Discover the Thrill of Bikepacking: Exploring the Midwest and Central United States

Discover the Thrill of Bikepacking: Exploring the Midwest and Central United States
Photo by Marek Piwnicki:

Bikepacking is a blend of cycling and backpacking, offering an adventurous way to explore the great outdoors. Unlike traditional cycling tours that often stick to paved roads, bikepacking embraces off-road trails and rugged terrains. Riders carry all their gear on their bikes, allowing them to travel light and venture deep into nature. This self-sufficient approach combines the thrill of mountain biking with the simplicity of minimalist camping, making it an ideal pursuit for outdoor enthusiasts looking to immerse themselves in the wilderness.

Popular Bikepacking Routes in the Midwest and Central United States

1. The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR)

Spanning from Canada to Mexico, the GDMBR offers a challenging and scenic route through the heart of the United States. The section that cuts through the Midwest provides a mix of gravel roads, single tracks, and quiet backroads. Key highlights include:

- Route Description: This route winds through Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico, offering diverse landscapes from rolling prairies to towering mountains.
- Camping and Lodging: Numerous campgrounds and small-town motels are available along the route.
- Points of Interest: Highlights include the stunning vistas of the Rocky Mountains, historic mining towns, and the expansive Great Plains.

2. Katy Trail State Park, Missouri

The Katy Trail is one of the longest rail-trails in the country, stretching 240 miles across Missouri. It’s perfect for bikepackers seeking a leisurely ride through scenic countryside.

- Route Description: This trail follows the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, offering a flat, crushed limestone path.
- Camping and Lodging: Numerous campgrounds, bed and breakfasts, and hotels are available in the charming towns along the trail.
- Points of Interest: Enjoy views of the Missouri River, picturesque farmlands, and historic sites like the Daniel Boone Home.

3. The Arkansas High Country Route

This challenging route showcases the rugged beauty of the Ozarks and Ouachita Mountains.

- Route Description: Covering over 1,000 miles, this route features steep climbs, dense forests, and remote backroads.
- Camping and Lodging: Dispersed camping is available in national forests, along with occasional small-town accommodations.
- Points of Interest: Highlights include the Buffalo National River, Hot Springs National Park, and quaint mountain towns.

4. The Flint Hills Nature Trail, Kansas

The Flint Hills Nature Trail offers a unique ride through one of the last remaining tallgrass prairie ecosystems in North America.

- Route Description: This 117-mile trail traverses the scenic Flint Hills, offering a mix of gravel and dirt paths.
- Camping and Lodging: Campgrounds and small-town inns are available along the route.
- Points of Interest: Experience the serene beauty of the tallgrass prairie, historic bridges, and charming rural communities.

What Makes a Great Bikepacking Route?

A great bikepacking route combines the right mix of challenging terrain, natural beauty, and practical amenities. Here are key factors that contribute to an excellent bikepacking experience:

- Scenic Landscapes: The best routes offer diverse and breathtaking scenery, from mountains and forests to rivers and prairies.
- Terrain Variety: A mix of gravel roads, single tracks, and off-road trails keeps the ride interesting and engaging.
- Accessibility: Routes should have easy access to water, food, and emergency services.
- Camping and Lodging: Availability of campgrounds, backcountry campsites, and occasional indoor lodging options.
- Points of Interest: Historic sites, natural landmarks, and unique cultural attractions enhance the journey.
- Route Information: Well-documented routes with maps, guides, and resources help riders plan their trips effectively.

Bikepacking is a fantastic way to explore the Midwest and Central United States, offering adventure, self-sufficiency, and a deep connection to nature. Whether you're navigating the rugged trails of the Ozarks or cruising along the scenic Missouri River, the joy of bikepacking lies in the journey and the discoveries made along the way. For top quality gear to assist you on your journeys, explore Pike Trail's products designed specifically for bike and backpacking. Happy trails!

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