Enjoy Beautiful Views on These Laid-back Bike Trails

By BT Editor
July 10, 2023
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A cyclist gets out his camera while on a trail by Kvnga - Unsplash

Biking is an excellent way to get outside and explore the US—but for beginner trail riders or cyclists looking for a more casual experience, it can seem like some of the best views are out of reach. However, most of the routes on the list below offer great access to beautiful views and interesting landmarks while also being relatively flat, downhill, or paved paths. Plan a getaway to these stress-free trails for your next outdoor adventure.

Colonial Parkway (Virginia)

The Governor's Palace in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia by Mateus Campos Felipe - Unsplash

This 23-mile, cobble aggregate-paved highway connects the sites and landmarks of Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Jamestown and the Yorktown Battlefield for a pleasant ride that's also educational. If you have any interest at all in early American history, this location is a must. In the fall and summer seasons, bikers will also find very pleasant weather to enjoy on the route. On hotter days in the summer, visitors may want to schedule in some extra time to stop at any of the river-side beaches along the parkway or the longer two-mile beachfront in Yorktown. While the road itself is open to pedestrians and motor vehicles as well, the posted speed limit varies between only 35 and 45 mph and the road is wide with an extra third lane for passing.

There are also two tour roads in Yorktown: the seven-mile Battlefield Tour Road, marked by red arrows, and the nine-mile Encampment Tour Road (which typically has less traffic), marked by yellow arrows. Then, in Jamestown, the Jamestown Island Tour Loop is a one-way three/five mile scenic loop drive of the Island. These tour roads are open to pedestrians, bicycles and motor vehicles.

Stowe Recreation Path (Vermont)

Fall colors in Stowe, Vermont by Clay Kaufmann - Unsplash

The Stowe Recreation Path in Vermont is an internationally recognized greenway stretching from Stowe Village to Top Notch Resort on the Mountain Road, featuring a 5.3-mile paved trail follows the West Branch of Little River and is open year-round for bikers as well as snowshoers, cross country skiers, roller bladers, and pedestrians. Along with mountain views, it has access to restaurants, lodges and local businesses.

In 2017, bike maintenance stations were also added to the path—one at the Lintilhac Park and another at Chase Park. These stations include all the tools necessary to perform basic bike repairs and maintenance, from changing a flat to adjusting brakes and derailleurs. Hanging the bike from the hanger arms allows the pedals and wheels to spin freely while making adjustments.

Madison by Bike (Wisconsin)

Madison, Wisconsin by Josh Sorensen- Unsplash

“Madison By Bike” is a free digital passport program featuring four bike routes with suggested check-ins and stops, encouraging locals and visitors to explore the highlights of the greater Madison, Wisconsin area. Participants can earn prizes and redeem exclusive discounts at local businesses; the program also benefits Free Bikes 4 Kidz in Madison. Choose from four different trails—Capital City Trail, Cannonball Loop, Lakeshore Path and the Southwest Commuter Path. With more than 30 stops ranging from restaurants to parks to retail, “Madison By Bike” showcases the best of the Greater Madison area in an easy, mobile-friendly way.

“Biking is more than a ride in Madison — it's our culture, and it's for everyone,” said Destination Madison President and CEO Ellie Westman Chin. “'Madison By Bike' makes biking approachable for cyclists of all experience levels. Whether you're a longtime local rider or a first-time visitor, the trail connects you to the people and communities that make Dane County so special, and completing the experience makes them feel rewarded.”

American River Parkway (California)

The American River Parkway ends in Old Sacramento by Joel Durkee - Unsplash

Also known as the Jedidiah Smith Memorial Trail, this 32-mile parkway follows the American River between Folsom Lake at Beal's Point and Old Town Sacramento in northern California.

Most of the trail is level and around half is shaded by trees, but it does include some rolling terrain. For the easiest bike ride, start at the northeast end of the trail at Beal’s Point and travel downhill. The first 8.4 miles of the trail are managed by California State Parks; here, signage refers to the trail as the American River Bikeway. Beginning at Hazel Avenue, the trail is signed as the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail and is managed by Sacramento County. The two-lane trail is fully paved, with mile markers, trailside maps, water fountains, and restrooms along the way.

