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Pleasant and Scenic Rides in the United States

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Pleasant and Scenic Rides in the United States

Old 11-26-23, 10:01 AM
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Pleasant and Scenic Rides in the United States

I am thinking about vacations for next year, and I want to plan more around cycling. Someone I follow on Strava posted a ride along the coast (in Spain), and that got me thinking about destinations in the US where I could ride scenic rides like that. Please reply with your suggestions. I am mainly thinking of road rides, but I'm certainly open to scenic bike trails. I'm not up for massive amounts of climb, especially at altitude, but I do appreciate a mountain view.
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Old 11-26-23, 10:34 AM
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Lots in California, but 17 Mile Drive comes to my mind.
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Old 11-26-23, 11:19 AM
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Do you have a bike that can handle thing like unpaved Forest Service road?

Where are you located, and how far are you willing to travel?

How would you travel (car, plane, etc.)?

Presumably day rides?

How many miles/ride?
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Old 11-26-23, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
Do you have a bike that can handle thing like unpaved Forest Service road?
Definitely. My gravel/all-road bike (Trek Checkpoint) is set up with 42mm Teravail Washburns (center slick), and it's actually the bike I normally take on road trips, because it gives me the most versatility. I do also have a full suspension MTB I could take, but I probably wouldn't want to take two bikes on a trip, and choosing the MTB could limit my other ride options.

Where are you located, and how far are you willing to travel?
St. Louis, Missouri. Anywhere within the continental US theoretically. I wouldn't really drive three days for a bike ride, but it would be incorporated into a larger multi-destination trip. In general, the whole thing would need to be done in nine days if I'm taking a week off of work.

How would you travel (car, plane, etc.)?
I typically travel by car, and I typically camp.

Presumably day rides?
Yes, but bike-packing excursions are not out of the question. I haven't done that yet, but Missouri's Katy Trail is right in my back yard, and I am planning to bike the Florida Keys eventually.

How many miles/ride?
Let's say a leisurely 50 miles or less, but that's not a hard limit. One day this past September while traveling in Minnesota, I overdid it a bit and ended up riding 84 miles.
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Old 11-26-23, 02:10 PM
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Bitterroot 300K route. You could even start in Missoula and do and out an back to the loop.

Highlights include the CdA Trail, the Olympian Trail (assuming you ride to the loop from Missoula), the NorPac Trail and the Hiawatha Trail, which is arguably the most scenic in the country. The two mountain passes you cross are via rail miles, so no killer hills, but not flat. The Hiawatha and the continuation on the former Milwaukee Road right of way is mostly downhill hill for about 25 miles. Maximum elevation (Lookout Pass) is 4,711’.

The CdA is paved. The remaining trail miles are not. I can give you a map to get between Missoula and the loop. Requires a couple of relatively short segments of I-90 riding (legal), but they aren’t bad.

https://friendsofcdatrails.org/route...oot-300k-loop/


From Missoula you could also do an out and back on the 45 mile paved trail to Hamilton. Basically flat with some nice Mountain views.

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Old 11-26-23, 03:55 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
Bitterroot 300K route. You could even start in Missoula and do and out an back to the loop.

Highlights include the CdA Trail, the Olympian Trail (assuming you ride to the loop from Missoula), the NorPac Trail and the Hiawatha Trail, which is arguably the most scenic in the country. The two mountain passes you cross are via rail miles, so no killer hills, but not flat. The Hiawatha and the continuation on the former Milwaukee Road right of way is mostly downhill hill for about 25 miles. Maximum elevation (Lookout Pass) is 4,711’.

The CdA is paved. The remaining trail miles are not. I can give you a map to get between Missoula and the loop. Requires a couple of relatively short segments of I-90 riding (legal), but they aren’t bad.

https://friendsofcdatrails.org/route...oot-300k-loop/


From Missoula you could also do an out and back on the 45 mile paved trail to Hamilton. Basically flat with some nice Mountain views.
Sounds great.
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Old 11-26-23, 03:56 PM
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Originally Posted by UnCruel
One day this past September while traveling in Minnesota, I overdid it a bit and ended up riding 84 miles.
Minnesota will do that to you. Wisconsin too. It's no accident that there are so many mileage junkies in these parts.
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Old 11-26-23, 03:56 PM
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Check out the Natchez Trace Parkway, a National Park running from Nashville, TN -> Natchez, MS. It's a low traffic (no commercial traffic allowed), beautiful road. It's within a day's drive from St. Louis so it shouldn't be too hard for you to get there.
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Old 11-26-23, 06:52 PM
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Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia/North Carolina.

