May is National Bike Month, a great time for a family ride. Michael Frank, executive editor of Mountain Bike, shares his recommendations for car-free, scenic and relatively flat trails with Kathy Baruffi for USA TODAY
Forest Park -Portland, Ore.
Forest Park is true to its name — and at 5,161 acres, it’s the largest fully forested natural inner city park in the USA. “Enter and you’d swear you’re very far from civilization,” Frank says. “The niftiest way to see the park is via Leif Erikson Drive, an 11.2-mile, relatively flat dirt road that bisects the greenbelt and is shared by joggers, hikers, and cyclists.” 503-823-2223; www.portlandparks.org
Burke-Gilman Trail – Seattle
“The 27-mile Burke-Gilman Trail goes along scenic Lake Washington, and rolls by wineries (Columbia, Chateau Ste. Michelle) and excellent restaurants such as the Herbfarm in Woodinville, ultimately linking up to the East Lake Sammamish River Trail,” Frank says. “The newly opened 11-mile addition offers stunning views of Mount Rainier.” 206-684-4075.
Griffith Park – Los Angeles
This urban park in the heart of the city, home to the L.A. Zoo and the Griffith Observatory, is also rugged enough to harbor wildlife like foxes and deer. “While this isn’t a cyclist’s paradise, it’s a great place for families to ride from attraction to attraction, including several playgrounds, a bird sanctuary, and a merry-go-round,” Frank says. “The best loop runs along Crystal Springs Drive and Zoo Drive, then rolls back along the Los Angeles River and ends on Los Feliz Boulevard near the main entrance.” 323-913-4688.
Lost Prospector Trail – Park City, Utah
Known as a skier’s paradise and home of the Sundance Film Festival, Park City is also a mountain biker’s nirvana. “On the 7-mile route called Lost Prospector, you can spy natural attractions, including lovely stands of aspen and frequent views of the epic Wasatch Crest peaks and a bird’s-eye view of Park City,” Frank says. Want completely flat? Hit the less-taxing 28-mile Union Pacific Rail Trail, he advises. 435-649-6839; mountaintrails.org
Charles River Bike Path – Boston
“Beantown’s bike scene is vibrant, and its path network is huge,” Frank says. “One of the friendliest places to ride is along the 17-mile paved Charles River Bike Path, rolling by Harvard, the Museum of Science and the Charles River Esplanade. Watch crew teams practicing, sailors racing and kayakers enjoying the water.” Rent a boat and join the fun, he suggests, or stop for a family picnic by the riverside and watch. 617-626-4973.
Summit County Recreational Path – Colorado
Summit County is interconnected with a 55-mile network of asphalt, non-motorized pathways that link towns and resorts such as Breckenridge, Dillon and Copper. “Most climb and descend gently,” Frank says, “and the Breckenridge area has an entire network of new, family-friendly, single-track dirt trails that use pre-existing mining paths that date to the Colorado gold rush.” 877-864-0868; gobreck.com
Mohonk Preserve – New Paltz, N.Y.
This 6,500-acre nature preserve in the Shawangunk Mountains is about 90 miles hours north of New York City. “Miles of rolling carriage roads weave throughout the beautiful woodland and link to those at the adjacent Minnewaska State Park Preserve,” Frank says. “Enjoy the mountain air and cliff views, and if you head out at dawn or dusk, you might be lucky enough to spot wildlife, including porcupines and owls.” 845-255-0919; mohonkpreserve.org/index.php?bike
Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail – Key Largo
Old railways make perfect bicycle routes because they never climb or descend too steeply. “In Florida, which already is relatively flat, Henry Flagler’s rail line, which linked the Keys to the mainland at the end of the 19th century, is being converted into a 106-mile path connecting the islands,” Frank says. “Some of the existing sections go through Key Largo, Tavernier, Long Key Big Pine and Stock Island, and side trips on county road shoulders make for beautiful riding.” 305-853-3571.
Battle Creek Regional Park – St. Paul
This large county park, with nearly 8 miles of single track, arcs along its namesake tributary of the Mississippi River. “The riding can be challenging, but there are also mellower, wide dirt paths, and you can even ride from downtown St. Paul along a paved bike path that runs directly to the park,” Frank says. 651-748-2500.
Cape Fear River Trail – Fayetteville, N.C.
The largest of all bike paths in the nation will be the East Coast Greenway, a 3,000-mile-long, car-free route that will stretch from northern Maine to southern Florida when it’s completed decades from now. About 20% of the city-to-city system has been opened, and perhaps no segment is more typical than the Cape Fear River Trail, Frank says. The 3.7-mile paved path features wooden walkways and bluebird houses. 910-433-1547.