Bike Forums

Bike Forums (
-   Northeast (
-   -   A route from Nashville to Northeast PA? (

Sharpshin 11-25-13 08:24 AM

A route from Nashville to Northeast PA?
Planning for a trip from Texas to New York State this summer, with a stop at the Delaware Water Gap (east of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) to see relatives.

Looking to come up the Natchez Trace from Mississippi to Nashville TN, and after that avoid mountain ranges as much as possible. I presume this means crossing into Ohio and west to east across Pa parallel to the mountain ridges as long as possible.

All suggestions for a route appreciated.


at_hiker59 11-26-13 05:54 PM

I ran into folks who biked from Ca. to DC and they took the Natchez. They said they hated the route. If I remember right they said it was too narrow.

MacNasty 11-26-13 06:01 PM

The section of the natchez trace in Tennessee is hilly and desolate. The only traffic you will see is mostly bikes. Beautiful scenery, no place for many miles to get food, water is ok, and there are occasional restrooms. No houses or commercial business on that stretch, it is like one huge road thru a national park.

pdlamb 11-27-13 09:07 AM

There's a few hills on the Tennessee part of the Trace. If you can handle those, you might want to cross the Cumberland Plateau and go parallel to U.S. 11 up the Great Valley. The Trans-America trail has a reasonable route around Roanoke, and I-81 takes most of the traffic except for the cities.

indyfabz 12-01-13 09:58 AM

The flattest way across PA is probably the northern tier along the U.S. 6 corridor. However, some of that area is, according to a friend of mine who rode some of it a few years ago, not fun thanks to truck traffic related to frack mining.

One option would be to head to Pittsburgh and pick up the 180 mile GAP trail to Cumberland MD then head north to Bedford PA to pick up PA Bike Route S to the Schuykill River Trail. I did that in September. There are hills to be sure, but it wasn't that bad. The longest climb was about 6.5 miles, and it was pretty gentle. Took me about 45 min. taking my time.

One way to cut out a climb is to ride the abandoned section of PA Turnpike east from Breezewood, PA. It's a neat, car-free 8 mile ride with two unlit tunnels. A good camping headlamp will be sufficient. When that stretch ends, it's easy to get back on Route S. Camping option on or close to route are decent, including the beautiful Cowan's Gap State Park.

On the SRT outside of Philadelphia, you can pick up Adventure Cycling's Atlantic Coast route. That takes you to New Hope, PA, across the river into Lambertville, NJ and then up the river to Delaware Water Gap, PA before entering the National Recreation Area on the way to Port Jervis, NY. Except for Philipsburg, NJ, the route north along the NJ side of the river is very nice. From L'Ville to Frenchtown you can ride the road or take the D&R Feeder Canal trail. The last two years I have ridden Port Jervis to Philly. Love the route along the river.

Let me know if you want details. I made some modifications to the eastern end of Route S based on my personal knowledge of the area. I can also give you the route I followed for Cumberland to Bedford and direction to get to the abandoned turnpike, which is right off Route S.

Sharpshin 12-02-13 08:27 PM

Thank for all the replies folks.


Thank you for the detailed info.

My original thought was to add interest by travelling across Texas on the Old Spanish Road (El Camino Real), cut across Louisiana to Vicksburg, and then up the Natchez trace to Nashville.

This route also adds about 200 miles or more to the trip.

As I think further on this my main priority is to get there, mostly to impress/inspire my young nieces and nephews who would be absolutely blown away by Uncle Mike nonchalantly cycling into town from Texas. Also, the less time the trip takes (assuming I am successful) the more time I have to spend with family and friends up there.

I'm now thinking the "Google Maps Bikes" solution of directly Northeast via Texarkana/Little Rock/Cairo/Indianapolis and then directly east through Columbus.

I could come east through the Wheeling area and then pick up the "S" trail and ride it all the way across Pa. Pick up the SRT in the vicinity of Reading and ride it not far north to the Pottsville area.

From Pottsville to Matamoras Google Maps for Bicycles gives three solutions; two about 100 miles, one 120 miles.

If I make it to Pa. and if time is still an issue, is it doable to do S trail/SRT/Pottsville to Matamoras, and is that faster than the apparently more scenic route you suggested?


indyfabz 12-03-13 09:44 AM

Here are the maps for Route S in case you cannot find them:

S joins the GAP trail at West Newton (Section No. 4) and leaves it at Rockwood (Section No. 9). You might find it easier to stay on the GAP until it ends in Cumberland, MD and then head north to Bedford to pick up Route S again. That's because Route S goes through Somerset and I think there is some climbing between there and Bedford. Cumberland to Bedford has some hills, but they are not killer. Also, the portion of the GAP between Rockwood and Cumberland is very nice, and the last 20 miles or so are a noticebale downhill. I don't think it would add any time assuming you can do a long mileage day. I camped in Rockwood and made it Bedford the next day. IIRC, it was about 80 miles to town and then another couple of miles to the campground near the Cannondale faciiltiy.