I have not ridden ON it, but have done a number of rides that cross it. The climbs up to it are really tough, but once on the Parkway I am told not too bad. Beautiful area with scenic views.
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Old 11-27-23, 12:02 PM
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Sonoma, CA. Santa Rosa to the coast, along the old Levi’s GranFondo route (pre pandemic) is breathtaking. Miles along the coast in Sonoma State Park, along the Russian River, and through vineyards.

Pescadero, CA, and along the SF Bay peninsula. Start in Pescadero, heading inland on Pescadero Creek Rd, climb (and then descend) to La Honda Rd. Head back to the coast. Stop in San Gregorio. Head north to tackle Tunitas Rd, one of the biggest climbs in the area - at the top you hit Skyline, and if you make it to a gap in the trees you can see the SF Bay on one side of the hills, and the foothills cascading to the Pacific on the other. If you decline to tackle Tunitas, head south from San Gregorio (again, on the PCH) for some great views. I haven’t done this but, but I’ve been told Duarte’s is a good spot for a post ride pie.

New York Five Boro bike tour. it’s not fast, and you have to deal with thousands of other cyclists (who all signed up for the 5Boro within a week of tickets becoming available), but you get to ride up 6th Ave, on the BQE, and across the Queensboro and Verrazano, while all the car traffic gets to wait for you. Of course, of the three times I did it, it rained twice…
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Old 11-28-23, 05:41 AM
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Second on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but I will also add its connector to the north - Skyline Drive.

Skyline Drive, starting at Front Royal - is one of the best rides I've ever been on. Light/courteous traffic, near perfect roads, 6%+/- max grades with long steady climbs, perfect moderate grades and sweeping turns on the descents - and great views. It's a national park, so traffic is limited to sightseers.
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Old 11-28-23, 06:39 AM
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Most of the roads in New Mexico. The eastern part of the state is less inspiring but there are great rides all over. Down south, the Organ Mountains, Ruidoso, Carlsbad, White Sands. In the middle of the state you have the Manzano Mountains, Sandia Mountains, and the southern end of the Sangre De Cristo up towards the north into Colorado. Out west you have Mt. Taylor and getting towards the Mogollon Rim in Arizona. Northwest you are getting towards Mesa Verde across the state line in Colorado. If you start at the Four Corners, you can't fail to ride anywhere beautiful in any direction.
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Old 11-28-23, 07:45 AM
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Blue Ridge Parkway

I don't like climbing up the Parkway from Asheville, either NE or SW. There's more traffic and lots of curves, making it difficult for cars to pass. Too annoying for me. The area near Grandfather Mountain was quite busy on the two times I was riding near there. A really nice ride except for the annoying traffic. There's quieter places to ride.

It can be difficult to make longer BRP routes that have water stops, which can be rare on the parkway. I usually need more than two bottles of water during a ride.

Ashville is fun to visit. There's lots of hiking trails all over the area, too.

Pisgah - Richland high country on the Parkway
Here's my favorite route on the Parkway. It's SW of Asheville. Way less traffic than near Asheville. The road follows the ridge lines there, with fantastic alternating views to the north or the south--zoom way in on the rwgps map to see the mountains. The Pisgah Inn at the halfway point has a restaurant with big windows overlooking a wide valley. I get a carryout box lunch and sit on the back deck. Richland Balsam is the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway, at 6050 feet.

Doubletop overlook to the Pisgah Inn.
This route has a mix of climbing and descending, good. The route link shows the overlooks along the route -- I stop at, or at least roll through each one! The biggest climb up past Graveyard Fields at mile 36 -- it's 1200 feet and almost 4 miles. There's overlooks at halfway up and again at the 80% point, and it's a steady 6%-8% grade. I have gearing that lets me stay seating with a reasonably fast cadence, and I'm in no hurry on this ride, with a 10-11 mph average speed. It's a lot more climbing than I do on local rides, which are 2000,2500, or 3000 feet typically.

The 2018 ride recording: Doubletop-RIchland Balsam-Pisgah Inn

This is an out and back and could be shortened. For example, parking at the Wolf Mountain overlook (mile 11 on this the route) is 33 miles and 3300 feet of climbing. Then make an optional climb up to Richland Balsam if you still have energy left after returning to the car -- that's 7 miles and 980 feet to Richland, 7 miles and 450 feet on the return, with the 980 feet of downhill too.

