TransAm Express Westward
We’re excited to once again offer a tour on the TransAm Express route, a different take on a classic route that should entice anyone who enjoys riding trail systems. While some cyclists believe pedaling across the country self-supported is the only way to go, others say, “Haul all that gear? No way.” If you’re among the latter group, you can ride pannier-free on this adventure across the U.S.!
This tour will include the full length of the C&O Canal Trail, Great Allegheny Passage, and Katy Trail with over 500 miles of car-free cycling for a different experience from the original TransAmerica Trail. From Washington, DC, we’ll pedal westward across the C&O and GAP trails, and later we’ll hop on the Katy Trail across Missouri. After crossing the windswept plains of the Midwest, we’ll get on the original TransAm route in northern Colorado, following the mountains all the way to the Pacific. Make this your summer for the bicycle adventure of a lifetime!
"I most enjoyed being outside on my bike in beautiful country every day all day. Doesn’t get any better than that. Also the tour leaders were great - Lee especially."
Week 1. Washington, DC to West Newton, Pennsylvania
We start our journey in Washington, DC, where we’ll enjoy a quick tour of the many historic monuments and a wheel dip in the tidal waters of the Potomac River before rolling through sun-dappled woods as our surroundings soon become more wild. You won’t need to worry about traffic as we ride some 330 miles on hard-packed, gently graded gravel and dirt trails on the C&O Canal Trail and Great Allegheny Passage from the heart of the nation’s capital in north to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. With stellar car-free riding and gentle grades, this will be a great way to get the TransAm Express Westward started.
Week 2. West Newton to Waynesville, Ohio
The week will start with our first layover day in Pittsburgh, a city that has remade itself from the old steelmaking days into a place with great character and nightlife. There will be plenty of time to take in one of the many museums or even a baseball game. After leaving Pittsburgh, we’ll head west through a sliver of West Virginia and then into Ohio. Our legs will be tested a bit as we ride through the rolling hills of southeastern Ohio, a rural region known for coal mining. The charm of the rolling farmland across this region is a pleasant view of rural America.
Week 3. Waynesville to Alton, Illinois
After Ohio, we’ll cross into Indiana where we will have a day off in the small town of Franklin. Within a couple of days, we will cross the Ohio River into southern Illinois. The ridges and valleys of the Illinois Ozarks will be an interesting section as we pass through Vandalia and Casey before we hit Alton, a historic river town situated on the banks of the Mississippi known as the birthplace of jazz legend Miles Davis and as a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Week 4. Alton to Atchison, Kansas
We’ll kick week four off by crossing the mighty Mississippi River as we continue our pursuit west. Soon after the river crossing, we’ll hop on the famous Katy Trail. Known as the country’s longest continuous rail-trail conversion, the Katy Trail will transport us through the heartland of America beside the Missouri River, along a corridor that’s also part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and the coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail. We’ll have a day off in beautiful Boonville, Missouri, an old railroad town along the Missouri River before we leave the Katy Trail behind and work our way to our next state.
Week 5. Atchison to McCook, Nebraska
In Kansas, we’ll both curse and praise the ever-present wind depending on whether it’s blowing in our faces or at our backs as we pedal among endless fields of grain and sunflowers. We’ll also find that Kansas is not completely flat, though the tallest distinctive feature will be grain elevators plodding the scenery every 10 to 20 miles. After only a few days in Kansas, we will dip up into Nebraska for some similar scenery across the Great Plains. We’ll continue our trek across the Great Plains with our eyes on the horizon for our first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains. We will end the week with a day off in McCook, taking a break from the grain elevators and gentle rolling terrain of Nebraska.
Week 6. McCook to Poudre River Canyon, Colorado
Our week will start with the 10th state of our trip — we’ll get a picture next to the “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” sign as we enter the Centennial State. Soon the Great Plains will be in our rearview mirror as we get closer to the majestic Rocky Mountains. The “Colorful Colorado” slogan will make more sense as we start to climb up into the largest mountain range in North America. Our gateway to the Rockies will be Fort Collins, home to Colorado State University and more breweries than can be listed here. It’ll be a wonderful place to put our feet up before we gain some serious elevation and cross the Rocky Mountains.
Week 7. Poudre River Canyon to Colter Bay, Wyoming
This week we link up to the original TransAm Trail in the northern Colorado town of Walden. The next day, we’ll ride into wild and windy Wyoming. In the little mountain town of Saratoga, we’ll soak our tired muscles in the free, community-owned Hobo Hot Pool. From there we’ll begin the high and dry ride through the sagebrush- and pronghorn-filled Great Divide Basin. From Lander to Dubois, home of the National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center, we’ll alternate between mountains and broad valleys. After climbing up and over Togwotee Pass, we’ll descend into Grand Teton National Park with a view of its iconic Teton Range in the horizon.
Week 8. Colter Bay to Darby, Montana
The next several days will be spent in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, both of which will surely be major highlights of the trip. We will have layover days in both parks and try to take in all they have to offer. Kayak on Jackson Lake? Watch Old Faithful erupt? The options to explore these national treasures will be endless. We’ll then ride alongside the trout-abundant waters of the Madison River to Ennis, Montana. From there we’ll climb up and over the big hill to Virginia City, a well-preserved Victorian frontier town that was the site of a major 1860s gold strike and, for a short time, the capital of the Montana Territory. From there it’s on to the high lonesome of the Big Hole Valley, over Chief Joseph and Lost Trail passes, and into the bustling Bitterroot Valley.
Week 9. Darby to Cambridge, Idaho
This week we’ll reach Missoula, hometown of Adventure Cycling and an oasis of culture, entertainment, and outdoor activities. After a well-deserved layover day, we’ll continue tracing the tracks of Lewis and Clark as we cross over Lolo Pass and reenter Idaho, pedaling beside the sparkling waters of the Lochsa River as it cuts through an immense wilderness expanse. At Riggins we might take a half-day commercial rafting trip through the whitewater rapids of the Salmon River’s main fork.
Week 10. Cambridge to Sisters, Oregon
After crossing the Snake River into Oregon near Hell’s Canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America, we’ll climb all the way to the charming little town of Halfway. We’ll enjoy a layover day in Baker City, a town rich with gold-mining lore. The classic 1969 musical comedy Paint Your Wagon was filmed in this area. Soon after crossing a series of relatively minor mountain ranges and passing through towns like Prairie City, Prineville, and Sisters, we’ll have the last big climb in our sights: McKenzie Pass.
Week 11. Sisters to Eugene, Oregon
Our last week begins by crossing the Cascade Range amid the volcanic surroundings of McKenzie Pass, knowing that the Pacific Ocean (and the end of our adventure) is only a few days away. After pedaling from Coburg to Florence, we’ll dip our wheels in the Pacific Ocean at Beachside State Park. After a celebration dinner in Florence, we’ll say our farewells on the following day, formally wrapping up our crossing of the North American continent by bicycle.