To ring in the New Year, we’d like to highlight four unique experiences that could be considered hidden gems or lesser-known parts of our favorite trails. From rafting excursions to newly restored cultural heritage sites and a B&B like no other, here’s just a taste of what you can expect to find in 2020 on a Noble Invention Bike Touring adventure.
The Katy Trail’s wildlife conservation areas
Running 240 miles along the northern bank of the Missouri River, the Katy Trail is the longest rails-to-trail project in the United States. It follows the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad within Katy Trail State Park and part of the original route taken by Lewis and Clark during their 1804-1806 expedition to map the West.
What you may not know is that aside from accessing historic depots and rail bridges, our Katy Trail bike tour passes by several spectacular conservation areas, including Weldon Spring, Davisdale, Grand Bluffs and Eagle Bluffs, and Manitou Bluffs. They combine stunning landscapes and incredible birdwatching, with sightings of western meadowlarks, tucker prairies, and scissor-tailed flycatchers among the highlights. The Katy Trail offers a unique combination of nationally-significant history, industrial heritage and natural beauty for cyclists wanting to explore the Midwest.
Rafting the Lower Yough along the Great Allegheny Passage
Winding through the Appalachian Mountains, the Great Allegheny Passage is a renowned rail-trail that connects Washington, D.C. with Pittsburgh. It traverses the Cumberland Narrows and the breathtaking Laurel Highlands, as well as Ohiopyle State Park and the historic industrial corridor that leads to Point State Park. The GAP takes you past hidden waterfalls and beneath a never-ending canopy of green, with a gentle grade and crushed gravel surface that makes it perfect for cyclists.
What many cyclists don’t realize is that you can combine our ever-popular GAP Trail trip with an unforgettable rafting expedition in Ohiopyle on the Lower Yough, an exhilarating section of the Ohiopyle river. It boasts Class III and IV rapids that will appeal to rafters of all experience levels, from those who are just testing the waters to veteran river-runners. Highlights along its 7.5-mile route include the Dimple Rock Rapid, River’s End and the Cucumber, not to mention a boatload of incredible scenery along the way.
Overnight at Gracefield Hall while cycling the VCT Trail
Stretching 52 miles from Jamestown to Richmond, the Virginia Capital Trail is a paved cycling route that connects the state’s first capital with its current capital. It meanders through sprawling vineyards, historic plantations, and rural landscapes while offering a deep insight into the state’s cultural heritage. One of favorite B&Bs across all the trails is included on this trip – a stay at Gracefield Hall, a charming bed and breakfast that accurately recreates the setting of a colonial Chesapeake plantation house. Back in the day, colonial plantations were remotely positioned from one another and provided a place for weary travelers to overnight before continuing their journey the next day.
An overnight at Gracefield Hall is like stepping back in time. Each of the guest rooms is beautifully furnished with colonial reproductions while the large covered porch is the perfect place to relax with a drink at the end of a long day’s riding. Find nothing but peace and quiet here – no TVs! – and after a good night’s sleep, you’ll wake to the songs of birds as the day’s first rays illuminate the setting, refreshed and ready to cycle on to your next destination.
Visit the restored Flight of Five Locks along the Erie Canal
Spanning the entire state of New York, the Erie Canal Trail is a mix of crushed gravel trail on-road routes that connect Buffalo with Albany. It offers an up-close look at the extensive network of canals that served the region’s transport needs before the railroad era. Our Erie Canal bike tours concentrate on the area between Lockport and Newark, incorporating the Flight of Five Locks. They’re among the Erie Canal’s most iconic engineering feats and have been lovingly restored as part of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.