Bike Routes Across America: Top Touring and Bikepacking Routes Compared

Is the idea of a cross-country bike ride brewing in your imagination? Whether it’s a faint spark of intrigue or a raging inferno of adventure-hungry obsession, one of the first decisions you’ll have to make as you investigate further is: what’s the best bike route across America for you?

The United States, as you may know, is vast and varied. We have majestic mountains, wild desert, endless plains, and abundant forest. We also have cities, highways, freeways, plentiful motor vehicles, significant cultural differences, and a complex web of transportation infrastructure in varying levels of (dis)repair.

Choosing a route for your bike ride across America is a matter of deciding which places you want to experience, what climates you prefer to ride in, the vibe you’re looking for, and how much tolerance you have for riding in traffic. For many aspiring cross-country cyclists it’s an overwhelmingly big decision, but my goal for this post is to help you make the best choice so you can get on with dreaming, planning, and eventually pedaling.

I’ve pedaled across the US twice, both west-east and south-north, and explored every state west of the Rockies by bike. I’m here to walk you through the major bicycle routes across America and help you choose the best one for you.

Coast to Coast Routes

When we think of a bike route across the United States, most of us picture the classic coast to coast journey. A west-to-east (or east-to-west) ride across America spans a staggering range of topography, climate, history, and culture.

Thanks to the longitudinal alignment of America’s major mountain ranges and historic colonization and migration patterns, a coast to coast bike route across the US offers the most complete and diverse picture of the country as a whole. You’ll experience the populated west coast, the expansive and less developed landscapes west of the Rockies, the flatter and windier midwest, and finally the more populated and history-rich eastern or southern states.

If you’re allergic to motor vehicle traffic, I’ll warn you upfront that no coast to coast option is truly low-traffic. A couple routes have been developed with this goal in mind but they still have a long way to go. For a more peaceful and rugged bike route across the US you’ll need to choose one of the border to border bikepacking routes in the next section.

If a coast to coast ride sounds exciting, read on to compare five established bike routes across the United States from coast to coast.

Map showing five east-west bicycle routes across America
RouteDistance (miles)Rough Typical Time to Complete Climb (feet)EndpointsSurfaceBest Season to Ride
Northern Tier42903 months174,000Anacortes, WA to Bar Harbor, MEpavementMay to September
Great American Rail Trail~37002.5 months?Washington, D.C. to La Push, WAmajority pavement; large minority gravel and unpaved bike pathsMay to September
Bike Nonstop US (2023 route)35402.5 months106,200Portland, OR to Washington D.C.80% pavement, 20% gravel and unpaved bike pathsMay to September
TransAmerica Trail42153 months216,500Astoria, OR to Yorktown, VApavementMay to September
Southern Tier29002 months100,000San Diego, CA to St. Augustine, FLpavementMar to Apr, Sept to Oct

Northern Tier

Adventure Cycling’s Northern Tier Route

Distance: 4290 miles
Endpoints: Anacortes, WA to Bar Harbor, ME
Surface / style: paved roads, with occasional short stretches of gravel or crushed limestone
Traffic: moderate to high
When to ride: May to September (Rockies must be crossed in summer)
Longest stretch between resupply: 1 day max
Avg climb per mile: 41 feet
Total climb: 174,000 feet

Reasons to ride: experience the far north of the US, ride alongside impressive Lake Erie, see North Cascades and Glacier national parks and Niagara Falls, enjoy plenty of forests and greenery

This long and challenging cross-country bike route may seem, at first glance, to pass north of the “good stuff” closer to the country’s center. But the Northern Tier manages to cross four mountain range (Cascades, Rockies, Adirondacks and Appalachians), visit the incredibly scenic Glacier National Park and Niagara Falls, pass through interesting Amish country, and spend quality time in the plains, farmland, and lush forests along the way. It’s a pavement touring route on sometimes busy roads, but a few long sections of rail trail — such as 86 miles on the Erie Canalway Trail — offer some respite from traffic.