The longest version starts at the Pinnacle Ridge tunnel overlook, for 62 miles and 6800 feet of climbing. At the end, past RIchland, it's 1500 feet downhill along with 200 feet of climbing.

~~~
The North Carolina section of the Parkway:
This part of the Parkway has shorter climbs, and low traffic. It's fewer grand vistas, but there are some very nice ones. It's more small scale scenery closer to the road.I liked it.

Cumberland Knob to the Doughton cafe
47 miles, 3700 feet.
I used to ride this route a lot when I was traveling to NC. The Bluffs restaurant was a good water, restrooms and food refueling stop.
This is an interesting route, starting with rolling forests and rhododendron bushes. Then farmland vistas, then climbing up to long views in the mountains.
The 6 miles of climbing starting at mile 13 is mostly moderate grades, with 300-350 foot climbing followed by short downhills, then climb again. That's great for riding.
The final 19 miles are 2000 feet descending, with 900 feet of climbing along the way, mostly on 100 foot or shorter climbs. Nice!

Moses Cone area
This was the first BRP ride I did, years ago. I trained for the 1000 foot climb, which seemed intimidating back then. But with the steady grade and interesting views, I reached the top quite easily. Surprising to me back then. (Now I know that a 1200 foot climb is much easier than 4 local climbs of 300 feet each -- on long climbs, I just settle into a maintainable pace.)

I haven't been back here for years. It might have more traffic than I like?
Raven Rock - Moses Cone - Linn Cove Viaduct
The Moses Cone mansion is a crafts center, very interesting.
The Viaduct is that famous curving bridge along the side of Grandfather Mountain, designed to minimally impact the terrain below the bridge.

~~~
In Virginia, I liked the riding near the famous Mabry Mill too.

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Old 11-28-23, 12:05 PM
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Can't fail to mention the Big Sur area. Some of the coastal views are pretty spectacular.

Climbing away from the coast is Nacimiento-Fergusson Road. Not a terribly long or hard climb, and the views are nuts. And forget about traffic--the road ends at the Hunter Liggett military base.



But don't head out there just now. Nacimiento-Fergusson, and some other roads in the area, are closed. No estimate of when it will be reopened.
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Old 11-29-23, 02:22 PM
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Check out The Silver Comet Trail. Dedicated Rail/Trail bike path. Begins in Atlanta/Smyrna Georgia for about 50 miles to Cedartown GA at the GA Alabama line. Then becomes Chief Ladega Trail for another 50 miles to Anniston AL.

Plenty of lodging and food accommodations.
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Old 11-29-23, 08:16 PM
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Key Largo to Key West. I organized a century ride for four friends and me back in February 2018. We live about 2.5- 3 hours from Key Largo, so we left our area VERY EARLY and drove down to Key Largo. Five of us got out and rode 107 miles to Key West while one friend drove the van and was our SAG support. At the end of the ride, we showered in a public beach access park, climbed in the van, had dinner back in Key Largo and drove the home. It was a 23 hour day by the time I got home, but it was so much fun. You could do it in 2 or three days if you want too. You just need to figure out how you get back. One of the good things about this is you could do it in the dead of winter.
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Old 11-29-23, 11:26 PM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox
Sonoma, CA. Santa Rosa to the coast, along the old Levi’s GranFondo route (pre pandemic) is breathtaking. Miles along the coast in Sonoma State Park, along the Russian River, and through vineyards.

Pescadero, CA, and along the SF Bay peninsula. Start in Pescadero, heading inland on Pescadero Creek Rd, climb (and then descend) to La Honda Rd. Head back to the coast. Stop in San Gregorio. Head north to tackle Tunitas Rd, one of the biggest climbs in the area - at the top you hit Skyline, and if you make it to a gap in the trees you can see the SF Bay on one side of the hills, and the foothills cascading to the Pacific on the other. If you decline to tackle Tunitas, head south from San Gregorio (again, on the PCH) for some great views. I haven’t done this but, but I’ve been told Duarte’s is a good spot for a post ride pie.

New York Five Boro bike tour. it’s not fast, and you have to deal with thousands of other cyclists (who all signed up for the 5Boro within a week of tickets becoming available), but you get to ride up 6th Ave, on the BQE, and across the Queensboro and Verrazano, while all the car traffic gets to wait for you. Of course, of the three times I did it, it rained twice…
this. along with a left or right once hitting the coast.
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Old 11-30-23, 07:16 AM
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The Blue Ridge Parkway goes through Virginia as well. If climbing is not your thing, Virginia also has the Virginia Capital Trail and the Colonial Parkway. The new Fall Line Trail is also under construction. Those 3 all connect. Richmond hosted the UCI Road Cycling Championships in 2015. Those rides would be available also. That's a weeks worth of cycling/adventure/things to do there.

https://www.virginiacapitaltrail.org/#gsc.tab=0


https://www.nps.gov/colo/planyourvisit/maps.htm

https://www.falllineva.org/

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Old 11-30-23, 07:29 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan
Sounds great.
it is pretty nice.
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Old 11-30-23, 07:32 AM
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Another possible destination with a video from the company above. I am not connected in any way, just happened to be on the playlist with the previous video.

