It could be said that the Great Divide Bike Trail is like the Mount Everest of cycling adventures. Not only is it the longest mountain bike trail in the world at 2,500 miles, but it has over 200,000 feet of elevation gain. Stretching from Canada to Mexico, the Great Divide bike trail travels through some of the most mountainous regions in the U.S. and delivers a sense of remoteness not often found these days. Cyclists agree that whether you take on the challenge of riding the entire trail or a section of it, you’ll return from the Great Divide a changed person. The Great Divide bike trail was started by Adventure Cycling, a non-profit organization that charts one of the largest networks of cycling routes at over 40,ooo miles of trails. Their mission is to
inspire people of all ages to travel by bicycle. We help cyclists explore the landscapes and history of America for fitness, fun, and self-discovery.
The route, which roughly parallels the Continental Divide, is not for the faint of heart. Divided into 5 geographic regions, the trail crosses through some of the most diverse terrains a cyclist could encounter with long stretches of no services. According to Adventure Cycling, one-third of the overnights are considered wilderness sites and most others are forest sites with pit toilets and a water supply. This is why they call it bikepacking. Trail conditions vary with the terrain from pavement and gravel roads to singletrack mountain trails and old railroad beds and can be tough on bikes.
Most cyclists travel from north to south and the entire route is typically completed in about 3 months. Other cyclists just bike portions of the trail or go back to complete a different section each trip, much like hikers do on the Appalachian Trail. Much care and research should be taken on what equipment will be needed and how to best reduce your impact on the land. Adventure Cycling publishes maps and guide books to help plan one of your own epic rides you’ve been hearing so much about.
There are also many blog diaries about cycling the Great Divide Trail. Here’s one.
For more information, see these books:
- Cycling the Great Divide: From Canada to Mexico on America’s Premier Long Distance Mountain Bike Route
- BICYCLING THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE: Slice of Heaven, Taste of Hell
- Travels With Willie: Adventure Cyclist