I should have said for (2) above “the Ozark Trail and the Ozark Highland Trail in MIssouri and Arkansas”. This will someday be a premiere set of connected trails over 700 miles long.

      • What a bummer. I see that the Ozark Highland Trail in Arkansas is not open to MTB. Oh well. At least the Ozark Trail in Missouri and the Ouachita Trail in Arkansas are open to MTB.

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