Feel the crisp wind in your helmet and see the season’s best colors on these five fall foliage bike tours.
"With summers getting hotter and the winters more erratic, fall is arguably the best time of year to take to two wheels, and undeniably the most beautiful."
There’s a chill in the air, a warmer tone to the trees, and the once-green grass is now covered in crisp leaves, which can only mean one thing: Autumn is approaching in North America. With summers getting hotter and the winters more erratic, fall is arguably the best time of year to take to two wheels, and undeniably the most beautiful. From the golden aspens in Vail and rugged beauty of Banff to the crimson dogwoods of New England, North America offers some of the best “leaf peeping” in the world, and there’s hardly a more natural way to explore the most dramatic landscapes of the season than by bicycle.
And while you’re packing your pannier, don’t forget your merino base layers. Icebreaker’s BodyfitZONE collection is not only designed to keep you warm on brisk mornings and cool on sunny afternoons, but it’s also extremely lightweight and comfortable with just the right amount of give—perfect for pedaling for days at a time.
Lake Champlain Valley, Vermont
When it comes to fall foliage in the States, New England can’t be beat. Vermont’s Lake Champlain Valley carves through the Green Mountains to the east and Adirondacks to the west. A five to six day bike tour will take you through the mountain foothills, along the glacial waters of one of America’s largest lakes, under historic covered bridges, and by apple orchards overflowing with fragrant fare (a fresh apple cider donut is a must). Start in Burlington and ride along the gentle country roads of the lower valley, popping into the quaint inns that dot the route to rest each night, and end up at the Adirondack Mountains in New York state before circling back to your starting point.
"The northern Rockies will offer you a mixture of vivid colors peppered among plentiful evergreens."
Wine Country, California
After September’s harvest, the abundant grapevines in this celebrated wine hub burst with deep crimson on a backdrop of golden California oaks. From the iconic Highway 1 you can ride along the Pacific Coast to Bodega Bay, through towering redwoods to the cycling haven of Healdsburg, then finally follow the Mayacamas Creek to Napa Valley, where you can stop to pop bottles just about every kilometer—all in about five days. A crisp ocean breeze and perfect seasonal temperatures in the mid teens make this the ultimate West Coast road trip.
Glacier to Banff National Park Tour
Head north across the border with an eight-day multinational tour, starting in Montana’s Glacier National Park and ending in Alberta’s Banff National Park. The northern Rockies will offer you a mixture of vivid colors peppered among plentiful evergreens, then deliver a stunning view of Lake Louise’s legendary icy blue waters. The mountainous, 645-kilometer ride, exceeding 7,620 meters of elevation gain, is a feat for even the strongest legs, but well worth the effort.
Alpine views, trailside breweries, and sweeping lush forests make Colorado every road-biker’s dream destination, made even better in the fall months, when its signature aspen trees light up the hills with their stunning yellow hues. Endless public mountain biking trails around the region offer the perfect way to experience the landscape. But if it’s pavement you’re after, the 130-kilometer Leadville Loop is your best bet, highlighted by a paved descent of Vail Pass and climb up Battle Mountain (or vice versa, depending on which way you go). This route, nicknamed the “Copper Triangle,” crests three mountain passes—Freemont Pass, Tennessee Pass, and Vail Pass—altogether requiring nearly 1,830 meters of climbing from its bold riders. Best of luck!
Laurentian Mountains, Quebec, Canada
If hundreds of miles over mountain passes and steep descents sounds daunting, a gentler, three- to four-day option in Quebec’s Laurentian Mountain range should fulfill your yearning for fall foliage just the same. Le Petit Train du Nord is a defunct 19th-century rail trail running 124 miles between Saint-Jérôme and Mont-Laurier that’s now used primarily as a bike path. It runs along charming Canadian villages, through ski towns and along the sandy beaches of Lac Mercier.