The TransAmerica Trail Cycling Guide: Routes, Tips, and Useful Resources

In 1973, one of the Adventure Cycling Association’s co-founders embarked on a journey from Alaska to Argentina, inspired by the nation’s upcoming bicentennial. This led to the creation of the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail, which was ready by June 1976, with maps and guidebooks published. Named “Bikecentennial,” the event aimed to gather cyclists to ride across the country on this new route. Thanks to word-of-mouth and effective publicity, 4,000 cyclists joined the adventure. Most were young and inexperienced with long-distance cycling, riding in groups led by trained leaders. Despite limited gear quality, they embarked on a journey to explore America and themselves.

Decades later, those who rode in 1976 and modern cyclists reflect on the experience, often saying they learned more about the country in 90 days than most do in a lifetime.

Today, the TransAmerica Trail (TAT) is a legendary cross-country bicycle route that stretches from the Pacific Northwest to the Atlantic Coast of the United States. Spanning approximately 6,800 km, the TAT traverses a diverse range of landscapes, from the rugged mountains of the West to the rolling plains of the Midwest and the historic towns of the East. It attracts riders from all walks of life eager to test their mettle against the challenges of the open road.

Route Structure and Riding Conditions

The route consists of 12 sections:

1. Astoria to Coburg: Due to heavy traffic, travelers should exercise caution on U.S. 101, especially on weekends and holidays. Fog can reduce visibility, but road surfaces are generally good, with widened shoulders in some areas. Alternate routes are available, and the Willamette Valley offers cyclist-friendly amenities in Eugene.

2. Coburg to Baker City: Expect heavy traffic east of Springfield on US 126, with variable shoulder conditions. Consider the Santiam Pass alternate for an easier route. Services are sparse between McKenzie Bridge and Sisters. Prepare for climbs and descents with limited shoulder space east of the Cascades. The climate varies from lush rainforests to dry plateaus, with hot summers and occasional thunderstorms.

3. Baker City to Missoula: This segment features numerous climbs and descents along narrow highways. Halfway serves as a rest stop before navigating Hells Canyon. Truck traffic is dense between Cambridge and New Meadows. Watch out for narrow roads and rafting traffic between Riggins and White Bird. Safety is paramount on U.S. 12, and bright clothing is recommended. Missoula offers a bike path, but traffic is heavy en route. Montana’s climate varies, with scorching daytime temperatures but cool nights.

4. Missoula to West Yellowstone: Consider using a dedicated bike path to avoid heavy traffic on U.S. 12/93. Services are sparse between Lost Trail Pass and Dillon. Expect rolling terrain along rivers with a steep pass near Virginia City eastward. West Yellowstone marks the entrance to Yellowstone National Park, where cyclists should prepare for increased traffic and RVs.

5. West Yellowstone to Rawlins: Heavy summer traffic is common in the Yellowstone-Teton Parks area. Consider using the Teton Valley Alternate to bypass congestion. Services are sparse between Lander and Rawlins. The climate is cool and semi-arid, prone to thunderstorms and hailstorms.

6. Rawlins to Pueblo: The TransAmerica Trail briefly joins Interstate 80 before heading south on SR 130. Services are limited, and campgrounds may close after October 1st. The climate ranges from cool mountain conditions to warmer temperatures near Canon City, with frequent afternoon thunderstorms.

7. Pueblo to Alexander: The trail gently descends from Pueblo, Colorado, to Alexander, Kansas, passing through primarily flat plains. Cyclists should be cautious of damaged signs and strong winds. Limited services and park closures may occur in Kansas. The climate is semi-arid, with hot summers and low humidity.

8. Alexander to Girard: The trail traverses flat to gently rolling terrain via narrow to medium-width county roads with minimal traffic. U.S. Bicycle Route 76 may lack clear signage in Kansas. Limited services are found between various points, so plan accordingly. Caution is advised on roads like U.S. 50 in Hutchinson and Old 81 in Hesston. Kansas’s climate is variable with frequent thunderstorms, especially in summer.

9. Girard to Murphysboro: The trail aligns with the U.S. Bicycle Route 76 in Missouri but may lack clear signage in Illinois. Cyclists should watch out for loose dogs in rural Kentucky. Options for reaching Murphysboro include the main route and the Mississippi Levee Alternate. Missouri’s climate experiences frequent changes, with summer thunderstorms dominating western regions.

10. Murphysboro to Berea: The trail traverses southern Illinois, navigating through the Shawnee Hills region and skirting glaciated terrain. Cyclists should watch out for loose dogs in rural Kentucky. Before traveling, cyclists should check ferry status and Amtrak bicycle service availability. Kentucky sees wide temperature and precipitation variations, especially during the summer months.

11. Berea to Christiansburg: Crossing the Appalachians presents cyclists with steep, challenging terrain and narrow roads without shoulders. Loose dogs are common in rural Kentucky and Virginia, necessitating caution. Rumble strips limit riding options in Kentucky. Virginia experiences frequent thunderstorms, particularly from March to September, and cyclists should prepare appropriate clothing.

