two cyclists on a rocky mountain bike trail

Take two wheels along some of the world’s most epic bike trails. (Photo: Getty Images)


Surprising Cycling Vacations in the U.S., Canada and Beyond

France and Italy are famous for epic cycling vacations, but you don’t necessarily have to travel overseas to discover inviting bike paths, charming towns and a chance to commune with nature from a two-wheeled vantage.

Across the United States, Canada and beyond, bike trails converted from decommissioned railways are a source of community pride, while other trails make for surprising — and challenging — routes. These trails attract visitors from all over because of the way they immerse riders in an authentic experience of each region — and offer plenty of opportunities for leisure as well as exercise.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Banks-Vernonia State Trail in Oregon

Less than an hour from Portland, this 21-mile paved trail presents a wooded escape for cyclists, hikers and horseback riders.

Along what was once a track used by trains to haul timber, lush coastal forests of fir, cedar and maple remain or are regrowing; the Buxton Trestle affords a magnificent treetop view; farm fields and orchards unfold; and picnic tables invite travelers to linger along the way.

Most of this trail slopes gently, but if you’re looking for a challenge, bike the steep, switchbacking Horseshoe Trestle bypass section.

bicyclist near water in canada park
Canada is home to a wealth of trails. (Photo: Getty Images)

High Trestle Trail in Des Moines, Iowa

When Union Pacific Railroad decommissioned a 25-mile stretch of Iowa rail line between Woodward and Ankeny, outdoor enthusiasts saw it as the perfect opportunity to create a scenic bike trail through pastoral landscapes and over the Des Moines River Valley.

The High Trestle Trail runs through five towns with access points all along the way and culminates in the striking High Trestle Trail Bridge, crowned with a corridor of 41 steel frames arching over the bridge and lined with LEDs that light up blue at night.

Le P’tit Train du Nord in Quebec, Canada

This rail-to-trail path with a charming name stretches for 145 miles in Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains, connecting 26 towns and winding around seven lakes and several rivers.

Many of the 13 historic railway stations along the route have been converted into restaurants, cafés or micro-brasseries, and there are several bike service stations on the route to solve any problem cyclists might encounter.

If your travels bring you to this area in the winter, you’ll find cross-country skiers and snowmobilers flocking to Le P’tit Train du Nord.

cyclists in the desert
Zip along on two wheels. (Photo: Getty Images)

Minuteman Bikeway in Massachusetts

This 10-mile bike trail between Cambridge and Bedford became an instant winner when it opened in 1993: It repurposed a decommissioned railway, attracted thousands of commuters and visitors to use it in lieu of crowding onto the congested Boston-area roadways, and gave cyclists a chance to pedal over territory that’s significant in American history.

The trail follows a path similar to the one Paul Revere galloped over in 1775 to warn local militias about the British troops’ advance. With flowering trees in the spring, flame-colored foliage in the autumn and a bike repair shop on the route, this is a bike trail for the ages.

Kettle Valley Rail Trail in British Columbia, Canada

This pathway, converted from Canadian Pacific Railway track, makes the beauty of southern British Columbia accessible to cyclist of all abilities for a relatively flat 400-mile trail.

Just because it’s easy pedaling doesn’t mean it isn’t breathtaking — the trail encompasses 18 wooden trestle trail bridges and two tunnels through the Myra Canyon’s rocky cliffs and gorges, presenting grand vistas.

Once you’re out of the canyon, pedal through the countryside filled with vineyards, orchards and farm-to-table restaurants.

mountain biker on trail in woods
Take to wooded trails on wheels. (Photo: Getty Images)


If you’ve ever been to Bolivia, you know that walking can be considered strenuous exercise here, given the incredible strain the country’s high altitude puts on your body. The good news is that the most incredible cycling experience in Bolivia is all downhill. The bad news? It’s called the “Death Road” — and not without reason.

Specifically, cycling on the Death Road takes you out of sky-high La Paz and down into the country’s temperate jungles via a steep slope with only minimal and occasional barriers between you and, well, death. Not to worry, however. Many guided tours are available, so you won’t face death alone — at least not this time.


Taipei, like most Asian cities, has plenty of bicycles mixed in among the hundreds of thousands of vehicles on its roads. What might surprise you, however, as you begin to travel outward into the Taiwanese countryside, is just how great a percentage of the traffic you see on rural roads is also bicycle traffic.

Cycling in Taiwan isn’t always easy, given the often mountainous terrain of the island and beautiful but often nerve-wracking vistas — biking along a coastal cliff is a double-edged sword.

Rent a bike in Taipei and cycle through the hills and valleys of Yangmingshan National Park, or start instead in Kaohsiung or head southeast to adjacent Kenting National Park and its outstanding beaches.

Otherwise, do as many visiting cyclists to Taiwan do: Travel with your own bike (so you’re not constrained by a rental) and explore as much of the island as your heart desires.

South Africa

Every year dozens (sometimes hundreds) of cyclists embark on the “Big Africa Cycle,” which takes them more than 20,000 miles from the United Kingdom to Cape Town, South Africa, to raise money for charity. While this would definitely constitute an epic opportunity to cycle in Africa, you needn’t devote months of your life to have an amazing Africa cycling adventure.

A more manageable way to enjoy one of the world’s most surprising cycling spots is to begin your cycling trip in Cape Town and then head east along the country’s stunning “Garden Route,” a 133-mile length of highway N2 named for the lush vegetation and pristine coastal views you take in as you drive it.

Start in Mossel Bay. Then stop in Hermanus to see humpback whales jumping out of the sea and Knysna to slurp down some of South Africa’s best oysters before finishing up in Storms River to partake in even more adventure, including one of the world’s best bungees.