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 driveĀ  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.