Biking with Kids in National Parks: Western US
Yosemite, Yellowstone and Arches, Oh My!
We love National Parks and we clearly love bikes, so putting the two together is a match made in heaven. Sadly, far too often we’ve realized after a trip that we could have brought our bikes with us during our National Park escapades. If only we’d known that trails were available!
But now we know, so we’re sharing our new knowledge with you! Check out these brag-worthy adventures available within the National Parks in the Western United States. While we’ve walked many of these trails with our kids (and ridden a few), we haven’t done all of them, so if you have additional insights, please fill us in in the comments section below!
Here’s to a 2019 full of bikes in National Parks! #bikesinnationalparks, let’s make it a thing. 🙂
Moab Canyon Parkway, Mill Creek Parkway, Bar M Loop, Intrepid Loop
This Southern Utah gem is an ideal park for families. There are numerous short, kid-friendly trails with great views, plenty of chances to play and climb rocks, as well as make snow angels in the sand. There aren’t any bike trails within Arches itself, but there are many options available just outside Arches, in the city of Moab.
As there are no food or housing facilities inside Arches, Moab is likely where you’ll be eating and staying anyways, so adding a fun family bike ride to your trip is a no-brainer. Paved and all-terrain trails are both available as well as several options to rent bikes for the whole family. There’s also a BMX bike park that has a kid-friendly pump track and skills area.
- Paved Easy – Mill Creek Parkway (1 mile out and back)
- Paved Moderate – Moab Canyon Parkway (17 miles, out and back)
- All-terrain Easy to Moderate – Intrepid Loop (variable from 1.1 to 9.0 miles)
- All-terrain Moderate – Bar M Loop (7.9 mile loop trail which can be shortened)
Best For: All ages and skill levels. Trails are available for kids in trailers as well as adventurous kids on fully-equipped mountain bikes.
Bike Rental: Poison Spider Bikes rents 20″ to 26″ kids mountain bikes. Chili Pepper Bike Shops rents kids mountain bikes as well as bike trailers and trailer bikes. We were unable to find a company that rents 16″ bikes, so for younger riders consider renting a trailer bike.
More Information: Visit Discover Moab to see a complete list of family activities in Moab, including biking.
Come for the kid-friendly hiking trails and vast scenery and then when the little feet grow tired, or shuttle lines get too long, finish off your visit with a bike ride. Within Zion, the 1.75 mile (each way) paved Pa’rus trail is the best place to ride as a family as it offers amazing views, several bridge crossings, and very little elevation changes (no hills!). For the ultimate scenic ride, ride your bike all the way up Zion’s canyon via the shuttle roads.
The 7 mile road (from the Visitor Center to the last shuttle stop) has very mild elevation changes and cars are NOT permitted inside the upper park (past Canyon Junction) between early Spring and Fall, so riding on the roads is safe for families. To ensure safety of riders, shuttles are not allowed to pass a bicyclist, but bicyclists are expected to move over and stop to allow the shuttles to pass.
For shorter trips, each shuttle inside the park has three bike racks. Consider hitching a ride to the last stop (Temple of Sinawava), where you can lock up your bike and then wade through the epic and famous Narrows. You can then ride the 7 miles downhill to the Canyon Junction stop, where you’ll be required to take the Pa’rus trail back to the Visitor Center.
- Paved Easy – Pa’rus Trail (3.5 miles round trip)
- Easy to Moderate – Scenic Drive (7 miles via shuttle, one way, 15 miles round trip)
Best For: Families of all ages. All riding in the park is mild and suitable for all riders or passengers in trailers.
Bike Rental: Bikes and trailers are available for rent at Zion Cycles. They are located only a mile from the park entrance, so you can ride directly into the park from their shop.
More Information: Zion’s complete list of where you can bike in the park. The Park’s Service questions and answers about riding in Zion.
Pit Stop: Snake Hollow Bike Park
Just an hour south of Zion National Park is St. George, Utah, home to miles of world-class mountain biking for every skill level. And even if you’re not a mountain biker, you need to make time for St. George’s Snake Hollow Bike Park. Over 80 acres in size, the park has skill areas for all levels, from beginners on balance bikes to gravity drop lines for true thrill seekers. And it’s all set against a stunning red rock backdrop.
Old Faithful Trail, Lonestar Geyser Trail, Eleanor Lake Trail
The first National Park and certainly one of the most popular, Yellowstone is a must-see! With numerous child-friendly boardwalks and trails, there’s plenty to see and do in Yellowstone, including bike riding! Bikes are even available to rent within the park at Old Faithful Lodge! From the lodge, your family can ride the 3.4 mile round trip trail from Old Faithful to Morning Glory Pool. The paths can get busy, so early morning or later in the evening is best.
