Best cycling destinations in the US

America’s top 10 locations for cyclists

It’s time to fire up the family wagon, tie down the bikes and hit the road for a cycling vacation. But where to go? BikeRadar conducted an informal survey of pro and amateur riders from various regions of the US to pick 10 of America’s best cycling destinations. 

MARIN COUNTY, CALIFORNIA

Marin is hardly a secret in the cycling world, and you’ve undoubtedly heard a buddy’s gushing account of the redwood-lined roads and trails that crisscross Mount Tamalpais, Muir Woods National Monument and the Marin Headlands. Guess what? Your buddy is spot on, as Marin County offers up a never-ending supply of sublime loops and out-and-backs, just a short spin across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. 

From Mill Valley, the 2,600ft climb up Mt Tamalpais rewards riders with a twisting descent to Stinson Beach and Highway 1. The Bolinas Ridge trail from Olena to Fairfax takes off-road riders along tracks that helped give birth to the original mountain bike. And if you’re looking for a serious challenge? Start in San Rafael and tackle the Mount Tam Century’s 100-mile lollypop course.

What it offers

– The challenging but beautiful Mount Tamalpais climb.

– Highway 1’s route through Stinson Beach and Tomales Bay.

– Classic mountain bike trails in Fairfax and Bolinas.

Why it’s the best

Some of the country’s most scenic rides, just a short spin from San Francisco.

How to get there

Fly to San Francisco International Airport and drive north on Highway 101, across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Best bike shops

Fairfax Cyclery, 2020 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, Fairfax,  (415) 721-7644

Bici Sport, 143 Kentucky Street, Petaluma, (707) 775-4676

Tam Bikes, 357 Miller Ave, Mill Valley, (415) 389-1900

ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA

The south-east’s most revered cycling town, Asheville is home to a plethora of long, hilly road loops through the Blue Ridge mountains, as well as challenging mountain biking in nearby Pisgah National Forest. 

“We have no flats anywhere – you’re always climbing or descending,” said Mike Smith, a lifelong Asheville resident and employee at Liberty Bicycles. The highest point east of the Mississippi, Mt Mitchell, is a 35-mile ride away on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Asheville offers a wide range of dining and hospitality opportunities, too, but we recommend grabbing a cold one at the Wedge Brewing Company.

What it offers

– Highest climb east of the Mississippi.

– Challenging mountain bike trails in Pisgah National Forest.

– The endless, wide roads of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Why it’s the best 

For a combination of road and mountain biking, no place east of the Mississippi comes close.

How to get there 

Asheville has its own regional airport, or a two-hour drive east of Charlotte will get you to where you need to be. 

Best bike shops

BioWheels, 76 Biltmore Avenue, (828) 232-0300

Liberty Bicycles, 1378 Hendersonville Road, (828) 274-2453

Pro Bikes, 610 Haywood Road, Suite B, (828) 253-2800

Ride around Asheville and you should expect nothing but climbs and descents

TUCSON, ARIZONA

We don’t recommend Tucson in the summer, but the city is one of the country’s best cycling destinations from December through to March, when conditions are usually a steady 70 degrees and sunny. The winding Catalina Highway climb up the 9,100ft Mount Lemmon is one of the south-west’s most famous climbs. 

Sandy mountain bike trail networks crisscross the nearby Rincon, Santa Rita, Catalina and Tucson mountain ranges. You’re bound to see a smattering of pro riders on the Saturday Shootout group ride, which meets at the Starbucks at University Blvd, just west of the University of Arizona campus. Watch out, though – the Shootout reaches top speed as soon as riders clear the city limit.  

What it offers

– Winter riding taking in some stunning roads and climbs.

– The Willow Springs, Starr Pass and Robles mountain bike trail networks, plus the La Milagrosa and Chiva Falls trails in the Rincon mountains.

Why it’s the best

When the rest of the country is buried by snow and rain, Tucson is high and dry.

How to get there

Flights into Tucson International Airport are regular. Otherwise, its an eight-hour drive east of Los Angeles or a two-hour drive south of Phoenix.

Best bike shops

Sabino Cycles, 7045 E Tanque Verde Road, (520) 885-3666

Fairwheel Bikes, 1110 East 6th Street, (520) 884-9018

Ordinary Bike Shop, 311 East 7th Street, (520) 622-6488

AUSTIN, TEXAS

Texas’s capital is heaven for group rides. Each day, between five and 20 organized road outings leave from various meeting spots around the city. Some, such as the Sunday RoadKill and Wednesday Hump Day Nooner, are conversation paced socials. Others, such as Saturday’s Tri-Cyclist, are traditional, fast-paced rides. The online calendar at Austin on Two Wheels is a helpful guide to the various events. 

