January 12, 2011
Last week, we examined the top 10 bikepacking routes in the American West. While the Rocky Mountains and West Coast have a greater range of possibilities for long-distance trail rides than other regions, there also are good options for dirt touring with mountain bikes in the Midwest and eastern United States. The following list details five routes to get off the highway and into a new adventure.
Trans-North Georgia: TNG is a 350-mile mountain-bike-specific route through the mountains of North Georgia on trails, forest roads, and paved roads. The challenging route doles out a punishing 56,000 feet of climbing as it travels from the South Carolina border east of Clayton, Georgia, to the Alabama border near Rome, Georgia. A GPS track, cue sheet, and maps are available at www.firstworks.com/tnga/route.html.
Trans-Wisconsin: Created as a 540-mile dual-sport route across the Dairy State, the TransWisconsin Adventure Trail offers a scenic off-road route from the Illinois border near Galena to the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior. The route includes gravel roads, ATV trails and some pavement. There are several campgrounds and other services along the way, although a lack of cycling-specific maps necessitates prior planning. The route is not marked, but a GPS file is available at www.lonewolfexpeditions.com/twat.html. The Trans-Wisconsin also has a Facebook page with regular updates.
Trans-Minnesota: Another dual-sport route, the Trans-Minnesota Adventure Trail stretches from Iowa to Canada on a mixture of county highways, gravel roads and dirt ATV trails. This is another do-it-yourself route created by motorcycle enthusiasts, so camping possibilities and services for the slower-paced traveler will need to be researched ahead of time. Maps, written directions, and a GPS track are available online at minneadv.info/about-the-trail.
C&O Canal Towpath: This 184.5-mile trail follows the path of the historic Chesapeake & Ohio Canal along the north bank of the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. The surface is typically clay and crushed stone, but the smooth nature of the trail makes it a fun, car-free option for families and beginning mountain bikers. For more information, visit www.bikewashington.org/canal.
Katy Trail: The Katy Trail is a 225-mile path stretching across the state of Missouri. More than half of the trail follows the famous Lewis & Clark route. America’s longest “rails-to-trails” project is fairly flat with a crushed limestone surface that can accommodate all kinds of bikes, although is better suited to mountain bikes and hybrid bicycles. For more information, visit www.bikekatytrail.com.
Photo: The view from the Trans-Wisconsin Adventure Trail. Photo courtesy of Michael Meiser.