Take a grand tour of 4 great trails for families looking to just spin their wheels
You live for this moment. Summer is here, and the schedule is wide open. School is done for the kids, and you’re putting work on pause. How do you make the most of this special time? Here’s a hint: It doesn’t involve the fam sitting in silence staring over separate screens. And here’s a second hint: It has everything to do with the reason you bought your RV. Now, more than ever, families—moms, dads, and the whole big brood—need to feel the earth race beneath them, the wind whip by them, and a world in motion about them. And the moments you do it together can be life-changing for your kids. In the words of Wes Anderson’s Royal Tenenbaum, “You got to brew some recklessness in them.” The RV means your whole family can make a breakaway, but for your kids to really push their own boundaries put the RV in park somewhere that the whole crew can mount two wheels and ride.
And we have a few trails in mind. Whether you have a specialized road bike or just an old beater, it doesn’t really matter when you’re taking your kids. You’re gonna be going at their speed. It also goes without saying (but we’re still gonna say it) that both you and your army of tiny bikers should wear age-appropriate safety gear. For those smaller model humans whose legs aren’t long enough to pedal, gearing up will include bike seats or trailers to get them in on the collective joy ride. It’s also in your own best interest to be exceedingly honest about what level of biker everyone is (including yourself, possibly with a trailer). Picking the perfect bike trail should involve matching the difficulty to your slowest common denominator. Got it? Got it. Let’s mount up!
Florida’s Mountain Bike Mecca
Santos Trailhead and Campground, Ocala, FL
You’re reading this right: A mountain bike in Mecca … Florida. While Florida isn’t known for its rugged mountainous terrain, the Santos Trailhead has just the right amount of elevation for the kiddos (meaning not much). But what makes it particularly great for cyclist families is that it has something for bikers of every ability. Another huge and awesome bonus is that the trailhead is also a campground, so it gives the person putting the RV in the park (you) a great two-for-one.
West Virginia’s Level Pedal
Cranberry Tri-Rivers Trail Richmond, WV
Mountain biking in Florida. And now, smooth riding in West Virginia, huh? The irony of ironies. You heard it here. Cranberry Tri-Rivers Trail is a rail trail that retraces an old train track—hence the level approach. But what the trail lacks vertically, it makes up for in diversity. (And that’s key when you have little ones who always wanna see something new.) West Virginia is a natural spectacle of waterfalls, rivers, and green life. But the heart of this adventure just might be a 640-foot railroad tunnel they’ll have to pedal through with headlamps on.
Vermont’s Cool Bike Kingdom
Kingdom Trails East Burke, VT
Like the Santos Trailhead down South, Kingdom Trails has something to offer bikers of every age and ability up North. First-time mountain bikers can practice in the balance bike park or get some air under their heels at the beginner jump park. The trails are infinite but friendly and fun, which is really the character of Kingdom Trails. There are food trucks and ice cream and swimming holes. So the kids will have lots of opportunities to catch their breath.
Texas’ Red Canyon Romp
Lighthouse Trail Canyon, TX
Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the U.S. (ranking just behind you know who). Just southeast of Amarillo, Texas, its spectacle will leave you and your pack in absolute awe. The canyon's Lighthouse Trail is also the perfect place for your kids to take their mountain-bike handling up a notch, as they kick up red dust and bypass green cacti on a wide path. Making it even better is what waits for them at the end: an elevated lighthouse that they’ll have to dismount their bikes and climb a manageable bit of rock to see.
Taking the kids to an awesome mountain bike destination has lots of benefits—some subtle, some emotional. After a day of riding, they should drop like rocks come bedtime, and if—with indomitable adult strength—you’re able to fight the same gravity, you’ll get to share some extra quality time with your significant other. Best of all though, you’ll have made great memories that you and the kids will cherish forever.
And if you’re looking for more good news (here it comes), there are lots of great local trails branching out from state parks and campgrounds near you where you can have similar experiences. This means biking together is an experience you can always cycle back to, no matter where you are.