The riding around Austin ranges from flat and fast to hilly, with challenging climbs in the Balcones Canyonlands wildlife refuge north-west of town. 

What it offers

– Year-round road riding.

– Group rides every day of the week.

– Flat and hilly terrain.

Why it’s the best

If Austin is good enough for Lance Armstrong to train in, chances are it’s good enough for you.

How to get there

Flights run daily to and from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Best bike shops

Mellow Johnny’s, 400 Nueces Street, (512) 473-0222

Austin Tri-Cyclist, 923 Barton Springs Road, (512) 494-9252

Bicycle Sport Shop, 517 South Lamar Boulevard, (512) 477-3472

DURANGO, COLORADO

There’s a reason the world’s best mountain bike racers favoured Durango during the sport’s Nineties heyday. The extensive trail networks that crisscross the surrounding San Juan mountains start downtown. “It’s the only non-ski resort town I’ve been to where the trails are accessible right from town,” said pro mountain biker Todd Wells, who lives in Durango. 

The 500-mile Colorado Trail connects Durango with Denver, and provides numerous alpine loops through pine forests. The Overend Mountain Park trails (yes, it’s named after local mountain bike hero Ned Overend) also start in town. And the Hermosa Creek, Kennebec Pass and Cascade Creek networks provide longer loops for more skilled and adventurous riders. 

The town also has worthy road riding, including the 55-mile trek across the Coal Bank and Molas passes to Silverton. And when you’ve hung up the bike for the day, head to The Summit for a pint and burger.

What it offers

– Mountain bike trails for all levels of riders, starting downtown.

– Road climbs of more than 12,000ft passes on the historic route to Silverton.

– An easy base for those who want to explore the Colorado Trail.

Why it’s the best

Ned Overend, John Tomac, Missy Giove and many other greats of American mountain biking cut their teeth on Durango’s trails.

How to get there 

Durango has a regional airport (Durango-La Plata County) with regular flights from Denver. 

Best bike shops

San Juan Cycles, 48 County Rd 250, (970) 259-6014

Mountain Bike Specialists, 949 Main Ave, (970) 247-4066

Durango Cyclery, 43 East 13th Street, (970) 247-0747

PEAK TO PEAK HIGHWAY, COLORADO

Colorado’s oldest official scenic byway, the 65-mile Peak to Peak Highway made our list because of the numerous road and mountain bike routes that spring from its pavement, as well as its soaring views of the Front Range. 

Starting at Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, the route winds south on Highway 7 beneath the 14,259ft Longs Peak and on to Black Hawk. It undulates between 7,500 and 10,000ft along the route. There are numerous bailout options along the route, with Golden Gate, Coal Creek, Boulder, Left Hand, Jamestown and South St Vrain canyons leading down to the flats. 

Want a challenge? From Black Hawk, ride over to Idaho Springs and tackle the 23-mile climb up 14,265ft Mt Evans.

What it offers

– 65 miles of long climbs and fast descents at the foot of Colorado’s Front Range.

– Golden Gate, Coal Creek, Boulder, Left Hand, Jamestown and St Vrain canyon descents.

– Mountain biking at the Eldora ski resort, just outside Nederland.

Why it’s the best

Lung-busting altitude just a short drive from Denver and Boulder.

How to get there

Get to Denver, then drive for about an hour and a half, heading for Estes Park.

Best bike shops

Estes Park Mountain Shop, 2050 Big Thompson Avenue, (970) 586-6548

Happy Trails Bicycle Shop, 98 Highway 119 SNederland,(303) 258-3435

BEND, OREGON

Forget about Oregon’s rainy reputation – Bend is kept high and dry on the Cascade range’s soaring volcanoes, which also supply numerous road climbs and mountain biking trails. Many cyclists liken Bend’s high, arid climate to that of Boulder, only without the competitive crowds of bike racers and triathletes. 

Looking for a road ride? Check out the route for the Cascade Cycling Classic, the longest-running elite stage race in the US. And if you’re a mountain biker, the trails from Mount Bachelor to Bend provide 45 miles of challenging singletrack. 

Don’t feel like exploring on your own? Contact the folks at Cog Wild, who provide guided tours and shuttle runs to the best trails in the region. Of course, no ride is complete without a stop at one of Bend’s many breweries. We recommend Deschutes or the Bend Brewing Company.

