Fall's best scenic bike rides
The view from your saddle has never been more spectacular.
At this very moment all over the country, nature is ablaze with the gorgeous colors of fall—and the forecast is cool, crisp and perfect for strapping on your helmet and pedaling down a scenic road. You’ll have to leave your city behind for the best viewing opportunities, so load up your bike and head to your leafiest neck of the woods before the show’s over. Here, our picks for the best fall foliage-viewing cycling rides around the U.S.
Ozark-St. Francis National Forests
Warm days, cool nights and plenty of sunshine create a perfect storm for fall color in this region of Missouri and Arkansas. The change happens slow and late down in these parts—you can still see great color in early November. Ride the challenging 50-mile Syllamo mountain biking trail system to lose yourself in a quiet cocoon of “understory” foliage, or the abundant, close-to-the-ground color that hides beneath the canopy of trees.
Cape Cod Rail Trail
A leisurely 25-mile spin down this mostly flat, paved former railroad right-of-way in Massachusetts will take you on a tree-lined journey through picturesque small towns, past freshwater lakes and along the National Seashore. Go before peak color fades in mid-October and don’t make a huge deal out of it—if you don’t feel like hauling your own bike along, there are plenty of rentals along the trail.
This beautiful, natural area dotted with charming small towns is located on the other side of Puget Sound from Seattle. It’s a biker’s paradise, particularly when fall colors abound, and a local riding group even hosts an annual Color Classic ride. Try it yourself the next time you’re in the region—the color season stretches into late October here.
The Fall Foliage Bike Festival (October 16-18) in this leafy Virginia region attracts casual and serious cyclists from all over the country each year. Routes range from eight to 101 miles, and the rolling country roads offer views of farms, forests and historic towns.
This celebrated Colorado ski town is home to dozens of singletrack mountain biking trails that take riders through an eye-popping natural landscape of mountains, streams, meadows, Aspen stands, and forested areas where the peak color season hits in early to mid-October.
Glacial Drumlin State Trail
This mostly flat former railroad route runs through 52 miles of unspoiled Wisconsin countryside that was shaped into low, rolling hills by the movements of gigantic sheets of ancient ice. Portions of paved trail run under canopies of tall trees, and the Midwest’s ideal weather conditions for fall foliage make this a spectacular place to feast your eyes in October.
Erie Canalway Trail
This 365-mile off-road trail runs along historic waterways that snake through the countryside between Albany and Buffalo in upstate New York. You’ll ride beside trees blazing with color between late September and late October, depending on how far you are from the coast.
White Mountain National Forest/Kancamagus Pass
The White Mountains of New Hampshire provide the quintessential New England leaf-peeping experience. Drivers flock to the scenic Kancamagus Highway at this time of year, so if you’re doing it by bike (and watch out, there are steep climbs galore) set out in the early morning on a weekday. Otherwise, take to the dirt trails within the national forest for traffic-free access to the views.
Another quintessential New England biking experience takes places during a five-day tour through the region around Stowe, Vermont with Sojourn, a company that leads high-end cycling explorations of the state’s natural wonders. Or check out the 13- to 90-mile suggested loops of the area and make your own adventure.
This scenic southern Kentucky small town makes a great jumping-off point for riding around the beautiful Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, which runs along a high ridge atop the Appalachian mountain range. Take to the sparsely populated roads in the area and you’ll see the same riot of color that sends tourists flocking to the nearby Great Smoky Mountain National Park.