Bikepacking has taken the mountain bike world by storm, with the upper echelon of bikepackers continuing to shatter time barriers and pioneer incredible routes, and even many average mountain bikers are tackling sub-24-hour overnight trips. We first published this list of the Top 10 Bikepacking Routes in the US back in 2012 and since that time, the gear has exploded in quality and availability, participation has shot through the roof, and complete publications dedicated to the sport of bikepacking have arisen.
This list was long overdue for an update, so here are the current 10 best bikepacking routes in the US in 2016.
The Continental Divide
This epic trail is roughly 3,000 miles long, stretching across the Rockies from Canada to Mexico, and there are at least two ways to complete the route.
The most popular way to ride the divide is to follow the Tour Divide route, also known as the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, which runs from Banff, Alberta to Antelope Wells, New Mexico. This route is distinct from the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), and consists mostly of gravel roads that crisscross the actual divide. Every year an unofficial race takes place on the Tour Divide, and it has become the proving grounds for bikepackers from around the world.
On the other hand, you could attempt to bikepack the Continental Divide Trail itself. The CDT trail is still a work in progress, but it already has way more singletrack than the Tour Divide. The problems?
- The CDT runs through numerous Wilderness areas, which are not bike legal and must be bypassed.
- It is significantly more difficult, due to technical trail conditions, extreme elevation change, and remoteness.
- In many places, the trail is poorly maintained, or basically does not exist.
Only a few people have ever attempted to through-bikepack the CDT in its entirety–it’s not for the faint of heart!
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.
The Colorado Trail Race is held annually in July.
The Arizona Trail (AZT) is an 817-mile route spanning from the Mexican border to Utah through deserts, mountains, and canyons. This adventurous route includes some incredible mountain biking in some spots, and some arduous route finding and hike-a-bike in others. Bonus: if you want to through-bikepack the AZT, you’ll need to carry your bike across the Grand Canyon, rim-to-rim, without letting your tires touch the ground.
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.
The first three routes on this list (The Tour Divide, Colorado Trail, and Arizona Trail) have come to be known collectively as the Triple Crown of Bikepacking.
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, off-road? The Kokopelli Trail is a 138-mile, multi-use trail that starts in Loma, CO (just a few miles northwest 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 no guaranteed 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!
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.
Click over to page 2 for the next 5 epic routes!