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10 Scenic Bike Rides for All Levels

A Sunny Day Over The Cape Cod Rail Trail In Massachusetts, Great Scenic Bike Rides


Cape Cod Rail Trail is one of many bike trails across the United States.

If you're a novice biker, cities and rural areas from coast to coast offer well-tended cycling paths where you can experience nature and get some exercise without needing to be a high-powered athlete. We're also including a few tougher treks, for those who want to take it up a notch.

1. Ashton to Tetonia Trail, Ashton, Idaho

Completed in 2010, this gravel trail is still the best-kept secret in Idaho. The converted rail bed, maintained by the state's Department of Parks and Recreation, covers almost 30 miles of breathtaking riding (you rise 800 feet between Ashton and Tetonia) and crosses three dramatic train trestles. Want unsurpassed views of the Tetons? Bring your camera; this trail's got them.

2. Cultural Trail, Indianapolis, Indiana

After 12 years of planning and construction, Indy celebrated the grand opening of its eight-mile urban bike trail last summer. It connects all six of the city's vibrant cultural districts and takes riders to the front door of the Capitol building, among other landmarks. Best of all, the trail is adorned with large-scale public art installations from local and global artists. (Soon it will be even easier to take advantage of the trail: Indianapolis has plans to begin a bike-share program in 2014.)

3. Deer Valley Trails, Park City, Utah

At Deer Valley, Utah's famed luxury ski resort, take a ski lift up the mountain and then cycle down through a variety of single-track trails. Some are best for super-advanced, technically skilled cyclists, but there are also beginner trails. Note that trails are open for biking only in the summer, and you'll need to buy a pass ($38 for a full day).

4. Mountain Drive Loop, Santa Barbara, California

The 23-mile loop starts in this iconic beach town and becomes a moderately hilly ride through foothills and along beaches. Beautiful, quiet roads showcase classic vistas of Montecito (where Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres have homes), Summerland (a tiny beach town with a mountain backdrop) and Carpinteria (home to October's California Avocado Festival). It's easy to shorten the loop if you prefer; you'll just need a map to strategize.

5. Timpoochee Trail, South Walton, Florida

Bikers on the 18-mile trail, which is wide and flat, pass three gulf-front state parks and the sugar-white beaches of the coastal towns nearby — offering countless spots for a picnic or relaxation. You can catch the golden flutter of little wings in the fall, when monarch butterflies migrate through northwest Florida, stopping to feed on their way to Mexico.

6. Creekside/Flume Loop Trail, Winter Park, Colorado

Biking this trail, designed for intermediate off-trail riders, you might catch a glimpse of moose in the many beaver ponds. Climb higher to pedal through aspen forests and catch a view of St. Louis Creek from the top.

7. Cape Cod Rail Trail, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

This trail is packed with cyclists on summer weekends, and for good reason: It's a well-maintained 22-mile paved path between the mid-Cape towns of Dennis and Wellfleet that cuts through cranberry bogs and salt marshes. Stop along the way at Nickerson State Park (at about the midpoint), the National Seashore or the Hot Chocolate Sparrow coffee shop in Orleans for a sweet treat.

8. Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, Cleveland, Ohio

The fairly flat, dusty, 84-mile towpath, a National Heritage Area, passes through farmland, small towns and park preserves. While many cyclists take a few days to do the whole route (there are campsites along the way), you can choose a section, such as the pretty and peaceful segment through Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

9. Tsali Recreation Area Trail System, Bryson City, North Carolina

The Tsali (SAH-lee) trail system, named after a Cherokee hero, overlooks Fontana Lake and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It covers 42 miles of trail in four loops, over a variety of landscapes and terrain, from single track to old logging roads — but note that the biking here is more challenging than on some of the other routes on this list. Each day, half of the trails are open to bikes, half to horses.

10. Schuylkill River Trail, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

This is a work in progress, though much of the soon-to-be 130-mile trail has been completed, and if you wish you can now hop on a bike behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art (yes, where Rocky Balboa ran the steps) and take a 26-mile ride on paved surfaces to Valley Forge Historical Park. Some segments follow an old rail trail, which means no cars, a wide berth and beautiful scenery.

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