There are many different viewpoints about getting active while on vacation — and you’ve probably witnessed this whole range within your own family. Maybe mom wants to go hiking or scuba diving, while your teenage daughter is more interested in sunbathing on the beach and reading a new best-selling book.
Bike riding presents a happy medium for every member of the family — it’s a physical activity that doesn’t need to be too physical. Whether your family gravitates toward the adventurous activities or they prefer something a little more leisurely, there’s no shortage of spots to hightail it to with bikes in tow this summer.
Below are some of the top trails in four popular family vacation destinations.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach has a 2.5-mile concrete boardwalk that keeps its bike lanes separate from the pedestrian path. It’s an ideal first ride for young kids.
The beach city has a handful of state parks and nature preserves that offer an alternative to the boardwalk for a bike ride with scenic views. The town also has a good network of protected bike lanes you can take to get around on two wheels, and several of them run parallel to main streets.
For something a little bit different, you can try beach cruising, which entails riding on the sand using bikes with wide tires. It’s fun to bike down by the edge of the water, stopping to dip your feet in. This activity is easiest at low tide when the wet sand has had a chance to dry out and firm up. Even at that time, though, biking in sand takes a little extra effort, so it’s an activity best suited to teens and adults who can handle the irregular terrain.
It’s easy to find places to rent beach cruisers, as well as regular bikes and accessories. Cherie’s Bike & Blade has several locations along the boardwalk to help you out.
Orlando offers 45 miles of bike trails and 50 miles of signed routes, in addition to extensive on-street bike lanes. A good number of these trails and greenways are the right distance for family rides. Most wind through a mix of neighborhoods and parks, as well as around lakes and waterways.
For example, the 8-mile Little Econ Greenway passes through residential neighborhoods, parks and canals. You can spot kayakers, water birds and even alligators along the paved path.
There’s also the connecting Lake Baldwin Trail, a 2.5-mile loop around a lake that sits next to a planned community. When you’re finished riding, you can pop over to the town center for a snack. The loop is a good ride for kids who aren’t ready for something longer.
For a more rigorous route, the 15-mile Lake Apopka Loop Trail winds around its namesake through land that has recently been restored as a nature preserve.
TrailLink lists several others, and the descriptions can give you a feel for what the trails are like. Note that the site doesn’t distinguish between in-town, commuter bike trails and scenic, recreational ones.
Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are both gateways to Smoky Mountain National Park. The area has plenty of family biking trails, as well as more difficult mountain biking opportunities for the more adventurous. Expect scenery and a few hills.
The most popular ride is Cades Cove Loop, an 11-mile, one-way scenic road. Bikes share the road with pedestrians and vehicles, but on Wednesday mornings (and sometimes Saturdays) the road is closed to cars. Along the way, there are plenty of picturesque overviews where you can take a break. Bring water and snacks or even a picnic lunch along on this one. From May to October, you can rent bikes at the Cades Cove campground store.
The short, 2-mile Gatlinburg trail stretches from the outskirts of town to the park’s Sugarlands visitors’ center. It’s one of two off-street trails in the park that allow cyclists.
Outside of the park, the 4-mile Riverwalk Greenway winds through Pigeon Forge along the Little Pigeon River, ending with a loop through a small park. It’s a good, easy ride for younger kids.
The other in-park trail that allows biking is the Oconaluftee River Trail, about an hour from Gatlinburg on the North Carolina side of the national park. It’s an easy and scenic 3-mile ride that follows its namesake river. It’s a short trail, but ideal for kids because you can begin or end your ride at the outdoor Mountain Farm Museum built around a 19th century Tennessee homestead.
This path is packed dirt with some gravel patches. Hybrids and kids’ bikes with thicker tires will be fine, but with a road bike, be careful of popping a tire on the rougher areas.
Sedona’s rugged, red rock trails are popular with hikers and mountain bikers alike. There are a few trails in the area that you can manage with a hybrid or sturdy road bike, as well as opportunities to sharpen your mountain biking skills.
The Red Rock Loop is an 8-mile paved trail through the area’s foothills. It isn’t flat, but it’s still suitable for road bikes and kids who have bikes with gears. The 7-mile Bell Rock Pathway is around 3.5 miles of packed dirt, suitable for family bike rides.
If you want to give mountain biking a try, the Sedona beginner loop on the Big Park Loops is one of the few trails in the area that will work for families. Most of it is wide, packed dirt. There are only a few tricky spots, and you can always walk your bikes if the trail looks too daunting.
Wherever you go to get outside on two wheels, stay safe, pack sunscreen and enjoy the ride. Happy trails to you and your family!
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