The Northern Tier has been the location for great bike adventures for a quarter of a century, following a wonderfully diverse cross-section of the North American continent. The coastal beginning and ending points of Bar Harbor, Maine, and Anacortes, Washington, receive approximately 50 inches of precipitation each year. Between those two towns lie places of extremes, from the dry, windswept plains of eastern Montana, to the high, storm-battered basins of North Cascades National Park. So, too, the landforms, flora, and fauna change continually throughout this trip. You’ll experience the lovely, sun-dappled hardwood forests of New England, pedal through the glimmering lake country of the upper Midwest, and be intoxicated by the haunting, fern-rich rain forests of the western Cascades.
Enjoy the added ease of luggage support as you travel with a close-knit group of cyclists on this three-month adventure. So grab your bike and make this your year to ride across the Northern Tier!
|Start Date:||Jun 21, 2014||End Date:||Sep 15, 2014|
|Start Location:||Bar Harbor, ME||End Location:||Anacortes, WA|
|Total Days:||87||Riding Days:||79|
|Average Daily Mileage:||55.8||Surface:||Paved|
|Riders:||13||Elevation Alert:||High Point: 5,575 ft|
|Airport:||Bar Harbor (BHB); Seattle-Tacoma (SEA)||Tour Leader:||John Gray, Chris Scheihing|
|Physical Difficulty:||Advanced||Level of Support:||Van Supported|
After taking a shakedown ride to dip our wheels in the saltwater of the Atlantic, we'll point our handlebars westward. Leaving Bar Harbor and beautiful Acadia National Park, we’ll ride through the stunning harbor village of Camden and Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester, a national historic landmark and the only actively functioning Shaker community in the world. Then, it’s on to New Hampshire.
The North Woodstock-Lincoln area of New Hampshire, buzzing with Appalachian Trail activity, great shopping, restaurants, and outdoor stores will be a fun contrast to our Shaker experience. Weather permitting we might stop for a refreshing dip in the swimming hole at Swift River Lower Falls before passing through Conway. We’ll tackle the White Mountains on the Kancamagus Highway, topping out at 2,855-foot Kancamagus Pass. Considered one of the most scenic roads in New England, the Kancamagus is a National Scenic Byway. After a thrilling descent, we’ll cross the Connecticut River into Vermont, the Green Mountain State. Rolling, timber-studded hills, bucolic farmsteads, and picturesque villages are the hallmarks of Vermont, considered by many the best state in the Union for bike touring. We end the week crossing southern Lake Champlain by ferry into our fourth state, New York.
We'll head inland at Pulaski, New York, but not before jumping in Lake Ontario, the warmest of the Great Lakes. Riding through the Adirondacks, we'll pass historic Old Forge, the western terminus of the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail, and ride through Long Lake and Ticonderoga, home to Fort Ticonderoga National Historic Landmark, which played an important role in America's early wars.
Following the southern shore of Lake Ontario, the big highlight this week will be thundering Niagara Falls, where we'll likely enjoy a layover day to take in such activities as the Maid of the Mist boat tour, which will get us up close with the legendary waterfalls. We will also flirt with Adventure Cycling's Underground Railroad Bicycle Route. In the mid-1800s, freedom seekers would hide by day in safe havens in the Buffalo area, and then steal across the Niagara River by boat in the relative safety of night. The week finishes with a ride along the shores of Lake Erie.
Once in the province of Ontario, we'll pedal a rural inland route that will take us to the north shore of Lake Erie. We’ll ferry across the St. Clair River and the international border, entering the United States again to ride past Lake Huron on our way to Bay City, which sits at base of Lake Huron's Saginaw Bay. Lake Huron is the second largest of the Great Lakes, making it the third largest freshwater lake in the world. We will cycle on the Lake Erie Connector until Luther, where we'll steer onto the North Lakes route.
From Luther, we'll pedal a quiet inland route to Traverse City. We will begin heading north toward Mackinac Bridge to ride through the 300-acre Petoskey State Park, with its beautiful sand beaches nestled at the north end of Lake Michigan's Little Traverse Bay. Next up is Mackinaw City and the Mackinac Bridge, the third longest suspension bridge in the world and the longest in the Western Hemisphere. The week ends with a ride along the shore of Lake Michigan to Manistique.
