August 22, 2017
With the recent improvements to bike services on various Amtrak routes, it’s easier to get your bike to where you want to go. Last year, Amtrak introduced trainside checked service for bicycles on all 15 of their long distance routes, effectively eliminating the need to box your bike.
“Trainside checked” just means that you check your bike the same way you would your luggage — but without having to disassemble it into a box. Hand it off to the baggage car staff, they hang it up on a bike rack in the baggage car, and you grab it when you get off the train. The only catch: as with any checked baggage on these trains, you can only take your bike off at staffed stations with baggage service. But — NO MORE BOXES!
So what better opportunity to start looking at which national parks one can get to with Amtrak? And what better time to go than on Bike Your Park Day, September 30?
The Empire Builder is one of the long distance routes that now has trainside checked service. Luckily, Amtrak realized how popular Glacier National Park is as a bicycling destination and made an exception for allowing passengers to take bikes on and off the unstaffed stations at West Glacier and the seasonally open station at East Glacier.
If you’re looking for off-road trail riding, this is the place to go, and with the Capitol Limited you can do a one-way ride and take the train back. This route has carry-on bicycle service, so you can get your bike on and off at any station. The C&O Canal is a lovely national park, and though the 184-mile towpath can be occasionally rough, it’s a popular destination for cycling. It also connects to the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage, another trail gem that continues to Pittsburgh from Cumberland, Maryland.
Since 2013, Crater Lake has been organizing Ride the Rim on two Saturdays in September, during which they close a portion of Rim Drive and open it up only to non-motorized traffic. Over 5,000 people participated last year, and this year the events will take place September 9 and 16th. While we’re sad it doesn’t coincide with Bike Your Park Day, September 30, it’s probably the best possible way to #bikeyourpark, so we wanted to help promote it. Plus, when you take the Coast Starlight to Klamath Falls, you can also reserve an Amtrak shuttle that will take you and your bike straight to the park.
You can take the Cardinal or the Crescent to the Charlottesville station, which has trainside checked service, and then ride a portion of the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail west to Afton where it intersects with both the southern terminus of Skyline Drive and the northern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Why choose just one when you could bike two parks in one day?
Check out this list of more Amtrak routes that service national parks for more ideas.
It can take a little research to connect the dots on what route to take and what kind of bike services are offered, so here’s how we usually go about it. Check out the multi-modal page for the full list of resources.
Enjoy the ride! Please comment below with any questions or feedback.
Photos 1 and 2 Saara Snow | Photo 3 Brian Managan
Bike Your Park Day Bike to or within nearby parks and public lands with thousands of people around the country on the same day — Bike Your Park Day on September 29, 2018. Bring friends and family to join the ride and discover the outdoor adventures in your backyard. Make it your own experience: ride any distance; go with friends, family, or join a group; bike on trails or roads. Visit a national or state park, monument, historic site, river, seashore, recreation area, preserve, forest, wildlife refuge, or parkway. #BikeYourPark