2023 Bikepacking Awards: People and Routes

Wrapping up our 2023 Bikepacking Awards, we recognize the individuals who have inspired us with their remarkable achievements and incredible journeys, the most captivating bikepacking routes featured this year, and new events that helped nurture the community. Explore our selection of individuals, routes, and events here…

In the first two installments of our 2023 Bikepacking Awards, we showcased our top selections for Gear of The Year and the Best Bikepacking Videos, Photography, Writing, and Art. Our final awards segment is dedicated to celebrating individuals who have enriched our community through compelling storytelling, incredible achievements, unwavering dedication to bikepacking, or leveraging bicycle adventures to support significant causes. Additionally, we express our gratitude to our community of route makers by acknowledging their creations, from brief overnight escapes to extensive multi-week odysseys. We appreciate the continued growth of this invaluable resource, and none of it would be possible without our vibrant and talented community of contributors.

Note: Regarding the route selection process, we initiated the nominations with a call for submissions, including all 55 of the new routes we published this year. Subsequently, 10 team members and regular contributors anonymously cast votes, with the results determined by a direct tally based on criteria such as originality/intent, documentation quality, and personal ride preferences. Furthermore, we sought input from the Bikepacking Collective, our community of members. Without further delay, let’s proceed to the remaining awards.

Inspiring Bikepackers of The Year

Our award for Inspiring Bikepackers of the Year highlights a handful of individuals who inspired us with outstanding efforts and positively represented the bikepacking community in 2023.

Katya Rakhmatulina, 2023 Tour Divide Women

Katya Rakhmatulina

This may have been one of the easiest years to decide who to mention first in our Inspiring Bikepackers of the Year list. Katya Rakhmatulina had an incredible year of bikepacking race achievements that blew all of our minds. We watched in amazement over the summer as Katya took home a second-place finish in the women’s category at this year’s Tour Divide (17d:08h:48m) and then a first-place win at the 2023 Colorado Trail Race (5d:01h:53m), besting the previous women’s record by a full day. Then, in late October, Katya was the second rider to cross the finish line in the 2023 Arizona Trail Race (9d:19h:52m), surpassing the previous women’s record by more than a day. If those three amazing rides weren’t enough, Katya was the first rider to accomplish the Triple Crown Challenge this year, an incredible feat awarded to riders who complete the Tour Divide, the Colorado Trail, and the full Arizona Trail Race in a single season, taking part in each of the three event grand departs. Not only that, but Katya set a new women’s Triple Crown Challenge record by polishing off all three races with in total time of 32 days, 6 hours, and 33 minutes (32d:06h:33m). To say it was a spectacular season to follow is an understatement. Congratulations Katya!

Alexandera Houchin Triple Crown Womens Singlespeed Record, 2023 AZT800

Triple Crown Finishers

Prior to this year, an accumulation of 13 riders had completed the Triple Crown Challenge in around 10 years. Including Katya’s completion, there were six Triple Crown Challengers this year, the most in any single year. Congrats to Katya, Indiana Schulz (34d:12h:55m), Alexandera Houchin (34d:22h:33m – Women’s singlespeed record), Hannah Simon (36d:06h:04m), Kristen Tonsager (40d:09h:21m), and Josh Tucker (46d:00h:41m – singlespeed)! It was truly an inspiring year for dot watchers to follow these three races and all of these committed athletes.

Cycling Alaska to Mexico, Greg McCahon

Greg and Victoria

Throughout a year on the road with nearly 6,500 miles under their tires, Greg McCahon and Ana Victoria Cedillo pedaled their way from the remote northern wilds of Alaska to the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Along the way, the two have inspired the masses with 14 long-form video episodes documenting their ride, as well as a few extras, an amazing collection of photos, and an article printed in the ninth issue of The Bikepacking Journal. We can’t wait to see what they get up to in the second half of their journey to Argentina. Find all the videos in the archive here.

Best New Routes (9+ days)

This category honors worldwide bikepacking odysseys – experiences we’re sure you’ll never forget. Find our three picks below, ordered based on our votes.

