Ideal routes for urban cycling and sightseeing
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2017 and has been updated with the most recent information.
Cycling, especially bike sharing, offers some of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to check out new neighborhoods or experience a new city. With that in mind, Curbed has curated a list of great bikes rides in, around, or even between U.S. cities. From numerous rails-to-trails projects to great new urban infrastructure, here are a few of the many ways to explore the country on two wheels this season and beyond.
Did we miss something? Suggest your favorites in the comment section, below.
Willamette River Loop—Portland, Oregon
An excellent urban cycling trail and a great way to see Bridgetown, this mostly flat ride through areas south of downtown circles the city’s main waterway, offering an introduction to the landscape and views of many of the city’s famous bridges.
Great Allegheny Passage—Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland
Formed by two railway grades that merge in the trail’s terminus of Cumberland, Maryland, this 150-mile continuous trail makes for a great biking trip. Riders can even connect with the 184.5-mile Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath, providing a way to travel from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C.
Mississippi River Trail—New Orleans to St. James Parish, Louisiana
A 60-mile trail system that ambles along the banks of the Mississippi River, and at some points, rides atop the city’s levee system, this route offers an easygoing option for sightseeing. A large portion runs alongside Audubon Park, a jewel of New Orleans’s park system.
Arkansas River Trail System—Little Rock, Arkansas
Offering more than just a recreational ride, this 88-mile route also functions as a cultural connection in Little Rock. It links six area museums, dozens of parks, and a pair of outdoor concert venues, as well as the Big Dam Bridge, one of the largest pedestrian/cyclist bridges in the world and host to an LED light display at night.
Illinois Prairie Path—Maywood, Illinois to Aurora, Illinois and Elgin, Illinois
Founded in 1963 as the country’s first rails-to-trails conversion, this 61-mile stretch of what was once the Chicago Aurora & Elgin electric railroad isn’t yet connected to Chicago. But it’s well worth the effort to reach the trail and its many miles of forested roadways. The end of the Aurora fork of the trail also runs past Fox River.
Katy Trail—St. Louis to Kansas City
Like many similar recreational paths that have flourished under the “rails to trails” movement, Missouri’s Katy Trail follows a former railroad right-of-way that was abandoned due to changing economic patterns. The 287-mile route loosely traces the path of the Missouri River, from the St. Louis suburbs to the Kansas City area, thanks to the connecting Rock Island Trail, which opened in December of 2016.
Manhattan Waterfront Greenway—New York City
A 32-mile loop around Manhattan may not seem like the greatest way to appreciate the city’s parks and foliage. But with sections that run through the Battery on the island’s southern tip all the way up the Hudson Greenway to the Cherry Walk, a section lined with trees, this oval-shaped trek offers a scenic and mostly car-free route around the borough.
Bay Circuit Trail—Boston region
A crescent-shaped network of trails around Boston, the Bay Circuit forms a greenbelt around the outer edges of the metropolitan area, connecting more than 37 communities with 230 miles of recreational trails. Be warned: Trail quality varies, and many of the routes are more ideal for mountain biking.
American River Bike Trail—Sacramento, California to Folsom, California
This 32-mile ride offers paved perfection, trailing along the path of the American River from Sacramento’s Discovery Park to Folsom Lake. It even rolls across Guy West Bridge, a miniature version of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The ongoing reconstruction of this 22-mile circle of urban railways is creating a transformative pedestrian and biking loop that offers the promise of reshaping Atlanta transportation. The already-completed sections of the Eastside and Westside trails, which have been embraced by the community, offer scenic rides through the city. This summer saw exciting expansions to both trails.
Island Line Rail Trail—Burlington, Vermont to South Hero, Vermont
Built along the route of the former Rutland Railroad, this short, 14-mile trail with views of the Green Mountains can make cyclists feel like they’re pedaling on water, as a gravel causeway takes riders out across Lake Champlain. Due to a 200-foot gap in the causeway, riders need to wait for the Island Line Bike Ferry to complete their trip.
Tony Knowles Coastal Trail—Anchorage, Alaska
It’s not every biking adventure that requires riders to watch out for moose. Running along the Cook Inlet, this 11-mile ride quickly exits the Alaskan city to showcase some of the Last Frontier’s most beautiful landscapes.