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Off the Beaten Path: 5 Bike Trails Worth Exploring

Ready to hit the trails? These small to mid-size cities contain hidden gems for biking enthusiasts.

By Kelly Rogers on May 12, 2022

A pair of mountain bikers ride up a dirt path on a sunny summer day in Vail, Colorado.
iStock/Earth Trotter Photos

Warmer weather is finally here, and the outdoors are calling. Whether you’re headed on a fun summer road trip, planning a vacation or looking for a new city to try on for size, make sure you include some outdoor adventures in your itinerary. And what better way to enjoy nature in a new place and get your body moving than exploring biking trails? We’ve put together a list of must-try bike trails across the U.S. that might not be on your radar yet — but definitely should be.

People on the Poudre River Trail in Fort Collins, Colorado with Rocky Mountains in the background.
iStock/RiverNorthPhotography

Poudre River Trail

Fort Collins, CO
Open: Year-round
Parking: Free
Dogs: Allowed, when leashed
Access points: Island Grove Park, River Bluffs Open Space, Eastman Park

It’s no secret that Colorado is a mecca for outdoor recreation — the combination of gorgeous scenery and dry, cool summers make it an ideal place for outside activities like bike riding. The Poudre River Trail in Fort Collins is a paved, 21-mile trail along the Cache la Poudre River and features plenty of shade, forestry, wildlife and wildflowers (in the spring and summer). You can expect a gentle, pleasant ride on this wide, gently-graded path. There are also plenty of interesting stops along the way. 

Keep an eye out for Poudre Ponds, where you’re likely to spot recreational fishers. Then, channel your inner bird-watcher at the Kodak Watchable Wildlife area, where you can look for wild turkeys, eagles, hawks and other waterfowl. If you’ve brought your pup with you, you can even stop at Rover Run Dog Park, a 3-acre fenced-in area with benches and waste receptacles (but bring your own water!). 

Abingdon VA
Abingdon / Jason Barnette

Virginia Creeper Trail

Abingdon, VA
Open: Year-round
Parking: Free
Dogs: Allowed when leashed (P.S. horses are also allowed)
Access points: Abingdon, Watauga Road, Green Cove Station, Alvarado, Whitetop Station, Creek Junction. Signs are clearly marked and easy to locate.

If you find yourself in the southeast region of the U.S., you’ll want to put this one on your itinerary. Once a railroad track, the Virginia Creeper Trail — named for the steam engine that once traveled along the original tracks — is one of only 38 trails to be inducted into the National Rail to Trail Hall of Fame. Starting in Abingdon and ending in Whitetop Station, this 34-mile trail attracts hikers, bikers and even horseback riders. The terrain gradually transitions from rolling farmland to the gorgeous mountainside, with plenty of trailside amenities along the way, including dining and lodging. Numerous bike shops offer rentals and shuttles, plus repair services should you need them.

If you’re not up for the entire 34-mile trail, check out the popular 17-mile stretch from Whitetop to Damascus, which is all downhill and a great, easy ride with gorgeous views (5% downhill grade). 

Swamp Rabbit Trail

Greenville, SC
Open: Year-round
Parking: Free
Dogs: Allowed when leashed (P.S. horses are also allowed)
Access points: Downtown Greenville, the Commons, the Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery (see map for complete list

Continue your biking tour of the Southeast and “hop” on over to the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville, SC. Don’t let the bizarre name fool you: this is anything but swampland. Like the Virginia Creeper, the Swamp Rabbit Trail was built over an abandoned railroad track, the Carolina, Knoxville and Western Railway, which locals nicknamed the Swamp Rabbit (which rolls off the tongue much smoother than its official name).

This multi-use greenway is 22 miles long, connecting Greenville with its charming neighboring town, Traveler’s Rest. The trail includes stretches along the Reedy River, downtown Greenville and many city parks. This popular trail is a social hotspot, not just because of the beautiful scenery but also the numerous trailside restaurants and shops. One must-visit spot is the Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery, which serves delicious food, has a charming outdoor dining area and stocks its shelves with an unprecedented amount of goods from small businesses. 
Local Tip: try a loaf of their famous Stecca Bread — it’s insanely delicious.

Melissa Harms/Visit Indy

Monon Bike Trail 

Indianapolis, IN
Open: Year-round, from dawn to dusk
Parking: Free
Dogs: Allowed, when leashed
Access points: Sheridan, Westfield, Grand Park, Carmel, Nora, Marott Park, Indianapolis Arts Center, Broad Ripple Village, Broad Ripple Park, Canterbury Park, Arsenal Park, Indiana State Fairgrounds and Downtown Indianapolis

Yet another railroad-turned-trail (also in the Rail to Trail Hall of Fame), the Monon Bike Trail spans central Indiana and has expanded from its original 10 miles to 27+ miles (and counting), connecting Indiana’s stunning scenery with Indianapolis’ vibrant arts and culture experiences. The Monon Bike Trail is notable for its blend of urban and rural scenery.

The trail begins in Indianapolis, where it intersects with the Indianapolis Cultural Trail and takes you to the Indiana State Fairgrounds, then through greener suburban neighborhoods. About six miles in, you’ll reach Broad Ripple, a unique community with delightful food, breweries, art galleries and shops. Next up is Carmel (and if you plan your trip just right, you can catch their farmers market on Saturday mornings). Continuing past Carmel will take you to Westfield, where you can change course and switch to the Midland Trace Trail if you’re so inclined. If you continue on the Monon Bike Trail, you’ll pass by sprawling farms and end up in Sheridan

Flume Trail

Lake Tahoe, NV
Open: Mid-May through October, depending on snowmelt conditions
Parking: Paid
Dogs: Allowed, when leashed
Access points: Spooner Lake, Tunnel Creek Cafe, Incline Village

The Flume Trail is ideal for intermediate and experienced mountain bikers looking for a challenge, not for the faint of heart. Of the 14-mile-long trail, the first four miles require 1,000 feet of uphill climbing at a high elevation, and many sections of the trial are single-track and border steep drop-offs. However, the effort is worth it for the breathtaking panoramic views of Lake Tahoe. Honestly, pictures of this view will do more to convince you than words ever could. It’s a bucket-list trail and definitely should be on your list if and when you reach an intermediate/advanced skill level. (Note: you can definitely walk your bike through some sections if they make you nervous!)

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