The Pictish Trail

The Pictish Trail

By Huw Oliver and Annie Le. The 750-kilometer Pictish Trail is an outstanding new bikepacking route in the east of Scotland that connects the mainland’s most northerly point to Edinburgh. Traversing wild north coast to the southern Cairngorms, this mixed-terrain route offers diverse landscapes and incredible scenery that have us all chomping at the bit to visit Scotland and adds another compelling option in this magnificent bikepacking haven. View full route guide here.

Next Top Picks

Red Centre Bikepacking Route, Australia

Red Centre

By Mick Turnbull. Central Australia is sparsely populated, rich in culture and history, and makes an outstanding region to explore by bike. The 1,027-kilometer Red Centre route consists of two loops from Alice Springs/Mparntwe, winding through desert plains, weathered mountain ranges, rocky gorges, and Aboriginal cultural sites. View full route guide here.

munda biddi trail, bikepacking australia

Munda Biddi Trail

By Miles Arbour. Stretching over 1,000 kilometers from Mundaring to Albany in Australia’s South West, the Munda Biddi Trail is a unique off-road bikepacking route incorporating fire roads, doubletrack, and singletrack. The linear trail links purpose-built shelters, small towns, and points of interest for an unforgettable experience. This isn’t a new route, but we were happy to publish it on the site this year with the help of the Munda Biddi Trail Association. View full route guide here.

Best New Routes (Weeklong)

The Best New Routes (Weeklong) awards are dedicated to 5-8 day bikepacking routes that can be slotted into a typical vacation to work with busy schedules. After all, it’s amazing how many rich and rewarding experiences can be packed into a short riding holiday.

Sage and Saddles, Gunnison Bikepacking Route

Sage and Saddles

By Neil Beltchenko. Sage and Saddles is a week-long bikepacking route through the varied landscapes of Gunnison County, Colorado. Beginning in Gunnison, the 222-mile route forms a loop, crossing the high desert to the south before entering the Sawatch Mountains. We were super excited to unveil this one to the world this summer and equally happy to see it receive the votes to make this list. View full route guide here.

Next Top Picks

Lanna Kingdom Bikepacking Route, Thailand

Lanna Kingdom

By Sam Rice and Nu Chaijinda. The Lanna Kingdom is an amazing new 393-kilometer bikepacking loop in Northern Thailand. Starting and finishing in the bustling town of Chiang Mai, it leads riders through a tropical masterpiece of dusty dirt roads, vibrant forest trails, banana plantations, and elephant grazing grounds, offering a delightful journey through the “land of smiles.” We’re excited to see this route network grow. View full route guide here.

Vuelta De Santiago de Apoala

Vuelta de Santiago de Apoala

By Cass Gilbert. The Vuelta de Santiago Apoala is another incredible bikepacking loop in Oaxaca that follows a 19th Century railway line, visits a stunning waterfall, and explores classic mountain terrain. It serves as a connector from Oaxaca de Juárez to Santiago Apoala, offering a weeklong journey across rugged, varied, and challenging terrain. View full route guide here.

Bosnian Highline, Bosnia Bikepacking Route

Bosnian Highline

By Michael O’Dwyer. The Bosnian Highline is a 400-kilometer bikepacking route through a remote corner of Europe, offering rewarding riding through deep woods, rugged mountaintops, and welcoming communities. Twisty tracks, potential encounters with wolves, and remnants of war add up to make this an engaging experience. View full route guide here.

Best New Routes (Weekend)

This category highlights weekend bikepacking routes (2-4 day rides) that are are extremely rewarding in their own small but perfectly packaged way.

Echo-Titus Circuit, Bikepacking Death Valley

Echo-Titus Circuit

By Emily Bei Cheng. The Echo-Titus Circuit showcases the geological wonders and rich history of Death Valley National Park. Climbing over 5,000 feet at its highest point and descending 200 feet below sea level at its lowest, the route traverses rugged badlands, narrow canyons, and expansive desert valleys. Although partially closed (temporarily) due to flooding, we’re all excited about this route and can’t wait to ride it. View full route guide here.

