[IMAG0010.JPG]Gone for the Summer (’09)

Cycling Bike Trails Without Cars


Exams are over, my grades are in and students are gone from campus. Now my mind turns to summer. Usually I go backpacking but this summer I’m cycling. Since 1996 I’ve had the opportunity to finish the whole Appalachian Trail in the East and the Pacific Crest Trail out west plus finished the Colorado Trail, part of the Continental Divide Trail along with several trails in Scotland. I’ve logged over 10,000 miles in backpacking over the years and now I’m trying cycling. I still sneak in secret solo backpacking trips where I can go at my own speed, but mostly I’m focused on bicycling for summer vacations because of the lower impact on knees and because Sharon likes it more than backpacking. Since last summer I’ve been warming up. I bought a Trek 7200 hybrid and logged 1500 miles since last summer trying to determine if my knees can take it—so far so good. In May I got a Salsa Fargo—which I am using now—but it is really designed for the last two routes). So I’m trying a few longer trips this summer (see the following list), If I succeed then I’ll jump in the deep end and go for the final two routes below—this summer is the test.  Maybe I’ll bump into some of you this summer on one of these routes

Rail to Trails Conservancy.


(Routes generally listed in order of increasing distance form Marion, Indiana)


 1. Cardinal Greenway – 50-75 miles  INDIANA

 Starting with the 3-miles Sweetser Switch Trail which is being connected ( ’09-‘10) with Grant County’s 8-mile Cardinal Greenway (Marion to Gas City/Jonesboro, which then leads to about 10 miles of back roads (with some cars) connecting with  the Cardinal Greenway again in Gaston which gives 27 more miles of continuous paved trail from, Gaston, to Losantville (maps 7-14); (there are also 3 more miles in Wayne County, Richmond, IN. (map 6) that is not connected yet) The White River Greenway provides another 5 miles in the City of Muncie. (maps 15-16) (See Wikipedia details here ).  (see also Indiana Trails)

 Completed by Keith Drury (9/08)… Burt Webb & KD (4/09) and KD solo (4.09) Basically a training route now.


2. Monon Trail – 20+ miles D/B

Not long enough to be listed here but an easy afternoon ride as a down-back.  Upper part of route neat,  middle part with lots of great eating places, lower part not so cool. Trail is being extended Fall 09 north toward Westfield.

 Completed by Burt Webb, Kris Pence, Keith Drury (9/08)….



3. Kal-haven Trail – 34 miles   MICHIGAN

 The 34.5 mile linear Kal-Haven Trail State Park extends from the suburbs of Kalamazoo to South Haven, on the shores of Lake Michigan. The trail passes through the towns of Grand Junction, Bloomingdale, Gobles and Kendall where restaurants and other amenities are available. Parking is available at the 10th Street trailhead in Kalamazoo about two miles north of West Main Street (look for the red caboose). We parked there, rode to South Haven and stayed in a motel then rode back the next morning. Trail passes cost a couple bucks.  A crushed limestone trail with several campsites on trail. Slightly downhill from Kalamazoo.

Completed by Keith & Sharon Drury (10/ 08) (Video on my Facebook page)


4. Xenia-Spider web trails – 200+ miles   OHIO

Piles of paved bike-trails-without-cars spreading like a spider web form Xenia Ohio. Right now the longest continuous route begins in  Springfield, Ohio (off I-70 using the SR-72 exit, going north a block or so to W. Leffels Lane, and head west to the trail). The trail leads south through Yellow Springs, Xenia, Spring Valley, Corwin, Morrow, Loveland to Milford (trail starts up on the side of a hill on the west side of Milford, Ohio just west of State Route 126, immediately west of the Little Miami River). For a 50-mile ride begin in Xenia and ride to Milford and stay in on of the hotels there for a turnaround 100 mile ride). The trailhead closest to Marion (90 minutes) is In Verona, Ohio. Park the car at the city park in Verona one block off main street and catch the trail south of town about ½ mile—this is the Wolf Creek Trail which connects into Dayton, thence to Xenia and the rest of the trails… Here is a map of many of those spider-web trails form Xenia. An amazing trail-friendly place to ride!  FaceBook video of our t

Completed by Kris Pence & Keith Drury down and back—100 miles. 

Completed (a different route) 70 miles by Keith & Sharon with Kris and Lani Pence (06/09) (Video here on my Facebook page)



Starting in Pittsburg PA this route runs on an abandoned railroad to Cumberland Maryland where you get on the C&O Canal towpath and ride straight into Washington DC—Georgetown. The Great Allegheny Passage/C&O trail is unique among bike paths because it begins and ends in a big city. More than 300 miles without cars. Here is the official GAP site and the corresponding official C&O for updates. The GAP is crushed limestone with several long tunnels and the C&O towpath is crushed stone or dirt and has more puddles. Best biker info can be found at Bike Washington. Easy return on the Train either way every day (they will take bikes as baggage).

Completed by Keith Drury, Burt Webb and Kris Pence (05/09) (Video here on my Facebook page)

è Keith & Sharon will ride this route again in July—headed west this time from D.C.


6. White Pine Trail  -- 99 miles MICHIGAN

Michigan's longest rail/trail stretching a distance of 91 miles following the former Grand Rapids and Indiana rail bed. The trail starts in north Grand Rapids right beside Comstock Park—multi-day free parking at the commuter lot right off the exit of 131. The trail extends to Cadillac. The trail is mostly gravel—the round kind, not crushed limestone, so it is hard pushing and a fat tire really helps. Only a third is paved with asphalt (out of Grand Rapids to Sand Lake and a section around Big Rapids). Reed City was a cool town. Motel in Morley (35 miles from Grand Rapids) is a rough but friendly. Great meals in Morley at both places. Big Rapids (50 miles) and Cadillac (91 miles) has mainline motels. Sharon and I completed this route July 4th weekend 2009. We planned to ride to Cadillac and hitch back but decided last minute to ride the pavement back, so we took the road back to the car.  Video of our trip here in Youtube.  For more info see http://www.whitepinetrail.com/

Completed by Keith & Sharon July 4th weekend, 2009


7. Blue Ridge Parkway-Skyline Drive

While not technically “without cars” this route is too good to pass up. The cars only travel at 35 MPH and (in May at least) the traffic is light on weekdays. The brp IS 469 mile long but it attaches to the 105 mile Skyline drive producing a 575 mile route that crawls along the Eastern Appalachians paralleling the Appalachian Trail. 


 Katy Trail -- 264 miles MISSOURI

This bike trail which mostly parallels the Missouri River is a Missouri state park unto itself. It's generally flat and civilized with loads of B&Bs and bike support along the way—a crushed limestone surface. The path is part of Lewis and Clark trail. See http://www.bikekatytrail.com/ for great info.


8.. Cowboy Trail – 195/321 miles NEBRASKA

A nice leisurely trip passing through the small towns Nebraska prairie towns about every 15 miles. (The trail is currently being extended to over 300 miles.) Crushed limestone, 200 wooden bridges. Food, lodging, lush grass and flat prairie terrain in abundance. Once part of the Chicago & North Western railroad's “Cowboy Line” the route will eventually cover 321 miles clear across northern Nebraska from Norfolk to Chadron. The Cowboy Trail is the longest rail-to-trail conversion in progress in the United States. This route includes a 148-foot “high bridge” over the Niobrara River at Valentine. (The GAP/C&O trail above is longer only by including the C&O canal towpath). Sharon and Keith met with the director of this trail in ’08 and discovered it will soon be completed the rest of the way across Nebraska—all 321 miles. Check the official Nebraska Parks site for current info. Click map for blow up of each section.


9. John Wayne Pioneer Trail -- 113 miles—WASHINGTON STATE

While this trail officially transects Washington state, only 113 miles of the final 200 mile trail are developed so far. Great diversity of terrain: open hot dry sagebrush in east, glacial valleys and ranchlands in the west. Hard gravel with cycling camps. Best source for update info for bikers is from Jennifer's List of Bike Trails. For mile by mile descriptions of the trail try Spokane Outdoors.

10. Kettle Valley Rail Trail -- 280 miles  BRITISH COLUMBIA

Located in lower British Columbia, the big attraction here are the stunning trestle bridges, long tunnels, and mountain scenery glimpsed from an easy grade that never exceeds 2.2%. (Many of the trestles were destroyed in a forest fire in 2003 but are being rebuilt.. Ten days is a easy decent trip. Most current cycling info can be found at Cycling the KVR. Mile by mile log of the trail is at Trailness.


11. Great Divide Mountain Bike Route -- 2,500 miles off-road

Ok this is what I’m really interested in. Parallels the Continental Divide Trail.  Includes “mountain biking single path, mining roads and gravel forest service roads. Unlike rails-to-trails routes this one is anything but flat. Crosses the Continental Divide 27 times, dishing out over 200,000 feet in elevation changes from Canada to Mexico. Ordinary humans take 3 months to complete it. It's mostly a remote trail in the wilderness with few amenities—a sort of Appalachian Trail for bicycles. Adventure Cycling has the best info on this trail. Requires a special bike—the best bicycle for this trail was designed specifically for the GDT—the Salsa Fargo (I have 500 miles on mine and I love it!)

è  I hope to start this one summer, 2010—but I might sneak out in August 2009 and do a section in Colorado as a test run.


12. Sierra-Cascades Bicycle Route—2500+/- miles off-road

Being mapped by Adventure Cycling as this is being written and should be completely mapped by the time I need it. Parallels the Pacific Crest Trail


So what do you think? Any other recommendations?

During the first few weeks, click here to comment or read comments


Keith Drury   April 28, 2009—updated periodically since.