Learn more:

Great American Rail Trail

Distance: 3700 miles
Endpoints: Washington, D.C. to La Push, WA
Surface / style: ~50% bike paths of varying surface (paved, gravel, dirt), 50% mostly paved roads to cross gaps in the unfinished route
Traffic: moderate
When to ride: May to September
Longest stretch between resupply: 1-2 days
Avg climb per mile: ?
Total climb: ?

Reasons to ride: support an ambitious long-term bike infrastructure project, spend as much time as possible (a bit over 50% of the route currently) on car-free bike trails, take a somewhat shorter and “easier” bike route across America (not that any route is actually easy!), see Yellowstone National park

Sometimes I see bike travelers asking about an actual “bike trail across America,” as if there’s a single unbroken line of car-free bike path across the entire country. I wish!! Currently there is no such thing, but the Great American Rail Trail project aims to create it. The full vision will take decades, but in the meantime you can follow this unfinished route by riding roads between sections of finished trail.

Currently the route links more than 125 existing sections of rail and canal trails, with especially long car-free segments on both the western and eastern ends. Often these trails are rich in historic sites such as old railroad stations and canal locks. Though only 53% of the route is currently on bike paths, more miles are being added every year and this is already one of the lowest-traffic bike routes across the US.

Related: The Great American Rail Trail: Thoughts on a Cross-Country Bike Ride

Learn more:

Cowboy Trail Nebraska
The Great American Rail Trail aims to someday link up multi-use recreation paths, like Nebraska’s Cowboy Trail shown here, all the way across the United States.

Bike Nonstop US

Distance: 3540 miles
Endpoints: Portland, OR to Washington DC
Surface / style: 80% pavement, 20% gravel, follows low-traffic backroads and bike trails where possible
Traffic: low to moderate
When to ride: May to September
Longest stretch between resupply: 1-2 days
Avg climb per mile: 30 feet
Total climb: 106,200 feet

Reasons to ride: avoid busy highways as much as possible, spend time on rail trails and bike infrastructure, take a somewhat shorter and “easier” bike route across America (not that any route is actually easy!), see Grand Teton National park

This relatively new route was developed for a self-supported bikepacking race that premiered in 2019, but it makes a great cross-US bike tour route too. The goal is to provide a lower traffic alternative to the popular but increasingly traffic-heavy TransAmerica bike route and race (see below). Some details change each year as the route is refined, so be sure to check the event website for the latest version.

When I rode this route in 2019 about 1200 miles overlapped with the Great American Rail Trail project, including some lovely long stretches of car-free riding on the Cowboy, Ohio to Erie, GAP, and C&O Canal trails. This is currently one of the lower traffic ways to bike across the US coast-to-coast, but there’s still plenty of traffic to contend with in some sections.

Related: Bike Nonstop US: Lessons Learned from 3500 Miles at the Back of the Pack

Learn more:

Bridge on the Wabash Trace Nature Trail
The Bike Nonstop US route follows bike trails and low-traffic backroads where possible.

TransAmerica Trail

Adventure Cycling’s TransAmerica Route

Distance: 4215 miles
Endpoints: Astoria, OR to Yorktown, VA
Surface / style: paved roads
Traffic: moderate to high
When to ride: May to September
Longest stretch between resupply: 1 day
Avg climb per mile: 51
Total climb: 216,500 feet

Reasons to ride: participate in a legendary part of bike touring history, tackle a long and challenging cross-country route, take an extended route through the scenic Rocky Mountain region, see Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks

The TransAmerica bike route is the one: the classic bike route across America developed by Adventure Cycling back in 1976. It’s definitely not the easiest way to bike across the US thanks to its long mileage and plentiful climbing through the Rockies, Ozarks, and Appalachians. It’s also not the most relaxing or lowest traffic option; the roads have grown busier in the decades since its premier.

