Bike Tours on the Great American Rail Trail
What is the Great American Rail-Trail?
The Great American Rail-Trail will be a cross-country, multi-use pedestrian trail network stretching more than 3700 miles between Washington, D.C. and Washington State. The Great American Rail-Trail is the biggest buzz in the bicycle touring community right now! Is riding it on your bucket list? Wilderness Voyageurs is here to help you get there!
Where is the Great American Rail-Trail?
The Great American Rail-Trail will run from Washington DC on the east coast, to Washington State on the west coast. More than 125 trails will connect to form the Great American Rail-Trail. This country-wide trail system will pass through 12 states and the District of Columbia. The Great American Rail Trail is the brainchild of the Rails to Trails Conservancy (RTC). If you are not familiar with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, it is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people.”
What Kinds of Trails Make Up the Great American Rail-Trail?
The RTC carefully selected a route for the Great American Rail-Trail for all types of trail users—from long-distance cyclists and runners to casual daily explorers and everyone in between. All of these trails would provide safe, non-motorized travel on a route that’s completely walkable and bikeable. Ultimately, the trail will be completely separate from traffic. And here’s some great news – it’s already almost halfway done!
Some iconic trails are already in place along the Great American Rail-Trail route. Communities, nonprofit partners, state agencies and volunteers have all rolled up their sleeves to build these trails to benefit their local area. Check out the full list here.
Which Trails on the Great American Rail-Trail Can You Tour Now with Wilderness Voyageurs?
Wilderness Voyageurs already visits many segments of the the Great American Rail-Trail. Our home trail, the famous and picturesque Great Allegheny Passage, is one of the primary building blocks of the east-to-west route.
These are the trails we lead multi-day inn-to-inn, fully-supported bike tours on now. The list goes from east to west:
C&O Canal Towpath – Washington DC
On our six-day Pittsburgh to D.C. bike tour, we ride the C&O Canal Towpath from Cumberland to Georgetown. Following the Potomac River, the C&O Canal Towpath traverses the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park for 184.5 miles. Hundreds of original features, including locks, lock houses, aqueducts and other canal structures, are reminders of the canal’s role as a transportation system during the Canal Era, which peaked in the mid-19th century.
Capital Crescent Trail – Washington DC
Our Pittsburgh to D.C. bike tour includes an optional ride on the Capital Crescent, a paved trail that parallels the canal towpath. The 11-mile Capital Crescent Trail follows the former route of the Georgetown Branch rail line of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.
Great Allegheny Passage – Maryland & Pennsylvania
We visit the Great Allegheny Passage on three different trips: the four-day Great Allegheny Passage tour from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, the six-day Pittsburgh to D.C. tour, and the Pennsylvania and Maryland Easy Rider tour. (The GAP is literally our backyard – Wilderness Voyageurs is located right next to the trail in Ohiopyle!)
The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) is an iconic rail-trail that runs 150 miles from Cumberland, Maryland, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was built in partnership between state agencies and many local trail groups and volunteers. Check out our info page on the Great Allegheny Passage for info and travel tips!
NorPac Trail – Montana and Idaho
On our Idaho Coeur d’Alenes and Hiawatha tour, we spend some time on the NorPac Trail. The NorPac Trail follows the old right-of-way of the Northern Pacific Railway (hence the trail’s name) in western Montana and the Idaho Panhandle, crossing Lookout Pass. The trail runs from Idaho near Mullan at the trailhead for the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, past the East Portal of the Route of the Hiawatha (south of Taft, Montana) and on to the small town of Saltese. The entire trail offers spectacular views of the forested Rocky Mountains as well as lakes and streams.
Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes – Idaho
The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes covers nearly 72 paved miles through scenic mountains and valleys in Idaho’s Panhandle. The area has a rich mining, railroading and Native American history. We ride the trail in segments, with plenty of time to enjoy the shoreline of sparkling Lake Coeur d’Alene, rolling foothills in the Palouse prairie, and the impressive Chatcolet Bridge.
Olympic Discovery Trail – Washington
The Washington Olympic Peninsula tour cruises the Olympic Discovery Trail, which is the western terminus of the Great American Rail-Trail. Starting in the Victorian seaport of Port Townsend, and ending on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, the ODT is filled with views of snow capped peaks, ocean vistas, fast flowing rivers and pristine lakes, and everywhere the majestic forests of the Pacific Northwest. Olympic National Park, which was established in 1938 by President Franklin Roosevelt, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site! The park is truly special, with 922,650 acres of rain forest, old-growth forest, glacier-topped peaks and alpine meadows. Its forests are home to cougars, bears, deer, woodpeckers, golden eagles, mountain goats and peregrine falcons nesting above the trail on Pyramid Mountain.
What other trails does Wilderness Voyageurs ride?
Check out our complete list of rail-trail bike tours! We tour on many trails from east to west, and we’re always expanding our list of destinations! Ride in the states of New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Florida, Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan, South Dakota, Idaho and Washington.
What’s next for the Great American Rail-Trail?
As the route keeps filling in, we’ll continue to explore the awesome local trails that comprise it!
Learn more about the Rails to Trails Conservancy and their work connecting the Great American Rail-Trail.
Wilderness Voyageurs is here to provide support and make your vacation fantastic! All of our inn-to-inn bike tours include a support vehicle, two professional guides, fantastic food and well-planned routes to incredible places. Join us on your next adventure!