The 15 Best Destinations in the U.S. to Explore by Bike

Pedaling around is a truly enchanting way to immerse yourself in a new place

A couple ride bikes alongside the sea in a coastal city.

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We’re dedicating our May features to the outdoors and adventure. In 2020, we saw more people get outside, eager for a breath of fresh air after challenging spring, taking up new activities and blazing new trails. Now, in 2021, read our features to learn more about 15 outdoor skills you should masterthe best state parks across the country, a new trend of hotels opening near formerly remote national parks, and one person’s quest to make outdoor experiences accessible for all.

Is there a more fun and liberating feeling than going for a ride on a bike? Whether you're just cruising around the block, commuting to the office, or looking for a serious workout, a good bike can be an absolute joy to ride. Add in the fact that cycling is good for both your health and the planet, and it's no wonder that so many people have flocked to the sport in recent years.

In recent years, bikes have become increasingly popular amongst travelers, often serving as a cheap, dependable, and exhilarating form of transportation. Slow enough to casually take in the sights, yet fast enough to cover plenty of ground, a bike is a great way to wander through a new location. Quick, nimble, and versatile, once you've discovered the joys of traveling by bike, it's hard to go back to anything else.

Trust us, pedaling your way around a new place is a truly enchanting way to immerse yourself in a location. But some places are even more well suited and accommodating to cyclists than others. With that in mind, these are our picks for the very best destinations in the U.S. to explore by bike.

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Boulder, Colorado

A lone cyclists rides a twisty highway towards a mountain setting

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Let's just go ahead and get this one out of the way early. No list of great U.S. biking destinations would be complete without at least mentioning Boulder. The city is a destination for road and mountain bikers alike, luring top pro and amateur riders with its laidback atmosphere, beautiful scenery, and access to literally thousands of documented rides. Mountain bikers will love the more than 300 miles of trail that are accessible right from town. But roadies will find seemingly endless miles of pavement to ride as well. Whether you're on dirt or asphalt, the Colorado landscapes are fantastic, of course. Just remember to take it slow for the first few days. Located at 5,400 feet in altitude, Boulder's thin air can make even an easy ride seem surprisingly hard.

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Asheville, North Carolina

A male and female cyclist ride along a scenic mountain road with a tunnel in the background

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Asheville has plenty to offer visitors, including a vibrant art and music scene, excellent pubs and restaurants, and excellent hiking. It also happens to be one of the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S., with respectful drivers, plenty of bike lanes, and easy navigation. But what truly makes it a special destination for riders is the combination of great mountain biking in nearby Pisgah National Forest and the outstanding road riding along the Blue Ridge Parkway. In fact, the parkway just might be the most scenic ride east of the Mississippi. If you do visit Asheville, be prepared for a lot of climbs. There are few flat roads or trails to be found anywhere close to the city, but you can soothe your tired legs afterward with a stop at any one of the great breweries found in Asheville. We're rather partial to Burial Beer Co.

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Manhattan, New York

A woman stands alongside her bike overlooking the New York City skyline across the Hudson River

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For an amazing urban cycling experience in the heart of America's biggest city, give Manhattan a try. Sure, you'll have to keep your eyes peeled for traffic at all times when on the city streets, but jump on the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, and you'll discover an entirely new perspective on New York City. This 31-mile long loop trail takes riders along the East Side, through The Battery, into East Harlem, 83rd Street, and even into Midtown. Hop on and off the greenway at various points to find food, drinks, and a variety of other amenities. Aside from a few short sections, riders are completely isolated from motor vehicles, making this a surprisingly relaxed ride and a truly unique way to explore NYC.

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Seattle, Washington

A cyclist rolls through Seattle's Pike Place region with a "Public Market" sign in the background.

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Seattle has gone to great lengths to build some of the best and most well-protected bike lanes in the U.S. This has made it one of the most bike-friendly destinations in the country, with locals and visitors taking advantage of the continually-expanding infrastructure. A series of interconnected greenways and neighborhood routes provides nearly 60 miles of safe, secluded, and easily accessible routes to ride. Those routes take riders to just about any part of the city, but the Green Lake neighborhood trail is especially well connected. It's also quite scenic too, hugging the shores of a beautiful lake for 2.5 miles. From there, cyclists can make their way to any number of Seattle hot spots, including the trendy downtown area or stick to more serene suburban neighborhoods.

