Although the Iditarod Trail Invitational just ended, and a few other fat bike ultras are still on the books, bikepacking on dirt commenced a few weeks ago. From here on out, events will fill the calendars until the Fall. There is something special about ordering your bike bags or searching for your old bags in storage. Doing research on a specific route, figuring out tire selections, and deciding what to bring and what to leave at home brings upon that special feeling of anticipation we all love.
More and more events and routes have popped up across the world in the past few years, showing that bikepacking has truly taken off. A number of shops around the world have held bikepacking seminars to help gain a better understanding of traveling with everything attached to your bike. Whether you are preparing for the Tour Divide, or going on an overnighter with some friends, it is safe to say that bikepackers have more fun.
The Spring is filled with some very popular events, it is also a fantastic time to go out and get some overnighters in. Below are a few good options to consider.
Spring Bikepacking Routes
The 100 mile road loop in Canyonlands National Park, East of Moab, is a fantastic bikepacking route. You will circle Island In the Sky, a beautiful canyon with amazing vistas. Some super fast riders can pedal it in a day, however, because of the number of campsites on the route, it makes for a perfect multi-day bikepacking route.Logistics: Make sure to plan your trip ahead of time as there are permits required to ride the trail. It is required that you camp at designated campgrounds, so you should plan to reserve these prior to your trip. Campgrounds can sell out quickly, so be sure to plan your route around the campsites. The route is very popular with off road jeeps and other motor vehicles – bikepackers are not the only user group. This is the desert and there is no available water along the route. You must drop bags or carry the necessary amount of water to finish the trip. Check the National Parks Service page for more information on camping. You will also want to watch the weather for not only rain but heat or cold, make sure you pack accordingly.
Route: Although the White Rim is on a well marked road, it has some difficult climbs with 7,500 ft of total climbing. The tough sandy sections and can be very hot. Start locations and directions can change up the route, but cyclist tend to go in a clockwise direction starting near the Island in the Sky visitor center. If you’re looking for a relaxing trip in the Utah Canyons, or looking to get your foot in the bikepacking door. The White Rim is a perfect option.When to ride: It all depends on the snow year, but usually mid March to May is a good time, before the heat starts to really get going.
The Arizona Trail (Southern Arizona)
Although the Arizona Trail Race does not start until April, the bikepacking is pretty much good year round in Southern Arizona. Spring is usually a perfect time as the nights are not too cold and the days not too hot. The Arizona Trail is an amazing route showcasing the beautiful desert landscape of Arizona. the trail brings you through saguaros, prickly pear, and the dreaded cholla, so be sure to bring your comb. The Arizona Trail route was finished just a few years ago, and more and more thru hikers and bikpackers have been using it for recreation.
Logistics: Whether you want to tackle the whole route or just sections, the trail difficulty will vary. The Arizona Trail Association has put together a great resource on each passage of the Arizona Trail. The Arizona Trail does contain some wilderness areas that bikers must detour. We highly recommend buying a yearly membership to gain access to their mountain bike GPS files and maps. If you plan on riding up Mt. Lemmon to Oracle Ridge, make sure to bring layers and check the weather. The highest point of the trail is around 8,000 feet – it can, and will snow if a storm rolls in. Make sure you plan your resupply at water spots, the desert is far from liberal on waterRoute: The beauty of the Arizona Trail is that there are a lot of fun connector trails to customize your route, however, if you haven’t done the 300 mile route from Parker Canyon Lake to Picket Post Trailhead make sure to do so. You will encounter, everything from super slow, rocky, but rewarding singletrack, to the flowy buffed out track that will make you scream joy. You will also travel on some dirt and paved roads. There are a few resupply spots off the trail where you can re-up on water and food…Patagonia, Sonota, Tucson area, and Orcle to name a few. Please make sure to do your research before you head out. A few shorter options are Parker Canyon Lake to Tucson, and Oracle to Picket Post, or the Gila loop.
When to ride: The 300 route can ride year round, but it will be dangerously hot in the summer months. Also be sure to check incoming weather especially if you consider riding up Mt. Lemmon.