Want to get away from the crowds? Three miles to the southeast of Old Faithful is the Lone Star Geyser trail that allows bikes! It’s a bit longer at 5.3 miles round trip. The geyser erupts every 3 hours, so be sure to check the eruption times with the ranger station at Old Faithful so you can plan your trip accordingly.
Lastly, along Highway 20 towards Cody, Wyoming the Eleanor Lake Trail is a great option for the smallest of riders. At only 0.4 miles round trip, it’s short and sweet and offers a lot of great views and activities for kids.
- Paved Easy – Old Faithful to Morning Glory Pool (3.4 miles round trip)
- Unpaved Easy – Eleanor Lake Trail (0.4 miles round trip)
- Unpaved Moderate – Lone Star Geyser (5.3 miles round trip)
Best For: All ages, but trailer use not advised.
Bike Rental: Bike are available to rent within the park at Old Faithful Snow Lodge.
More Information: Yellowstone has many additional trails opened to bikes, but they aren’t necessarily child-friendly and are better for older or advanced riders on mountain bikes.
Pit Stop: Harriman State Park
Silver Lake Trail in Harriman State Park
If you’re headed up to Yellowstone through Idaho via Highway 20, a stop at Harriman State Park in Island Park, ID is also worthy of visit. Just 45 minutes south of West Yellowstone, it offers miles of flat, child-friendly trails and boardwalks around the lake. Out of all the biking adventures we’ve done with our kids, Silver Lake Trail in Harriman is one of their all-time favorites.
Multi-use Pathway in Grand Teton National Park (and Jackson Hole)
Grand Teton National Park is a short drive from Yellowstone National Park and has a paved trail path that is very child-friendly. The Multi-use pathway (no cars allowed) is 8 miles long, but you can turn around at any point. The trail is separate from the road and is suitable for bikes, trailers, and strollers.
The Jenny Lake Scenic Loop is also stunning, but it does require you to ride 3 miles on the road (with cars) to access the path. Nearby Jackson Hole also has several family-friendly bike trails available as well as other kid-centric activities including a free old-fashioned cowboy town square shootout (summer months only) and an alpine slide.
- Paved Easy to Moderate – Multi trail (8 miles in and out, can turn around at any time)
- Paved Moderate – Jenny Lake Trail (loop trail, must ride 3 miles on the road to get to loop)
Best For:The Multi-use pathway (shown above) is great for all ages, the Jenny Lake trail is best for older kids who can safely share a road with cars.
More Information: Map of riding in the park at Grand Teton.
Yosemite Valley Paved Trails
Bicycling and Hiking in Yosemite Valley
Within minutes inside Yosemite National Park, it’s easy to see why it’s consistently rated as the best park in the US. From the valley floor to the top of the towering cliffs, there’s plenty to see and do for families.
Yosemite, is, however, very crowded and wait times can be long to get on the free shuttle stop. But with over 12 miles of paved, car-free trails on the valley floor, getting around the valley by bike is often much easier and faster than by shuttle bus or car. Bike racks are available at the base of most trails to lock up your bike while you explore on foot.
While bikes are allowed throughout the valley, the path from Half Dome Village to Mirror Lake (2-miles round trip) is short and sweet for young riders and ends at a quiet lake perfect for skipping rocks. For a slightly longer 5 mile round trip, ride from Yosemite Valley Lodge to Half Dome Village. The trail will take you over a bridge and through a meadow and can end with some ice cream at the Village!
Yosemite’s paved trail systems offers numerous options, so you can ride just about anywhere! The 2-mile RT Mirror Lake trail and 5 mile RT Half Dome Village trail are great options for kids.
Best For: Due to crowds, trailers can be tricky to navigate, so riding the park is best suited for kids who can independently ride.
Bike Rental: Bikes and trailers are available to rent within Yosemite Valley at Yosemite Lodge and Half Dome Village.
More Information: Bike paths within Yosemite
Hermit Road Greenway Trail, Tusayan Greenway
Who knew you could safely ride bikes along the rim of the Grand Canyon with your kids? Not us! We’ve recently learned that the Hermit Road along the South Rim is closed to all cars, but it’s open to bikes (and visitor shuttles)!
At 5.5 miles long, the rideable section of the road isn’t short, but several bike rental companies will shuttle you to the starting point, allowing you to ride back mainly downhill. A 1.7 mile paved trail alongside Hermit Road also provides some spectacular vista points of the canyon. Shuttles are available March through October.
For a longer family-friendly ride without having to pay for the shuttle, the Tusayan Greenway is a great option. Extending 6.5 miles between the parking lot at Kaibab National Forest to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim Visitor Center, the trail is a combination of paved and packed dirt riding and has very little elevation change.
- Paved Easy to Moderate – Hermit Road Greenway (5.5 miles one way via shuttle)
- Paved/Packed Dirt Easy to Moderate – Tusayan Greenway (6.5 miles one way, can turn around at any point)
Best For: All! Trailers are available to rent for little ones as well.
