Vertical Crossings

Mar 23rd, 2019

When most of us think about a cross-country ride, we envision a horizontal path. — the TransAm, perhaps, or the Northern Tier. But what about going vertically from border to border?

In the April issue of Adventure Cyclist magazine, we explore Highway 83 through the middle of the continent, which got us thinking about what else is out there. Adventure Cycling’s Sierra Cascades, Pacific Coast, and Atlantic Coast routes for starters, and that’s just on tarmac. Here’s a rundown of how to cross America tip to tail.

Bike touring through the Canadian section of the Great Divide.
Riding through the Canadian section of the Great Divide.
Chuck Haney

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route

The Great Divide turned 20 in 2018 by adding 400 more miles to accompany new maps on the world’s most iconic long-distance dirt route. Now reaching from Jasper, Alberta, Canada, to Antelope Wells, New Mexico, this border-to-border ride is a bikepacking classic. (Join the waitlist for Adventure Cycling’s van-supported tour.)

Sublime bike touring along the Oregon coast.
Sublime cycling along the Oregon coast.
Tyler Metcalfe

Pacific Coast Route

Adventure Cycling’s most popular route needs no introduction — who would need to be convinced to ride down the spectacular Pacific Coast? Reaching from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to Imperial Beach, California, this is the only Adventure Cycling route that has a recommended direction (north to south to take advantage of prevailing winds). Keep the ocean on your right, your camera close at hand, and enjoy an iconic ride. (Join Adventure Cycling’s van-supported tour.)

Atlantic Coast Route

Technically the Atlantic Coast Route eschews border stations, but cycling from Bar Harbor, Maine, to Key West, Florida, is about as far as you can go on the Eastern Seaboard. Tack on an extra few days at the top to reach New Brunswick and make it official, or spend that time kicked back in Key West and call it close enough. (Join Adventure Cycling’s van-supported tour.)

Underground Railroad Bicycle Route

Over 2,000 miles from Mobile, Alabama, on the Gulf of Mexico to Owen Sound, Ontario, on Lake Huron, the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route memorializes the Underground Railroad, a network of clandestine routes by which African freedom seekers attempted to escape slavery before and during the Civil War. 

Sierra Cascades Route

From Sumas, Washington, to Tecate, California, the Sierra Cascades traverses some of the West’s most impressive peaks and parks and brushes both borders. Whether your riding through Muir’s "Range of Light" or clinging to the slopes of volcanoes, this mountainous route might even make those on the Great Divide jealous.

Highway 83

From Texas to North Dakota, Highway 83 sets a straight path down the country’s midsection. Featuring wide-open vistas, small-town Americana, and some seriously lonely stretches of road, this uncommon crossing comes in just shy of 2,000 miles. 

A barn sign in Sequoyah Caverns, Alabama, along U.S. 11.
A barn sign in Sequoyah Caverns, Alabama, along U.S. 11.
Kevin Patrick / Timberline Adventures

Route 11

From the Canadian border near Champlain, New York, to New Orleans, Louisiana, Route 11 traces an inland path down the Appalachians and into the Deep South. Bookended by regions with a strong French influence, this route shows a different side of the eastern part of the country.

Eastern Divide

It hasn’t happened yet, but a group of bikepackers are working on the creation of an eastern counterpart for he Great Divide. Stay tuned regarding the project on their Facebook page.

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