Hiking through the backcountry on a scenic trail is edifying and fulfilling for backpackers and mountaineering enthusiasts who are after sweeping views, landscapes, and perhaps even some wildlife. Mountain biking offers the chance to enjoy these same advantages with an additional adrenaline boost and allows bikers to travel greater distances to reach more landmarks and vistas.
The best biking trails are near camping spots that offer amenities like picnic tables, restrooms, and tent sites. RV parks are great for people who travel inside their living space. Many have full hook-ups for electricity and water, although some campers prefer to try dry-camping instead.
There are fantastic places for bike camping across North America, from the San Francisco Bay Area to Prince Edward Island in Canada. Some of the best examples are in state parks, national parks, national forests, or other federally protected landmarks, which means bikers can ride through sections or go long-distance on biking trails across some of the most beautiful terrain in North America and almost always have a campsite nearby to sleep at night. Not every location is open all year round, but there are enough places to visit in places that are almost always sunny and warm like Florida and California that people in North America can go bike camping at just about any point during the year.
Some campsites will be more preferable for some bikers over others depending on their skill level, ability to travel long distances, and preferred terrain. Some organizations have attempted to develop classification systems to rate bike trails by their difficulty to help visitors determine which trail suits their skill level.
The most advanced one of these systems is the one drawn up by the International Mountain Bike Association, or IMBA. Knowing this classification system can help you find a great trail to get the most bang for your buck on your next outdoor adventure.
It’s not always easy to compare bike trails in one geographic area with those in another. Colorado bike trails, for example, have much higher elevation gains than elsewhere in the country, but bikers there are probably more used to that challenge than people from flatter places in the northwest.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide to the best camping spots for mountain bikers to see the most breathtaking samples that can be found in North America. Read on to see them all and start planning your next bike camping trip.
Best Campgrounds for Biking – Overview
Commonly referred to as the Grand Canyon of the east, Letchworth is home to 270 electric campsites in the Finger Lakes region of New York. The main feature of this state park is the gorge formed by the Gennessee River.
Bikers can take in some fantastic views of the Gennessee River from the FLT (Finger Lakes Trail) Branch Trail, a 22-mile bike trail that’s been rated intermediate/difficult because of the creek crossings and its relatively steep overall grade. This single-track bike trail, which means it’s just big enough for one bike going in one direction at a time, is open to bikers during the summer months, normally opening around June 1.
Stretching from the Hogsback Overlook parking lot to a road just after an old railroad bridge, the FLT Branch Trail traces the lower gorge of the river before it crosses over some tributaries and then returns and runs along the steepest part of the lower gorge. It’s not easy going on this trail, but it is thrilling and will definitely tire you out. There are some side trails that lead to great overlooks to catch some nice views on a break from the trail.
Camping at Letchworth State Park opens around May 3rd and closes October 20, generally speaking. Both cabins and campsites are available, as well as electric hookups at both the 30 and 50 AMP output levels. There are also dumping stations, showers, a swimming pool, picnic tables, and a playground. Other camping options include RV sites.
- RV sites, cabin rentals, and tent sites
- Challenging bike ride
- Variety of extra activities
- Great views
- Closes seasonally
- No swimming in the Gennessee River
Northwest of New York about 13 hours’ drive, Prince Edward’s Island is one of the most well-known biking trip destinations in North America. Protected by the Canadian government as Prince Edward Island National Park, this place is home to great beach views and a whopping 270 miles of sandy trails that are great for biking and don’t present too much of a challenge in terms of elevation. Bike rental facilities are available for bikers who would have to travel a great distance to get to PEI and don’t want to bother taking a bicycle on an airplane. Tour guides are also available.
The Confederation Trail, a portion of the Trans Canada Trail in PEI National Park that used to be a functioning railway, basically covers all the wonderful natural beauty there is to see on Prince Edward Island. There are lots of campsites available on the island no matter whether you want to try to ride your bike on the whole Confederation Trail or just bike a section of it. From December 1 to March 31, the trail becomes a snowmobile track, so don’t plan a wintry biking excursion to PEI during that time of year.
Most visitors to PEI start out in Charlottetown, which even has its own airport for easy access. Bikers can ride from downtown Charlottetown to York on the Confederation Trail and turnaround on Robinson’s Island for a nice 25-mile trek.
There are modern accommodation options in Charlottetown but for those looking for a true outdoor adventure, the Stanhope Campground is nearer to Robinson’s Island. Staying there and biking to Robinson’s Island and then to downtown Charlottetown reverses the previously mentioned trail and adds a little under 7 miles, about 40 minutes’ bike ride, to the trek. Amenities at Stanhope include firewood, a kitchen shelter, swimming, restrooms, group camping, dumpsites, fire pits, and a playground.
