If your idea of a good family vacation includes more mountaintops than Disney rides, you might want to consider a cycling vacation. Just because you have kids doesn’t mean you have to plan vacations around playgrounds (although those are nice to have also). In fact, picking a great place to bike can make for a memorable weekend getaway or week-long summer vacation for the whole family.
As part of our year-long mountain bike road-trip, our family has been to some great bike destinations and we’re sharing several of our favorites. Whether you prefer dirt trails or paved paths, you’ll find a great place to visit on this list as well as some tips on how to make it a successful vacation.
Imagine a place where you can park your car at the beginning of your week-long vacation and never drive again. Just outside of Bend, OR, Sunriver Resort is nirvana for cycling families. I’ve been going to Sunriver for 30+ years, starting as a toddler on a seat on the back of my mom’s bike to an adult mountain biking on the connecting Deschutes river trail. Forty miles of bike paths connect a myriad of family-friendly activities. Bike to the swimming pool, ice cream shop, nature center, horse stables, and more.
Cuyuna Lakes, MN
If you’re a mountain biking family, Cuyuna Lakes is the ultimate destination. This IMBA ride center has the stated goal of being “a year-round, international, family cycling destination.” The trails are easy enough for beginners and young children but exciting enough for experienced adults. With 75 miles of trails, there’s plenty here to keep your family entertained for a week. In between rides, you can take a dip in any of the many lakes of Minnesota.
San Antonio, TX
On our family’s recent stop in San Antonio, TX we were shocked to discover how amazing the family biking is there. The paved San Antonio River path follows the water for 30 winding miles and connects the Missions National Park with the Alamo. Along the way are some fantastic playgrounds, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and a couple of family-friendly breweries.
Curt Gowdy State Park, WY
Nestled half-way between Cheyenne, WY, and Laramie, WY, Curt Gowdy State Park is a gem for outdoorsy families. The park has several campgrounds and endless miles of mountain bike trails. The Shoreline trail along the reservoir is relatively flat and perfect for kids. When you’re not busy biking, the park offers plenty of other things for kids to do including fishing, boating, and several very nice playgrounds.
While Florida isn’t known for amazing mountain biking, there is one hidden gem: the Santos trail system in Ocala, FL. The park offers miles of trails with virtually no climbing (great for kids) and plenty of skills areas that are appropriate for riders of any ability. When the kids have had their fill of riding, take a day trip to nearby Silver Springs where you can kayak with the alligators.
Zion National Park, UT
Between April and October, Zion National Park closes its roads to cars. You can take a bus thru the park — or you can ride your bikes. Without any vehicle traffic, the roads are ideal for biking with kids. Ride your bike to the lodge for an ice cream or to one of many trailheads to go for a hike. In hot months, kids love swimming in the Virgin River near the Watchman campground.
San Francisco, CA
Golden Gate Park is an ideal spot for a family bike ride. Cruise the paved path through the park and hit up playgrounds and gardens along the way. For a longer ride, ride thru the park and over the Golden Gate bridge to Sausalito, and then take the ferry back.
Park City, UT
We may be a little biased since Park City is our home turf, but it’s also a great place for a summer biking vacation. Whether you prefer mountain bike trails or paved paths, Park City has you covered. Cruise to the local swimming pool on the bike path, or head to Trailside Bike Park for some laps on the pump track and kid-friendly skills area. The town has some of the best playgrounds you’ve ever seen, and in the evenings you can head to Old Town for world-class dining or listen to free music thanks to Mountain Town Music.
The nation’s capital is surprisingly bike-friendly and there is plenty to see while you pedal. Visit the National Mall and the Smithsonian museums via bike, or cruise along the Potomac. You can even join in on a guided family bike ride.
Tips for taking a Family Bike Vacation
There’s no right or wrong way to take a family bike vacation. All you need are some bikes, a map, and a sense of adventure. That said, we’ve learned a few things along the way that might make your trip a little bit more fun and a little less stressful.
If you are going to be renting bikes at your destination, make sure to scope out the situation ahead of time and make reservations. It is harder to find places that rent kids bikes than it is ones that rent adult bikes. Similarly, its challenging (but not impossible) to find rental trailers and bike seats. If you are traveling with a young child, it might make sense to check a bike seat (or even a Strider balance bike) in a duffel bag. We’ve done it and it works well!
Alternate Biking with other Activities
In our pre-child life, we often took vacations where we biked every. single. day. Well, come to think of it, we still do that, but we certainly don’t make our child bike every day. Mix up bike ride days with other activities–museums, playgrounds, tubing a river, etc. Kids are more likely to enjoy cycling if it’s not something that you shove down their throat constantly.
Plan Destination Rides
Don’t just plan a 15-mile bike ride. Plan a 15-mile bike ride that passes a playground, an ice cream shop, and a beach. Yes, it may take ALL day, but it’s far more likely to keep your kids happy and entertained and you’ll still get in plenty of miles.
Bike During Nap Time
If you have a toddler or young child that still takes naps, don’t retreat to the hotel room at nap time. This is the perfect opportunity to get in some quick miles. Put your little one in a trailer (or bike seat with head support), and take off for a bike ride during nap time. Chances are they will sleep for a couple hours and you will get in a real ride.
Join a Local Group Ride
Do a little research before you leave home and see if there is a local group ride you can join while you are at your destination. One of our favorite family vacations ever was a quick weekend trip to Seattle where we managed to meet up with some local families for the Seattle Kiddical Mass ride.