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San Francisco, California

A cyclist pedals past the Golden Gate Bridge

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What a difference a decade can make. In 2010, there were very few bike lanes to be found anywhere in San Francisco, making two-wheeled travel difficult to recommend. Today, however, the city has committed itself to being much more bike-friendly, which has made some of its more interesting and popular neighborhoods far more accessible. The ever-expanding network of bike-only lanes can take you to some surprising places, and as you would expect, there are some spectacular rides to be had, even in such a busy urban setting. One of the top destinations is the Presidio, which features a biking route that runs along the bay and even under the Golden Gate Bridge. If you're looking to venture out a little further, give the Paradise Loop a go. This 38-mile cycling route provides some of the city's best views from across the water, making it a must-do ride for serious explorers.

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Moab, Utah

A mountain biker rides a slick rock trail with a red-rock canyon in the background.

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While there certainly are plenty of roads to ride in and around Moab, the real draw for this town in eastern Utah is the outstanding mountain biking. Located not far from Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Moab is home to some of the absolute best mountain biking on the planet. There are literally dozens of trails accessible straight from town, with hundreds more a short drive into the wilderness. Slickrock is easily the most famous of those trails, but it is best left to expert riders. For something a bit more casual, scenic, and fun, give Gemini Bridges Trail a go. It features some of the most dramatic backdrops in the entire area. After that, take a ride on the Whole Enchilada, which has become something of a right of passage for avid mountain bikers the world over. And later, when you head back to town, refuel at the Desert Bistro or Moab Brewery.

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Minneapolis, Minnesota

A cyclist rides along a bike path with the Minneapolis skyline in the distance.

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Preserving and maintaining green spaces has always been a priority in Minneapolis. As a result, the city has miles and miles of excellent trails weaving throughout its urban environment. Those trails have made it a great place for bike commuters, even during the notoriously cold winters. Those same routes also happen to be highly accessible and easy to navigate for visitors, making exploring the area by bike a true joy. For a taste of what Minneapolis has to offer, ride the Chain of Lakes trail, a 15-mile route that more than lives up to its name as it winds its way past a few of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes. The Midtown Greenway is also a good choice for accessing various parts of the city. It features lanes for both bikers and runners; it is well-lit even at night and even gets plowed in the winter. How's that for midwestern hospitality?

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Portland, Oregon

A man and woman ride along a bike lane with golden fall colors in the trees behind them.

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Much like Boulder, Portland is always a perennial contender for the title of best cycling destination in the U.S. Riding bikes is such a part of the culture there that Portland actually boasts the most cyclists per capita of any American city. The bike trails are so well integrated into the city that there really isn't any part of town that isn't accessible. Some of the top rides include several scenic routes that lead to Kelly Point Park—a secluded destination in the heart of the city—and an unbelievably beautiful path through the Tryon Creek State Natural Area that leaves little doubt as to exactly why Oregon is such a popular place to live and visit. Best of all, when exploring Portland by bike, you can begin your day with a caffeinated beverage from one of the many coffee shops and end it by sampling cold drinks at a local brewery.

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Madison, Wisconsin

A row of red electric bike share bikes in Madison, Wisconsin.

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Madison is another city that has put a lot of thought and effort into its biking infrastructure. Not only does it feature plenty of bike-only lanes and trails, it even has signs indicating the distance and direction to some of the top destinations. This makes it an easy place to get around, even for visitors. Madison's vibrant downtown area is extremely accessible, with bike-share options aplenty. That includes access to e-bikes that make zipping around the city surprisingly easy and entertaining. Those looking to stretch their legs on a longer road ride—with some beautiful scenery thrown in for good measure—should have the UW-Madison Arboretum Trail a go. The tree-lined route is accessible through many different access points and provides a semi-secluded path that feels more rural than urban.