- Near a city center
- Tons of bike trails
- Ample amenities
- Trails of any difficulty
- Closes seasonally
- Possibly crowds in the peak season
This remote state park is tailored to hikers and bikers. There are campsites where bikers can get ocean views and possibly even a view whale sightings in during the day time. Beach camping far away from RV parks and car camping campsites make for a peaceful, cycling-centric destination that should be at the top of every cyclist’s travel bucket list.
Amenities include 38 full-hookup campsites, 170 tent sites with water available, one electrical site, 13 yurts, six deluxe cabins, two group tent camping areas, hot showers and restrooms available for registered campers, a dumpsite, and firewood and ice for sale seasonally.
The Three Capes Scenic Drive, a beautiful experience of Pacific Northwest nature, splits from the main highway 101 and goes well off the beaten trail to cross through Capes Mear, Lookout, and Kiwanda. Cape Lookout has a parking lot available for a small fee, so bikers can drive to the start of the scenic drive at Cape Lookout and start their explorations from there.
Two towns, Netarts and Oceanside, are also along this section of the scenic drive. There, bikers can pull over for a unique experience of the best beaches in Oregon. If you have to travel a long way or go by plane to get to this part of Oregon, then the closest place to rent a bike for your outdoor adventure is in Lincoln City, at a place called Safari Town Surf.
This 11-mile bike trail is moderately difficult and bikers who plan to ride here should make sure to check the tides before they do so, lest they get stuck trying to ride in wet sand. For a peaceful biking trip at a place that’s specifically designed for a bike ride and bike camping, this Oregon spot is just about unbeatable.
- Biker-specific camping
- Beachside campsites
- Ample amenities
- Hot showers and restrooms available
- 11-mile bike trail
- Bike rental is about an hour’s drive south
This campground is situated in Bears Ears, which was famously downsized in late 2017. The eponymous buttes are a stunning example of the wonderful natural colors of the desert rocks in Utah. Juniper trees surround the Natural Bridges campsite, offering shade and seclusion for campers there. The campsites are first-come, first-served walk-in tent sites only.
There are 13 sites total, so make sure to arrive early enough to snag a spot before you hit the bike trail. The campsite is a little bit scant on modern amenities, although there is year-round garbage collection and disposal. There are vault toilets that serve as restrooms and there is no potable water source here, so make sure to bring enough to quench your thirst while you’re out biking.
Bikers who wish to stay here must also bring their own firewood along, as gathering it is not permitted in the park. There are no showers here. One nice thing about this campground in addition to the stunning surroundings is that it is open to visitors 24-hours a day all year round. In late summer there are often violent monsoons in Utah, while in the winter temperatures can range from 30 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime to 0 to twenty degrees in the evening. Choose what time to visit wisely and make sure to bring the right gear to stay warm and dry.
There are about 80 miles of biking trails in the wider Bears Ears National Monument and most of those bike trails are a ton of fun in terms of putting up a challenge. 10 to 17 miles’ cycling from the Natural Bridges Campground are the limits of Bears Ears, where bikers can find the trailhead for the 12-mile Peavine Corridor Jeep Road, a double-track bike trail that’s rated as intermediately difficult and features sheer cliff walls and stunning rock formations along its length.
It’s a rough trail that isn’t regularly maintained and so is likely to be washed out. This is a great ride deep in the Utah desert wilderness that hasn’t gotten that much attention, so it’s a great option for bikers who want to explore something new.
- Stargazing and natural rock formations
- Year-round access and waste disposal
- 80 miles of biking trails
- Vault toilet restrooms
- Good trail length
- Varying temperatures and weather conditions
- Non-maintained campsite
- Few amenities
The Natchez Trace was the lifeline between eastern states and the port cities of Mississippi and Louisiana in the 19th century and before that for centuries by Native Americans in the region. At 440 miles in length, the massive trail is now used for all sorts of outdoor adventures.
There are 5 different bicycle-only campgrounds along the trail, enabling adventurous bicyclists to trek along the trace between 30 and 60 miles a day, running from camp to camp, if so desired, through beautiful southern foliage and natural features to each of the following campsites:
- Kosciusko Campsite, milepost 160
- Witch Dance Campsite, milepost 234
- Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor’s Center Campsite, milepost 266
- Colbert Ferry Campground, milepost 327
- Tennessee Highway 50 Campsite, milepost 408
The chance to trek over such a distance is nothing to take lightly, but if cyclists plan far enough ahead and know where to stop to resupply, the adventure can be fulfilling and enriching. The bike-only campgrounds are fairly barebones, providing campers with only tent sites, picnic tables, and fire grates. Make sure you know how to survive in the backcountry with only those tools at your disposal and bring the right gear to get through the trek.
