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The 10 best national parks for bicycling

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Elk herd crossing riverNational parks might seem like natural destinations for family car trips or RV excursions, but they also have many factors that make them ideal for bicycle travel.

The park scenery — be it desert sands, forests, or challenging mountains — can be enjoyed better from a bicycle saddle than from a car seat. And I've found that the National Park Service has afforded bicycle riders some advantages not enjoyed by those in cars.

Probably the biggest bonus for bicycle travelers is the existence of bike-in/hike-in campgrounds in some parks.

Camping

I discovered one of these years ago after a long slog into the Grand Canyon National Park. The Mather Campground offers shared campsites for hikers and bicycle riders; no reservations; no long lines; and just $6 a night.

If you can, it would be a good idea to check your park destination for such bicycle camping facilities. Yellowstone, for instance, notes logistical problems for bicycle travelers in the park, even though hike/bike campsites are available.

Road access

Although bicycles are not allowed on the many hiking trails that criss-cross the national parks, they usually are allowed on all paved roads, including those that prohibit private vehicles.

On my visit to the Grand Canyon, the car-bound crowds all jammed into the parking lots. I rode my bike along a rim road assigned to shuttle buses (now the Hermit Road Greenway) and enjoyed many amazing views, without heavy traffic or crowds. I've had similar experiences on the valley floor at Yosemite National Park and the Cades Cove loop at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Traffic

For bicycle tourists, feeding the bears is not the big danger, it's car and RV traffic. The national park roads are often narrow and shoulderless. The twisting routes that make many parks so scenic also can lead to danger for bicyclists during the crowded summer season.

But a lot of the motor vehicle traffic is a Memorial Day to Labor Day phenomenon. If you go before or after those dates the traffic drops off precipitously.

Gorp Top 10

The Gorp.com travel site list the top 10 national parks for bicycling. I haven't been to many of these, but I'm sure they've done their homework.

The only suggestion I'd recommend is adding the Natchez Trace Parkway to the list. It's a 444-mile historic route through Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee that has become popular with bicyclists.

Here's the Gorp.com top 10 national parks for bicycling:


Acadia, Maine

Shenandoah, Virginia

Big Bend, Texas

Rocky Mountain, Colorado

Grand Teton, Wyoming

Canyonlands, Utah

Death Valley, California

Redwoods, California

Crater Lake, Oregon

Olympic, Washingon

Photos above from trips to Olympic National Park. Top: Elk crossing Hoh River; bottom: touring bicycle parked on Crescent Lake.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.bikingbis.com/2009/08/03/the-10-best-national-parks-for-bicycling/

1 comment

  1. Manshu

    Amazing list…Very useful..

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