Matamoras, as you know, is across the river from Port Jervis. On my trip, I camped at French Creek State Park the last night. From there, I rode to Phoenixville to pick up the SRT. The ACA route heading north leaves the trail in Conshohocken. I don't have the mileages handy so I cannot determine whether it would feasible to make French Creek S.P. to somewhere like Upper Black Eddy, PA (across from Milford, NJ), where there is a campground run by a nice man who has always given me a discount for being on a bike. (Sadly, the campground at Bull's Island north of Stockton, NJ is now closed forever.) From Upper Black Eddy, it's about 55 miles to Worthington State Forest, which is about 3.5 miles across the river from Delaware Water Gap, PA. Worthington is a nice place to camp, with a bear box in one fo the group sites. From there, it's only about 35 miles to Port Jervis. So....Assuming French Creek to Upper Black Eddy is doable in one day, you are talking 3 days total, with one of them being short.

I would like to see the Google routes from Reading/Pottsville to Matamoras. If they use U.S. 209 along the river north of E. Stroudsburg, I would definitely opt for the NJ side of the DWG National Recreation Area, which is what the ACA route uses. It's much more scenic and has far less traffic.

For a frame of reference, here is what I did in September:

Pitttsburgh to Connelsville via the GAP
Connelsville to Rockwood via the GAP
Rockwood to Bedford, PA via the GAP and U.S. 220, etc.
Bedford to Burnt Cabins, PA via Route S
Burnt Cabins to Caledonia S.P. vis Route S
Caledonia, S.P. to E. Berlin, PA via Route S
E. Berlin, PA to French Creek State Park via modified Route S
French Creek to Philly

I think I still have the daily mileages somewhere at home.

Sharpshin 12-03-13 11:42 AM


I'm hoping 50 hours actual riding time on the bike is doable, and that I can average 10mph. That would total 500 miles per week.

I will say that hardly anyone on the many travel accounts listed on the crazyguyonabike website seems to travel that fast so the reality may be different, but my mindset will be mostly "getting there" as opposed to "enjoying the ride".

On Google Maps Bicycle from Pottsville to Matamoras, one option follows Hwy 209N almost all the way for a total of 106 miles. A second option, also 106 miles, uses PA-895 for a section of the route before going back to 209, and the third option, at 120 miles, crosses over into New Jersey and follows the Paulinus Creek (??) Trail.

If I opted for your suggested route, I'm guessing anything up to 50 or 60 miles longer than a more direct route would be pretty much irrelevant in the context of a 1,900 mile ride from South Texas, and as you say, just avoiding ridges and mountains can make detours time-efficient.

Thanks again for all the info.


maxine 12-09-13 02:37 PM


Originally Posted by indyfabz (Post 16296894)
I would like to see the Google routes from Reading/Pottsville to Matamoras. If they use U.S. 209 along the river north of E. Stroudsburg . . .

It appears they do. Pottsville is my home town. I moved away as soon as I turned 18, and I've rarely ridden there, but it's beastly hilly. I was visiting this summer, brought my bike and did a little tooling around the area, to the tune of maybe 8-ish miles . . . and a bit over 1,000 feet of climbing. :twitchy: Road conditions in the area can be ugly, too -- potholes, inexpertly-applied patches, debris-strewn shoulders (if there is a shoulder at all.) And drivers not very used to seeing cyclists out on the road.

indyfabz 12-13-13 12:45 PM

An actual moving average of 10 mph is pretty slow. Fully loaded over rolling terrain I average probably around 13 mph depending on conditions. One thing you have to keep in mind is thatit's not always possible to simply stop at X number of miles each day. Places to stay may be located in such a way that you need have to do 40 miles or 80 miles or something in between.

You don't want to avoid 209 when possible. In fact, some of 209 is combined with I-80 so you cannot ride on it. You need to take Bus. 209, such as through Stroaudsburg and E. Stroudsburg. That can be a royal mess. Traffic can get lighter the furthern north you go until Milford, PA, but 209 is not as scenic as the NJ side.

I think you are referring to the Paulinskill Valley Trail out of Columbia, NJ. I believe that was damaged in places by one of the storms NJ has experienced during the last several years. Also, that trail is south of the ridge that you need to cross to get to the river. That can involve some steep climbing.

When I get a chance I will post links to some maps for you. I can give you maps for what I did from Cumberland to near Philly. I can also show you a map from the SRT to L'Ville, NJ and then up the river to Port Jervis.

Sharpshin 03-26-14 07:33 PM

Well hey, three months later and I'm still on track.

Did some google bicycle directions.

If I come into Pa. east through Wheeling WV to pick up your route....

West Alexander Pa. (western terminus of Route S) to Connelville PA - 74 miles

Connelville to Rockwood PA - 47 miles

Rockwood to Bedford PA - 60 miles

Bedford to Burnt Cabins PA (via old interstate) - 43 miles

Burnt Cabins to Caledonia PA - 41 miles

Caledonia to E. Berlin PA - 30 miles

E. Berlin to French Creek PA - 30 miles

French Creek to Upper Black Eddy PA - 59 miles

Upper Black Eddy PA to Worthington State Forest NJ - 50 miles

Worthington State Forest to Matamoras PA - 45 miles.

