Forget spin class: It’s time to embark on the biking experience of a lifetime in one of our nation’s best national parks. Whether you’re winding through the dense spruce-studded forests of Acadia National Park or cruising on a stark desert road in Death Valley, biking in national parks is a challenging and exhilarating experience that you will remember for years to come.
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is a lesson in extremes: Summertime temperatures can creep up to a scorching 120 degrees, and the nighttime chill can plummet to zero. In spite of its morbid name and hostile climate, Death Valley National Park is a popular hot spot for avid cyclists seeking a one-of-a-kind biking experience in the Wild West. This immense, 3.3 million-acre park has thousands of miles of dirt and paved roads to choose from, ideal for the novice cyclist and extreme mountain biker alike. Bicycles are permitted on all park roads that are open to public vehicular traffic, in addition to several backcountry trails for the adventure seekers, such as the strenuous Artist’s Drive or West Side Road.
Acadia National Park
Mt Desert, ME
At Acadia National Park, cyclists cruise through dense spruce-fir forests, up granite slopes and along craggy Atlantic coastline. The beautiful and historic Carriage Roads, which were built by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller in the early 20th century, wind through the heart of Acadia National Park, providing a crushed rock surface perfectly suited for cycling. A must-see for intermediate bikers is the Park Loop Road, a steep ascent up Cadillac Mountain that affords riders stunning panoramic views of the landscape below.
Shenandoah National Park
Every year, Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park lures avid cyclists who are looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. The park’s famous byway—Skyline Drive, a 105-mile stretch of paved road that follows the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains—is coveted by bikers seeking a challenge. Built by the Conservation Civilian Corps during the Great Depression, the historic parkway offers breathtaking views of the gorgeous mountain scenery and densely wooded forest. Because Skyline Drive is a two-lane road with blind curves and treacherous hills, bikers are warned to exercise caution when navigating the road.
Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake, OR
The deepest lake in the continental U.S., the deep, pure Crater Lake has always been a source of human awe and intrigue. One of the best ways to appreciate the beauty of Crater Lake is to hop on a bike and embark on the 33-mile Rim Drive, a loop that winds around the perimeter of the lake. With many long, steep grades at high elevation, the ride is physically demanding and best suited to intermediate or advanced bikers. Along the way, however, riders can take pause and rest at many of the Rim Drive’s scenic vistas and overlooks, which give a glimpse onto the lake’s startling sapphire-blue waters.
Canyonlands National Park
Located in southeastern Utah, Canyonlands National Park is renowned for its unparalleled mountain biking terrain. For the ultimate mountain biking experience in a colorful desert landscape, hit the wildly popular White Rim Road at the Island in the Sky, a 100-mile dirt road providing expansive views of the surrounding parklands with its countless canyons, buttes and mesas. The White Rim Road trip typically takes three to four days to complete, so many visitors choose to embark on a multi-day adventure and camp in the backcountry. Permits are required for all overnight trips.