The TransAmerica route is a piece of bike touring history and offers the feeling of being part of a larger community. Services are frequent and people in towns along the route are used to seeing riders come through. You’ll probably meet other cyclists on their own cross-country adventures. There’s even a famous self-supported race that roughly follows the route each year in June. The winner usually takes around 2.5 weeks to ride this route, but most casual bike travelers will want at least 2.5 months!

Learn more:

Bicycle against sign on road through Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park is a gorgeous highlight of the TransAmerica bike route.

Southern Tier

Adventure Cycling’s Southern Tier Route

Distance: 2900 miles
Endpoints: San Diego, CA to St. Augustine, FL
Surface / style: paved roads
Traffic: moderate to high
When to ride: spring or fall (winter also possible, summer very hot)
Longest stretch between resupply: 273 miles in Texas (most are shorter)
Avg climb per mile: 35 feet
Total climb: 100,000 feet

Reasons to ride: enjoy plenty of desert landscapes, spend some quality time in Texas (a third of the route’s mileage!), visit America’s deep south, ride across the US outside of the traditional summer window, cross the US in the shortest amount of time

At first glance the Southern Tier stands out for its logistical advantages: it’s the shortest coast-to-coast bike route across the US, and the only one that can be ridden nearly year-round (though summer gets hot) since it doesn’t cross any high mountains. If you only have a couple months during the spring, fall, or even winter and want to ride across the US from coast to coast, the Southern Tier is your route.

Though shorter in mileage than its cross-country peers, the Southern Tier route isn’t lacking in scenery or cultural interest. The western side is desert, impressively dry and vast. A full third of the route is in Texas, offering riders the chance to fully internalize the size of the largest state in the contiguous US. Riders travel through the deep south with its distinctive blend of culture, history, food, and music. Visit New Orleans and Cajun country, eat your fill of BBQ, and end your ride with the white beaches of the Florida coast.

Learn more:

Other Coast-to-Coast Bike Routes Across America

Still looking for the perfect cross-country bike route? Adventure Cycling has a number of shorter bike touring routes that will get you partway across the US, or you can link several together to create your own variation. A few ideas:

Western Express: The Western Express offers a shorter and more remote option from California through the deserts of Nevada and Utah, after which you could link up with the TransAmerica route in Colorado.

Route 66: This route follows the historic highway route from southern California to Chicago, where you could link up with the Northern Tier or the Chicago to New York route to finish the cross-country ride.

To help you visualize these linkups and more, visit Adventure Cycling’s interactive route map.

Adventure Cycling’s interactive route map offers tons of inspiration for cross-country bike touring.

RAAM: The Race Across America is a supported ultra-endurance bike race where cyclists pedal from coast to coast with the help of support teams and vehicles. Sometimes people ask if the RAAM route would make a good cross-country bike route for casual tourers. I haven’t ridden it, but word on the street is that it’s designed to be direct and fast, but not necessarily interesting or scenic. I would recommend not touring the RAAM route and instead choosing a route specifically designed for bike travelers.

Off-Pavement Bikepacking Routes Across America

It’s hard to avoid pavement while crossing the United States east-west by bike (north-south is easier as you’ll see below), but here are a couple routes that strive for a bikepacking-style experience on dirt and gravel roads. These routes require somewhat different bikes, gear, and skills than the touring routes above, so make sure you’re well-versed in bikepacking before choosing them.

TransAmerica Trail (off-pavement motorbike route): The TAT (no relation to Adventure Cycling’s TransAmerica Trail bicycle route above) is a cross-country route for the hardiest of bikepackers. Designed for dual-sport motorbikes, this challenging patchwork of dirt and gravel roads has been done on a bicycle, but not often.

The Pony Express: A relatively new project from Bikepacking Roots, the Pony Express route follows the historic mail route between St. Joseph, MO and Sacramento, CA on as much dirt and gravel as possible. Though it would be a dramatic style change, riders could link up with Adventure Cycling’s Eastern Express Connector and other eastern routes for a full cross-country journey.