West Alexander to Matamoras by this route - 470 miles (a bit longer if I detoured clear down to Cumberland MD as per your suggestion).

As an aside, I found a good account of cycling across Pa. on the northern route "Y" see.... Biking across Pennsylvania Via U.S. Route 6

Apparently its a bear (tho maybe just "average" for Pa.); steep hills through the Alleghanies and over the Eastern Continental Divide, horrendous traffic through the Scranton area, while it does lead direct to Matamoras its only about 40 miles shorter total mileage from down here than your suggested route, thanks.


indyfabz 03-27-14 02:36 PM

E. Brelin to French Creek S.P. via Route S and my detour is way more than 30 miles. More like 73 miles:


A few more if you take do an out and back up PA 897 and PA 23 to get groceries at the Shady Maple Market in Blue Ball. (There is nothing around French Creek S.P.). I also remember Rockwood to Bedford being more than 60 miles. If you finish the GAP from Rockwood to Cumberland, that's about 44 miles right there, or are you planning on staying on Route 6, which leaves the GAP at Rockwood.

Also, actual mileage was greater in a few places. One such place was E. Berlin. I had to go off route a few miles to a campground and grocery store. Same with Bedford.

And what year did that guy ride U.S. 6? According to a friend of mine who rode up there a few yeares ago, there has been an explosion of fracking-related truck traffic over the last several years. IIRC, much of it is in Tioga County, PA, near Wellsboro.

If you camp at Rockwood, bring ear plugs. The trains are very loud. So is the turnpike traffic at Burnt Cabins. I would keep going past Burnt Cabins to Cowan's Gap S.P. It's a pretty easy 6.5 mile climb, and the park is pretty and tranquil.

Sharpshin 03-27-14 04:38 PM


Originally Posted by indyfabz (Post 16617415)
If you finish the GAP from Rockwood to Cumberland, that's about 44 miles right there, or are you planning on staying on Route 6, which leaves the GAP at Rockwood.

Since I have never actually toured before, I'm sort of leaving the planning of the exact route in Pa. to the time I actually arrive at the Pa. border.... which is like 1,500 miles from here.

I mean, I have been doing everything that makes sense; buying the clothes and equipment, putting in the miles, preparing the bike, and I know that LOGICALLY if I ride x number of miles over y number of days well then I oughtta get there, eventually. I also know that lots of people do and have done this sort of thing. Until this actually happens for me however there's still a lot of the hypothetical about this whole deal :lol:

But seriously is there a turn by turn guide to the S trail out there?


Sharpshin 03-27-14 04:52 PM

Just an addendum.

My approach to this tour is going to be about hours in the saddle rather than miles per se. Based up the 50- 100 mile rides I've done so far, what works for me is to divide the ride into two-hour intervals and then take at least a 30 minute break in between. So eight hours of saddle time translates to a ten hour period, which from a hypothetical 8am or thereabouts get me done around 6pm. Which oughta leave me about two hours of daylight to either find a campground, or a quiet spot to crash out, or last resort a motel.

I have never been particular about where I sleep (I still sleep on a blanket on a tile floor at home), and three years in a remote African village way back when in the Peace Corps pretty much terminally cured me about being particular about what form my daily calories come in. Dry oatmeal in cold water would suit me fine as a low-cost reserve.

If it were possible I would prefer to just crash out somewhere most nights wherever I happen to get done for the day. OTOH I ain't in favor of trespassing either, which I expect would preclude most stealth camping. A pity one cant merely sleep off road in the grass along the right of way. From what I understand small rural cemeteries often offer good compromises.


indyfabz 04-01-14 11:22 AM


Originally Posted by Sharpshin (Post 16617764)
But seriously is there a turn by turn guide to the S trail out there?


Not that I know of. I mapped it out on and then made paper cue sheets for each day. The route is well signed, so I didn't really need the cue sheets except to go off route to campgrounds. The other nice thing about having them is that I made them with mileages so I knew how far I had come and how far I needed to go until each stop.

I will add words of caution about flying by the seat of your pants in PA. It's been my experience that road shoulders are the exception, not the rule. Throw in relatively high speed limits on many state highways and combine them with twisty conditions and steep hills and you have the makings of some scary riding conditions at times. In certain parts of the state there are peope living in rurual areas who live what I will describe as more suburban lifestyles. What I mean by that is that they may live in the sticks but they are constantly travelling to more populated/commercial areas for work and commerce, which means they are often rushing around in their cars to get places. The younger drivers are usually the more reckless.

With all due respect, when you were in the Peace Corps were you doing the daily equivalent of riding your bike 50-100 miles?

Sleeping in cemeteries would likely be trespasinng, and some people would find it disrespectful. And what about water sources if you decide to simply plop down for the night?

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 09:37 PM.