Next Top Picks

Cattle Calls and Canyon Walls

Cattle Calls and Canyon Walls

By Kyle Aldridge and Jake Bleggi . Cattle Calls and Canyon Walls is a 223-mile bikepacking route capturing the picturesque countryside of northeast Utah and southwest Wyoming. Serving up striking contrasts in terrain, from red rock canyons to open prairies grazed by wild horses, this route provides a dynamic three-to-five-day tour of an oft-overlooked slice of the American West. View full route guide here.

Woods Rat Run bikepacking route, England

Woods Rat Run

By Tom Farrell. The Woods Rat Run is a long-weekend route linking a national park, a World Heritage Coastline, and an Area of Outstanding National Beauty in South West England. Spanning approximately 160 miles primarily off-road, the route weaves together gravel roads, bridleways, and woodland singletrack, traversing the New Forest, the Isle of Purbeck, and Cranborne Chase. View full route guide here.

Best New Routes (Overnighter)

Overnight routes offer an easy and accessible way to get out, disconnect, and get a quick sense of an area’s landscapes and culture from the saddle. We’ve added nearly 150 fantastic overnighter routes to our map since we launched the Local Overnighter Project. This category was particularly difficult to narrow down!

Maestrazgo Loop bikepacking route, Spain

Maestrazgo Loop

By Ernesto Pastor. Presenting a diverse array of landscapes, the Maestrazgo Loop route connects medieval villages, immersing riders in an area that has become nearly deserted. Conceived as an overnight adventure seamlessly linking within Montañas Vacías network, the Maestrazgo Loop explores a stunning region that’s not covered by the original route. View full route guide here.

Next Top Picks

Great San Diego Triathlon

Great San Diego Triathlon

By Evan Christenson. The Great San Diego Triathlon offers a quick and immensely enjoyable point-to-point bikepacking route from the peak of Mount Laguna in southern California to the beach on a mix of backcountry singletrack, jeep trails, and gravel roads. The ride includes stops at Three Sisters and Cedar Creek waterfalls, inviting off-bike hikes to two iconic San Diego swimming spots. While the route is mostly downhill, it remains deceptively challenging, providing a surprisingly tough yet fulfilling experience over a couple of days on the bike. View full route guide here.

Secret Mesa Loop, San Rafael Swell, Utah

Secret Mesa Loop

By Seth Kruckenberg and Nancy Ramer. The Secret Mesa Loop was crafted to provide a fresh perspective on the San Rafael Swell’s beauty. Situated on the northwestern side of the Swell in central Utah, this loop reveals a diverse landscape with rocky doubletracks at the base of towering bluffs and sandy desert washes winding through canyons, showcasing uplifted sedimentary layers awash in vibrant colors. View full route guide here.

Tour de Zielona bikepacking overnighter, Poland

Tour de Zielona

By Wojtek Waloch. At nearly 100 kilometers, starting and finishing in the route creator’s home town, the Tour de Zielona encapsulates what the Local Overnighter Project is all about—routes that are close to home, simple, and provide a beautiful escape from the day to day. Tour de Zielona starts and ends in the city of Zielona Góra, Poland, and passes through stunning natural areas and small towns with a break for swimming in a lake. View full route guide here.

Collective Choice

Collective Choice Route of the Year

While many of our favorite routes come in the form of a simple overnight trip, there’s something special about a route designed for multiple nights out. With that, we curated a list of our favorite multi-night routes from 2023 and asked members of the Bikepacking Collective to vote on their favorite. Here are the three clear winners based on votes.

Iceland Fjallabak Track Bikepacking Route

Iceland Fjallabak Track

By Emily Bei Cheng. Experience numerous water crossings and immerse yourself in Iceland’s rugged beauty with the Iceland Fjallabak Track. Passing through moss-draped peaks, volcanic plains, rhyolite mountains, and distant hot springs, this route offers an otherworldly tour of the Icelandic Highlands with just the right amount of support in the form of mountain huts. View full route guide here.

Next Top Picks

Sage and Saddles bikepacking route, Gunnison Colorado

Sage and Saddles

By Neil Beltchenko. We were thrilled to see the folks jumping into the Sage and Saddles loop shortly after it launched and were equally as excited to hear that the Bikepacking Collective was stoked about it. Thanks to all who voted! View full route guide here.

