Everybody wants to ‘go West’ at some point in their lifetime, but not only for the Hollywood Sign and the Golden Gate Bridge. The West also calls nature adventurers for its open spaces, red rocks, sunsets, wildlife, and quiet miles of nothingness. People who long for nature and people who have stuck to city-hopping in their travels should both consider bikepacking. The name gives itself away-it’s simply backpacking with a bike instead of on your feet. You can camp out for one night, or camp out for two months while bikepacking. There are multiple backpacking routes in the US and other countries, but these are a few that are scattered throughout the West.
Great Divide Route
Being one of the longest trails, it runs for 2,745 miles through Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico starting in the town of Banff in Alberta, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico. Each year, there is a Tour Divide Challenge in June where bikepackers race to the finish for about three weeks. There is no prize, no money, just pure willpower. However, for the leisure bikepackers, you can do bits and pieces of the trail for as many days as you choose.
Photo via Bikepacking
Oregon Three Rivers Trail
This trail actually consists of three different bike trails that can be linked without the aid of shuttles. The entire loop is 400 miles starting in Eugene, Oregon. This loop has similar rider-friendly ratings as the Great Divide Route, but since it’s shorter, it is overall a good starting trail for new bikepackers. In the photo beneath is the North Umpqua portion of the trail, which has campsites near swimming holes for in the evenings after long days of biking.
Photo via Mountain Bike
Covering ground from Mexico to Utah, the Arizona Trail is notorious for it’s smaller trails that break off the main-route. Even though the route was finished in December 2011, there is no official bike route. With this route, you should consider joining the Arizona Trail Association for access to single-track maps of bike trails and specifics on restrictions of where you can bike due to wildlife.
Photo via Chad F. Brown
These are just three of the many bikepacking trails which you can start out with. This sport has grown in recent years, and it is great way to quickly cover more ground out in the wild. When you go on your first trip, make sure to get the equipment you need, but you’ll have to practice minimalism. Once you’re on the trail with the bare necessities, take your time to enjoy every overlook, wildlife, or sunset you see.