The trail provides picturesque views of wildlife fields, Folsom Lake, Lake Natoma, and the American River, connects with multiple other trails, passes by parks and swimming areas, and intersects with several hiking trails. Riders will also see beautiful pedestrian bridges along the route, such as the Fair Oaks Bridge, a truss bridge built in the early 1900s, and the Guy West Bridge, a suspension bridge that links the trail to the California State University, Sacramento, campus.

Route of Hiawatha (Idaho)

View from the highway near Lookout Pass at the Idaho-Montana border by John Kakuk - Unsplash

This scenic mountain trail in Idaho is 15 miles long with 10 train tunnels (nine that you ride your bike through) and 7 sky-high trestles. It begins with the St. Paul Pass Tunnel, or Taft Tunnel, following the crest of the Bitterroot Mountains. Don't worry, though; visitors won't need to deal with any strenuous inclines as the trail is almost all downhill and features shuttle buses back to the top.

Trail passes, shuttle tickets, and mountain bike rentals with lights are available at Lookout Pass Ski Area located right alongside Interstate 90, take Exit 0, at the Idaho-Montana state line. From there, the start of the Hiawatha is a short 7 mile drive. This trail is open daily in the summer, closing in September due to the winter weather.

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Wilderness Escapes for the Solo Traveler

Solo travel has been on the rise this past decade. According to research by Kayak, searches for single-traveler flights are 36% higher for 2023 travel than for 2022 travel. Escape from the distractions of everyday life and opt for a transformative, renewing experience in the wilderness. The three great options below all offer plenty of seclusion, adventure, and incredible encounters with wildlife and nature. Embark on a Wilderness Cruise in Alaska Embark on a journey of discovery in Alaska, Vancouver Island, or Desolation Sound while reveling in the freedom of solo exploration. Small group adventures are an alluring option for solo travelers seeking to explore in the company of likeminded people, but expedition cruises often require a single supplement to pay for the high level of experience they offer. Boutique wilderness cruise company Maple Leaf Adventures has pioneered safari-like trips in Alaska and British Columbia since 1986, with small group exploration at its core. Ships carry either 8, 12 or 24 guests and when ashore, guests are usually in groups of about 12 people. Some of their upcoming expeditions this season include the Alaska Supervoyage (August 6-17 aboard Swell), Alaska Supervoyage with Canadian Geographic (July 26-Aug 6, aboard Swell), Whales & Wild Isles (July 23-31 and August 3-11, aboard Cascadia), and Desolation Sound & Fjords of BC (October 17-24, aboard Cascadia). The nature of this style of travel eliminates the barriers a solo traveler may face on larger ships; compared to bigger boats, guests do not feel overwhelmed by hordes of strangers . Guiding crew are essentially “built-in” solo travelers to share the journey with guests—their expertise and warmth are as much a part of the trip as the place, wildlife and ship. Hike to a Backcountry Hut in Colorado The sunlight breaks through clouds in Colorado's San Juan Mountains by Kody Goodson - Unsplash In the San Juan Mountains just outside of Silverton, Colorado, travelers can hike or snowshoe to a unique lodging experience. The OPUS Hut is a