Introducing the Eastern Divide Trail Bikepacking Route
We’re excited to unveil the plans for and status of the 5,000+ mile Eastern Divide Trail. The route will start in Newfoundland, Canada, and end in Key West, Florida, connecting the grand vistas, verdant ecosystems, and cultural waypoints of the eastern mountains via eight carefully designed segments that can be ridden sequentially or independently. Learn more about this epic project and how to get involved here…
Back in 2015, the Eastern Divide Trail (EDT) was conceived to link the two great Eastern Continental Divides and create a bikepacking-specific route akin to the legendary long-distance hiking trail in the same region, the Appalachian Trail (AT). Similar to the AT, the EDT will connect the scenic eastern mountains and their seemingly infinite ecosystems via the historical and cultural landmarks, natural wonders, and beautiful backcountry that thread through some of the oldest mountains in the world. What this region lacks in oxygen-deprived, high-altitude passes, it makes up for with boundless folded mountain vistas, bristling clear streams, lush forested vegetation, ever-changing ecosystems, and layers of history. Indeed, traversing these landscapes can provide an experience that rivals the one many bikepackers seek out on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.
About the Route
Once complete, the roughly 5,500-mile Eastern Divide Trail will be the longest contiguous off-road-centric bikepacking route in the United States. The route will run from Cape Spear, Newfoundland, the easternmost point in North America, to Key West, Florida, the end of the road going south in the United States. The EDT will follow as much of the St. Lawrence and Eastern Continental Divides as possible, without compromising our focus on quality off-pavement riding and connecting the most incredible sights, landmarks, and landscapes in the eastern mountains. The route will ultimately wind its way through dozens of national and state forests, numerous ecozones, and countless places of Indigenous, geographical, and historical significance.
Our goal is for the Eastern Divide Trail to feature as much off-pavement, mixed-terrain riding as possible. Using the best of several established routes and a wealth of new ones, this mix will include gravel, dirt roads, and mellow singletrack with the aim of providing a similar riding experience, level of difficulty, and surface variation as the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. That said, this is a bit more challenging on the East Coast, so when off-road isn’t possible—or simply isn’t logical—the route will take bike-specific paved paths, greenways, and quiet back roads. Like our other signature routes, the keystone will be creating an interesting rhythm of surfaces and challenges.
The Eastern Divide Trail is made up of eight carefully designed segments that can be ridden sequentially or independently. Each segment starts and stops at a significant town or city where lodging, transport, and other such amenities are accessible. This provides bikepackers with the option to set out on a single ambitious adventure or take in the route over a lifetime by riding each segment individually. Additionally, we are also working on several network alternates that will provide opportunities for loops.
The route segments will be published here on BIKEPACKING.com as individual guides. Each will provide maps, logistical information, and highlights that riders might experience along the route segment, as well as in-depth historical, cultural, geographical, and ecological information to create an informative and educational resource. And, of course, we will also provide plenty of great photography and visuals to inspire people to get out and experience this unique adventure.
Who We Are
Originally conceived by Brett Davidson, the Eastern Divide Trail has been slowly percolating for more than six years with more people chipping in than we can list here. Over the last three years, efforts to plan, scout, and finalize the project have ramped up, with a team of individuals at the helm who are deeply enmeshed in the East Coast bikepacking scene. The Eastern Divide Trail board consists of five Route Directors (below) with the direct oversight of each segment managed by two or three Route Stewards. There are loads of folks who have been involved, and many to thank. We’re in the process of appointing local Route Stewards to represent each of the eight segments of the route. Stay tuned as we publish more details.
So far, the Eastern Divide Trail has mostly been a passion project. To bolster the effort in 2020, BIKEPACKING.com adopted the route among our Collective Routes—a member-funded project set up to develop, cultivate, and promote a collection of quality bikepacking routes around the world. After putting in thousands of hours planning, scouting, and designing, as well as committing a portion of funds from our members into the project, there are still a lot of loose ends that need to be completed. In short, the planning stage of the route is about 80% complete, with over 5,000 miles scouted. But, before we begin publishing route segment guides in the fall of 2021, we’ll be enlisting Route Scouts to ride parts of the route, make suggestions, try out additional options, and provide feedback, information, and resources to help complete these guides. We expect to have most of the guides wrapped in 2021-2022 and the full project finalized in 2022-23. Here is a rough outline based on our more detailed internal schedule:
- Spring/Summer 2021: Engage local Route Scouts and finalize Route Stewards
- Fall 2021: Publish guides for segments 4-6
- Winter/Spring 2021/22: Publish guides for segments 7 and 8
- Spring 2022: Finalize segments 1-3
- Summer 2022: Publish guides for segments 1-3
- Fall 2022-Summer 2023: Modifications, advocacy, and route refinement
- July 2023: Potential group grand depart
GET INVOLVED (& Get a Bandana!)
There is still plenty of work to be done. We are looking for financial support from our readers, the bikepacking community, and the bike industry at large to help finalize this massive project. In addition, we’re seeking Route Scouts and Stewards to help with scouting efforts, provide local knowledge from up and down the Eastern Seaboard, and tend and refine each segment. Read on for details.
Support The Eastern Divide Trail
We need your help to go the last mile. There is still a lot of writing, documentation, photography, and videography to be done. To close the gap, we’re offering a limited run of Eastern Divide Trail bandanas as a premium for donations. After printing, shipping, and handling expenses, all proceeds will go directly to pay for photography, writing, scouting, and video creation to help complete the route. Select the amount of your donation and submit the form below, and you’ll get the bandana shown above and a pair of stickers in the mail as a small token of gratitude. Thanks for all who contributed. The donation form is now closed and we’ll be shipping out the bandanas on Thursday, July 1.
Route Scouts (and Stewards) Wanted
We are currently collecting contact info for potential Route Scouts to help provide feedback, waypoints, photography, and valuable insight on several segments of the Eastern Divide Trail. We already have quite a few in the database from previous articles, so this is the last call to volunteer your local expertise on the route this summer and throughout the next year.
There are a lot of moving parts here, but if you have any questions or comments about the Eastern Divide Trail, please join the conversation below and we’ll try and reply as best we can.
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