20 best bike paths in the West
Get to know these Western routes the way the locals do ― on two wheels
8 | SPOKANE RIVER CENTENNIAL TRAIL, SPOKANE, WA (39 miles)
Better name might be the Tour de Spokane County. On this ride, you'll get a glimpse of the suburbs, Gonzaga University campus, downtown, and rural countryside. Simply pedal along the contours of the glistening river—at times, running parallel to I-90—from the Idaho state line to Nine Mile Falls (it's a short, easy hike to the modest 50-foot falls) and Riverside Park. Info: www.spokanecentennialtrail.org
9 | PEAVINE AND IRON KING TRAILS, PRESCOTT, AZ (9.2 miles)
Sixty miles north of Phoenix, you'll find this pair of crushed-stone trails (they make a rough “T”). Keep your smart phone handy for snapshots of the grandiose Granite Dells – weathered boulders that jut skyward from Watson Lake – and rusted, gutted old train cars. You may get winded at 5,200 feet, but taking your time means more photo opps. Info: www.traillink.com/trail/peavine-trail.aspx
10 | OJAI VALLEY TRAIL, OJAI, CA (9.5 miles)
Go for a spectacular spin through the artsy city of Ojai – 35 miles south of Santa Barbara and 73 miles of Los Angeles. Every June, the city hosts a music festival at the local amphitheater. Stop to rock out or continue onward to explore the Los Padres National Forest. Stay on path, which seamlessly joins the Ventura River Trail (6 miles), to hit the beach and cool off with a dip. Info: www.traillink.com/trail/ojai-valley-trail.aspx
11 | PASEO DEL BOSQUE TRAIL, ALBUQUERQUE, NM
The Paseo del Bosque Trail is a shady 16-mile corridor that follows the languid Rio Grande west of downtown. Don't pass up a visit along the way to the Rio Grande Botanical Garden, a 20-acre desert oasis that includes a butterfly pavilion and is bordered by the world's largest cottonwood gallery. Info: www.nmts.org/rides/riversideTrail.htm or 505/768-2680.
12 | BOULDER CEEK PATH, BOULDER, CO
With mountain views, garden scenery, and public art displays along the way, nothing says "Boulder" better than the 7-mile Boulder Creek Path. From the flatlands near Valmont Reservoir, the path gently climbs 600 feet while paralleling Boulder Creek and plumbing the town's core. Eventually the pavement enters the chiseled Boulder Canyon, where low gears help you climb the remaining unpaved section that tops out at the Fourmile Canyon intersection. Info: www.bouldercolorado.gov or 303/441-3266.
13 | CHERRY CREEK TRAIL, DENVER, CO
Plying the city's best neighborhoods while following a rippling waterway, the 12-mile Cherry Creek Trail is the city's own Tour de Denver. Beginning at Confluence Park ― a kayaker's playground ― the paved sub-street-level trail scoots past LoDo and Capital Hill, past the tony Cherry Creek Shopping Center, before its rendezvous with Cherry Creek Reservoir. Info: www.denvergov.org or 720/865-2453.
14 | SOUTH BAY BICYCLE TRAIL, LOS ANGELES, CA
Stretching 23 miles from Pacific Palisades almost to the Palos Verdes Peninsula, the trail is a fossil fuel-free way to explore the best of Southern California. The route traverses the full range of beach life, from the eccentric funk of the Venice Boardwalk to the hard-bodied, hard-hitting world of South Bay beach volleyball courts. Tip: If you want to avoid crowds, get out early and finish by 11 ― after that, stretches of trail can bog down as surely as a So Cal freeway. Info: www.coastalconservancy.ca.gov/Wheel/lapage/2_smb/bike.html or 626/458-3940.
Sunset's solutions for the most common biking problems
- Problem: Too much traffic.
- Solution: The best driving route is never the best one for biking, because that's where the cars are. To find the best bike route, channel your inner 8-year-old to think about your neighborhood: Can you cut through the cul de sac into the back of a park, then on a side road with little traffic? That's the best way. Or, a road with wide bike lanes.
- Problem: What if I get a flat tire?
- Solution: Your phone is your best friend. Call someone you know for a ride, or look up the nearest bike shop. If it’s close by, walk there. Better World Club, a Portland-based eco-minded auto club, offers nationwide bicycle roadside assistance for $40/year (or $17 with auto membership). And for you MacGyvers, many bike shops offer flat-fixing seminars.
- Problem: Helmets—not a good look.
- Solution: You're right. We got nothing. Except that no one has ever regretted wearing one, only the opposite.
- Problem: I live too far away from everything to integrate biking into my day.
- Solution: Think about where you can bike from. Work? Keep a bike at your office, and use it to go the .8 miles to Chipotle for lunch. Downtown? Drive to a periperhal parking lot, then bike around town to do all your errands.