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Old 11-30-23, 08:30 AM
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Originally Posted by seypat
Another possible destination with a video from the company above. I am not connected in any way, just happened to be on the playlist with the previous video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhj0NcWeUbM
Along with the info I put up about Front Royal/Skyline Drive, the C&O trail is part of an annual camping/biking trip we do.

We hit the C&O at Harpers Ferry and ride east or west depending on the day - beautiful flat trail, very well maintained in that area, very scenic.

Front Royal is about 1 hour car ride from Harpers Ferry, plenty of places to stay. Can be on Skyline Drive one day (or two), and on the C&O the next...

Harpers Ferry is a great place to visit as well.

Skyline Drive:


Harpers Ferry @ the C&O

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Old 11-30-23, 08:47 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
Bitterroot 300K route. You could even start in Missoula and do and out an back to the loop.

Highlights include the CdA Trail, the Olympian Trail (assuming you ride to the loop from Missoula), the NorPac Trail and the Hiawatha Trail, which is arguably the most scenic in the country. The two mountain passes you cross are via rail miles, so no killer hills, but not flat. The Hiawatha and the continuation on the former Milwaukee Road right of way is mostly downhill hill for about 25 miles. Maximum elevation (Lookout Pass) is 4,711’.

The CdA is paved. The remaining trail miles are not. I can give you a map to get between Missoula and the loop. Requires a couple of relatively short segments of I-90 riding (legal), but they aren’t bad.

https://friendsofcdatrails.org/route...oot-300k-loop/


From Missoula you could also do an out and back on the 45 mile paved trail to Hamilton. Basically flat with some nice Mountain views.
ditto and if you wanted to keep off the freeway you could start in Thompson Falls take the thompson pass rd and jump on the trail at Wallace. that maybe one the coolest road in Montana/Idaho and i have been on a lot of cool roads..
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Old 11-30-23, 09:51 AM
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Originally Posted by UnCruel
I am thinking about vacations for next year, and I want to plan more around cycling. Someone I follow on Strava posted a ride along the coast (in Spain), and that got me thinking about destinations in the US ....
Ride the West Coast, starting in the NW corner (eg: Port Angeles, Washington) and head South on the 101/CA1 as far as you can get. You might have to head inland at Lucia, South of Big Sur, but there are currently work-arounds, and it is possible that Cal Trans will have finished the repair by the time you get there. Apart from that, you should be able to get to San Diego on the coast. Fly into Seattle and out of San Diego. I would allow six weeks. There is a big hill near Legget, but other than that it is gently rolling. Less than 70 miles/day is realistic unless you are in your prime.
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Old 11-30-23, 09:56 AM
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Originally Posted by jadmt
ditto and if you wanted to keep off the freeway you could start in Thompson Falls take the thompson pass rd and jump on the trail at Wallace. that maybe one the coolest road in Montana/Idaho and i have been on a lot of cool roads..
Done Thompson Pass going in the other direction twice. I call it the Dr. Jeckyl & Mr. Hyde Pass. 9 miles to the summit from Murray. The first 4.5 miles are easy. The second 4.5 miles, not so much. IIRC, the average over the second 4.5 miles is around 7.2%. The average over the last 2 miles of that is 7.8%. In 2019, I hit the steep part and immediately felt like I had an anchor tied to the back of my bike. I actually started to think something was physically wrong with me. Then a thought went through my head, and I said to myself "Please don't tell me I am doing what I think I might be doing." I look down and discover that I am. I am in the middle chainring from riding the easy part. Coming from Thompson Falls is a long slog, but I don't think the grades are nearly as steep.
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Old 11-30-23, 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Polaris OBark
Ride the West Coast, starting in the NW corner (eg: Port Angeles, Washington) and head South on the 101/CA1 as far as you can get. You might have to head inland at Lucia, South of Big Sur, but there are currently work-arounds, and it is possible that Cal Trans will have finished the repair by the time you get there. Apart from that, you should be able to get to San Diego on the coast. Fly into Seattle and out of San Diego. I would allow six weeks. There is a big hill near Legget, but other than that it is gently rolling. Less than 70 miles/day is realistic unless you are in your prime.
What is the most ideal time to ride this route weather wise?
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