What it offers

– Extensive opportunities for mountain, road and cyclocross fans. 

– Year-round riding in a high but dry climate. 

– Long climbs.

Why it’s the best

Just like Boulder, only without the crowds.

How to get there

If you can get to Portland International Airport it’s a three-and-a-half hour drive on Highway 97.

Bike shops

Sagebrush Cycles, 35 SW Century Drive, (541) 389-4224

Hutch's Bicycles (541) 382-6248

The Cascade range’s snowy peaks make a striking background in Bend, Oregon

LEHIGH VALLEY, PENNSYLVANIA

One of the north-east’s unofficial cycling capitals, the Lehigh Valley region of Allentown and Bethlehem offers an easy cycling getaway for riders from New York and Philadelphia. The region is dotted with challenging hills and covered in a network of small farming roads, many of which are used by the area’s Amish residents. 

The Delaware river valley provides challenging terrain, especially around the towns of Jim Thorpe and Palmerton. The Lehigh velodrome has been holding regular track races since 1975, and is the reason a smattering of pro roadies and track cyclists still live and train in the area. And the Lehigh Wheelmen Association, which has been around since 1951, organizes group rides and races each week.

What it offers

– Hilly riding on empty farm roads.

– Trexlertown’s Lehigh velodrome.

– Regular group rides and a robust cycling infrastructure.

Why it’s the best

Only an hour-and-a-half west of New York City and two hours north of Philly, it’s well within reach for a weekend getaway.

How to get there

From New York, head west on Interstate 78 for 90 miles. From Philadelphia drive north on I-76 to I-476 for 75 miles.

Best bike shops

Genesis Bicycles, 126 Bushkill St, Easton, (610) 253-1140

Bike Line, 1728 West Tilghman Street, Allentown, (610) 437-6100

Cutters Bike Shop, 418 East 3rd St, Bethlehem, (610) 419-4027

BURLINGTON, VERMONT

Burlington is up there, about 35 miles shy of the Canadian border, but the mountainous terrain and seclusion make it a paradise for cycling (once the snow has melted). The riding is punctuated by steep, short passes such as the App, Lincoln and Middlebury gaps. We recommend tackling the Smuggler’s Notch climb on Highway 108, which is part of a larger loop to Stowe ski area and back. 

For off-road riding, check out the local Catamount ski area, which is the gateway to several great trail networks. Catamount also has a weekly Wednesday night mountain bike racing series. Pro cyclist Lea Davison, who grew up in nearby Jericho, recommends the resort as a ride-in, ride-out option. “It’s the idyllic Vermont bed and breakfast option, with trails right out the door, road loops and swimming holes close by.”

What it offers

– Pristine mountain climbs and off-the-beaten-track remoteness.

– Rooty, rocky, East Coast-style mountain biking.

– Flatter roads along Lake Champlain.

Why it’s the best

You’ll be the only one on the road.

How to get there

Get a flight to Burlington International Airport, or head north from Boston on I-93 and I-89 (about four hours).

Best bike shops

Local Motion, 1 Steele St 103, (802) 861-2700

Earl’s Cyclery & Fitness, 2500 Williston Road, South Burlington, (802) 864-9197 

Cycle Loft, 28 Cambridge St, Burlington, (781) 272-0870

The edge of Lake Champlain provides a natural route in Burlington, Vermont

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY

You don’t need to race horses to appreciate the derby city. Louisville sits at the southern edge of the Ohio Valley, possibly the best region for rural road riding in the mid-west. 

But we’re most excited about Louisville as a cycling destination because the city will host the 2013 UCI Cyclocross World Championships from 29 January to 3 February. You don’t have to be a hardcore fan to appreciate cyclo-cross, which provides some of the most spectator-friendly and exciting action in pro bike racing. Check it out.

What it offers

– UCI cyclo-cross for 2013.

– Year-round riding on challenging terrain.

– A variety of group rides hosted by the Louisville Bicycle Club.

Why it’s the best

The cyclo-cross worlds don’t come around every day.

How to get there

Louisville has its own international airport, with regular flights from many major cities.

Best bike shops

On Your Left, 618 Baxter Avenue, (502) 749-6775

Bicycle Sport, 132 Breckenridge Lane, (502) 897-2611

VO2 Multisport, 131 St Matthews Ave, (502) 290-7433

Feeling inspired? Find mountain biking holidays in the US with MuchBetterAdventures, or share your top American cycling routes with BikeRadar Training.

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