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The Underground Railroad was a series of clandestine routes and safe houses put together to help black slaves escape southern American states and travel into the abolitionist north or even Canada. Today the Adventure Cycling Association has developed former parts of the network into a 2,057 mile (3310km) long cycle track which stretches from Mobile Alabama across the eastern United States and into Canada terminating at Owen Sound. An epic trail steeped in history, this superb marathon of a ride will take you through some archetypal American scenery via several historic sites at which you can learn more about the people who were forced to make the epic journey you are now enjoying way back in the pre-civil war America.
Centennial trail is 111 miles (178kms) of biking through quintessential American scenery which at times make you feel like you’ve been transported into the old west. Encompassing buttes, thick forests, prairies and rolling grass lands the trail gives you the chance to ride Custer State Park and includes serene lake side sections around Sheridan and Pactola Lake. The trails difficulty varies significantly. You will encounter very easy road and path sections but then find yourself hauling your way up loose, steep inclines before rocketing down on the descent.
Trail 401 is set in amongst some of the most awe inspiring scenery that the state of Colorado has to offer, in fact there is barely a moment on the trail where you will not be surrounded by simply stunning views. The trail starts at Schofield from there you will have to employ all your climbing skills to get through sections dotted with meadows and evergreen forests. As you come into the East River Valley you will be presented with a winding downhill track through the undergrowth to enjoy at your leisure accompanied by the backdrop of the awesome Red Mountains and the imposing Crested Butte. The best time to take in this trail is during summer when the meadows come alive with wildflowers.
The Gauley Headwaters is 37 mile (59.5km) winding track through the Allegheny Mountains and the hardwood forests of Monongahela. The track is known as the best of some superb tracks to be found in the Appalachian range. It has everything an off-road rider would want including thick hardwood forests to navigate combined some arduous ascents which give way to legendary downhill riding. It is mostly single track along rocky ground at times, particularly as you pierce the tree line to cycle among the rocks of the forest. Highlights include a knuckle whitening single track descent which edges you ever closer to the headwaters of Tea Creek.
The unforgiving and brutal Slickrock trail is world renowned and responsible for Moab’s transformation into a mountain biking Mecca. This is a trail is very taxing both technically and physically and is for advanced riders only, but if you are seasoned off-roader then this trail needs to go rights at the top of your bucket list. The trail takes you along petrified sand dunes and via ancient dry seabed offering you expansive views of the vast rock hills of Utah’s canyon lands. The trail is about 12 miles (19.3kms) in all.
As a little respite for those of you who are pulling your hair out at the degree of difficulty presented by the list so far, we now head into the comfortable, more horizontal territory of the Natchez Trace Parkway. The 444 mile (714km) trail encompasses road sections on long, winding, leafy roads and other more dense woodland sections. It traces the hunting routes of the Natchez, Chickasaw, and Choctaw Indians gradually strung together by the native tribes over centuries. Offering riders the chance to immerse themselves in 10,000 years of American history, the trail is a wonderful opportunity for less advanced riders to get a taste of the more epic, wilderness trails usually reserved for hardcore off-roaders.
The Buffalo Creek area of Colorado is stuffed full of trail combinations for bikers to exhaust themselves on, due to the number of winding descents you can cover some serious ground here in one afternoon. The environment is pretty rough and ready. You’ll ride through partially burnt woodland, into rocky and sparse forests as you rapidly wind your way down the descents’ inclines.
The remote setting of the Soquel Demonstration and neighbouring Nisene Marks forests make it immediately appealing for mountain bikers, featuring an extensive trail system which is very rarely crowded. Set deep in the Santa Cruz Mountains the trails run down winding single woodland tracks and include some rapid downhill sections which incorporate a number tight turns. The trails really are woodland riding at its finest and provide over 20 miles (32kms) of some of the best and most challenging biking trails in the area.
To take a another break away from off-road biking, the temperate San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington state are perfect for cyclers of varying skill levels to ride. Offering huge variety over multiple trails dotted around the six island archipelago more recreational bikers will find plenty to keep them engaged. There are secluded bays and rolling hills to get lost in as well as leafy shorelines along which to ride and watch for marine wildlife. Lopez is considered among the best of the Islands for bikers and is home to a couple of 30 mile (48km) trails. These loop around the Islands on reasonably flat ground presenting the rider with beautiful ocean vistas. Go in the summer for the best weather and the Orca whale watching season.
Another wonderfully secluded off-road ride, Big Boulder offers riders a highly technical and challenging 22 mile (35km) loop. The track is a revived 130-year-old mining trail which starts out in Downieville, a mine rush town hidden away in the vast Tahoe National Forest. The riding here is single track mountain biking in an outstanding mountain setting with huge and exciting descents taking you down and along the Yuba River. Be sure to have on hand a bikers first aid kit and survival kit bag for this hiking and biking combo. This track is for pretty advanced riders and encompasses long sections of sustained ascension before rewarding you with the Yuba River descent.