Incredible Bike Trips You Can Easily Do Yourself


THE PHRASE “abandoned railroad corridors” probably conjures up dismal images of derelict tracks strangled with weeds. In reality, many disused railway routes across the U.S. have been resurrected as scenic bike trails thanks to the nonprofit Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and many trail advocates instrumental in their development. With a mostly flat or gentle grade, these three rail-trails in particular beckon, offering opportunities to drop a fishing line, spy on swooping herons or stop along the way in sweet small towns. Best of all, each of these cycling paths showcases the kind of scenery well worth slowing down for.

Peak Pedal Experience in Colorado

Rio Grande Trail

Following the corridor of the former Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, the 42-mile Rio Grande Trail extends from Aspen to Glenwood Springs, traversing a landscape of thick evergreen forests, stands of aspens and expansive hay fields, horse pastures and cattle ranches. You’ll be wheeling beneath soaring peaks, though the trail itself is relatively level. Visit in spring to see the wildflowers or in summer for reliably bright and sunny days. Carbondale is one of several towns worth exploring, for its outdoor sculptures or tasty restaurants, including the modern Mexican Axkawa (senortacoshow.com). For those who want to ride a portion of the trail or just one way, a public-transit bus can drop you off near a trailhead.rfta.com/trail-information

The Rio Grande Trail in Colorado.



Photo:

Roarking Fork Transportation Authority/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Coasting Through Cornfields in Ohio

Little Miami Scenic Trail

Keep your eyes peeled for great blue herons and other birds along the Little Miami River when riding this pastoral 78-mile Rail-Trail from Springfield to Anderson Township. Mostly following the bed of the former Little Miami Railroad, the route passes through a dozen small towns as it rolls by fields of corn and soybeans. In the heat of summer, the river becomes a nexus for canoeing and fishing. Cool off at any of the many ice cream shops along the way, including Young’s Jersey Dairy, a short detour from the arty town of Yellow Springs. miamivalleytrails.org/trails/little-miami-scenic-trail

Lumbering Along in California

Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail

The fragrance of ponderosa and Jeffrey pines accompanies you on this remote, 25-mile trail that follows the former route of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Weaving through original train tunnels and across historic railroad bridges in a rugged canyon land, the Bizz Johnson (named for the Congressman who had a prominent role in its establishment) connects Westwood with Susanville, both former logging towns. Plan to linger awhile in Susanville, the county seat of Lassen County. Stop at the Lassen Historical Museum for the lowdown on the early lumber trade and at the Boardroom for one of the beers made locally, at Lassen Ale Works—likely your only chance to try a Bizz Johnson Blonde Ale. From Susanville, you can also bike to Devil’s Corral gorge (14 miles round-trip) over a series of historic bridges and among stands of cottonwoods and black oaks. Picturesque anytime of year, that route is especially gape-worthy in fall, when the trees flaunt their brilliant golds and reds. blm.gov/visit/bizz-johnson

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