full-service, European-style backcountry lodge with solar-powered lighting, indoor composting toilets, in-floor solar-thermal heating, and healthy, natural food served up daily. In the summer months, one can drive to within just a quarter mile of the hut, but in the winter the road closes and it’s a 3.5 mile hike. This, cozy lodge features two wood stoves, a large dining area with seating for 20, and a small reclining area by the fire. While the hut is certainly off the beaten path, it still has plenty of little luxuries like outlets for charging devices, filtered drinking water, hot and cold tap water, as well as beer, wine and a limited selection of spirits are available from their bar. Meals are prepared with quality natural, organic and when possible, locally grown products. This summer, the hut is also trialing a new full bedding service by providing sheets, pillows, pillowcases and a duvet—which means visitors don't need to bring a sleeping bag liner or any other bedding in their packs. However, this is trial run, and may not continue in the future; be sure to double-check before your booking, or else you might be sleeping a little less comfortably. Further north in the high peaks of Leadville, those seeking a unique off-grid overnight experience can sleep sustainably at the Weston Pass Hut, set at 11,950 feet. While this hut is technically accessible by vehicle, get the full experience by hiking, skiing, or biking to this remote escape. Hikes from this high perch look out to the tops of the Sawatch and Mosquito ranges, including Colorado’s two highest peaks, showcasing Mother Earth’s splendor. The hut itself complements the surrounding natural beauty, as it was built with locally harvested and milled beams and an earth-covered, naturally insulated tundra roof. Stargaze in the Adirondacks The Milk Way galaxy rises over the Adirondacks by Kurt Von - Unsplash The Adirondacks, located within a day’s drive for 25% of the entire North American population, is home to hundreds of New York state-owned campgrounds where visitors can pitch a tent, park an RV, swim in one of the cool lakes, fish along the shore, and explore the area’s mountains, trails, and attractions. At night, campers can enjoy the region’s extreme darkness to easily admire the nighttime sky - offering billions of stars under which to sleep. The Hamilton County region, in particular, is known for its wilderness and the “big” experiences that it offers to visitors. The area’s wide-open nighttime sky provides a 180-degree view of the Milky Way, billions of stars, planets and sometimes satellites, all twinkling against an ink-black background. In fact, the Adirondack sky is a prime Eastern stargazing zone, with very little light pollution, relatively low humidity, and elevation—all important factors for viewing the stars. Hamilton County’s billion-star camping options include riverfront and lakefront sites, perfect for daytime swimming, fishing and lounging. Many offer restroom facilities, showers and easy access to local attractions. Who needs a 5-star resort when you can have a beautiful, remote, adventure-filled, billion-star hotel? This summer, last-minute camping under the stars is possible, as campsites are still available; many for less than $20 per night. It has also recently been announced by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation that two campgrounds in the region (Moffit Beach and Lewey Lake campgrounds) have extended their seasons until October 9th.