Border to Border Routes

Though most people picture a coast to coast ride when they think of bike routes across the US, don’t discount a border to border ride. These routes offer a more homogenous but still impressively varied “slice” of history (the “western frontier,” the east coast) and topography (the Rocky Mountains, the western coastline). They’re generally a bit shorter and a couple can be ridden outside the main summer season.

For folks who want a more relaxing ride away from motor vehicles, the bikepacking-style border to border routes offer the lowest-traffic ways to cross the US on mostly gravel and dirt backroads. There are also a few classic road touring options too. Read on for a comparison of six major routes.

Map showing six north-south bike routes across the United States
RouteDistance (miles)Rough Typical Time to Complete Climb (feet)EndpointsSurfaceBest Season to Ride
Pacific Coast18531.5 months106,300Vancouver, BC to Imperial Beach, CApavementspring or fall (but possible year-round)
Sierra Cascades24412 months195,200Blaine, WA to Tecate, CApavementJune to September
Western Wildlands27002.25 months185,000
Canadian border near Eureka, MT to Mexican border near Sierra Vista, AZ
gravel and dirtJune to September
Great Divide Mountain Bike Route3090 (2480 in US)2.5 months (2 months for US border-to-border)213,300Jasper, AB to Antelope Wells, NMgravel and dirtJune to September
Eastern Divide5950 miles (4644 in the US)4 months315,000Cape Spear, Newfoundland to Key West, FLgravel and dirtSeptember to November (summer can also work)
Atlantic Coast26562 months73,840Bar Harbor, ME to Key West, FLpavementMay to October

Pacific Coast

Adventure Cycling’s Pacific Coast Route

Distance: 1853 miles
Endpoints: Vancouver, BC to Imperial Beach, CA
Surface / style: paved roads
Traffic: moderate to high
When to ride: spring or fall preferred (summer has heavier traffic, winter can be rainy)
Longest stretch between resupply: 1 day max
Avg climb per mile: 57 feet
Total climb: 106,300

Reasons to ride: see marine wildlife and coastal views, bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, ride the scenic Big Sur coastline, swim in the ocean (especially in southern California), meet other bike travelers on this popular route

The Pacific Coast route is a classic and popular border to border bike route down the western coast of the US known for its long stretches of coastal scenery, beachfront hiker / biker campsites, and the especially rugged and scenic coastline around Big Sur. Logistically it’s an easier fit than many other cross-US routes. It’s the shortest in mileage and can technically be ridden year-round, though winter can be rainy and summer is peak tourist season. The traffic on this route can be heavy, so it’s best for riders with a fair amount of road biking confidence.

Learn more:

The Pacific Coast route takes cyclists across the famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. (MTB tires not required – this picture is from a different overlapping route.)

Sierra Cascades

Adventure Cycling’s Sierra Cascades Route

Distance: 2441 miles
Endpoints: Blaine, WA to Tecate, CA
Surface / style: paved roads
Traffic: moderate to high
When to ride: June to September
Longest stretch between resupply: 1-2 days
Avg climb per mile: 80 feet
Total climb: 195,200 feet

Reasons to ride: roughly parallel the Pacific Crest Trail through many scenic highlights; tackle a challenging route with lots of climbing; see North Cascades, Mt. Rainier, Crater Lake, Lassen Volcanic, Yosemite, King’s Canyon and Sequoia national parks; ride through the Lake Tahoe region; visit the Mojave and Anza-Borrego deserts

One of the more challenging and mountainous road bike routes through the US, the Sierra Cascades route aims to roughly parallel the classic Pacific Crest hiking trail on paved roads along the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges. It has a very high scenery-to-miles ratio as it visits stunning six national parks, Lake Tahoe, and multiple state and national desert preserves. It’s also high on small town charm and good layover spots, as it passes through Bend (bike and beer paradise), Ashland (home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival), and many small mountain towns.

