Editors’ Picks: Our Favorite Bikepacking Routes
Our friends over at Ride With GPS recently asked us to compile a list of our favorite bikepacking routes, and to tackle this tough question, we invited each of our editors to select their top three “must ride” bikepacking routes from around the world. Here’s the full list and a map featuring the complete route collection…
When our Bikepacking Collective members receive the sixth issue of The Bikepacking Journal shortly, they’ll likely notice the two-page spread from RideWithGPS featuring our editors’ Must Ride bikepacking routes. To complement this in digital form, we thought we’d share that collection of routes here and let our team say a few words about their picks.
Needless to say, picking just a few each was an incredibly difficult exercise. Every bikepacking route holds the potential to tell riders a profound and life-altering story, and it’s sometimes tricky to separate our traveling experiences from the route as a whole. So, in choosing these routes, we tried to process our selections based on our own interpretation of what makes a great bikepacking route. Check out the collection below, then scroll down for a list of the routes with our thoughts. Note that there are a few extras in the mapped collection as we all tossed in a surprise “want to ride” route as well.
I’ve ridden the Peru Divide twice. Northbound and southbound. In the rainy season and the dry season. This remarkable route, put together by Neil and Harriet Pike, is a showcase for Peru’s rugged, mineral-laced Cordillera Central – and I don’t think I’d ever tire of it! It’s now a definitive highlight for those riding the length of the Americas on dirt roads, be it with bikepacking setups or more traditional touring bikes. Find the full route guide here.
Far removed from the world of purpose-built trails, the Lake District offers some of the best ‘old school’ mountain biking in the UK. Expect to haul your bike over passes and pick your way back down the other side, all set to that quintessential Lake District backdrop. Despite the regular pub pit stops, this classic loop is a hard graft – but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Find the full route guide here.
There are few ranges in Europe as dramatic as Italy’s Dolomites – and this route offers a fantastic overview of the region. It packs in vistas around every corner, along with delicious regional fare, excellent espressos, and the opportunity to overnight in historic mountain refugios. The riding is a heady mix of forest tracks, coarse dirt roads, and flowy trails, with a little something for everyone! Find the full route guide here.
This route is rugged and challenging, but, far more importantly than that, it visits parts of Cuba that reveal the incredible place it is. From farms to tiny hill villages to beaches, these tracks create the possibility of conversation and openness. Pride and history and complexity are always close and powerful. Find the full route guide here.
Slovenia West Route
Slovenia has beauty, friendliness, and steep, remote dirt roads to rival anywhere in Europe. It is mountain peaks, jade running rivers, and cafes. The enthusiasm for cycling is palpable, and I’ve returned again and again for the riding but also the culture and warm kindness. Find the full route guide here.
Tian Shan Traverse
Though it is now well-known as the course for the first editions of the Silk Road Mountain Race, I created this route in 2016 for a small group to move through a soaring landscape with history and geography and majesty at every turn. I still see these horizons in dreams. Find the full route guide here.
Although COVID-19 threw a wrench into getting this route open to riders, the stars aligned when we created it, making it quite special. Gaining bike access to Chingaza National Park through Conservation International Colombia, connecting remote communities that were previously sheltered to tourism, and having the support from a passionate and incredibly knowledgable group of local cyclists were certainly three of the most amazing aspects. The wonderful riding, scenery, and conservation storytelling potential of this route are just icing on the cake. Find the full route guide here.
Green Mountain Gravel Growler
During my first trip to Vermont back in 2013, I was blown away by the craft beer tourism scene. We discovered a wealth of excellent small batch breweries, some of which were in the middle of nowhere. When I spoke with Joe about it several years later, he reminded me that Vermont has the highest percentage of unpaved roads in the United States. The Gravel Growler was born. We scouted it in peak leaf color season and it is still to this day one of my top multi-day rides. The mix of trails and gravel is perfect and the beer is amazing. I highly recommend riding this route. Find the full route guide here.
Caucasus Crossing (Armenia)
After riding in the Republic of Georgia’s High Caucasus, we weren’t quite sure what to expect in Armenia’s Lesser Caucasus. However, we were immediately blown away by the kindness of the Armenians, the breathtaking beauty of the mountains, and the wonderfully rugged dirt riding that it had to offer. It was heartbreaking watching Armenia amidst a war with its neighbor this past winter, but things have stabilized and I hope folks can go ride this incredible but challenging route soon. Find the full route guide here.
Although I’ve only pedaled sections of the Colorado Trail, I spent a month hiking the whole 500-plus-mile trail about a decade ago, and to see it from the saddle is to experience an intense distillation of the Rocky Mountain State at its finest. The diversity of landscapes, colorful explosions of spring wildflowers and fall foliage, and wealth of pristine alpine singletrack all make it an iconic bikepacking route for anyone seeking a ride that’s equal parts challenging and rewarding. Find the full route guide here.
