“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them,” Ernest Hemingway said, making a great point.
While each city has its own preferred mode of transportation — walking fast through the streets of New York, braving the tireless traffic of Los Angeles, ride-sharing amidst the hills of San Francisco — locals and visitors alike would be remiss not to give a bike a try, especially as more metropolises become friendlier to bicyclists than ever.
With so many paved trails, protected lanes, and bike-sharing offerings, pedaling through a new city is an underrated way to explore extensively. (Not to mention, you’ll also burn a few extra calories, which means that you can enjoy all of a town’s local indulgences with a little less guilt.)
To help you plan your next two-wheel trek, our expert editors traversed through a ton of local trail guides — targeting both seasoned bikers and casual cruisers — to find 20 of the best urban bike paths in the country.
Ride a 16-mile-long paved bike path without interruption from roadways on the Paseo del Bosque Bike Trail. Located in Albuquerque, the multi-use trail takes you through the Rio Grande’s cottonwood bosque (gallery forest), which extends about 200 miles through New Mexico.
Located in the downtown sector of the state capital, this lush 10-mile stretch wanders along the Colorado River and its picturesque Lady Bird Lake. While passing under the Congress Avenue Bridge, be sure to slow down and look up, as the spot is the well-known home of thousands of bats.
A riverside ride is always a gorgeous sight, and this 17-mile route runs from Cambridge’s Museum of Science to Watertown Square. Also known as the Dr. Paul Dudley White Bike Path, the trek allows riders to even loop around at one end, since the trail runs along both sides of the river.
Sightseeing in the Windy City is a breeze on this 18-mile eastside trek spanning from the North End to the South End. With clear views of Lake Michigan and the entire Chicago skyline, the urban trail includes tempting stops like the Navy Pier, Grant Park, Belmont Harbor, and more.
Located in Dallas, the Ronald Kirk Pedestrian Bridge extends over the Trinity River and provides a postcard-worthy view of the city’s skyline. Be careful while bike riding, as the bridge is also pedestrian friendly, too. Pick up lunch from the local food trucks, located inside the plaza area, and relax at one of the nearby picnic tables.
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If you’re looking for a long bike ride, consider cycling Denver’s Cherry Creek Trail. The paved path takes you from Downtown Denver past a scenic Cherry Creek Reservoir to Franktown. A favorite among locals and tourists alike, the trail passes by several noteworthy sites, including the 17 Mile House Farm Park and Cherry Creek Valley Ecological Park.
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Located in southern Minnesota, the Shooting Star State Trail is a roughly 20-mile-long paved path that starts in the city of Le Roy and ends in Rose Creek. The route travels through Lake Louise State Park, where you can go swimming, camping, or hiking.
Get to know Kentucky’s largest city by cycling. The planned Louisville Loop is an estimated 100-mile paved trail system that will eventually connect the entire city, linking diverse parks and neighborhoods to civic attractions and recreation opportunities. So far the Ohio River Levee Trail and Louisville Riverwalk are currently connected, allowing for bicyclists to travel nearly 25 miles from downtown to the historic Farnsley-Moremen House.
Though the Magic City isn’t the friendliest destination for bikers, this 8.5-mile ride connecting mainland Miami with Virginia Key and Key Biscayne is a different story. Some sections of the stretch are protected bike lanes while others are green lanes, but it altogether offers unmatched skyline sights.
Yes, New Yorkers walk everywhere, but they bike, too. Rent a Citi Bike and head over to this protected two-lane bike path, which runs along the entire West Side of Manhattan, parallel to the Hudson River. Cycle past Battery Park and bike along the East River up to Harlem to eventually circle the entire island.
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Cycle through the City of Brotherly Love via this 26.5-mile route, which includes sights like Boathouse Row, Falls Bridge, and Valley Forge National Historical Park. To burn a few extra calories, make a pit stop and run up the famous Rocky steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Portland is already known for its thriving cycling culture, but for those who want to satisfy a mountain biking fix without actually leaving Stumptown, this 25-acre space is a realized dream. Built between two highways, the bike park includes a slew of single-track trails, jumplines and a pump track.
Virginia Capital Trail, spanning 52 miles, is a dedicated multi-use route connecting Richmond and Williamsburg. The trail features a number of attractions, including the Upper Shirley Vineyards, Chickahominy Riverfront Park and Freedom Park. In case you get hungry during your ride, there are restaurants like Cul's Courthouse Grille (Southern cuisine) and The Boathouse (dinner with a view of the river) along the way to satiate your appetite.
Bike beginners will appreciate the 12-mile-long flat route of Mission Bay Bike Path in San Diego. Not only is the track vehicle-free (save for a few areas), it offers a scenic view of the blue lagoon. If you’re looking for a longer ride, continue cycling around Fiesta Island or along the Mission Beach/Pacific Beach boardwalk.
Take in the breathtaking view of the San Francisco Bay with a bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge — don’t forget to watch out for pedestrians along the way. Cycle to Sausalito (it’s about a 7-mile ride from Fort Mason), or, if you’d prefer, ride to Tiburon and take the ferry back to San Francisco Piers.
Also known as The Strand, this 22-mile, paved path runs along the sandy shores of the Pacific Ocean from Will Rogers State Beach to Torrance County Beach. It’s a leisurely ride through popular Los Angeles hotspots such as the Santa Monica Pier, the Venice Skate Park and the King Harbor Marina.
Scottsdale’s Arizona Canal Trail features a 25-mile-long paved and unpaved pathway that runs along the Arizona Canal through Peoria, Glendale, Phoenix, and Scottsdale. The scenic route will take you to downtown Scottsdale and the Soleri Bridge and Plaza, featuring municipal public art that was designed by Italian architect and philosopher Paolo Soleri.
This 19-mile rail-trail is considered the most popular bike path in the Emerald City. Occupying an abandoned corridor of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway, the trail runs from Fremont to Kenmore and includes gorgeous views of the Space Needle, Mount Rainier, and entire city’s skyline.
Why not ride through the country’s capital? The planned 28-mile trail spans both sides of the Anacostia River, and the currently-completed section connects a slew of destinations like the National Mall, the Tidal Basin, Diamond Teague Park, the Navy Yard, RFK Stadium, Anacostia Park, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, and more. If you embark on that adventure and want to avoid injuries, click here.