The 11 Best Bike Paths to Explore U.S. Cities
Editor's Note: Those who choose to travel are strongly encouraged to check local government restrictions, rules, and safety measures related to COVID-19 and take personal comfort levels and health conditions into consideration before departure.
Riding a bike is one of the best ways to get to know a city. And while you could just hop on your bike and start riding on the road, that’s not always very safe or relaxing, especially when you don’t know your way around.
Instead, find a bike path. These days, many U.S. cities have amazing bike paths that travel for miles and miles through diverse terrain, without ever crossing a busy street packed with cars. You’ll be able to explore a new city (or your own backyard!) at a leisurely pace, stopping at parks, bars, ice cream shops, public art exhibits, and historic landmarks along the way.
Looking for a new place to ride? For inspiration, here are 11 of our favorite urban bike paths in the U.S.
Rio Grande Trail in Aspen, Colorado
The Rio Grande Trail spans 42 miles in Colorado’s scenic Roaring Fork Valley. You can catch the path in Aspen and ride it all the way to Glenwood Springs, or pick it up anywhere along the way for a shorter ride. If mountain biking is more your speed, you’ll be happy to know this route connects to more than 300 miles of single-track trails (these are the Rocky Mountains, after all), and you won’t have to worry about cars. For a break, stop off for a margarita at Woody Creek Tavern, which was one of writer Hunter S. Thompson’s favorite haunts when he lived in Colorado.
And you don’t need to stop pedaling once you leave the trail. The entire Roaring Fork Valley was recently recognized for being friendly to beginner cyclists — it’s one of just five regions in the U.S. to earn a gold-medal designation from the International Mountain Bicycling Association.
Paseo del Bosque Trail in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque will surprise you — in the best way possible. Not only is the southwestern city alive with arts and culture, but it’s also a paradise for outdoor recreation. The 16-mile paved Paseo del Bosque Trail combines all the best parts of Albuquerque into one serene bike ride. You can stop and enjoy public art along Tingley Beach and Central Avenue, check out the wildlife in Rio Grande Valley State Park, and pop in for a lavender latte at Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm.
Beyond the Paseo del Bosque Trail, Albuquerque is incredibly bike-friendly, with more than 400 miles of bike paths and trails. If you enjoy more of a challenge, there are high-desert mountain biking trails just a few minutes from downtown.
Katy Trail in Dallas, Texas
The Katy Trail in Dallas may only be three and a half miles long, but it packs a punch. It used to be an abandoned railroad line circa 1865, but has since been transformed into a shady, peaceful route for biking, walking, jogging, and rollerblading. The trail is owned by the city, but managed by a nonprofit, which means it’s a true community-led project — lots of Dallas residents are involved in making this trail sing.
One standout trail feature: After your ride, you can stop for a patio beer at Katy Trail Ice House. As you might imagine, the people-watching (and dog-watching!) is stellar, since the patio butts right up against the trail.
Lake Monona Loop in Madison, Wisconsin
The 13-mile paved Lake Monona Loop is one of the many reasons why Madison, Wisconsin, should be at the top of your road trip list. You can see all the best parts of this Midwestern city on two wheels when you hop on this scenic bike path. It winds through cozy lakeside neighborhoods, small parks, and botanical gardens, all while offering stunning views of Lake Monona and the city skyline. The path also travels right past an ice cream shop, if you need a snack break.
The loop is part of Madison’s extensive cycling infrastructure, which includes more than 240 miles of bike paths and trails. The city is especially charming to bike around in the fall, when the leaves are ablaze with reds, oranges, and yellows.
Poudre River Trail in Fort Collins, Colorado
Fort Collins is widely regarded as one of the best cities for biking in America, with more than 285 miles of trails and a generally cycling-friendly culture. And after a quick spin on the Poudre River Trail, it’s even easier to understand why this place tops so many lists of the best bike-friendly destinations. The 15-mile paved trail runs diagonally through northern Fort Collins and will soon be connected with another 22-mile section along the Poudre River, giving cyclists a huge opportunity to explore a vast swath of northern Colorado on a bike.
Since you’ll be riding along the river, there’s a good chance you’ll spot some wildlife — deer, bald eagles, foxes, hummingbirds, and maybe even a mountain lion. After your ride along the path, point your bike toward one of the city’s many craft breweries for a little self-guided cycling beer tour.
Minuteman Commuter Bikeway in Boston, Massachusetts
As the name suggests, the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway is a great option for bike commuters who live in the suburbs and work in Boston. Commuting aside, it’s also a popular weekend spot for cyclists, joggers, walkers, strollers, and rollerbladers. In the fall, when the leaves start to turn, the route becomes a breathtaking tunnel of colorful fall foliage.
This 10-mile paved path follows the historic Lexington and West Cambridge Railroad. But before it was a railroad line, this route was the site where Paul Revere rode at midnight to warn of advancing British troops during the Revolutionary War. If you’re riding for fun, you can stop and learn about this historical event along the way, thanks to trailside displays.
Silver Comet Trail in Atlanta, Georgia
Located just outside of Atlanta, the paved Silver Comet Trail spans 61 miles of the north Georgia countryside, traveling all the way to the Alabama state line. (If you want to keep riding, hop on the Chief Ladiga Trail on the Alabama side for 33 more miles.)
While riding along the Silver Comet Trail, you’ll pass by some stunning scenery, including pine trees, rock cliffs, and rivers and creeks. You’ll even ride over a historic train trestle, as this is another route that used to be a railroad line.
Burke-Gilman Trail in Seattle, Washington
Riding your bike around Seattle may seem intimidating, but this bike-friendly city in the Pacific Northwest makes it seamless, thanks to the Burke-Gilman Trail, a handy path spanning 20 miles across the city and surrounding areas.
The paved trail connects Seattle’s Shilshole Bay with the city of Bothell, located on the northeast side of Lake Washington. Burke-Gilman follows a historic railroad route as it passes through various Seattle neighborhoods and other King County cities. It’s a popular choice for bike commuters, experienced cyclists, and casual bike riders alike.
Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail in Sacramento, California
At 32 miles long, the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail is impressive. You can ride along the American River between Folsom and Old Sacramento, passing through nearly a dozen parks along the way. Plus, there’s never been a better time to explore the trail — it just reopened fully after a three-year closure due to damage caused by a landslide.
Plus, Sacramento is working hard to become even more bike-friendly. The city developed a new bicycle master plan in 2016 to help strengthen local bike infrastructure, and it offers free monthly classes on urban biking.
Yampa River Core Trail in Steamboat Springs, Colorado
There’s arguably no better place to experience Colorado’s rugged natural beauty than Steamboat Springs, a charming mountain town in the northern part of the state.
Though Steamboat Springs is popular during ski season, it’s also worth visiting in the spring, summer, and fall. The Yampa River Core Trail spans seven and a half miles along the Yampa River, right through the heart of Steamboat, so it’s the perfect way to get your bearings if you’re visiting for the first time. The trail can also help you explore all that Steamboat has to offer: It passes by the city’s botanical gardens, downtown art galleries and restaurants, and the local ice arena.
Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail in Austin, Texas
The Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail is one of the best ways to explore Austin. Named after a former Austin mayor and his wife, this trail offers a little something for everyone — city skyscrapers, beaches, arts and culture, and plenty of natural scenery.
It runs through the heart of downtown Austin, along the Colorado River, then loops around Lady Bird Lake — you can ride a little more than 10 miles if you pedal the entire trail. Along the way, be sure to stop at the massive 351-acre Zilker Park, where you can play disc golf, rent a canoe, or stroll through the botanical gardens.