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Cycling Into Fall: Where to Experience Fall Foliage by Bike

by Elyse Glickman

Oct 27, 2019

Courtesy of Aramark

Age Specific

With fall bringing cooler temperatures and gorgeous fall foliage to much of the United States, it’s amazing how easy it can be to pull together an outdoor weekend road trip, especially if the vehicles involved have two wheels. The pursuit has become safer than ever, with more bike trails added in major cities, parks and nature preserves and more tour operators offering guided sojourns through both America’s great national parks and hidden gems overflowing with natural beauty and history.


Our country has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to bike trails, from coast to coast. A few examples:


  • Given its Vermont headquarters, Sojourn Bicycling and Adventure Vacations excels in fall foliage-focused bike tours. However, its options are not confined to Stowe and the Champlain Valley. Other destinations include Cape Cod and the Finger Lakes, Maine, and southern cities Charleston and Savannah. Many of the tours also weave in other activities such as hiking, rafting, kayaking or sailing. Sojourn’s advisors can recommend tours based on each family member’s level of cycling experience. Intermediate-level trips offer the greatest flexibility for cyclists of mixed abilities or interests, while there are other daily route options for more advanced cyclists. Easier tours are excellent choices for those newer to cycling or who prefer a more relaxed pace on gentle terrain.


  • The Door County Peninsula in Wisconsin is often described a corner of New England in the upper Midwest. This all the more true during the autumn months, when the county’s five state parks, 11 lighthouses and 300 miles of shoreline are fully dressed in a blaze of colorful foliage. Choice paths include the hard-pack gravel Sunset Bike Path, Peninsula State Park, dotted with numerous historic sites, and countless scenic overlooks; the Hotz Trail in Newport State Park, a three-mile loop in Wisconsin’s only designated wilderness state park that goes through forest and woods, alongside a sandy beach, and across hills and rocky terrain; and the Ahnapee State Trail, a 48-mile, hard-pack gravel trail from Sturgeon Bay to Luxemburg built on top of a now-defunct railway suitable for all riders.


  • More than half of Missouri’s 240-mile-long Katy Trail State Park, America’s longest rails-to-trails conversion project, runs along the Mississippi River. Although there are many forested stretches along the flat, crushed-limestone trail, the area around Rocheport, Missouri, a river town about 100 miles from Kansas City, is a local favorite because of its especially dramatic foliage in mid-October, when the hardwood forests (oaks, ash, mulberry and walnut) crowning the Mississippi’s towering limestone bluffs are set alight with color.


  • Washington State’s Olympic National Park encompasses 922,651 acres of preserved wilderness with three distinct ecosystems: coastal, rainforest and sub-alpine. The park is primarily contained by Highway 101, which loops around the peninsula, delivering one of the most scenic bike rides in the United States with lush rainforests, native vegetation, waterfalls and wildlife such as black bear and bald eagles. There are eight miles of interconnected trails within the Quinault Rainforest, including the Maple Glade Trail (a good bet for families with younger children as it is only a half-mile) as well as another leading to the “world’s largest spruce tree,” a 1,000-year-old giant tree accessed from a gravel pull-off just a mile past Lake Quinault Lodge.



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