4 Great Places to Visit Before the Summer Ends

July is here, and with it comes the peak heat of summer. Soon to come are school supplies lists and ads for pumpkin spiced-everything. But don't let that fool you—there's still plenty of summer fun to be had! Below are four places to visit with fun end-of-summer activities going on, and there is something for every family and traveler. Relax in the Mountains of North Carolina Families can beat the heat at one of many swimming holes or waterfalls in the national and state parks surrounding Asheville, North Carolina. Kids of all ages love Sliding Rock – a 60-foot natural waterslide in Pisgah National Forest. When the sun goes down, Asheville Wellness Tours offers guided, full moon forest bathing walks during the summer months. Yogis shouldn't miss Love Shine Play, a three-day yoga festival with an accessible range of offerings for all. Free yoga classes are also offered weekly at Rabbit Rabbit and Carrier Park all summer. If yoga and swimming holes aren't fast-paced enough for you, the Adventure Center of Asheville's Adventure Mountain Off Road Tours is Asheville's newest, ultimate off-road driving experience. Drive or ride along on a guided tour in a four-person off-road vehicle, while taking in spectacular views of the highest mountains in the East. For another fun family-friendly event, this year on August 4th Skate Night at Carrier Park transforms the free, outdoor skating rink into a roller-skating party, complete with retro drinks and nostalgic snacks. An hour away in Tennessee's Johnson City, visitors can also attend Meet the Mountains (August 18-19). The festival is a free, family-friendly festival to experience all of the region's outdoor activities including live music, zipline, bike course, demo pool, air dog shows, yoga, rock wall and more! Dive Into the Stories of the Old West Stormy skies over the Arizona desert by Robert Murray - Unsplash The Mescal Movie Set's Summer Sunset Tours in Benson, Arizona have started with tours available on select dates through mid-August. On the tour, guests can explore the iconic set where scenes from Western classics like Tombstone and Outlaw Josey Wales were filmed. The walking tour takes about one hour and is one-quarter mile long, allowing guests to explore the set which has been used in more than 100 film productions and soak in a stunning Arizona sunset. The tour is $15 per person. Visit their website for tour availability. Love the storytelling experience, but can't make it out west? Back east in Tennessee is an equally fun experience. On July 22nd the Storytelling Festival takes place at Historic Collinsville with story activities and stations, book sale featuring books written by local authors. Visit the Apple Fair in Sonoma County A foggy day in Sebastopol, California by Dimitri Jablokov - Unsplash More than grapes grow well in Sonoma County, California. Celebrating its 50th anniversary on August 13th and 14th, the Gravenstein Apple Fair, held at Ragle Ranch Park in Sebastopol has a classic country fair appeal. Serious foodies will find plenty to do, from sampling fabulous local food, or tasting iconic craft microbrews and premium Sonoma County wines. Along with a running soundtrack of live music on two stages, the 2023 edition of the Apple Fair will offer the option to enjoy a VIP Lounge for cider and cheese pairings, specialty cocktails, and bites from local restaurants. The DIY Arena, meanwhile, showcases cheesemakers as well as Sonoma County chefs leading apple-inspired demos. Last year, the Gravenstein Apple Fair earned the first-ever Green Resolution for events by Sonoma County Zero Waste, certifying the Apple Fair is 95% zero waste. Fish, Hike, and Climb the Yakima River Canyon Naches, Washington near the Chinook Pass Ken Theimer - Unsplash With more than 300 miles of trails, 34 lakes and ponds and 6 rivers, there's never an end to the adventures one can find in the Yakima Valley of Washington state. In addition to road tripping along the Chinook Scenic Byway or White Pass for breathtaking views, visitors can participate in stand-up paddleboarding on pristine mountain lakes and winding rivers; traverse biking, hiking and running trails for every ability; climb majestic basalt cliffs; and spot wildlife like raptorsor bighorn sheep. Travelers can book with Girls with Grit and MADE clinics, classes and private instruction to learn more about the outdoor activity of their choice. Additionally, tucked into the picturesque Yakima River Canyon and surrounded by dramatic cliffs, Red's Fly Shop is the destination for fishing on Washington's only Blue Ribbon trout stream. Take time for lunch or dinner at Canyon River Grill before heading to Yakima proper for a fun evening at local wineries and craft breweries. Try fly-fishing courses for all abilities and guided tours. Or, book with Canyon River Ranch Luxury Eco Tours which include a 2-3-hour guided scenic float through the Yakima River Canyon. In addition to identifying wildlife, guests will learn about the formation of this spectacular recreation area. You will meet your guide at Red's Fly Shop to begin your adventure.


Best Places to Celebrate the Fourth of July

WalletHub recently released their findings for the best places to celebrate Fourth of July this year. Independence Day is one of the biggest holidays of the year in the US featuring parades, cookouts, and fireworks shows. WalletHub compared the 100 largest U.S. cities based on how well they balance holiday cost and fun, using a data set of 18 key metrics ranges from average beer and wine prices to duration of fireworks shows to the weather forecast. Big Ticket Celebrations in the Northeast American flags hang from Union Station in Washington, DC by Caleb Fisher - Unsplash New York City was the #3 overall best place to celebrate this year, thanks to high rankings in the Celebrations (#2), Activities & Attractions (#2), and Safety (#3) categories. Nonetheless, it is one of the least affordable, so unless you plan a day trip, celebrating in the Big Apple is going to cost a lot. Equally expensive is a celebration in Washington, DC, which came in at the number 11 spot overall. However, a trip to the capital is an incredibly appropriate way to spend the day celebrating our nation's independence. For history lovers, the extra splurge may be worth it; the capital city ranked high in both the Celebration and Activities & Attractions categories. Texas Stars San Antonio, Texas by Henry Becerra - Unsplash Several Texan towns stood out in WalletHub's data. Dallas (#8), San Antonio (#9), Houston (#15), and Austin (#21) all ranked high overall. Dallas came in with the fourth best celebrations and Houston was the second most affordable, with the third lowest average prices for 3-star hotels. Laredo, Texas also stood out in several of the individual categories. It has the fifth lowest average prices for beer and wine, fifth cheapest 3-star hotels, and was the fifth overall most affordable place to celebrate. Perfect Weather and Parties in Vegas Las Vegas ranked fourth overall but came out on top in several of the individual metrics, including best weather forecast, fewest DUI-related fatalities, and cheapest 3-star hotels. It also ranked first in the Affordability category. It had strong showings in the Celebrations and Activities & Attractions categories as well—which should come as no surprise, since Vegas knows how to throw a party. It's also relatively safe and there are many good deals on flights to and from the city. California Comes Out on Top Fireworks on a beach in California by Diogo Fagundes - Unsplash Los Angeles was ranked the best place to celebrate the Fourth of July, with San Francisco coming in at second place. Los Angeles also came out on top in the Celebrations category, and San Francisco ranked #1 in the Activities & Attractions category and tied for the best weather forecast for July 4th. San Diego also had an impressive showing at the #7 spot. Unfortunately, all three of these cities faired poorly in the Affordability category. If you're looking for an affordable option in California, though, San Jose is a good choice. It comes in at a respectable 17th place overall, but is ranked 10th most affordable. Fresno also has the lowest average prices for beer and wine, which equals big savings if you plan to host a gathering with friends or relatives. Coast-to-Coast Cost Concerns No matter the city, though, Americans are reconsidering how they will budget travel plans. According to WalletHub's analysis, Americans plan to spend $9.5 billion this year on food for their Independence Day celebrations—this includes roughly 150 million hot dogs—and an additional $3 billion on beer and wine. About $2.7 billion will be spent on fireworks. The Vacationeer recently polled Americans about their Fourth of July plans and how inflation was affecting them. Even though nearly 40% of respondents planned to do nothing at all, compared to last year's survey there was a 5% increase in the number of people planning to travel. That being said, WalletHub found that 62% plan to spend less money compared to last year and The Vacationeer found that 64% of those surveyed say their plans have been affected by inflation. “Unfortunately, only 63% of Americans feel financially independent this 4th of July. Although that is a step up from the 56% who felt financially independent last year, there is still a significant portion of the population lacking financial freedom,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “The country has recovered from a lot of the financial damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially when it comes to employment, but high inflation and the potential of a recession have continued to make life difficult for many Americans.” Mark Z. Meng, an associate professor at Indiana University's School of Business, suggests some money-saving tips for the holiday: "Think about some big money items during travel. Lodging: where you stay can make a huge difference, including whether it is close to a downtown area, brand name, and star level, duration of your stay, additional service requests, etc. Transportation: when you book the airline ticket and through where you book it can also make a difference in terms of price; normally I would suggest people book their tickets early if they can; last-minute booking tends to be pricy most likely. Many travelers often find out red-eye flights cheaper, but you need to be careful about whether it is feasible for your schedule and personal condition. Even if you are on a road trip driving your own vehicle, preplan your parking can save you some money. There is plenty of parking space finding APPs where they offer a huge discount if you reserve it in advance, especially in some dense urban areas. Event and entertainment: normally during such holidays, many destination communities organize and offer some free events open to the public; take advantage of those." —For the full rankings and data, visit WalletHub's report here.


Celebrate an Iconic Landmark in San Francisco This Summer

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and its nonprofit preservation partner, Market Street Railway, have joined together with a dozen organizations, including business and merchant groups and history and preservation nonprofits, to stage a slate of special events in the Summer and Fall of 2023 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of cable cars, San Francisco's iconic symbol. “For the last 150 years, residents and visitors have enjoyed the incredible experience of riding our cable cars through our neighborhoods to experience stunning bay views that are famous all over the world,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed. “You cannot imagine San Francisco without our iconic cable cars. In celebration of the 150th anniversary, we invite everyone to ride our wonderful cable cars to experience the magic of San Francisco.” “No other city in the world has cable cars. San Francisco was the first city with cable cars, and since 1957, we've been the only city to run them,” said Rick Laubscher, President of Market Street Railway. “Our special 150th anniversary website, sfcablecars.org, is filled with cable car history and little-known stories. It also makes it easy to combine cable car rides with walking tours of Chinatown, the Barbary Coast, Fisherman's Wharf, Nob Hill, Russian Hill, Union Square, Polk Gulch and the Financial District. It's a great year to rediscover San Francisco and the cable cars.” Experience New Tours The six-month-long series of events include the first-ever public tours of the Muni shop in San Francisco's Dogpatch neighborhood, where cable cars are built and rebuilt; history-themed walk/ride tours of neighborhoods served by the cable car lines; the planned operation of “ghost” cable cars from disappeared lines, and a reenactment of cable car founder Andrew Hallidie's historic first run. All are detailed on sfcablecars.org. San Francisco's cable cars are one of the only moving National Historic Landmarks. To make it easier for visitors and residents to experience cable car rides, starting July 1 through the end of 2023, a special $5 all-day pass will let riders hop on and off the California cable car line and explore neighborhoods along the route. A standard point-to-point cable car ticket costs $8. Residents and visitors can also take advantage of the existing all-day, all-Muni Visitor Passport for $13 to hop on and off all cable cars, F-line historic streetcars, Muni trains and buses to take walking tours of neighborhoods near the cable car lines. The passes are available on the Muni Mobile smartphone app. For guides to must-sees along and near the cable car lines here, San Francisco Travel Association has created three guides on its website for the Powell-Mason Line, Powell-Hyde Line, and California Street Line. Ride Historic Routes A cable car on Hyde Street by Arnaud STECKLE - Unsplash The cable car that starred in the kickoff event is unique. In the 1880s, it was open-sided and carried throngs of riders from the Ferry Building out Market and Haight streets to enjoy Golden Gate Park. After the 1906 earthquake and fire, 'Big 19' moved to the Sacramento-Clay route, successor to Andrew Hallidie's original 1873 cable car line, and ran there from 1907 until 1942, when that line shut down. Restored by Muni crafts workers, 'Big 19', one of the largest cable cars ever built, it inaugurated the celebration with a trip up California Street through Chinatown and over Nob Hill, just two blocks south of inventor Hallidie's Clay Street line. Later in the summer, Muni hopes to have 'Big 19' in regular service every Saturday on the California Street line through the fall as part of the celebration. Likewise, if work can be completed, Muni plans monthly operation of cable car 42 on its original Hyde Street trackage. Cable car 42 ran the O'Farrell, Jones & Hyde line until 1954, when the southern half of the line was abandoned, and the tracks on Hyde were connected to part of a Powell Street line. Car 42 retains its original 1907 paint scheme and details. Decades after being sold as surplus to a cattle rancher in Santa Barbara County when the O'Farrell line closed, Market Street Railway brought it back to San Francisco and worked with Muni to restore it for service. Watch the 150th Celebration A cable car on Sutter Street by Milos Bojovic - Unsplash On the actual 150th anniversary date, August 2, history reenactors portraying Andrew Hallidie, Emperor Norton, Domingo Ghirardelli, Lotta Crabtree and other notable San Franciscans from 150 years ago will gather at Hallidie Plaza at Powell and Market Streets at 10 a.m. to honor Hallidie's historic first run. A by-invitation luncheon will follow, honoring cable car heroes including Hallidie; Friedel Klussmann, who saved the cable cars in 1947; Senator Dianne Feinstein, who as Mayor personally led the rebuilding of the cable car system 40 years ago; Fannie Mae Barnes, the first woman to work as a “gripman” operating a cable car 25 years ago; and others. Learn More at Local Archives The San Francisco Public Library has compiled a list of cable car books available at its various branches for interested readers. The Main Library's San Francisco History Center will mount an exhibit of historic cable car photos later this summer, in collaboration with the SFMTA Photo Archive. Market Street Railway's free San Francisco Railway Museum on Steuart Street across from the Ferry Building will debut a special exhibit on 150 Years of cable cars in mid-July. Participating partners in the celebration include the Chinatown Merchants Association, Chinese Historical Society of America, Downtown SF Partnership, Fisherman's Wharf Merchants, Friends of the Cable Car Museum, Pier 39, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce, San Francisco City Guides, San Francisco Historical Society, San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco Travel Association, SF Heritage and Union Square Alliance.