In exchange for all the highlights, this route demands good climbing legs and a willingness to deal with traffic, including tourist traffic on narrow mountain roads.

Learn more:

Crater Lake is just one of many classic and breathtaking sights along the Sierra Cascades Route.

Western Wildlands

Distance: 2700 miles
Endpoints: Canadian border at Roosville, MT to Mexican border near Sierra Vista, AZ
Surface / style: mostly gravel and dirt roads, some pavement
Traffic: mostly very low
When to ride: June to September
Longest stretch between resupply: 3-4 days
Avg climb per mile: 68 feet
Total climb: 185,000 feet

Reasons to ride: tackle a rugged and challenging bikepacking route on mostly low-traffic unpaved roads; enjoy plentiful wild camping opportunities (nearly 70% of the route is on public land); ride through vast and remote landscapes; ride a relatively new border-to-border bikepacking route only finished a few years ago; see six national parks and monuments including the Grand Canyon

The Western Wildlands Route (WWR) is a newly developed project linking up dirt and gravel backroads across large swathes of public land west of the Rockies. Starting at the Canadian border in Montana it passes through forested mountains of northern Idaho and arid plains of southern Idaho, follows the spine of Utah across several high timbered plateaus, descends to red desert and pine forests in northern Arizona and Navajo Nation, and finally touches the Sonoran desert before ending at the Mexican border.

This route is very rugged and remote compared to all the others mentioned so far, so bikepacking experience, a suitable bikepacking bike, and repair skills are recommended. You’ll need space for 3-4 days of food and, at times, 8+ liters of water while keeping your gear list minimal enough for big burly climbs. In return you’ll enjoy days of quiet riding, vast empty spaces, and many nights of free dispersed camping alone in the middle of nowhere.

The Western Wildlands Route is comparable in many ways to the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (see below), but newer and less popular, and a bit more difficult. Riders who prefer that “off the beaten path” feeling will prefer the WWR, while those who want a sense of history and belonging should consider the GDMBR.

Related: My Western Wildlands Section Ride: Idaho to Arizona

Learn more:

The WWR takes bikepackers through some of the most vast and stunning landscapes in the American west.

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route

Adventure Cycling’s Great Divide Route

Distance: 3090 miles (2480 in the US)
Endpoints: Jasper, Alberta to Antelope Wells, NM
Surface / style: mostly gravel and dirt roads, some pavement
Traffic: mostly very low
When to ride: June to September
Longest stretch between resupply: 3-4 days
Avg climb per mile: 69 feet
Total climb: 213,300 feet

Reasons to ride: experience one of the most legendary bikepacking routes in the world; ride roughly along the Continental Divide through the Rocky Mountains; enjoy many nights of free wild camping on public land; cycle in peace on mostly low-traffic unpaved roads

The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) is to off-pavement bikepacking what the TransAmerica route is to road touring: a legendary classic. It travels from deep in Canada (though you can start at the border) all the way south to the Mexican border roughly parallel to the Continental Divide. It follows mostly low-traffic gravel and dirt roads, with some pavement and a bit of trail mixed in. A famous bikepacking race called the Tour Divide heads southbound on this route each June, but it’s also an incredibly popular touring route for more leisurely bikepackers.

The GDMBR is comparable in style, scenery, and difficulty to the Western Wildlands Route mentioned above, but much more popular and richer in bikepacking history. Those who want to feel part of a community will enjoy the GDMBR, while those who prefer a sense of striking out on their own might prefer the WWR.

