You can find extensive details about the route, highlights, and logistical information within each segment guide. However, here are a few FAQs about the EDT in its entirety, the project, and ongoing plans.
What is the Eastern Divide Trail?
Inspired by the Appalachian Trail, the mission of the Eastern Divide Trail is to connect the two great Eastern Continental Divides and create a long-distance bikepacking route linking many of the well-preserved and beautiful mountains, vistas, forests, and rivers on the East Coast. The route is composed of eight segments connected via a network of gravel byways, dirt roads, rail trails, and singletrack using established and newly designed routes. Here are the five governing principles behind the EDT:
- Quality off-road riding: The EDT was designed with an orchestrated mix of dirt roads, gravel, non-technical to intermediate singletrack, rail trails, and quiet backroads;
- Wild and scenic places: Our vision for the EDT was to link the best of the Appalachian Mountains and other ranges, rivers, and forests that define the Eastern Continental Divide landscapes. These include scenic vistas, waterfalls, and other places of natural significance and beauty throughout the route;
- Public lands with access to camping: The EDT stays close to or within national forests, state parks, and other preserved wildlands where possible to provide camping options and an excellent off-pavement, backcountry experience;
- Trail towns: Similar to the Appalachian Trail, the EDT is designed to link a series of charming and colorful small towns that may ultimately benefit from trail users and provide infrastructure for lodging, transportation, food, and entertainment;
- Places of historical significance: Last but not least, the EDT connects many places of Indigenous, natural, and historical significance, and we aim to document and integrate these stories into the route guides.
What types of roads and trails are on the EDT?
The goal of the EDT was to provide a similar riding experience, level of difficulty, and surface variation as the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. However, the East Coast is unique from a bikepacking perspective. We’ve been riding and creating routes in the Appalachians and the surrounding foothills for the last decade, and in our experience, routes on the East Coast have their own style. The best of them use a well-orchestrated variety of surfaces and terrain, which keeps it interesting. Embracing that is a defining principle of the EDT.
Think about it this way: Constant gravel can be boring, too much difficult singletrack can be draining, an overload of rail trails is monotonous, and never-ending pavement is frustrating. The EDT was designed to have a well-executed rhythm. Tracks include smooth and chunky gravel roads, dirt doubletrack, mellow-to-intermediate singletrack, sand roads (as you get into Florida), and the occasional challenging snippet or hike-a-bike that’s necessary to connect the route-defining quality of scenery and landscapes. After all, the best kind of hiking is with your bike. Also, understand that when off-road tracks aren’t possible—or simply aren’t logical—the route utilizes bike-specific paved paths, greenways, and quiet back roads.
What kind of bike should I bring?
The Eastern Divide Trail is a long route that takes in a variety of surfaces that change regionally. Frankly, deciding on the best type of bike to tackle all of it is tricky. The EDT is not intended to be a mountain bike or gravel bike route. Rather, it’s something in between. Think of it as an ATB (All Terrain Bicycle) route. Like any good East Coast bikepacking route, at times you’ll wish you had less bike, and at other times you’ll want more. In the end, it’s best suited for a rigid 29er or a drop-bar adventure rig. Bikes like the Salsa Cutthroat, the Tumbleweed Stargazer, and Surly Bridge Club come to mind.
How long will it take?
To answer that question, it’s best to consult each route guide. However, factoring in an average of 50 miles per day equates to about 78 days of riding, which is a fair assumption for an intermediate bikepacker. That said, everyone is different, and anyone tackling this route will likely want to take some rest days. We expect average riders to take about 100 days. And we’re betting that high-level, ultra-endurance racers might strive for a sub-30-day FKT, although that seems quite challenging.
When should I go?
Deciding when to ride the full route is also complex, given its length and difference in latitudes. Much of the decision for a through-ride will likely factor in your own pace. Considering a 100-day itinerary, starting in September would likely be ideal, allowing riders to “follow the fall” all the way south. However, that also gets into hurricane season, which has become increasingly unpredictable over the last decade. Riders might also consider a south-to-north ride starting in March, although that might put you in the north when it’s still quite cold and snowy.
What’s next for the EDT (and what’s the schedule)?
The Eastern Divide Trail is a massive project that hasn’t been without delays—including those dished out by the pandemic. However, we’re working hard to get it buttoned up to the quality you’d expect, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel. As noted under each of the segment icons, we hope to have phase one of the project complete by September 2022, launching all eight segments of the route at various times starting at the end of May.
After publishing each of the route guides, phase two will involve getting further feedback, refining these segments, and building out a long-term plan for improvements and goals. Additionally, we plan on reworking singletrack alternates to renovate the Southern Highlands Traverse, a more challenging mountain bike version through the Southern Appalachians.
Phase three will involve advocacy work for access, new trail development, and building out additional loops and connections for the EDT. We’re also planning a grand depart and other events. Stay tuned!