12. Christiansburg to Yorktown: Central Virginia features narrow roads without shoulders, but cyclists can access Blacksburg from Christiansburg via the Huckleberry Trail. U.S. Bicycle Route (USBR) 76 is marked along the route in Virginia. After Vesuvius, cyclists face a challenging climb onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Piedmont region offers mostly gentle terrain with light traffic. Virginia experiences frequent floods and summer storms, so cyclists should carry rain gear and consider riding early in the morning.

• John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
• Yellowstone National Park
• Hoosier Pass
• Great Smoky Mountains National Park
• Shenandoah National Park• Oregon Trail
• Blue Ridge Parkway
• Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

For your convenience, we’ve divided the route into segments so that you can simplify preparation for the trail.

How to plan and prepare for TAT

Research the Route

Familiarize yourself with the TransAmerica Trail route. Understand the segments, terrain, road conditions, and points of interest along the way. You’ve already received a detailed overview, but you might want to delve deeper into specific sections based on your interests and preferences.

Sync the GPX file with your Garmin computer or follow the route offline in MapMagic Android App and buy some paper maps in advance.

Set Your Timeline and Daily Mileage 

Determine how long you want your journey to be. The TransAmerica Trail can take from a few weeks to a few months to complete, depending on your pace and how much time you want to spend exploring each area. Break down the route into manageable daily segments based on your fitness level, riding experience, and desired pace. Consider factors like elevation gain, road conditions, and available services along the route.

Prepare Your Gear 

Make a list of essential gear and equipment for your journey, including a reliable bike, camping gear, clothing, tools, navigation devices, and emergency supplies. Invest in quality gear that suits your needs and preferences. Make sure your bike is well-maintained and ready for the adventure.

Read about the repair kit essentials in this article.

Train Physically 

Start training well in advance to build up your cycling endurance, strength, and stamina. Gradually increase your mileage and practice riding in various terrain and weather conditions to prepare for the challenges ahead.

Plan Your Accommodation 

Decide whether you’ll be camping, staying in motels, or utilizing a combination of both. Research camping sites, hostels, hotels, and other accommodation options along the route and plan your overnight stays accordingly.

Make sure to turn on and use the Campsite Grounds, Water Sources, and Picnic Sites layers in MapMagic route planner.

Pack Wisely 

Pack your gear and supplies thoughtfully, keeping in mind the weight distribution, space limitations, and essential items you’ll need for the journey. Consider carrying spare parts, repair kits, and tools to handle any mechanical issues along the way. If you are looking for tips on food planning, this article might come in handy.

Stay Informed 

Stay updated on trail conditions, weather forecasts, road closures, and other relevant information as you progress along the route. Utilize resources like maps, guidebooks, online forums, and local visitor centers to stay informed and make informed decisions during your journey.

Enjoy the Ride 

Finally, remember to enjoy the experience! The TransAmerica Trail offers breathtaking scenery, diverse landscapes, and unforgettable encounters with people and places along the way. Embrace the adventure, stay flexible, and savor every moment of your cycling journey across America.

Little Miss Bike Tour My Bike Tour Across the USA on the TransAmerica Bicycle Route 2019

Useful Resources

Adventure Cycling Association 

The Adventure Cycling Association offers detailed maps, route planning guides, and other resources specifically tailored for cyclists embarking on the TransAmerica Trail. After all, they are the ones who established it!

Online Forums and Communities

Check out some forums and websites where cyclists share their experiences, tips, and advice for touring the TAT. One great example is Sam Niemann’s journal, which has plenty of tips and useful advice.

Local Visitor Centers and Chambers of Commerce 

Visitor centers and chambers of commerce along the route can provide information about services, accommodations, and attractions in specific areas, as well as insights from locals familiar with the trail.

Online Mapping Tool 

MapMagic allows you to plan and customize routes with fellow travelers in real-time, add segments and route variations, identify points of interest, and assess elevation profiles and road conditions.

Social Media Groups

Joining Facebook groups or following Instagram accounts dedicated to cycling or bike touring can connect you with a supportive community of fellow cyclists who have tackled or are planning to tackle the TAT.

Bicycle Shops 

Visit local bicycle shops along the route to gather information about bike repairs, equipment rentals, and trail conditions, and tap into the expertise of staff who are often experienced cyclists themselves.

Trail Angels and Warmshowers 

Trail angels and hosts on platforms like offer accommodation, hospitality, and support to cyclists traveling along the TAT, providing a valuable resource for rest and resupply.

Government and Park Websites 

National and state park websites and government tourism websites provide information about camping facilities, permits, regulations, and safety tips relevant to cycling the TAT through public lands.

If you have already explored the trail and are excited to guide those preparing for the adventure, feel free to connect with our WhatsApp community. Share your expertise, experiences, and any useful firsthand knowledge to enhance this guide. Your input matters!

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