Riding through America’s back yard

As Marcus Sortijas pointed out a couple of weeks ago, interest in bicycling is on the rise. This makes sense in a number of ways. In terms of healthy living, incorporating physical exercise into activities that are themselves enjoyable is easier than avoiding going to the gym. As the cost of gas inflates and there is more awareness for maintaining a clean environment, a mode of transportation that serves both the function of commuting and the relaxation of a stroll in the park becomes ever more appealing.

Allegheny River Rail Trail

Allegheny River Rail Trail

One of the benefits afforded an American bicycler are the over 1,500 rail trails that crisscross the country. The shortest is only a couple of miles, but the longest is Katy Trail State Park in Missouri at 225 miles. Rail-trails are public paths created from unused railroad corridors, which has the advantage that no path will be of any significant grade, meaning that they are accessible to even the most casual cyclist. What I love most about these trails are that just as trains will often run through the middle of residential areas, so now do these rail-trails, and walking or bicycling along them gives one a peek into the communities of the people that live near them. When not going through the woods or a field, the view one has is often of garages, picnic tables, and swingsets.

They can be found in most states and one of my favorite is the Cape Cod Rail Trail. Boston roots show my bias, but it is a relaxing 22 mile trail which goes right past a kettle pond, beckoning you to jump in on a hot summer day. Further up the Cape, the Province Lands are like a roller coaster ride for bicycles, with trails going up and down the sand dunes.

Don’t own a bicycle or don’t want to ship your bike? Many trails have bicycle shops along the route, offering rentals, gear, and maps. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy maintains a searchable trail database, making it easy to find a nearby trail.

Pack some extra water and a Clif bar, and find a Sunday afternoon ride near you!

(Photo by dknapschaefer via Flickr.)

Posted by | Comments (3)  | November 5, 2009
Category: Adventure Travel, Simplicity, Vagabonding Advice

3 Responses to “Riding through America’s back yard”

  1. Brett Says:

    If you’re in the eastern USA, check out the (very much in development) East Coast Greenway

    Will be interesting to see how the ECG shapes up over the next, oh, 40 or 50 years…

  2. Brett Says:

    Better link?

  3. Jessica Says:

    If you’re ever in the Baltimore Maryland area, our NCR trail is terrific….it goes from Northern Baltimore County all the way to York, PA on the old North Central Rail line…you’ll encounter walkers, runners, other cyclists, horseback riders and loads of wildlife. And it’s right along the Gunpowder River, so wading, tubing, and fishing are all options as well.