Welcome to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where we'll spin along the northern shores of Lake Michigan to Escanaba. From there we'll continue across the top of Wisconsin to Hayward, Wisconsin. Hayward is also home to New Moon, one of the region's top bike shops and the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, featuring the "world's largest muskie." The Cable-Hayward area, one of the recreational hotbeds of the Midwest, hosts the largest cross-country ski race in the U.S., the American Birkebeiner, and the biggest mountain-bike race, the Chequamegon Fat-Tire 40, which utilizes much of the same trail system as the Birkebeiner. After riding through the fabled mosaic of forests and lakes known as the Wisconsin Northwoods, we'll rejoin the Northern Tier, leaving the North Lakes Route.
Leaving Wisconsin, we will enter the Twin Cities before heading northwest through Minnesota. Firmly back into timber country in the well-watered reaches of Minnesota, we'll have the opportunity to walk across the Mississippi River at its headwaters in Itasca State Park. Merely a creek just a few inches deep where it leaves Lake Itasca, the Mississippi gently gurgles over a rim of neatly lined stepping stones. Time permitting we'll ride the beautiful 16-mile Wilderness Drive Loop, which is like an upper Midwest version of Northern California's Avenue of the Giants.
We will take a layover day in Moorhead, Minnesota, and its sister city of Fargo, North Dakota. These communities line the banks of the Red River, which flows north to Canada's Lake Winnipeg. As you will see, the floodplain of the Red River is perhaps the flattest place you'll encounter on your entire tour. We’ll take a day to explore the many galleries, theaters, and museums of Moorhead. Firmly on the route in North Dakota, we’ll head straight to Bismarck.
In Bismarck, we’ll have a day off to rejuvenate and explore the capital city of North Dakota. Continuing our journey across North Dakota, we’ll pedal through the waving grasslands of Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park. The Dakota Dinosaur Museum in Dickenson is well worth a visit, boasting fossils from around the surrounding area as well as other visiting exhibits. A stay in Makoshika State Park, where you can explore pre-historic history in the park’s newly renovated interpretation center is also on the schedule. The week finishes as we cross into Montana’s Big Sky Country.
From the eastern edge of Montana, we'll continue to travel west into the big empty, perhaps trying out our three-part harmonies on "Four Strong Winds," Ian Tyson's classic ode to the prairies — of course, we hope to have just one strong wind, blowing from behind. We'll continue westward along Montana's Hi-Line, riding through rugged, arroyo-dissected plains where it takes little imagination to picture what the Lewis and Clark expedition must have experienced passing through this region. Many of the towns we'll visit — Glasgow, Havre, Inverness, and others — were named by Great Northern Railway employees in St. Paul, Minnesota, who hoped the familiar names on the map would attract European settlers to homestead on the high plains. These towns, however, bear little resemblance to their namesakes.
We will ride through St. Mary’s, which paves the way to Glacier National Park and Going-to-the-Sun Road. After leaving the resort village of Whitefish, we will cross paths with the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, which traces the spine of the Rockies from the Canadian to the Mexican border. Next stop is Eureka, where we can visit the evocative Tobacco Valley Historical Village, a must for any bicycling history buff. The week finishes with a ride along the shores of Lake Koocanusa to the northwestern Montana community of Libby.
We will complete our long journey through Montana this week, when we ride the remarkable Bull Lake Road, situated at the foot of the lofty Cabinet Mountains. A potential short side trip is a hike through the Ross Creek Cedars, a 100-acre fairyland of giant ancient cedars surrounded by an explosion of fiddlehead ferns and embraced by a silence that seems primeval. Crossing the Idaho panhandle, we’ll quickly encounter the lively resort community of Sandpoint, which is nestled on the shores of massive Lake Pend Oreille, one of the five deepest lakes in the U.S., reaching depths of 1,150 feet in some places. The week finishes in the forests and grain fields of northeastern Washington.
We begin the week with a ride through the sun-baked Okanogan Valley. It's one of many grape-growing areas in a state once known primarily for its apples. After a visit to Methow Valley, a recreational mecca, we’ll begin our last series of climbs as we enter vast North Cascades National Park, home to high peaks and deep valleys, countless waterfalls, and nearly 300 glaciers. After three months together, we will finish with a long downhill beside the Skagit River. Our parting will be bittersweet, but after this ride, you and your fellow bicycle travelers will know the beautiful country and rich culture of the Northern Tier like few others do.
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“Traveling by bicycle is such a freeing experience! With only the possessions you can carry, the road unfolding before you and a new adventure everyday...you feel liberated.”
"We loved it!!!"
"A fantastic and challenging tour...Beautiful scenery."
2008 Tour Participant
"I enjoyed the support and encouragement of the group - I was amazed at how well everyone got along and supported each other!"
2012 Tour Participant