America’s Greatest Bike Paths
Safe, Beautiful Trails from City to Countryside That Everyone Can Enjoy
Millions of Americans now are cycling for transportation, exercise and fun. In response, many areas in the US have special paved bike paths. Here are some of the best. (Of course, you can find paths in other areas by searching online for “bike paths” and the name of the city.)
MIDTOWN GREENWAY MINNEAPOLIS
Minneapolis has 85 miles of off-street bike paths (plus 81 miles of on-street bike lanes) that are plowed in the winter, lit at night and open 24 hours a day. A major section is the Midtown Greenway, a 5.5-mile former railroad corridor that runs through the center of the city parallel to Lake Street, a commercial strip with hundreds of businesses. It is a quick way across town. The Greenway connects on the west with other paths, including the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Trail, and on the east with trails that run along the Mississippi River. Information: www.MidtownGreenway.org.
SILVER COMET TRAIL GEORGIA
One of the longest paved paths of its kind in the US, the Silver Comet Trail runs from Smryna, Georgia, outside Atlanta, for 61 miles to the Alabama state line. It follows the old railroad line once traveled by the Silver Comet passenger train past small towns, farms, wetlands and forests. Most of the trail is flat, although there are some serious hills at the end. Dotted here and there along the way are restrooms, picnic tables and parking areas. Information: www.SilverCometGa.com. Bonus: When the Silver Comet Trail reaches the Alabama border, it connects with that state’s 33-mile-long Chief Ladiga Trail.
MOUNT VERNON TRAIL VIRGINIA
The Mount Vernon Trail, one of the most scenic bike paths in the country, begins in northern Virginia, just across the Potomac River from downtown Washington, DC, and follows the river for 18 miles to George Washington’s estate, Mount Vernon. There are restrooms and water fountains along the way. Bikers get spectacular views of the DC monuments, and when they reach Gravelly Point at the north end of Washington National Airport, they can hop off and watch the planes take off and land thrillingly close by. The trail goes past Arlington National Cemetery and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove and through the heart of Old Town Alexandria, the city’s historic district (this section includes a short stretch of on-street biking). Continuing along the river and under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, cyclists reach a fairly steep but brief climb as they approach Mount Vernon. A tour of the first president’s famous mansion and a leisurely turn around the grounds should not be missed. Information: www.BikeWashington.org.
CHICAGO LAKEFRONT TRAIL
As you ride along the edge of Lake Michigan on this 18.5-mile asphalt bike path, you’ll get a great view of the city’s famous array of historic early skyscrapers. You can make a stop at the Museum of Science and Industry, relax on one of the many sandy beaches, view exotic fish at the Shedd Aquarium or pedal on all the way to the Navy Pier, one of the city’s most popular visitor destinations, to ride the Ferris wheel or play miniature golf before heading back downtown. The trail is popular with commuters who use it for speed and safety getting in and out of town. Information: www.ChicagoBikes.org.
MANHATTAN WATERFRONT GREENWAY
You can bike around the entire island of Manhattan in one swoop—it’s a marvelous journey on a 32-mile paved path. But for most people, it’s best done in segments because you will want to make plenty of stops to take in the sights. You can start just above the George Washington Bridge on the West Side, then ride south with the Hudson River on your right, West Side Highway on your left, all the way to the Statue of Liberty and the Staten Island Ferry. Next time, cover the East Side, starting at The Battery and traveling up the East River past the South Street Seaport and the United Nations and under the city’s famous bridges. Information: www.NYCGovParks.org.
JEDEDIAH SMITH MEMORIAL TRAIL, SACRAMENTO
Also known as the American River Bike Trail, it runs for 32 miles on mostly flat terrain from Sacramento to Folsom Reservoir. It hugs the American River as it passes quaint towns, parklands, woodlands and the campus of Sacramento State University. There are restrooms and water fountains along the way. Among the sights, each worth a stop, are Discovery Park in Sacramento, the pedestrian-only Guy West Bridge (a small replica of the Golden Gate Bridge) and the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, where in the fall you can watch salmon spawning. Information: www.arpf.org…www.msa2.saccounty.net/parks.
Source: Joan Rattner Heilman, a dedicated cyclist, inveterate traveler and seasoned journalist, based in Mamaroneck, New York, is the author of more than a dozen books and hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles. She specializes in 50-plus travel.