It’s easy to squeeze in a long bike ride even while immersed by a city’s pulsing cultural scene. From the nation’s capital to Portland, Ore., and cities in between such as Minneapolis, Denver and Pittsburgh, here are five places to hop on a bike not far from a city. Open land, mountain ranges, scenic waterfronts and roadside culture are included.
Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C.
PHOTO CREDIT from Kate Gibbs at Destination DC
Partially located within city limits, Rock Creek Park begins at the Lincoln Memorial and traces Rock Creek for 25 miles of blissful green space until it hits Lake Needwood Park, in Montgomery County, Md. If that sounds too strenuous, forgo the route and take advantage of biking in Lake Needwood Park.
Kicking off its 125th summer, to bike the park is a real treat, as all of the roads and paved trails are open to two-wheelers. Among the popular stretches is a paved path between the Lincoln Memorial and Peirce Mill, a mill built in the 1820s (perfect for history buffs).
Banks-Vernonia State Trail, Portland, Oregon
Pull yourself away from Portland’s eclectic farm-to-fork scene and funky pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods and you’ll find the 21-mile paved Banks-Vernonia State Trail. Although an hour’s drive (26 miles) from Portland, the drive to and from takes you through rugged nature along the Willamette River.
Access the trail—which is Oregon’s first rail-to-trail—via six trailheads: Manning, Buxton, Tophill, Banks, Vernonia and Beaver Creek. Lined with trees, there’s the aroma of forested pine and the sounds of singing birds, matched with trickling streams.
Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway, Minneapolis, Minnesota
PHOTO CREDIT: Meet Minneapolis
Because Minneapolis ranks among the country’s top cycling cities—with many commuting year-round, even through snow and rain—it’s no wonder that the outskirts are flush with bike paths, too.
Although the official trail is 50-miles long, most people just bike a portion of the Grand Rounds (as locals call it) which is folded into the National Scenic Byways Program. Ride by lakes, wetlands, bridges, gardens, athletic fields and the Mississippi River.
Great Allegheny Passage, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The rolling green hills just outside of Pittsburgh’s city limits are ideal for bicycling: you’ve got cool vistas but also challenging roads. The Great Allegheny Passage is a whopping 150-mile-long trail stretching between Cumberland, Md., and Pittsburgh (don’t worry - you don’t have to bike all of it). From Steel City’s South Side, hop onto the route and travel south about 15 miles to McKeesport, where you’ll turn around for a handy 30-mile loop.
If 30 miles feels too ambitious, stop at the historic Pump House, five or so miles north of McKeesport, where you’ll find bike-friendly perks (bike racks, vending machines, restrooms and picnic tables). Stop, refuel, rehydrate and enjoy the scenery before getting back on the road again (heading back to the South Side or continue on to McKeesport for a longer ride).
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, Denver, Colorado
PHOTO CREDIT: Steve Crecelius and VISIT DENVER
When music fans come to town they plunk down cash for a show at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, 15 miles west of Denver in Morrison, where soaring, dramatic red cliffs serve as an Instagram-worthy backdrop for your favorite band.
Cyclists can easily get some adrenaline on the 6-mile loop, referred to as Red Rocks Trail. Open to mountain bikers, hikers and horseback-riders, if on bike you’ll want to travel north on the trail to connect with Matthews-Winters (a park in Jefferson County). Kickstart your ride from the park’s lower north lot. Be sure to check the amphitheatre’s concert schedule as the park closes in the early afternoon on show dates.
Before you go, we recommend bringing the following:
Sturdy water bottle that fits in bike racks
Portable snack like trail mix or fruit
A comfortable backpack
an extra T-shirt
Versatile shoes (for men, we recommend the Men’s Hookset Handcrafted Oxford Shoes and for women, the Hookset Handcrafted Canvas Boat Shoes - both made from 100% organic cotton)
A baseball hat to keep out the sun once you’ve parked the bike and taken off your helmet
Tempted yet? Now there’s no excuse to grab your helmet, bike and hit the road.