Our favorite family biking locales combine stunning scenery with a relatively easy grid of trails and uncongested backcountry roads. All of these destinations, located in North America, offer memorable rides, guaranteed to inspire all ages to travel on two wheels (though some are best for families with older children).
Many of the cities on the list have detailed bike maps that pinpoint bike trails and roads with bike lanes that are better suited for pedaling. Bike rentals are also easily accessible, often right next to the bike trail. Ride on!
Written by Stephen Jermanok
In Eastham, you can take a slight detour off the CCRT to the Cape Cod National Seashore's Visitors Center. Here, you'll find another bike trail that rolls up and down through the marsh and forest to the glorious dunes of Coast Guard Beach, named one of the 10 Best Beaches for Families in 2017. If you'd prefer a ride with ups and downs, then you have to check out the 8-mile long Provincelands Bike Trail at the tip of the Cape. This undulating route dips in and out of sand dunes, twisting through scrub-pine forests and along beaches in one of the most unique bike paths you'll ever venture on. Additional bike trails on the Cape include the Shining Sea Bikeway from Falmouth to Woods Hole, and the Cape Cod Canal Bikeway, a bike path under the Sagamore and Bourne Bridges along the canal.
Cruise under the vast span of the George Washington Bridge, past the USS Intrepid in Midtown, and then reach Battery Park City, where you can see the Statue of Liberty. What an exhilarating feeling to see the skyscrapers and iconic sites of Manhattan on two wheels! This continues as you bike along the Lower East Side on the East River and pedal under the Brooklyn Bridge. Another fun ride is to simply bike the 6-mile loop around Central Park.
You'll pass working locks and historic mills that line the waterway, but the sweetest reward for both parents and children is the chance to stop at Marche Atwater, a public market that offers a tantalizing selection of Quebecois breads, cheeses, fruit, and dessert. Sample the soft Pied de Vent cheese from the Magdalen Islands, the juicy blackberries, and, of course, the pain au chocolat, warm and buttery, just out of the oven. This should give the kids enough energy to bike back to town.
It's the jaw-dropping vista of the skyscrapers on the return trip that will have you reaching for the camera, though -- you look up at a wall of spectacular buildings. If you want to continue past Navy Pier and head north, you'll reach Oak Street Beach, the first of many beaches that are open to the public, a perfect place to lounge and get a much needed rest.
Another worthwhile part of the Byway is the 2-mile loop downtown along the Mississippi River, where you'll cross the historic Stone Arch Bridge and view the churning water of St. Anthony Falls. Be sure to head across the street to visit the Mill City Museum. Rising like yeast from the ruins of what was once the world's largest flour mill, the museum gives families the opportunity to see how flour fortified this Midwestern city.
Blue Star is also the start of the city's best bike ride: the 10-mile long Mission Reach. It's not uncommon to find herons, egrets, families of ducks, and turtles lounging in the waters, and colorful wildflowers in full bloom. When the trail ends at Mission Road, you can turn right to visit Mission Concepcion or left to visit Mission San Jose. These early 18th-century Spanish colonial missions are now part of a national historic park. At its height, the missions would hold up to 300 people, working as a church, farm, and ranch. Both churches are still in operation. In fact, if you bike here on Sunday morning, you'll catch the popular Mariachi Mass at Mission San Jose.
Older families will want to continue their bike ride on the island of Coronado. Take the 15-minute ferry across the bay and get ready to do some serious riding on San Diego's longest continuous trail, the 8.5-mile (one-way) Silver Strand. The route takes you through Coronado on Glorietta Boulevard and then south along the shores of San Diego Bay. Glorietta Bay Park and Silver Strand State Beach are two of the better places to rest and gaze at the San Diego skyline.
You'll cross the marshes of Crissy Field on a bike trail before reaching Fort Point, directly under the massive bridge. A wide bike lane leads you atop Golden Gate for stunning views of San Francisco Bay -- just don't stop until you reach the lookout area midway down the bridge, as the bike lane gets highly congested, often with professional cyclists. After that, coast 2 miles downhill into the seaside village of Sausilito, where you can grab lunch, stroll through boutique shops, watch street entertainers (look for the guy who blows giant bubbles) and simply relax.
Tip: You'll want to ride the ferry back to San Francisco, and can bring your bikes with you. Grab ferry fare and tokens -- which allow you to get to the front of the ferry line -- as soon as you reach Sausalito. This will ensure shorter wait times -- which can be rather long and brutal at the end of an extremely active day -- on the ride back to San Francisco.
The trail begins in the Fremont section of town. At Gas Works Park, you can spot the Space Needle towering over the Seattle skyline. Heading into the University of Washington at Seattle campus, make a pitstop at Essential Baking Cafe (1604 N. 34th Street) to purchase some sandwiches and fresh baked goodies. The ideal picnic spot is Matthews Beach Park, Seattle's largest swimming beach. On a clear day, you can get a glimpse of Mt. Rainer in the distance.
But the real joy of biking around Stanley Park is the spectacular ocean views as you pedal under towering Douglas-fir trees along the rocky shoreline. You'll spend the bulk of your time looking at massive ocean liners cruising in and out of the bay and the West Vancouver hills that rise opposite the span of Lions Gate Bridge. Don't avert your glance from the shoreline though. Seals lounge atop the boulders and otters are often found dining on crabs. Indeed, it's almost ironic to visit an aquarium when you have this much sea life just outside its premises in the wild.