The Trans America Bike Route
The Trans America Bike Route can trace its history back to 1973. It was the first bicycle trail that crossed the United States.
It was built as part of the Bike centennial celebrations to commemorate the bicentennial of the United States. The trail begins in Astoria, Oregon and ends in Yorktown, Virginia. It follows mainly rural highways.
Members of Bike centennial spent three years planning the route and mapping it out. When the route was officially opened over 4000 riders turned up to take part in the first ride.
Many of the riders were in their twenties and had not completed any long-distance rides before. The riders were organized into groups of ten or twelve that were led by members of Bike centennial.
It was not a professional ride by any means. Most of the riders had bikes that were purchased from discount stores and virtually nobody was wearing a helmet.
However, it was the experience that mattered most to the riders, not the equipment. The Trans America Route provided them with a great opportunity to learn more about themselves, and about the history of the United States. Over 2000 people finished the whole trail, which was a real accomplishment.
Even today virtually everyone that completes the trail says that they learn more about the United States on their journey, than they ever did at school.
If you are planning on cycling along the whole of the trail, then you should allow yourself three months. It is possible to complete the route in a shorter time, but as this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity, you should give yourself some time for sightseeing as well.
You will have the opportunity to visit two of the best National Parks in the country, Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.
People have now been traveling along the Trans America Bike Route for forty years, and so there are thousands of people that would have completed it previously. Journals have been started by some of the cafes and restaurants on the route, and places where you can stay overnight.
Reading these journals will give you a real insight into the experiences that other riders have had on the route, and so you should definitely make the time to check a few of them out.
The official starting point of the Trans America Bike Route is Astoria, Oregon. If you want to pedal uphill to the Astoria Column, then you will get a great view of the whole city below. There are plenty of ascents and descents in the first few days of the trail, so you quickly come to see what you can expect from the rest of the trail.
This gives you a great chance to take in the scenery of beaches and state parks. The seafood in this area of Oregon is also really great and there are plenty of places to eat.
It will take you a few days to complete this section of the trail, and after this you will start to travel inland and follow the Willamette River Valley. The largest city that you will travel through on the route is Eugene. There are other big cities that you will come across in other states. Some of these include Missoula in Montana, Pueblo, Colorado and Carbondale, Illinois.
After you have left Eugene you will be riding past the Cascade Mountains which are covered in lush, green foliage. You will notice that the scenery changes dramatically as you start to enter the area surrounding Mackenzie Pass.
When you travel over the Pass you will enter a field of lava which offers breathtaking scenery. You will have an excellent view of the Three Sisters and the other volcanic peaks of the Cascades, which always seem to be covered in snow. You may want to make sure that you have some extra water as you travel through Central and Eastern Oregon, as the region is very dry and mountainous.
One place that you definitely need to stop in Oregon is the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, which is located in Baker City. The center is a place where you can discover the journey that the pioneers made before they settled in this area. This is something that you will be able to appreciate, after traveling such a distance yourself.
When you get into Idaho you will travel along the Salmon River, and there several Native American sites that you are able to visit here. After you have passed the Salmon River, you begin to follow the Lochsa River, and this will take you on the longest ascent of the route.
This is a gradual ascent and lasts for around 70 miles. This ascent takes you up and over the Lolo Pass and this marks the point where you enter Montana. Soon after this you will reach the city of Missoula, which is a college town.
It is also the location of the Adventure Cycling headquarters, and you will be able to take advantage of the cyclist’s lounge which is within the building. They also have several other amenities which you will be able to use. Montana is also known for its scenery which includes wide valleys and mountain passes.
There is nothing else on the trip that will compare to the views that you will get in Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Teton Range in Wyoming. It cannot be recommended highly enough that you take a few days off the trail at this point to be able to explore these areas fully. You can camp at one of the largest campgrounds in the US at Colter Bay, they have a few hiker biker sites on a first come first serve basis.
As you carry on you cannot help but realize you are in the west, especially when you visit towns such as Lander and Dubois. The Great Basin Divide can seem quite lonely and desolate at times, but Lamont helps to break this up and it is also somewhere you can get a great bowl of chili.
You will leave the desert landscape behind as you enter Kremmling in Colorado. If you are looking for somewhere to have a layover day, then Breckenridge in Summit County is a great choice. You may be grateful for the rest as the next part of the trail takes you over the Continental Divide at Hoosier Pass. At this point you will be travelling among the snow-covered peaks at a height of 11,542 feet.
When you leave the Rockies, Royal Gorge Park is another good choice for a layover day. This gives you the opportunity to explore the gorge via a ride in either a helicopter or boat. When you reach Pueblo, you will find a wide range of bike shops where you can stock up on anything that you need.
Reaching this point is also a cause for celebration because it means you have reached the halfway point of the Trans America Bike Route. This is also the last major city you will pass through until reaching Illinois, so make sure that you have all your essentials with you when you leave.
Heading east out of Pueblo things start to dry out and the terrain flattens out through eastern Colorado and Kansas. It’s at Haswell, Colorado where you will get your last chance to see the Rocky Mountains in the distance behind you.
If you are doing the Trans America Route in the middle of summer, you may want to do most of your riding early in the morning and in the evenings as the midday heat can become a nuisance.
As you enter Missouri the terrain starts to become somewhat of a slow and tame roller-coaster. There is a lot of Civil War history in Missouri not to be missed by anyone with a thirst for historic sites.
As you cross the Mississippi River you will enter Chester, Illinois and later head into another college town, Carbondale. To cross the Ohio River into Kentucky you’ll have to catch a ferry ride, and ferries are always a fun little adventure themselves.
After passing by the farms and woodlands of Kentucky you will enter the Appalachian Mountains just past Berea. From here you can take a very recommended side trip to Mammoth Cave National Park, which happens to be the longest cave system in the world. One of the prettiest sections of the route will take you along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
From there you will be on the final stretch of the route leading you into Yorktown. Along this section you will find history spotting the landscape from the American Revolution.
The Trans America Route is one that is most definitely on my list and should be on yours as well. A huge thank you to everyone at Adventure Cycling for keeping this route updated and providing detailed maps that you can find here.