Luckily, there are parkway restrooms along the way where water bottles can be refilled. The campsites are also available year-round. It’s also possible to leave a car parked along the trail for an extended period provided you let Parkway Staff know about it in advance.
The Natchez Trace also has three other campgrounds that are open to everyone, both bicyclists and non-bikers. Use of these camps, which have some extra amenities, can be helpful for bikers who really want to try and tackle the whole long-distance trek. Make sure to do your research before you go. Spring and fall are the most popular times to cycle on the Trace since the summers are incredibly hot and humid there. Plan ahead if you want to try and avoid the crowds.
- Multiple bike-only campsites
- Tons of bike trails
- Basic amenities
- Restrooms available
- Few amenities provided
- Very hot and humid in summertime
Located approximately 5.5 hours’ drive from central San Francisco, Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve is home to four great bike trails and the Stewartville Backpack Camp, from which bicyclists can explore all the natural beauty and temperate California climate from the seat of their bikes. About 12 miles of trails course through the Preserve, ranging in difficulty and elevation.
The longest of these, the Stewartville Trail, is a fairly easy to follow bike trail which runs from one parking area to another, which makes it great for campers who have a car with them on their biking trip and want to leave it in either place while they bike.
Stewartville is a hike-in campsite that requires about a 3.2-mile walk but isn’t too difficult to reach by bike. There is a picnic area, which includes 3 6-foot picnic tables, as well as shade, a pit-toilet restroom, and non-potable water that is fine for horses but not humans. There isn’t much fancy about this campsite, but it is in a great location for bikers to have a quiet night stargazing before they head out to bike on the trail the next morning.
The surrounding landscapes are chock-full of natural beauty and it’s far enough away from the crowded Bay Area attractions that draw most people to that part of California. Just make sure you bring all your supplies with you if you plan to visit Stewartville since there won’t be any way to get new supplies when you’re there.
- Quiet, few crowds
- Four bike trails
- Year-round availability
- Picnic area
- Reservations only
- Few amenities
- No potable water
Wildflowers and wildlife are dispersed over stunning rocky views in this national forest near the busy city center of Boise, Idaho. There are tons of trails and campgrounds here, with a wide variety that’s sure to have space if you go through the trouble to make a reservation and do so early enough before the planned start of your trip. One of the best campsites in BNF is the Shafer Butte Campground, which offers single, double, and group campsites on the top of the scenic Bose Ridge Mountains.
Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area is nearby and the views from the 7,000-foot elevation are absolutely breathtaking. Idaho might not make every top 10 list, but if you trek to Boise National Forest and see one of the many bike trails near Shafer Butte, you’ll never leave it off yours again.
Due to its northern location, this campsite has to close by October 1 and sometimes earlier depending on the snowfall that year. It’s easy to get to due to its proximity to Boise. Group picnic areas are available and each campsite also has its own picnic table and campfire rings.
Some campsites have tent pads for campers’ use. There are 7 sites in total here, some of which are not possible to reserve and can only be gotten on a first-come, first-serve basis. There’s no potable water here, so make sure to bring some up before you climb the 7,000 feet to this wonderful mountain campsite.
- Group and single campsites
- Picnic tables and fire rings
- Mountain views
- Trailhead at the campsite
- Close to an urban area
- No water
- Few additional amenities
Cycling in the great outdoors is one of the most rewarding pursuits the backcountry has to offer. Like hiking, it affords the opportunity to see new vistas and landscapes. But since a bike allows more travel than just walking, bicyclists have the opportunity to see even more in a way that gives them great exercise and a challenge in terms of trail difficulty and exertion.
From remote locations like Michigan’s Upper Penninsula and mountainous campsites in Idaho to more popular ones in the San Francisco Bay Area or Portland, there are so many places for bicycling enthusiasts in North America that it’s hard to make a definitive guide without leaving some out.
Mountain bike trails in a state forest or hiking trails that afford bike usage in popular locations are popular for their pristine quality at times but equally popular for their unmaintained appearance for those who prefer a more rugged getaway. Bike paths and rail-trails are great ways to reach summits or descend from them at national monuments and state forests all over the continent.
Now that you’ve read about some of the very best, get started planning your next biking excursion from a dependable base camp where you can head out from in the morning and return to at night in one of the breathtaking natural environments North America has to offer.
Bonus tip: Check out some sweeping aerial views of the Hayduke Highway in Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument!