Category Archives: camping

Pipe Dreams: Bike Vacations with Kids

It’s a Truism: kids love bicycles. They love riding them. They love spinning the pedals backwards and watching the chain move. They love climbing up on a Soft Spot and hitting the saddle shouting “Go! Go! Go!” Like big people, they love the feeling of wind on their faces and the freedom of adventure.

The thing is, “grownups” love adventure too, and want to share the spirit of exploring with their families and friends. Unfortunately, many bike tour routes are geared toward groups of adult travelers. These routes are not appropriate for families traveling with children in trailers, on come-along bikes, or with kids who ride a few miles independently, and then climb onto Mommy’s cargo bike for the rest of the trip.

At Yuba, we love going on bicycle adventures with our little friends. We’ve compiled a list of kid-friendly bike touring routes, so that you, your family and friends can feel empowered to pack the tent and the diaper bag and hit the road. In general, these routes start and stop at a destination that does not require a car to get to. If you have suggestions for other routes, please add a comment to this post, so that other people can try your route.

Angel Island (CA)
Angel Island is a California State Historic Park located in the heart of the San Francisco Bay. Because it is relatively easy to access and offers amazing views of the San Francisco Bay Area, camping fills up fast (9 months in advance!), so book early.

Angel Island has a car-free, paved loop trail that enables visitors to explore West Coast history, from the Native American civil rights protests of the 1960’s to Civil War garrisons in the 1860’s. It also offers sweeping views of the entire San Francisco Bay. Please be aware that the trail, while paved, and car-free is by no means flat.

For more information, please check the Angel Island website.

Beal’s Point at Folsom Lake (CA)
A mere 32 miles from Old Sacramento, CA along the car-free American River Trail, this campground has many amenities to offer families: a lake for swimming, boat rentals, a snack bar and more.

For more information, please go to the Folsom Lake website.

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal (DC, MD, WV)
The C&O Canal was built as a way to access Western wealth, and began operation in the early 19th century. Operating for nearly 100 years the canal was a lifeline for communities along the Potomac River as coal, lumber and agricultural products floated down the waterway to market. The 184 mile canal path was converted to recreation land in the 1970’s, and functions as a bike path connecting Washington DC with Cumberland, MD.

The park features 30 free hiker-bike campgrounds every 6-8 miles along the canal route, so camping is easy; stay in these campgrounds is limited to one night per trip. It is possible to continue onto the Great Allegheny Passage to travel all the way to Pittsburgh by bike.

For more information, please visit the C&O Canal website.

George S. Mickelson Trail (SD)
The George S. Mickelson Trail allows access to South Dakota’s famed Black Hills, and National Forests. The trail is 109 miles long, with over 100 converted railroad bridges and 4 rock-hewn tunnels. The trail surface is graveled with limestone. Although the grade never exceeds 4%, some parts of the trail could be considered strenuous for younger/out of shape riders.

For more information, please see the George S. Mickelson Trail website.

Great Allegheny Passage (PA, MD)
The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) rail-trail offers 141 miles of hiking and biking between Cumberland, MD, and Homestead, PA, near Pittsburgh. In Cumberland, the GAP joins the C&O Canal Towpath, creating a continuous trail experience, 325 miles long, to Washington, DC.

There are several campgrounds near the GAP, please see the the GAP website for more information.

Natchez Trace (MS, TN, AL)
The Natchez Trace is a 444 mile parkway and bike path that follows an ancient bison migratory path from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN. There are historical sites covering 10,000 years of history, B&B’s, trees, bike camping and cutesy towns all along the route.

Because the parkway is extremely safe, and cars only drive  50 mph for its entire length, it is considered to be a great route for families seeking to do a bike tour with kids. The route is also relatively flat and smooth, so riders encumbered with passengers, camping gear and other cargo won’t have to kill themselves to have a good time.

For more information, please see the Natchez Trace website.

Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes (ID, WY)
Spanning 171 miles between Mullen, WY and Plummer, ID, in the northern Idaho panhandle, the Coeur d’Alenes trails offer paved and gravel trails for cyclists of all abilities, following old railroad lines.

For more information, please see the Friends of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes website.

Yellowstone National Park (Fall and Spring Biking Seasons) (ID, MT, WY)
In the seasons between when the snow begins to fall, or before it has completely melted and the summer tourist season, there are a few weeks a year when the roads in Yellowstone are open to self-propelled travelers only. Every spring and fall, cyclists enjoy this special time of year to give them private access to the mysteries of Yellowstone.