The Huracan 300 bikepacking race has taken place for 4 consecutive years. As the start date sits near the middle of March, prior to the first day of spring, it is usually the first bikepacking race (on dirt) of the calendar year. Race Director, Karlos Bernark, had a vision of somehow connecting the Okala Nation Forest down to the Croom Forest. Aside from being a race route, the established loop is a popular bikepacking destination for many riders. The loop continues to develop each year with trail variations connecting the course to more dirt and singletrack. If you’re looking for a great bikepacking route with year round riding opportunities, the Huracan Route is perfect for you.
Logistics: To some peoples surprise, this northern Florida trail boasts long, difficult climbs, forest riding and is no vacation at the beach. The trail travels through many towns and there are many options for resupply. A lot of “free riders” end up doing the trail in three days, riding 100 miles per day. Although this is an established route, it is recommended to download a GPX file to use on the trail, especially if you are traveling solo and are new to the trail.
Route: The Huracan route features over 100 miles of singletrack, as well as miles of remote double track forest roads and a bit of pavement here and there. This trail can be rode in either direction, clockwise or counter-clockwise. The forest road sections consist of mainly gravel and sandy double track, so come ready with the right tires. Around 50 miles into the trail, be prepared for few a deep sandy sections. There is a small “river crossing” in Wekiwa Springs which nears the 100 mile mark of the trail. Being that it is Florida (gator country), and the water in this area is known to be chest high, give a solid holler before you cross in attempts to scare the creatures away. The last section of the trail is through the Santos Mountain Biking Trail consisting of fun, fast, and flowy singletrack – super fun but can be hard with a loaded bike.
When to ride: The Huracan route is a trail that is rideable year round, however, prepare for humidity and high temperatures during the summer months – as well as afternoon and evening rain and thunderstorm activity. During the winter months, remember to pack for near 30 degree nights and 70 degree day time temperatures. Whenever you go, pack plenty of sunscreen and bug repellent as it is sure to be buggy.
Trans North Georgia
The Trans North Georgia (TNGA) is a remote route in the Northern mountains of Georgia. The route stretches 350 miles and climbs 56,000 feet. This technical route follows singletrack, doubletrack, dirt roads, and pavement. The TNGA hosts an adventure race every fall, consisting of a self-supported race which starts at the South Carolina border and finishes near the Alabama border.
Logistics: The Trans North Georgia trail makes for a great multi-day bikepacking route, whether you are trying for an ITT, or you are looking for a relaxed paced trip. With a number of resupply points, the TNGA is an excellent option for folks who don’t wish to “rough it” while bikepacking. The resupply points include the towns of Dillard, Hellen, Blue Ridge & Dalton, which are all on, or very close to, the route. Also, Mulberry Gap Mountain Bike Get Away is on the route and is a great place to spend the night indoors in one of their cozy cabins. With resupply points and water sources along the way, you shouldn’t worry about lacking water on the trail.At 350 miles, the trail distance is a little misleading – it is the climbing that is the real challenge. That being said, 4 days would be a comfortable duration for the trek at a more moderate pace.Route: The TNGA is a 350 mile point to point route with 56,000 feet of elevation. There is a good mix of forest roads, singletrack and some pavement. It’s not physically marked, so one needs to be comfortable with maps &/or GPS. Expect to make a few wrong turns just because there are many turns in general. It is recommended to download a GPX file of the route, which can be found in sections on the Trans North Georgia site. It’s a great way to explore everything that the North Georgia mountains have to offer, including some great vistas, both flowy and rugged singletrack, and loads of B grade forest roads. If you are looking for a relaxed route for your first bikepacking experience, don’t be fooled, the TNGA is no easy feat. When to ride: Spring and Fall are the best times due to the mild daytime temperatures. Just be prepared for some cold and potentially humid nights.
The 142 mile trail that travels between Moab, Utah and Loma, Colorado is a perfect weekend trip. The Route takes you through large canyons, over desert plains, along the Colorado River, and up to the La Sal Mountain range. The trail consists of mostly jeep road, a bit of paved road, and very little singletrack. You will encounter death sand, extremely rocky hike-a-bike, smooth road, and some pavement. The Koko is a perfect backcountry bikepacking route with no resupply spots and very little water.Logistics: Because of it’s remote location, you must either pack all of your food and water, or drop a cache bag somewhere along the way. The route has plenty of great camping spots. Some designated sites include: Rabbit Valley, Dewey Bridge (paid), Hideout Campground, and Bull Draw to name a few. There are very few water locations, but depending on the season they could be dry and the Colorado River is very silty. An important spot is the Westwater rangers station, which is 2 miles off route (make sure spigot is on). It is a great resource, and sits at at a good location whichever direction you are riding.
Route: The Kokopelli’s Trail can be traveled in either direction – from Loma, CO to Moab, UT, or visa versa. It is easiest to shuttle a car from one location to another and drive back to your start point. This route can be done in just over 12 hours (fastest) and anywhere up to 5 days. We highly suggest getting a map for this route, although it is well marked, so that you are prepared if you’re in a pinch and need a quick exit strategy. A new guide just came out called, Kokopelli’s Trail – A Complete Guide. It has everything you need to know in detail, from water and camping to route finding and exit points. If your heading to Moab, consider taking the Porcupine Rim Trail verses Sand Flats Road.
When to ride: Because of the elevation near the La Sal Mountains, this route usually does not ride until Early April. This obviously could vary depending on snow depth and temperatures.
The 372 mile Stagecoach route traverses Southern California’s San Jacinto & Laguna mountain ranges, rides through the Anza Borrego Desert, and skirts along the San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Camping opportunities exist along the route, except in downtown San Diego. Likewise, cabin rentals and resort stays are options on key intervals. A good touring pace takes 5 days.
Logistics: The riding terrain and difficulty vary quite a bit. Weather can be very hot in the desert, or cold & snowy in the mountains. The coastal section can be chilly and damp. Current GPS files and cues with detailed information & resupply info are available for a modest charge from Hub Cyclery.
The Route: The loop gains approximately 33,000 ft over 372 miles. The highest elevation is approximately 6,000ft in Idyllwild, and again in the Lagunas, with the lowest elevation just below sea level in the desert, and at sea level at the Pacific Ocean. In times of high heat, the desert section can be amended by connecting Borrego Springs to Oriflamme Canyon on pavement. The route’s terrain is most suited for traditional mountain bikes, though folks have toured it on Fat Bikes, and have raced it on drop bar 29ers.When to Ride: The route is best in the springtime after winter precipitation, but portions can be ridden at any time of year. The desert reaches high temps over 110 degrees in the summer.
This remote, arduous backcountry ride consists of the Kokopelli Trail, the Paradox Trail and the Tabegauche Trail. While the Kokopelli Trail is well known and fairly well ridden, the other two legs of this big triangle are some of the most remote, seldom visited places in Utah and Colorado. That is also part of the charm of this tough almost forgotten slice of bikepacking history. There is no mistaking the complete and total “out there” feeling of this loop.
Logistics: The Grand Loop is quite hard for many reasons. There is very little or no resupply along it’s 360 miles. Not many good maps exist for the area and there is not much water along many sections. Timing is also tricky for doing the Grand Loop, as the route contains both low hot dry desert and high alpine terrain. It depends much on the snow levels up on the Uncompahgre Plateau. Too early equals post holing, too late and the desert will fry you. Large populations of elk, deer, black bear and mountain lions abound, their tracks dominate the route. Huge basins are also filled with wild flowers.
Route: The Grand Loop traditionally starts at the Lunch Loops, outside of Grand Junction, Colorado. You begin by riding backroads to the Loma trailhead in Fruita, where the Kokopelli’s trail begins. It follows the Kokopelli all the way up into the La Sals, where the Paradox Trail begins and takes you along the eastern flank of the La Sals. You can either do the infamous Koski Traverse, or the easier Bedrock option which is the traditional route. After many a hike a bike, the Paradox Trail climbs up towards the Uncompahgre Plateau. There the trail meets with the last leg of the loop, the Tabeguache Trail. Perhaps the most amazing part of the whole ride can be found here, dipping into the dry hard rock of canyon country below and climbing up into the high alpine aspens and dark timber above. The Tabeguache Trail eventually drops off the Plateau. After more tough lower elevation climbs, you end up back at the Lunch Loops and the Grand Loop is complete.
When To ride: It really depends on the year, but its safe to say late May is a good time to ride. The Uncompahgre Plateau holds snow on the North and East aspects, check this link for snow levels. It can be hot and sandy down low, but cold and wet up top.