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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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?