Weather can be inclement, so please plan carefully. There is camping available at Mammoth Hot Springs.

For more information, please go to the Yellowstone National Park Website.

Guest Post: The Joys of 19th Century Camping

This is the first in a series of guest blog posts by Yuba riders and friends. This first ink slinger is Dr. R. Carter McRee, PhD. He is currently traveling through the South Eastern part of the US with a Mundo and a Boda Boda, and is sharing his reflections with us.

Camping gets tough when going from your car to your campsite requires more effort than an easy stroll. Carrying all your gear down a path to your final destination requires lots of energy and with each step you begin to think the RV crowd has it made. At that moment I recall Edward Abbey’s words,” The longest journey begins with a single step, not with the turn of an ignition key.” Today’s modern RV camper brings suburbia into the woods and the allure of wilderness is diluted by their 21st century technology. The bicycle, a 19th century invention, can bring that allure back without all the drudgery of a long hike.

Ft. Yargo State Park

I recently rode my Boda Boda into rustic tent sites at state parks in Georgia and South Carolina and was able to experience wilderness thrills in the midst of RVs. The campgrounds had plenty of empty tent sites and my bike let me take all the comforts of home along for the ride. Driving past a wide variety of RVs to the designated parking areas I marveled at their size, most of them with bikes parked nearby. My Toyota Yaris uses less than a tenth of the gas these behemoths burn and I slept very comfortably every night. A cushy pad, warm sleeping bag and spacious tent reliably let me get a good night’s sleep.

My first campsite was at Ft. Yargo State Park in scenic Winder, GA. It was strategically located midway between Athens and Atlanta and a day’s drive down I-85 from my starting point in South Hill, VA. I had no idea how beautiful the lakeside site would be when I found it on Google. Arriving around 4 PM I knew that I needed to quickly get the tent up before darkness fell. Bungee the tent, sleeping bag and pad on the bike’s rack and in less than 5 minutes I had ridden to my destination. Granted, the trail wasn’t very long but it would have taken several trips on foot to get my home for the night to the campsite.

By the time it got dark everything was set up and I was off to get provisions. Not being familiar with the area I headed back the way I came to a grocery store and somewhere I could get a six-pack of beer. Securing my heavy cooler to the back and with a mess kit in the panniers I rode back down the trail to my new home. In a few minutes the Coleman stove was cooking a hot meal, I was sipping cold beer while I stared up at the heavens, and all the miles I drove to get there slowly melted away. In the morning the mists were still rising off the lake when I first awoke so I rolled over to get in one more sleep cycle before I started my day. The wilderness was beginning to creep into my bones.

That day was spent in Athens, the next one in Atlanta, a weekend in Savannah, up the coast to Charleston and my final campsite was at Huntington Beach State Park just south of Myrtle Beach, SC. I only spent one night indoors and it was the worst night of my road trip. Between the overwhelming stench of air freshener and thin walls that did nothing to squelch my neighbor’s TV set I longed for my tent. When I got to my final destination I knew it was going to be special because the guy manning the gate couldn’t stop raving about the park. He had recently moved down from NY just so he could work there and enjoy all the wildlife.

They have a half dozen rustic tent sites arranged along a short trail and I chose the one furthest from the road because I knew my Boda Boda wouldn’t let me down. By now I was getting pretty good at securing all my stuff to the bike and I managed to get by with just three trips down the trail. I saw animal scat on the trails surrounding the site so I knew the guy at the gate was serious about all the wildlife. As dark fell I heard rustling in the bushes and saw my too friendly neighbors, the raccoons. They came to dinner every night and were obviously accustomed to getting fed. I cooked Italian sausages with peppers and onions and I was eating one when a raccoon popped his head around my Coleman stove to see if he could sneak a bite. Chasing them off was fruitless and they moved on once I finished eating dinner.

Raccoons live here and they expect an invitation to dinner.

Once again, my Boda Boda was indispensable when it came to disposing of my food waste. I knew the ‘coons would get into it if it was anywhere nearby so I rode over to the visitor’s center and threw it away in their trashcan. My nosy neighbors came back when I returned to build a fire but without any food around they quickly left. I guess they expected s’mores for dessert. The next day a ranger told me they have been known to steal food from stoves and grills while it is still cooking! Staring into the fire in the woods that night while wild animals coveted my food I felt the allure of wilderness. My Boda Boda gave me that allure without all the tedium of slogging along a trail.