#1 Pacific Coast
The Pacific Coast route (PCH) comes in a strong #1 for many reasons. This route takes riders through everything from the Pacific coast line to forests of giant redwoods. It travels through remote places like Big Sur or a variety of National Forests to developed cities like San Francisco and Seattle. Some choose to fly by the big cities and get back to the more rural areas faster, while others may take a few days to explore these icons.
There is no shortage of food and beverage options along this route. Resources like ACA maps or Bicycling the Pacific Coast : Canada to Mexico give detailed information on food, water, historical landmarks and camping options.
#2 Trans America Bicycle Route
The Trans America Bicycle Route stretches all the way across the U.S. from Astoria, OR to Yorktown, VA, ocean to ocean. Formed in 1976, this is one of the oldest established bike routes in the country. The route starts on the rugged beaches of the west coast, up through the Cascade Mountain Range, then cruises through some of America’s finest parks in Wyoming including both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks before passing through beautiful Colorado and the Great Plains.
As riders approach the Mississippi river, they leave behind the vast views of the plains for picket fenced farms and the Appalachian Mountains. You can expect such an epic long distance route to take a good 3 months, give or take, to complete. Oh, be sure to dip your wheels in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Rolling Along: Coast to Coast on the TransAmerican Bike Trail or ACA: Map Set . Find more details here.
#3 The Great Divide
The Great Divide is considered a mountain biking route. This 2,768 mile trail crosses back and forth over the Continental Divide via dirt and gravel roads. The majority of this route uses forest service roads in National Forests and Bureau of Land Management Land. The best word to describe this route is remote or maybe just gnarly!
“There’s nothing like the Great Divide. It’s longer, higher, prettier, scarier, lonelier, and far more rewarding than any other ride I’ve ever done.” Mary Zalmanek. Watch a video, find maps and more info
Check out Cycling the Great Divide: From Canada to Mexico on North America’s Premier Long-Distance Mountain Bike Route for specific details on planning, route, food, water, etc..
#4 GAP/ C and O Canal
This one is great for cyclists of ALL levels. This route has plenty of scenic features including the Appalachian Mountains, winding rivers, and passages through historic railroad tunnels. The trail itself is nearly flat as it follows rivers the entire time.
You can find a plethora of Adirondack shelters along the way. They offer a break from the elements, which was greatly appreciated during our trip, as we encountered quite a bit of snow in March. BE ADVISED: some of the tunnels will close in the colder months. The Great Allegheny Passage trail runs 150 miles from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD. Riders can continue riding the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal trail from Cumberland all the way to Washington D.C.
It’s a priced a bit high but 100% worth it, check out Biking the GAP: A comprehensive, visual guidebook to bicycling from Pittsburgh, PA, to Cumberland, MD, on the Great Allegheny Passage or 10th edition : Official Guide to GAP and C&O Canal Trails for a cheaper version. Find more details here.
# 5 Natchez Trace Parkway
The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444 mile designated bicycle route maintained by the National Parks where cyclists are entitled to the full lane. The route begins just outside of Nashville, TN, passing through beautiful rolling hills and old tobacco farms in the delta farm lands of Natchez, MS. Riders will find FREE dispersed camping along the parkway.
This route can easily be extended to New Orleans, LA, via Great Rivers South and a Southern Tier Alt. I have enjoyed this route multiple times. I like the idea of visiting either city for a few days before and after the ride. Bicycling the Natchez Trace: A Guide to the Natchez Trace Parkway and Nearby Scenic Routes is a phenominal resource. Check out more details here.