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Tucson, Arizona

A road sign reminds drivers to share the road with cyclists in the Arizona desert

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With more than 700 miles of bike trail integrated throughout the city, not to mention excellent weather all year round, Tucson is a dream come true for many cyclists. Its 55-mile Loop trail literally puts the entire city within reach by bike, passing through parks and urban settings and connecting with other bike and bus routes. You'll find restaurants, breweries, coffee shops, theaters, hotels, and plenty of other establishments along the Loop, which continues to evolve and grow on an annual basis. And when you're ready to leave the city behind, the nearby Santa Catalina Mountains offer excellent trail riding too.

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Greenville, South Carolina

Three cyclist ride along the banks of a river with a suspension bridge overhead.

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Dubbed "Bike Town," Greenville is another city that has wholeheartedly embraced cycling culture. Not only has it built plenty of protected bike lanes to keep riders safe while sharing the road with motorists, it has also created a special trail that offers access to a wide variety of local attractions. The colorfully-named Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail runs for 22-miles in both urban and green settings. The route meanders past local restaurants, breweries, coffee shops, and a hot of other places, providing a convenient and relaxing way to explore Greenville by bike. And if you're looking for a place to stay while in the area, add the Hotel Domestique to your list. Owned by former pro cycling legend George Hincapie, the man himself can provide plenty of intel on where to ride in the area.

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Austin, Texas

A cyclist rides towards downtown Austin on South Congress Ave.

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With plenty of warm, sunny weather all year long, Austin is an ideal spot for cyclists. The city is well known for its legendary group rides, which are plentiful and easy to find daily. Visitors will especially enjoy riding through Austin's many unique neighborhoods, including the South Congress area. Known as "SoCo" amongst the locals, this eclectic part of an already eclectic city has great food, a wonderful art scene, and some of the most unusual shops that you'll ever see. If you're looking for long road rides or want to get off the pavement and onto some dirt, Austin has you covered there too. A short distance out of town, you'll discover the Texas Hill Country, with miles and miles of undulating hills to test your legs. After a long day of riding, head back to town to fill up on some Rudy's BBQ or Torchy's Tacos, a couple of local favorites that never disappoint.

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Washington, D.C.

A rider on a bike glides by the Lincoln Monument in Washington, DC

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Well known for its frequent traffic snarls, Washington, D.C., isn't necessarily the first place that comes to mind when ranking cycling-friendly destination. But if you want to ditch the car and explore the National Mall and all of the other top DC monuments on two wheels, Capital Bikesharer has you covered. Walking through this sprawling historic region can take a lot of time and energy. But on a bike, it is much more fun and manageable. If you're a serious cyclist looking for a bigger challenge, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Trail is also an option. The 185-mile route runs from Washington to Cumberland, Maryland, with some amazing scenery to soak in along the way.

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Bend, Oregon

A dog runs along a mountain trail with a mountain biker not far behind.

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Thanks to its bike-friendly roads and ease of navigation, road cyclists will find plenty to like on a visit to Bend. But the real draw to the Oregon town is the epic mountain biking, much of which is directly accessible directly from town. With nearly 500 miles of single track less than an hour's drive away, Bend has trails for just about every kind of rider. That includes fast and wild downhill, leg-punishing climbs, or gentle and easy rides through spectacular environments. Favorite routes include Peterson Ridge Loop, a 20-mile cross-country ride across mixed terrain, and Tiddlywinks—a fast, fun-filled course with plenty of technical obstacles. And when you're done burning lots of calories on the trail, head back to town to sample some of the local fare. Standouts include Bangers & Brews and Jackson's Corner.

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Louisville, Kentucky

A row of bike share bikes ready to be taken for a ride.

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An up-and-coming cycling destination in the south, Louisville is quickly becoming a new hot spot for riders. That's because the city has invested in plenty of new infrastructure, including the Louisville Loop, which, when completed, will consist of 100 miles of trail linking just about every corner of the city. Road cyclists will find seemingly endless miles of country backroads to explore just outside of town, extending across the lower Ohio Valley. Traffic is usually light, the roads are smooth and easy to follow, and there is plenty of natural beauty to take in, particularly in the fall. For a unique dining experience while in the area, head over to The Rudyard Kipling for music, food, and conversation. Or visit Biscuit Belly for some amazing twists on southern cuisine.

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