Learn more:

The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route spends a majority of its time on unpaved roads through the scenic Rocky Mountains (Colorado shown here)

Eastern Divide

Distance: 5950 miles (4644 in the US)
Endpoints: Cape Spear, Newfoundland to Key West, FL
Surface / style: 70% gravel and dirt roads and trails, 30% pavement
Traffic: mostly very low
When to ride: September to November are ideal for fall riding, though spring and summer could also work
Longest stretch between resupply: ?
Avg climb per mile: 53 feet
Total climb: 315,000

Reasons to ride: enjoy low traffic and abundant nature on a rugged route that’s 60% off pavement; ride “the longest contiguous off-road-centric bikepacking route in the world”; be one of the first to try this brand new route; experience the unique character of the eastern mountains

The brand new Eastern Divide route isn’t for most people, but if you fancy the longest, hardest, newest, and least-ridden route across the US then it’s perfect for you. The first thru ride was recently completed in October 2022 by Eddie O’Dea and sounds like a massive undertaking.

The full route crosses a couple remote Canadian provinces before traveling the length of the eastern continental divide through the Appalachian Mountains and down the length of Florida. Though the eastern coast of the US is much more developed and urban than the middle and west, the Eastern Divide attempts to create a peaceful and nature-heavy riding experience while still remaining connected to the many communities it passes.

Learn more:

Atlantic Coast

Adventure Cycling’s Atlantic Coast Route

Distance: 2656 miles
Endpoints: Bar Harbor, ME to Key West, FL
Surface / style: paved roads
Traffic: moderate to high
When to ride: May to October
Longest stretch between resupply: 1 day max
Avg climb per mile: 28 feet
Total climb: 73,840 feet

Reasons to ride: ride through an area rich with early American history; enjoy quaint New England towns; pass through or near a number of significant American cities; cool off at Florida’s beaches

The eastern counterpart to the Pacific Coast bike route, the Atlantic Coast route is longer and has a very different feel from the west coast. America’s early history is on full display as riders follow the Eastern Seaboard through quaint New England towns and through or near major American cities like Washington, D.C., New York, and Boston. Further south the route passes through southern coastal cities like Savannah and Miami and offers opportunities for beach swims on hot days.

The full can be ridden from spring through fall and the southern part is feasible year-round, making it a good option for folks who need to ride outside the traditional summer season. Like the other road touring routes from Adventure Cycling, you’ll need a willingness to deal with motor vehicles but will also enjoy some quieter stretches on small roads and bike paths.

Learn more:

Future Border-to-Border Bikepacking Routes

These aren’t real yet, but you can start dreaming about them now:

Great Plains Gravel Route: On the above map of border-to-border bike routes across America, the middle of the country stands out as a glaring gap. The Great Plains Gravel Route project aims to fill that gap with a 4000+ mile gravel route designed by the organizers of several endurance gravel races. It’s still in the works, but organizers hope to unveil it with a race in late 2023.

Orogenesis: This ambitious dream is still very much a work in progress, but Bikepacking Roots’ Orogenesis project aims to build the longest mountain bike trail in the world. The route would roughly parallel the Sierra Cascades road touring route described above, but on as much mountain bike singletrack and rugged dirt road as can be found. The goal is to create a “more or less uninterrupted line for 5,000 miles along the western lip of the North American Tectonic Plate”, extending all the way into Mexico on the already popular Baja Divide route.

Creating Your Own Route

Maybe you want to see a specific part of the US or visit someone in a place not touched by any of these cross-country routes. Can you design your own bike route across the US?

You certainly can, but the biggest challenge will be figuring out which roads are safe and legal for bicycles. Though America has many roads that are lovely for biking, we also have many that are narrow, shoulderless, and flowing with fast traffic. Many of the big interstate freeways are legally off-limits to bikes, and they would be miserable places to ride anyway. When designing your own route you’ll need to plan ahead in order to avoid cornering yourself in a place that’s hard to safely bike out of.

The United States, as you probably know, is big! Our infrastructure varies widely and options will depend on where you are. If you want to bike across Wyoming on paved roads you’ll be riding the highways for days. In Illinois you can hopscotch along a grid of agricultural roads adjusting your route as you go. In general there are fewer route options west of the Rockies, and once you choose one it will be harder to reroute.