Tian Shan Traverse
As much as I hate to have a repeat in this list, especially given the wealth of routes here on the site, the Tian Shan Traverse is really that good. It’s a masterpiece of unexpected tracks and trails that connect remote valleys with views of the Heavenly Mountains and plenty of opportunities for interactions with the friendly Kyrgyz people whose yurts dot the landscape during the summer months. This route is a must for any Central Asian bikepacking tour. Find the full route guide here.
Sky Islands Odyssey
Simply soaking in the uniquely beautiful light in the Sonoran Desert is reason enough to pay a visit to southern Arizona in winter, and a chance to spend any amount of time riding along the Sky Islands Odyssey route more than merits a trip to the region. Delivering sweeping vistas around nearly every corner and putting you directly in contact with the region’s mind-blowing biodiversity, this route is something truly extraordinary. Find the full route guide here.
Best of the South Chilcotins
The Best of the South Chilcotins route is as challenging as it is beautiful, a perfect blend of jaw-dropping views and captivating trails that never seem to let up. Expect high alpine meadows, snowcapped peaks, backcountry singletrack, and a truly unique experience that will spark a craving that one trip likely won’t satisfy. I can’t wait to go back! Find the full route guide here.
The Vapor Trail was my first real taste of high-altitude Colorado singletrack and has had me longing for a return trip. The mix of railroad history, technical trails, and massive views make for an impressive loop. The town of Salida, where the route starts and ends, is the perfect place to hang out for a few days before or after the route—home to Oveja Negra, an impressive local trail system, and access to several other must-ride routes. Find the full route guide here.
The Fool’s Loop will always have a special place in my heart. After some research and planning, I flew to Phoenix sight unseen to tackle what I thought would be a straightforward gravel loop. It wasn’t. The route surprises with lots of chunky gravel, exposed desert trails, and a run down the infamous Black Canyon Trail—packing in a lot of excitement in 277 miles. It’s the perfect loop for anyone who appreciates a good challenge. Find the full route guide here.
Highland trail 550
Although my feet were prunes by the time I arrived back in Tyndrum, the beauty, lovely people and remote nature of the Highland Trail 550, make for one stunning bikepacking route. The HT550 as a whole is made up of three smaller loops and each loop presented its own challenges and experiences, between swamps, to world-class singletrack, and truly everything in between. Scotland offers a beauty unlike any place I have experienced. Its expansive and open valleys and mountains showcase picturesque views in every direction. But in the end, what truly makes this route special is backpackers, the store clerks, the property owners, and the bikepacking culture in the area. This is one route that I desperately want to do again. Find the full route guide here.
Stone House Lands Loop
The Stone House loop is a vast 200-mile loop that links two-track and gravel roads through the Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef, and Goblin Valley. Its unique landscape of canyons and rock formations makes this route one of a kind. The draw to ride in this region is its limited resources; while Fruita and Moab are incredible cycling destinations, the San Rafael Swell offers a completely remote experience, there are no services and water is very hard to come by. Because of that, there are stretches where you won’t see a soul, yet there is a sense of spirituality while treading on this sacred Indigenous land. Find the full route guide here. Photo from Eszter’s recent ride report.
Maybe because this was my first Southern bikepacking experience, but pedaling my bike through the steep hills of North Georgia and Southern Tennessee was nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Living out west, I thought I knew what steep hills were, but I was wrong. The 290-mile figure-eight loop is truly a mixed terrain route that features rugged singletrack, steep paved country roads, and everything in between. Maybe the best part of this route is the start and finish at Mulberry Gap Mountain Bike Getaway, an unforgettable experience tucked away in the Southern Appalachians. Find the full route guide here.
Uganda is a relatively small country (approximately the size of England or the state of Oregon), but its diversity is astounding and its splendor undeniable. This route isn’t for everyone, but for those who appreciate a challenge and have a healthy sense of humility, it follows an incredible mix of dirt roads and paths with opportunities to see amazing wildlife and to experience the warmth of the Ugandan people. Find the full route guide here.
The Altravesur crosses southern Spain from the western Andalusian coastal town of Cadiz to the country’s third largest city, Valencia. It uses a mix of singletrack, brambly footpaths, and impeccable gravel with plenty of long climbs and some technical bits thrown into the mix. The sublime scenery, including Middle-Aged castles, the quaint villages, and the lure of tapas and vino de verano are irresistible. Find the full route guide here.
Gila River Ramble (Arizona)
This choice is bittersweet, as the currently uncontained Telegraph fire* has ravaged the area through which the route travels. The Ramble is truly spectacular. With limited water, a tenuous river crossing, and an extended hike-a-bike, it offers plenty of challenges. Fortunately, those efforts are rewarded with an amazing ribbon of singletrack through the most beautiful saguaro forests, jaw-droppingly beautiful vistas of the surrounding Superstition Mountains, magical sunsets, and magnificent starlit skies. Find the full route guide here.
*We’ll hope for the best. Please let this disaster serve as a reminder for all of us to always practice extreme diligence when it comes to campfire management and always comply with any burn bans that are in effect.
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