Bike Rental: Bright Angels Bicycles rents bikes and trailers right near the head of Tuscayan Greenway. They also offer shuttle rides for the Hermit Road Greenway.
Spruce Railroad Trail
Thick and tall green forests, ocean views, and cool bridges, Olympic National Park in northwest Washington is simply stunning and has a lot to offer for all ages and fitness levels.
Olympic Discovery Trail, a 70+ mile multi-use trail is the main highlight for family riding. The trail starts miles outside the park to the east and extends west past the park to the coast. The 20.9-mile section that is within the park is a converted railroad trail called the Spruce Railroad Trail that follows the edge of Crescent Lake. In addition to sprawling views of the Redwoods and the lake, the trail passes over bridges and through several retired train tunnels. Several swimming holes are also available along the way!
The trail consists of both paved and packed dirt sections, so mountain bikes are recommended. While relatively flat, the trail does have some minor technical area and is best for kids on at least a 20″ bike with gears. An out-and-back trail, it’s generally recommended to hop on the trail at the Trailhead near Port Angeles and ride towards Devils Point.
Trail Info: Moderate – Spruce Railroad Trail (20.9 mile out-and-back, can turn around at anytime!)
Best For: Trail is best for independent bike riders. Paved trails within the city of Port Authority are also accommodating to trailers.
Bike Rental: Bikes and trailers are available at Sounds Bikes & Kayaks
More Information: Bike trails in Port Authority
Davison and Stool Creek Trails
Experience the ancient Redwoods on two wheels at Redwood National and State Parks! Our first trail, the Davison and Stool Creek trail, is located in Prairie Creek State Park and is short and sweet at just over 6 miles round trip. A former logging road, the trail passes wetlands where riders can observe spawning salmon, herons, and migrating songbirds. To shorten the trail, you can pick up the trail at the Prairie Creek Visitor Center, which is about half-way through the trail.
After your ride, be sure to check out the easy 1.1 mile Fern Canyon loop trail just down the road. Fern Canyon is so magnificent, it was used as a location to film Jurassic Park 2! The trail consists of many water crossings, so waterproof shoes are recommended.
For the ultimate pre-planned (but pricey!) family ride, family bike tours are also available for the park.
- Unpaved Easy – Davison and Stool Creek Trails (6 miles round trip, can be shortened)
- Easy – Fern Canyon Loop Trail (1.1 miles)
Best For: Independent riders, 12″ bike and trailers not recommended.
Bike Rental: Bike rentals are not available within the park, but are available in the various cities outside the park. If you plan on renting, be search to research rental areas along your designated route.
More Information: Bicycle map of Redwood National Park
While we’re all about taking the kids along for a ride, sometimes it’s best to leave them with the grandparents for a couple days while you tackle some epic rides. Within the western US, we know of two epic rides to add to your bucket list.
With endless stunning viewpoints, the Going-to-the-Sun Ride is a 32-mile shuttle out and ride back ride that is best to conquer in the late Spring. Every year in May, after the snow plows are able to plow at least a portion of the road, the road is open to bikers on the weekend, but not yet to car traffic.
Without having to dodge cars, the ride is much more enjoyable and allows you to take in more of the scenery. Visit Glacier Country Montana to learn more about the ride and Glacier National Park for updates on the status of the road.
Trail Info: Not for kids! – Going-to-the-Sun (32-miles one way via a shuttle to the top)
Best For: Adults only (not child-friendly but we couldn’t resist letting parents know about this awesome trail!)
Bike Rental: Bikes can be rented at nearby Glacier Outfitters
Family-friendly Pit Stop: Route of the Hiawatha
White Rim Trail
White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park
The White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park is no walk in the park but is a once-in-a-lifetime ride that’s worth the extended effort to find a babysitter. A 100-mile long trail requires a permit (for both day and overnight use) and generally takes 3 to 4 days to complete. But as a reward, you get to ride into a massive red-rock canyon and bike along its edge for several days!
While you certainly can pack everything you need onto a bike, a support vehicle to carry your water, food, tools, and supplies is ideal (which Natalie’s husband did when he went with friends). The ride is very popular during the spring and fall, making permits difficult to come by, so be sure to make reservations well ahead of time.
Trail Info: Not for kids! – White Rim Trail (over 100 miles, one way!)
Best For: Adults only (not child-friendly but we couldn’t resist letting parents know about this awesome trail!)
Bike Rental: If you’re crazy enough to try this trail, you probably have your own bike!
Biking with Kids in National Parks: Eastern U.S.: Think everything you just read, but parks like the Everglades and Great Smoky Mountains!
Kid-Friendly Bike Park or Pump Track Directory: For a list of parks by city and state