10 Great Bikepacking Routes in the U.S.

From scenic overnight trips to epic journeys, explore these public lands on bike and camp under the stars.

By: Steve Larese
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What is Bikepacking?

Bikepacking — the marriage of ultra-light backpacking and off-road bicycle touring — is increasing in popularity in the United States. Carrying everything they need to survive in the outdoors, bikepackers plan routes and camping sites on public lands where it's permitted, including Bureau of Land Management and National Forest lands. Here are some routes ranging from one-night out-and-backs to epic journeys of hundreds of miles.

Denali National Park, Alaska

While most private vehicle traffic is not allowed on Denali National Park's 92-mile park road, bicycles are welcome. With a backcountry camping permit, bikepackers can explore Denali's pristine backcountry as few do.

Ojito BLM Area, New Mexico

This Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Area contains the 11,000-acre Ojito Wilderness known for its otherworldly geological formations. While bikepackers can't ride within the wilderness, Cabezon Road travels along its southern boundary, providing primitive camping on the BLM land just across the road from the wilderness. Access is via Cabezon Road, located about 20 miles northwest of Rio Rancho and four miles south of San Ysidro. This unimproved road travels west for 12 miles, then the route returns to Rio Rancho 11 miles south via Encino Road. To extend the trip, bikepackers can head north 17 miles on unimproved Encino Road to San Luis past the extinct volcano remains of Cabezon Peak, then take NM 279 back to US 550. The White Mesa Bike Trails are located 4.5 miles west of US 550 on Cabezon Road and make a good place to set up camp then ride this acclaimed trail system.

Oregon Timber Trail

This 670-mile, half-singletrack trail travels north to south across Oregon and is fully accessible to bikepackers. Many cyclists complete the trail in several 150- to 200-mile sections.

Virginia Mountain Bike Trail

The 430-mile VMBT connects the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountain range through some of the East's most scenic public lands and has become a must-do epic ride for bikepackers. It travels through the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest and is suitable for hammock camping, too.

Maah Daah Hey Trail, North Dakota

The Maah Daah Hey Trail winds 144 miles through the Little Missouri National Grasslands in the Badlands of North Dakota and is the longest continuous singletrack mountain bike trail in North America.

Kokopelli Trail, Colorado and Utah

The Kokopelli Trail connects two of the nation's mountain biking meccas – Fruita, Colorado and Moab, Utah – via a 150-mile trek through breathtaking Southwestern scenery. Most riders break this trip up into three 50-mile days and often have support meet them at campsites. The annual Bikerpelli Tour provides gear transportation, food and beer at camp stops.

Olympic Adventure Route, Washington

This 66-mile route begins at the Elwha River and ends at Lake Crescent in Washington's Olympic National Park, where there are campsites at the Fairholme campground. The mostly singletrack route makes an excellent weekend out-and-back.

Colorado Trail

Traveling 500 miles southwest from Denver to Durango, the Colorado Trail passes through the Rocky Mountains for some of bikepacking's most scenic views. The first 200 miles from Denver are a popular out-and-back route. Six wilderness areas must be circumvented by cyclists, adding 35 miles of Forest Service Roads to a through-ride.

The Arizona National Scenic Trail

This epic 800-mile-long trail travels the Grand Canyon State north and south from near Fredonia to the Huachuca Mountains and Coronado National Memorial on the Mexican border. This non-motorized trail is a mostly continuous path for bikepackers, though they must bypass or carry their bikes down and up through Grand Canyon National Park and other designated wilderness areas that total approximately 50 miles. Most bikepackers break the trail into smaller segments, such as the popular 50-mile segment connecting Flagstaff to Sedona.

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, Canada and U.S.

The grandfather of all North American bikepacking routes, this 2,745-mile trail begins in Canada's Banff National Park and traverses the U.S. north to south from Roosville, Mont., to Antelope Wells, N.M., at the Mexico border. It's the longest established bikepacking route in the world. Most riders break the trail into segments, though some race the route during the Tour Divide.