Idaho Panhandle Ramble Bikepacking Route

Idaho Panhandle Ramble

By Eric Deady. The Idaho Panhandle Ramble (PanRam) showcases the special qualities of North Idaho, featuring friendly small towns, majestic high mountains, timeless forests, rich culture, and history. This 320-mile loop begins and ends in Coeur d’Alene, traversing the Coeur d’Alene National Forest, the St. Joe National Forest, and Coeur d’Alene tribal lands. View full route guide here.

Collective Choice Overnighter of 2023

We asked the Collective to select their favorite overnighter route from the dozens that were published this year. Here are the three that received the most votes.

Highlands Traverse Overnighter

Highlands Traverse Overnighter

by Sean Wiggins. The Highlands Traverse Overnighter in southwestern Virginia boasts big views, wild ponies, and chunky descents. The route starts with a peaceful climb up the Virginia Creeper Trail before entering Grayson Highlands State Park. Here, riders climb up to the Virginia Highlands for some of the highest legal mountain biking on the East Coast, complete with rolling vistas and a handful of picturesque camping options. View full route guide here.

Next Top Picks

Pennsylvania Grand Canyon Loop, bikepacking Pine Creek Rail Trail PCRT

Pennsylvania Grand Canyon Loop

By Francesca Lorandi. Nestled within the Allegheny Plateau, Pine Creek Gorge stands as a testament to natural forces, carved over millennia by Pine Creek’s relentless flow. Spanning the landscape that rightfully earned the moniker “The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania,” the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon Loop offers a beginner-friendly 2-3 day bikepacking route that navigates the area using the Pine Creek Rail Trail and a mix of gravel and backroads. View full route guide here.

Gunni Grinder Bikepacking Route

Gunnison Grinder

Contributed by Neil Beltchenko. The 119-mile Gunni Grinder is a beautiful gravel bikepacking route highlighting Central Colorado’s vast and varied landscapes via a short 2-3 day ride. It takes riders through rolling hills and mountain passes that abound with wildlife, desert flora, and high alpine forests via well-maintained gravel roads and less-traveled doubletrack. We’re excited to have another route from our Gunnison Bikepacking Route Network in this list. View full route guide here.

Best New Event

Our last category honors three new events, all of which had their inaugural running in 2023. Further, each serves to grow and foster the bikepacking community at large.

HotSalad MADE 2023


In the wake of Covid-19 and the demise of several institutional bicycle trade shows (Interbike and NAHBS, to name two), we were excited to hear about a new event celebrating handmade bicycles and oft-overlooked styles of cycling. The MADE Bike Show in Portland didn’t disappoint, and the excellent coverage and photography from our own Miles Arbour made us wish we all could have made the trek out there. We can’t wait for the 2024 show! Find all the coverage here.

Next Top Picks

2023 Hellenic Mountain Race, Adrien Liechti

Hellenic Mountain Race

Created by the folks behind the Silk Road Mountain Race and the Atlas Mountain Race, the all-new Hellenic Mountain Race rounds out a triumvirate within this far-flung race series. The race route follows a 940-kilometer track through the rugged mountains of Greece, and judging from the reports, it looks as challenging as the other two. Find Conan Thai’s recap from the inaugural event here.

2023 ascend Armenia

Ascend Armenia

Inspired by his parents who live in Armenia, Stephen Fitzgerald was committed to creating an event in this breathtaking country that’s 85% covered by mountains. Two years after first visiting, and admittedly being humbled by the country’s terrain, the first annual Ascend Armenia took place. This new self-supported ultra-distance bikepacking race follows a 1,100-kilometer route across a challenging mix of terrain. We know from first-hand experience that Armenia has incredible bikepacking potential and were excited to see this event unfold. Find the backstory here.

If you missed them, make sure to check out parts one and two of our 2023 Bikepacking Awards, 2023 Gear of The Year and Best Bikepacking Videos, Photography, Writing, and Art.

Do you enjoy our in-depth reviews, route guides, and stories? We’re a small, independent publication dedicated to keeping our content free for everyone, but we need your support. To keep articles like this one coming (and not behind a firewall), please consider becoming a member of our Bikepacking Collective. By joining, you’ll receive The Bikepacking Journal in the mail twice a year, industry discounts, and many other great benefits. Learn more here.

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