Draft The Route

Using the route criteria or evaluation method that you previously identified, you can start drafting a route using the following steps:

  • Use state or local bike route maps which often show more routing options than state highway maps. DeLorme maps and Google maps also offer some great perspectives, but be aware of possible inaccuracies. Consult local bike clubs and cyclists for their input.
  • Review your state or local trail systems and determine what might fit into the route. Trail surfaces must be suitable for touring bikes (pavement or hard-packed gravel) and trail connections must be easy to locate. Consult local knowledge to ensure suitability of trails for bicycle touring.
  • Assess whether there are existing bicycle touring routes along the chosen corridor, such as an Adventure Cycling route.
  • Assess need for infrastructure improvements and consider alternative routes. If the roads along your draft route need long-term improvements to be suitable according to U.S. Bicycle Route criteria, consider temporary or alternative routes as a short-term solution. U.S. Bicycle Routes may be realigned once the improvements are completed. In addition, if there are opportunities to include options, alternative routes may be included in the designation. For more on how alternate routes should be numbered, see FAQs for Planners under the Implementation header. 
  • Make the draft route available to stakeholders for comment. Securing buy-in leads to the long-term sustainability of a route and feedback can often improve a route. Ride With GPS is an easily-shareable platform.

Secure Local Agreements Along The Route

Once your draft route is ready, you should begin outreach to jurisdictions along the route to secure their support for designation, using the following steps:

  1. Research and document the road owners along the route. You will need to document all of the state or local agencies that have jurisdiction over the route or surrounding area, including road authorities, municipal governments, departments of natural resources, tribes, and parks and recreation or federal land agencies such as U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and/or others.
  2. Contact road owners for their written support. For any section of the route not owned by the state DOT, the next step is to contact the jurisdictions to secure support for the designation, with the ultimate goal of gaining agreements in the form of letters or resolutions of support, memorandums of understanding (MOUs), or interagency agreements. See Implementation Resources for template agreements.
  3. Enlist volunteers to expedite the outreach. Conducting outreach via phone and/or email is a great task for local volunteers, and requires an average of 6 hours per jurisdiction to secure the necessary support. Travel may occasionally be required to attend meetings in-person. Adventure Cycling can help find volunteers if needed, contact us at
  4. Make your case with supporting documents. Be prepared to build support and answer why designation is important to the agency or authority. Putting your trail or community on the national map is a great answer, along with the economic benefits from bicycle tourism. Liability is a question that frequently comes up when gathering local/state approvals for U.S. Bicycle Routes. There is no inherent liability for local agencies in designating bicycle routes. You can find economic benefits and liability information in Implementation Resources. There are no requirements for maintaining or improving designated U.S. Bicycle Route roadways with bicycle infrastructure; however, it is encouraged.
  5. Prepare ahead for the route to be signed. Signing U.S. Bicycle Routes is not required but is strongly encouraged by AASHTO and Adventure Cycling. Unless the local authority prohibits signing, agreements should contain language that allows for future signing and should be discussed with local road owners.
  6. Review the route with the DOT or other organization. An on-the-ground review will help eliminate gaps in routing, expose hidden challenges, and help create a better route. 
  7. Document everything. See the list below for specific documentation required for the AASHTO application.

If you have the time and capacity while doing outreach, we recommend you contact trail organizations, bike clubs, and cyclists along the route for their support. They can become important advocates for your route and aid in future promotion.

Prepare The AASHTO Application

The following items must be prepared for the U.S. Bicycle Route application, which the state DOT must submit to AASHTO:

  • Turn-by-turn instructions, including where the route enters and exits the state. Start the instructions at the northern-most or eastern-most point of the state border. 
  • Map(s) detailing the route. These should include enough detail to allow the AASHTO Special Committee on Route Numbering to see and understand the route.
  • Agreements from neighboring states regarding the route connection across the state line. The state DOT is responsible for gaining this agreement.
  • Agreements from state/local road owners may be included in the application if desired by the state DOT.
  • The signature of the state DOT’s chief executive or program supervisor is required on the application or a letter with their signature must accompany the application.

Submit The Application

Keep in mind that routes can be designated in one application or can be designated in phases. Realignments to established U.S. Bicycle Routes follow the same process in order for AASHTO to have accurate documentation of each route.

The state DOT must submit the application to the AASHTO Special Committee on Route Numbering through email to approximately 5-6 weeks before the fall or spring meeting. Read the application instructions (PDF/61k) before filling out the application (PDF/224k). Please copy on your email submission to ensure receipt. 

Adventure Cycling and AASHTO send out a national press release approximately two weeks after the new routes are approved. In order to meet our internal deadlines, we ask that states provide route information at least two weeks prior to the AASHTO meeting. See the example press releases and please use the press release template below to prepare your content. Email the completed form to

Next Steps: Promotion

Once your U.S. Bicycle Route application has been approved by AASHTO, the next and most important step is to promote your route. These pages will help you get started: