Biking with Kids in National parks, U.S

eric-awwy By Eric Awwy, 22 Jan 2020

There are many ways to spend time in the outdoors, but biking is the leading activity with a far-stretch from the rest in terms of our favorites.

Biking allows you to truly relish the beauty of an area at your own pace.

So how better to bike than doing so in an area where you will be treated to explore-worthy trails, scenic landscapes, and plenty of wildlife along your route. And if you get weary of riding, then you can take a break and explore other fun opportunities within the park. 

National parks and refuges offer these rewards and so much more in one package!                                                                                                     

With a little digging, you can discover bike trails and paths dedicated to your level of expertise, be you a novice, intermediate, or skilled rider.

But worry not; we’ve taken it upon ourselves to do the digging for you. So without further ado, here are twenty of the best and most family-friendly parks that parents of America should look out for.

1. Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia national park takes the cake for being one of the most beautiful and most family-friendly parks in our list!

Located in the northeastern area of Maine, this park will spoil you with the most breath-taking natural scenery.

Believe you, the greenery and stone bridges along the route will have you feeling utopic as the trails will reward you with a fantastic view of lakes, ponds, waterfalls, and lavish forests dressed with lofty granite cliffs moving towards the wild Atlantic.

Thanks to John D. Rockefeller, whose fortune was used to build carriage roads used by cyclists since 1940, the 45 miles of historic stone and gravel carriage roads have eased transportation substantially.

The roads are relatively flat, so you will have the easiest riding both within the park and around the island. 

You have the option of exploring the popular one-way Park Loop Road, which runs 27 miles and conveniently starts close to the Bar Harbor, where you can also rent bikes.  

Then you can round your trip with a view of the Maine Coast at the peak of the 1530 foot Cadillac Mountain where this road leads to. This view is so coveted; you will count yourself among the few who are lucky enough to witness it.

2. Death Valley National Park, California

Death Valley doesn’t just have a sinister name. It is also North America’s hottest and driest spot. Doesn’t sound appealing, right?

Here’s the interesting thing about this often-overlooked place. The wide variety of wildlife and human life fully flourishing within the park are a complete contrast to its sinister name. These species have clearly fully adapted to the desert’s harsh conditions. 

And tell you what; the thriving life within isn’t all the park has to boast of.

To begin with, the park covers 3.4 million acres making it the largest national park south of Alaska. 

This vast park further rewards its visitors with luminous sand dunes, lavish oases, rocks sculptured by erosion, and plenty of historical points of interest.

There are various points of approaching and exploring the miles upon miles of the gorgeous landscape. Casual cyclists can explore the area using the Furnace creek bike trail, Salt Creek Road, and the 20-Mule team Canyon road. 

Intermediaries have four other roads well suited for them, while the more advanced riders can tackle eight other rougher trails. This totals 15 roads and over 800 miles for cyclists of different levels of expertise to navigate.

Bring your own bike or rent one at the general store in Furnace Creek.

If you want to go road or mountain biking, then the park’s desert climate shouldn’t put you off. You will definitely get worn out, but the experience will leave you feeling wholesome and accomplished.

3. Glacier National Park, Montana

There’s no better way to explore Glacier’s spectacular scenery than by bike.

You will be graced by jagged peaks, alpine meadows, clear blue lakes, glacial-covered valleys, and millions of acres of rich vegetation.

You will especially love the over fifty miles of Going-to-the-Sun Road, the most popular road used by cyclists.

And not for nothing. This road cuts across the park from east to west and treats its users to the most picturesque sights, including a glance at the Jackson Glacier Overlook and other wildlife on the alpine road.

With an elevation of 6646 feet and an average gradient of 5.7%, it counts as one of the toughest climbs. As such, it is more advisable for advanced road cyclists.

 The 11-mile Camas Road and the 12 miles Many Glacier Road are other great alternatives for road cyclists. Alternatively, you can opt for the only paved trail in the park, the 5-mile McDonald Creek Bike path located near Essex, Montana.

You’ll be lucky if you choose to take your trip in the month of June as cyclists are treated to car-free riding. During other months, you share the road with cars, so extra care ought to be taken.   

4. Zion National Park, Utah

One of Utah’s must-see destinations is the Zion National Park.

Red rock cliffs, peaceful riversides, and cottonwood trees along the trails are among the worthy views that you will be treated to within the park.

As for your stay, the Zion Park Lodge within the park and hotels in Springdale town near Zion are significant options that will leave you feeling cozy and motivated for your adventure.

You have the option to explore the area through the shuttles at the park, but if you truly want to relish the magnificence of this park, then you had better hop on your bikes.

This park is one of the best options for casual cyclists who are allowed on all park roadways and on our favorite route, the Pa’rus trail.

It is your best bet for experiencing the Zion Canyon without having to queue for the shuttles. All other park trails, off-trail routes, and the Zion Mount-Carmel tunnel restrict bike use.

The good thing is that although the road gradually inclines, it does so in such a way that it is manageable even by kids. Just be careful as you are sharing the road with the shuttle buses, and your journey will be seamless.

5. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/ Montana

If you are looking for world-class scenery, then that is precisely what Yellowstone National Park will offer you.

America’s first national park has a host of natural features to feed your appetite for nature.  

Established in 1872, the park hails in all of its glory over an area of 3,472 square miles.

We don’t know about you but a place that is home to more than 500 active geysers (over half of the world’s geysers), a variety of wildlife including grizzly bears, bison, wolves and elk in America’s first national park? You can count us in!

This park holds over 10000 hydrothermal features, including said geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles! Needless to say, extra caution is advised.

Although the experience here is gratifying, preparation is essential.

For instance, knowing in advance that most of the roads are suitable for mountain bikers. This is because of the elevation of the road there that ranges from 5300 feet to 8860 feet; hence, it takes a lot of time and even more, energy to travel.

However, there are also some child-friendly trails out of the over 100 trails for the excursion, including the Eleanor Lake Trail, Old Faithful, and the Lone Star Geyser, which are more suitable for young ones.

6. Yosemite national park, California

Savor the grand vistas in this park by mounting onto your bike and riding away through Yosemite National Park.

You can cycle through the paved park roads or the Yosemite Valley multi-use path.

While some of the roads are too narrow and steep to bike with family, the 12-mile dedicated bike trails are perfect for family cycling as they are relatively flat. The paths are gorgeous, pass through the Yosemite Valley, and make for an ideal afternoon of sightseeing!

Not only do you get to beat the traffic that mounds up during peak months, but you will also be rewarded with a much-craved view of the iconic scenic vistas as well as picnic spots by the Merced River for you and your tribe to stop by.

There are bike rental areas at Yosemite Valley Lodge and Half Dome Village within the ark where you can get the bike trailer to haul little ones along.

With an abundance of hikes and wildlife to spot, you will be spoilt for choice with what to do at this park.

7. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

The 33-mile ride on Rim Drive is physically demanding but is every nature lover's dream come true.

Here’s why; Oregon’s only national park hosts the deepest lake in the U.S!

The steep hills and high elevation can be quite the challenge even for the fittest cyclists, but it delivers the most breathtaking view of the Crater Lake throughout the ride!

That means that it’s probably not the best take for inexperienced riders, but as for skilled riders, the extra care on the narrow shoulder-free road and thigh-burning as you ascend will undoubtedly pay off.

Expect to pass by Rim Village and even catch a glimpse of the Phantom Ship (a rock formation that rises 170 feet above the lake) along the route.

For most of the year, the road conditions being narrow, small shouldered and heavily trafficked; thus, do not favor cyclists, but once summer begins, then the roads are open to cyclists and closed to vehicles. As expected, that is when most cyclists show up.

The high turnouts not only prove that Crater Lake is so breathtaking and refreshing but also that every outdoor lover should add it to their cycling bucket list.

8. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

If nothing else, the Grand Teton is famed for its rugged mountains and jaw-dropping scenery.

Just a short drive from Yellowstone National park is the Grand Teton National park, where there is an abundance of scenic views and even more fulfilling activities.

To begin with, the road and 8-mile multi-use paved pathway (car-free) are very child-friendly and give you the most stunning views of the Teton Range.

There are miles upon miles of paved bike paths for casual cyclists, more rugged terrain for mountain cyclists, short hikes that offer breath-taking views, and even water sports at the alpine lakes and rivers.

Another great thing about this park is that the town is so close you can easily just bail out and enjoy staying there. But if you are a real wanderer, then you will take advantage of the proximity of the town to rent road and mountain bikes, both of which are available.

So ride away and catch the Western Mountain!

9. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Forget the photos of the Canyon you’ve seen before.

The first time you get actually to see, it will be magical!  

Trust us, the views from atop are worth it! We were truly be mesmerized the first time we visited this gem, and the charm of it all still lasts.

Cyclists have very few riding opportunities, but the few offer great options for exploration on both the North and South Rim.  

Canyon’s exceptional geology can be perceived through casual riding at the Hermit Road and at the South Rim or mountain biking at the Rainbow Rim Trail on the North Rim

For a great biking experience, the 6-mile Greenway section of the Rim Trail is paved and mostly flat, thus another great riding option.

You have the option to rent bikes for your whole family at Bright Angel Bikes if you didn’t bring some.

Either way, you are guaranteed to have a great time with even more magnificent views.

10. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Biking the Towpath trail has to be in your to-do list if you visit the Cuyahoga Valley, National Park.

This gem is Ohio’s finest and only national park, stretching from Cleveland to Akron and following the Cuyahoga River in its wake as it leads through beautiful and thick greenery of this magnificent land.

Take advantage of the miles of trails that will give you coveted outlooks of unusual geological formations, hard-packed limestone, and even waterfalls.

The Cuyahoga Valley has four major bicycle trails, including the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail and the Cleveland Metroparks’ Bike & Hike Trail.

The Ohio & Erie Canal is quite popular for its richness in history. Currently a multi-purpose hiking and biking trail, this 24-mile trail was once a canal system in the 1800s.

The Towpath Trail is very kid-friendly as it is mostly paved and has minimal elevation in addition to giving the most scenic views, so it is perfect for family riding.

Plus, CVNP boasts of a rare program known as Bike Aboard, which allows you to either bike through the towpath trail in direction and ride a train back or vice versa.

Again, a must-have in your bucket list!

11. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

What screams family biking than flat trails surrounded with picturesque views?

That’s right; the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. This small, tranquil, and protected island off the east coast of Virginia is home to herds of the Chincoteague ponies; the offspring of the horse brought there in the 17th century.

The refuge has several miles of leveled and paved trails that cyclists will greatly enjoy. The trails lead you through woods and along beautiful beaches, but your best bet for a glimpse of the famed wild ponies is the short Woodland Trail.

There’s always something out of the ordinary on these trails. So whether you spot the island’s famous ponies or not, you will be sure to spot wading birds, muskrats, and deer on other bike trails.

You can rent bikes at the various outfitters at Chincoteague town as it conveniently sits between the refuge and the mainland.

Just remember that they are offered on a first-come-first-served basis, so the earlier, the better for you.

12. Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska

The most popular and conveniently accessible Alaskan National park, Denali National Park, happens to hosts Mt. McKinley, North America’s highest peak.

The park sits atop six million acres of land, mostly road-less with the exception of 92 miles where visitors are allowed to bike, drive or pass through the available shuttle buses. 

Cycling is our favorite way to see Denali national park. Of the 92 miles, the first 15 miles are paved and graded gravel onwards.  Because there are travel restrictions beyond the 15-mile point, then traffic eventually eases up. 

If you genuinely want to experience Alaska, then a trip to this park will treat you to grizzly bears, herds of caribou, and the most serene remote lands.

A great time to bike is during spring, although the trails are easy to navigate pretty much any time of the year.

Their visitor center will cater to your every need through their Junior Ranger programs, guided hikes, and more visitor provisions.  

If that doesn’t get you going, then the bike joring, allowed on the park road and banned in almost all national parks, sure will!

13. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Road cyclists, casual cruisers, and mountain bikers alike crowd the state of Colorado for bicycling. 

With over 60 miles of paved roads, it is no wonder that Rocky Mountain National park is a favorite for road cyclists. Atop the road, you get the most awe-inspiring views of dare we say; some of America’s most beautiful mountains.

There are youth & family programs as well as local companies that drive you to the top, educate you on the park’s history, and also get to ride downhill if you wish.

For mountain bikers, the nearby Roosevelt national forest has a host of trails, especially for them, so visiting this state is clearly the best way to feed a biker’s appetite.

If you are looking for a challenge, then the Bear lake road, the Old Fall River Road and the Trail Ridge Road will do the magic! The Trail Ridge, for instance, offers the most amazing uphill ride going up 12183 feet!

And with the assurance of being amidst the natural habitat of wildlife such as bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer, coyotes, and pika at the seat of your two-wheeler; what more could an adventurous soul ask for?

14. Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Another off-putting name that might discourage the timid or encourage the curious to visit.

In our case, it was the latter.

 Pedaling the Badlands will reward you with impressive views of the fantastic crooks, rugged buttes, crannies, and twisted spires without a windshield to impede your view.

Bikes are allowed in the designated paved, gravel, and dirt roads within as well as some loops for cyclists to navigate. Most of the trails are short and easy to navigate. Plus, they each offer their own unique experiences, so families will have a blast here.

 Moreover, there is an excellent visitor center with Park ranger programs, offers for a scenic drive of the park, and cyclists can even rent bike racks there!

If you are planning to bike through this park, then be sure to check out its ‘Bicycling in the Badlands’ and ‘Bicycling off the Beaten Path’ for routes and safety precautions.

From wildlife spotting to hiking stargazing and getting educated through the Park’s ranger Program, the list of activities here is endless.

Just don’t forget to bring your water with you as you ride and you will be good to go.

15. Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National park is home to the iconic Delicate Arch.

Here you and your family are sure to witness unique rock formations, view interpretive exhibits, get guided or unguided hikes, and experience cycling through a wide variety of trails suitable for all age groups and ability levels.

You can ride your bike on all paved and unpaved roads in the park, however, riding on trails and off-road is prohibited.

Many options of bike trails are available, ranging from extreme terrain for experts to easy mountain bike trails for beginners in the city of Moab, just outside Arches.

Klondike Bluffs Trail and the Lower Monitor and Merrimac Trail are fairly easy to climb hence perfect for kids. 

Since bikes aren’t allowed off-road, you will pedal about 9.6 miles and walk one mile to cover the entire Klondike trail. In the end, however, you will appreciate the view of the iconic Arches rock formation and will even ride over slick rock.

Unpaved trails such as the 8- mile Bar-M Loop will also reward you with stunning views of the La Sal Mts., seven-mile Canyon and Fisher towers, as well as colorful rocks.

16. Big Bend National Park, Texas

Three things come to mind when anyone mentions Big Bend, a desert that sometimes has extreme temperatures, mountains with high elevations that are a stark contrast to the desert area, and thirdly the river that divides the U.S from Mexico.

Located near the U.S-Mexico border, Big Bend National Park is a premier spot for bicycle travel and sport.

With 100 miles of lightly traveled paved roads and 160 miles of backcountry dirt roads, all types of cyclists have a spot to challenge themselves.

Although bicycling is not allowed on roads within the park, trail and off-road cycling allow cyclists to catch the best and most intimate views of the Chisos Mountains as well as beautiful rock formations.

The Old Ore Road, Grapevine Hills Road, and the Dagger Flat Auto Trail to McKinney Springs are some of the best routes of the massive rocky landscape.

What’s more, the weather is pleasant year-round, so any time is an excellent time to visit.

Trust us, you’re missing out in life if you are yet to pay a visit at the small wonders and panoramic scenery of the Big Bend National Park.

17. Joshua Tree National Park, California

Adventurous families will love the experience at Joshua Tree National Park.

This desert national park will give you insights into the unique landscapes packed with surreal historical geological features.

The two-hour drive from Los Angeles will leave you at an 800,000-acre area where the Mojave and Colorado deserts merge into one.

With a collision of two distinct desert ecosystems, it is interesting to see a range of rugged mountains with altitudes surpassing 5000 feet above sea level in the same region.

Mountain biking trails hail at their finest, waiting for you to explore.

The paved roads, although open to cyclists, are dangerous due to their heavily curved, narrow, and shoulder-less nature; hence, unpaved roads are a much safer alternative.

If you want an other-worldly experience for everyone in your family, that is what Joshua Tree Park will give you in plenty.

Young ones will enjoy the stroller-friendly trails and open spaces for them to freely run around while older ones will enjoy rock climbing massive boulders as well as energy-stimulating hikes. All this while the more adventurous explore the backcountry roads such as the Old Dale Road, Geology Tour Road, and the Black Eagle Mine Road.

At the end of the day, no matter the age, anyone can join the fun bandwagon at the Joshua Tree National Park!

18. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina/ Tennessee

There is an overabundance of family-friendly activities to partake in at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

To begin with, you can choose to go on hikes, play in the park’s streams or bike all while you take in the beauty of lush forests, wildflowers, and a lot more than the park has to offer.

The thing about this park is that because of the steepness of the terrain, narrowness of the road, and traffic congestions; the roads are not suitable for safe bike riding. In addition to this, the roads are also substantially curved hence demanding the most experienced riders.

The only exception is the 11-mile one-way Cades Cove Loop Road, which is popular among bicyclists for its ability to offer dramatic and outstanding views of wildlife such as wild turkey, deer, and groundhogs as well as historic homes and church sites dating back to the 19th century.

Twice a week from early May to late September, cyclists can navigate the Cades Cove Loop road without worrying about traffic as the road is usually closed to motor vehicles.

There are no park trails that are permissible for cyclists at the park with the exception of the Gatlinburg Trail in Tennessee, Oconaluftee River Trail, Deep Creek Trail and Indian Trail in North Carolina. Beyond these, there are also recreation lands outside the park where you can genuinely experience mountain biking.  

The truth is, you’ll never be bored here!

19. Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Challenge yourself and your family by taking a bike trip through the mountainous area of Southern Utah.

For mountain bikers, Canyonlands is as close to heaven as they’ll get on earth.

The 100-mile White Rim Road at Island in the sky offers the thrill every mountain biker seeks, all while rewarding them with expansive views of the surrounding area.

There are also paved roads at the Needles, but you share them with other vehicles. The Maze is also vast although its roads are more technical than the White Rim Road.

However, the question on everyone’s tongue is, “is biking the White Rim Road doable with kids?”

The answer is yes! You just need to plan ahead and be adequately prepared. Kids don’t have to complete the full 100 miles, but they will be treated to the most scenic views of the White Rim sandstone formation.

This park is the ideal place for multi-day mountain bike trips lasting up to 3 or 4 days and requires a lot of permits

Just remember, reservations are very competitive at the White Rim Campsite, so if you are planning to stay overnight, then the earlier you book, the better for you and your clan.

20. Redwoods National and State Parks, California

Who wouldn’t have a blast climbing massive 2000-year-old trees or simply being in their midst?

Riding beneath the infamous 2000-year-old redwoods that loom over 350 feet above is a reminder of just how powerful nature, both in age and size!

It is an experience that every rider ought to encounter at least once in their lifetime.

Redwoods national park lies in California’s northwestern edge, where are not only some of the tallest and trees in the world housed but also some of the best trails.

The expansive area has a host of trails, some of which give you great views of the Pacific Ocean. A few noteworthy ones are the Little Bald Hills trail, Lost man Creek Trail, Ossagon Trail loop, Streelow Creek Trail Davison Trail, and the California Coastal Trail: Last Chance section.

The Davison Trail, for instance, is a 6.1 mile rehabilitated logging road through which you get a first-class view of the wetlands as you ride through the mostly level ground.

Look no further if you are considering hitting the trails with your family.  

Parting Shot

There are plenty of fantastic trails to explore in National parks within the country. Stop confining your kids to neighborhood rides, yet biking alone can open them up to a lot of fun, challenging, and educative experiences.

Whether they are viewing the Canyon for the first time, catching a glimpse of the Chincoteague ponies, or riding beneath the infamous and ancient redwoods, these American national parks are your go-to for family riding.

So pack your bags, rack the bikes, and hit the roads for that wholesome experience!


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