If you do find yourself creating your own route, whether across the country or just for a few miles, here are some tips:

  • Use apps like Komoot and Google Maps bicycle mode to identify bike paths and bike-friendly roads.
  • The Street View feature in Google Maps can show you exactly what a stretch of road looks like, so you can get a sense for the shoulder and the amount of traffic. Be careful making assumptions about traffic based on a single snapshot in time though; this feature can tell you if a road looks busy but can’t necessarily assure you it’ll be quiet.
  • If you find yourself stranded on a dangerous section of road, don’t be afraid to hitchhike or beg a ride. I’ve met some lovely people this way, and possibly saved myself from a nasty accident or at least a very stressful ride. Even if it throws off your schedule or seems like a hassle, it’s always smart to find an alternative to an unsafe ride.

Important Considerations

If you’ve read through all those fabulous bike routes across the USA and still can’t decide, ask yourself these questions:

How much traffic can you tolerate? If cars stress you out, you may struggle to enjoy a route like the TransAmerica. With the appropriate bike and skills you might find a border-to-border bikepacking route like the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route or Western Wildlands Route more relaxing. If you really want to ride coast to coast, consider the Great American Rail Trail or Bike Nonstop US route.

Do you prefer more or less development? If you prefer frequent towns and services, well-equipped campgrounds or motels, and lots of civilization along the way, you’ll probably enjoy the routes through more developed areas like the Atlantic Coast, southern portions of the Pacific Coast, and eastern portions of any coast-to-coast road touring route. If your idea of paradise is a quiet wild campsite in the middle of nowhere, choose an off-pavement bikepacking route like the GDMBR or WWR (it’s cheaper too since dispersed camping is free). For road riders seeking a bit more peace and quiet, the Southern Tier and Sierra Cascades routes both offer longer stretches of less developed land.

What time of year can you ride? Any route that crosses high mountains will have a riding season of late spring to early fall, with the highest passes only open during the summer when the snow is gone. Riding outside this window ranges from unpleasant (weather can be hazardous and services may be closed) to completely impossible (some roads are closed seasonally). This affects all coast to coast routes except the Southern Tier, and the interior border to border routes (Sierra Cascades, WWR, GDMBR, ED). If your schedule rules out a summer ride your best choices are the Southern Tier or Pacific Coast, or perhaps the Atlantic Coast depending on timing.

How much time do you have? The longer bike routes across America take most people around three months to fully enjoy. If you don’t have that much time, you’re probably better off with one of the shorter routes: the Southern Tier for coast to coast or one of the border to border routes. Of course it’s possible to ride faster, and some people do, but you need to either be very fit, very focused, or both. Most people prefer a schedule that allows time for side trips, rest days, and general enjoyment of whatever opportunities come up on such a long and unpredictable trip.

Community vibes or the road less traveled? If you enjoy meeting other cyclists, staying in cyclist-friendly lodging, and generally feeling part of a larger community, consider a classic and popular route like the TransAmerica, GDMBR, or Pacific Coast. If you prefer the feeling of striking out on your own perhaps a newer route like Bike Nonstop US, the unfinished Great American Rail Trail, Western Wildlands, or even the Eastern Divide will be more exciting for you.

What kind of scenery is on your must-see list? Are you a mountain lover? The Sierra Cascades and Great Divide Mountain Bike Route spend lots of time up high, and the TransAmerica does pretty well for a coast to coast route thanks to its longer path through the Rockies. Desert rats should consider the Southern Tier or Western Wildlands. Folks who like the coastline will get their fill on the Pacific and Atlantic Coast routes.

There you have it: a comparison of eleven established bike routes across America. Which one gets you excited to hop on your bike, point it toward the other side of the country, and start pedaling on the adventure of a lifetime?

More Bike Travel Resources

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About the Author

Hi there, I’m Alissa, founder of Exploring Wild. I’ve traveled over 20,000 miles by bike and still can’t stop planning my next ride (and helping you plan yours). Pavement and panniers or singletrack and seat bag, I love it all. On my bike I feel free. Learn more about me here.

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