The Best Places for Sightseeing by Bike
By: Sasha Miller, contributing writer
America is home to some incredibly beautiful destinations — we collected our favorites to see by bike.
Have you ever driven through somewhere on a road trip that you thought was unforgettably cool, only to get home and realize you don’t remember the name of the place, or even where it was? It’s difficult to remember such awesome places when you’re moving through them so fast, which is what makes sightseeing by bike the best! Sightseeing on a bike connects you with regions, towns and people in a way that simply isn’t possible with other forms of travel. So hop on your road bike, cruiser, or e-bike and explore these amazing sightseeing cities.
Ranking #7 overall in this year’s City Ratings is Aspen, Colorado. This little mountain town in the Roaring Fork Valley is full of mountain peaks and valley views and is well-known for its four winter sports resorts. Winter sports aren’t the only popular outdoor activities in Aspen, biking is too! Aspen encourages locals and visitors alike to get around on two wheels with its bike share program, We-Cycle. There are 15 stations and more than 100 bikes around town, so one is never away. The first 30 minutes of every We-Cycle fare is free to all riders and the service made Aspen the first-ever resort town to have an official bike share program.
Using a We-Cycle bike (or your own!), you can explore the energetic downtown and visit any one of the galleries, gift shops, or restaurants lining Aspen’s main drag. If you are seeking more adventure, consider biking Independence Pass or the Rio Grande Trail. As the state’s highest elevation pass, Independence Pass is a favorite route for cyclists craving a breath of fresh air. At a sweeping 12,095 feet, riding Indy Pass is one of Aspen’s most sought-after cycling achievements for its breathtaking views and incredible landscapes. The Rio Grande Trail is 42 miles of continuous paved trail protected from vehicle traffic from Aspen to Glenwood Springs and is suitable for all ages and skill levels. Any ride throughout Aspen is sure to provide you with beautiful views of the expansive forests, the Maroon Bells, and the entire Roaring Fork Valley.
You may want to switch out your road bike for a beach cruiser when it comes to our next destination. Key West, Florida, is a biking paradise because of its small size, easy navigation and always-open bike parking. 20% of folks who live in Key West commute to work and just about everywhere else by bike. There are so many attractions to visit as if the views weren’t enough! Surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, you are never more than just a head-turn away from mesmerizing views of the turquoise blue water and white sand beaches.
If you’re looking for more sights, hop on one of the bike lanes to visit the southernmost point in the continental United States, working your way up to visit the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the Key West Lighthouse Museum and the Eco-Discovery Center. A must-stop on your list should be the Seven Mile Bridge that links points between the Florida Keys. If you want to go even further, consider completing the entire Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, a 106-mile, completely paved trail that stretches the majority of the Keys and is a suitable ride for anyone. The flat topography and 237 sunny days per year can almost guarantee that any ride you take in Key West is going to be a great one — just keep an eye on the weather and don't get caught in a notorious Florida thunderstorm!
San Francisco, California, is a lively melting pot of hippies, inner-city professionals, artists, and everyone in between. 14.8 million visitors flocked to the city in 2021, making it one of the busiest tourist destinations in the world. The city works hard to maintain its current 464 miles of bikeways, adding additional miles every year. Bicycles are the transportation of choice for locals and tourists alike, with more than 82,000 trips being made daily and travel by bicycle increasing 184% since 2006!
You can start your city tour off at one of the 280 bike share stations spread throughout the city. From there, you can bike to any amenities you may need in less than 15 minutes, then to the postcard-worthy destinations San Francisco is famous for! Buzzing past pedestrians on the bikeway, you can cruise down the steep and windy Lombard Street admiring the flower-filled gardens, stopping by the San Francisco Botanical Gardens to enjoy even more greenery. From there, make your way to Golden Gate National Recreation Area and cross the Golden Gate Bridge on two wheels. If you’re tired out from there, you can always take the ferry back across the bay. After all that riding you’re sure to be hungry, so head over to Valencia Street to grab a bite to eat at one of the many vibrant restaurants. After the day is over, you can head out to experience the city’s nightlife or relax while watching the sunset over the Golden City. San Francisco is for everyone, especially bikers.
Arlington, Virginia, is next on our list! Known for its treasured national monuments and memorials, Arlington has so much more to offer that can only be experienced by using the 49 miles of paved paths woven throughout the city. After grabbing a bike from the local bike share, consider taking the Arlington Loop, a 16-mile bikeway that will bring you past some of the most famed attractions in Arlington. Cruise past attractions like the Arlington House, the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, and the Arlington National Cemetery. The Arlington National Cemetery is a must-visit place as it is the resting place of more than 400,000 servicemen and hosts regular graveside services and memorial events.
After paying your respects, you can continue your journey through the charming neighborhoods, beautiful parks, and waterfront views of Arlington into Washington, D.C., where you can see other historical treasures like the Lincoln Memorial, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and even the White House! Arlington offers a very unique experience on a bike — there is almost no other city where you can see so many treasured places and artifacts of United States history in just a short bicycle ride. However, if history is not your forte, the Mount Vernon path is an 18-mile paved recreation trail known as Northern Virginia’s Scenic Trail. Running down the west bank of the Potomac River, the ride offers many places to hop off and take a break. Arlington is made to be seen by bike!
Located on the northwest edge of Michigan’s lower peninsula (the mitten) is Traverse City, a vibrant small town and a great spot for wine connoisseurs, history lovers, and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Traverse City is also known for its craft beer, and everyone in town takes advantage of that. A Traverse City must-do is the Kayak, Bike, and Brew, a brewery pub crawl along Traverse City’s beautiful Boardman Lake and River and West Grand Traverse Bay.
Throughout the city, there are more than 60 miles of trail known as the Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation, or TART for short. TART is the city’s effort to provide and promote a trail network that enriches people and communities throughout the greater Traverse region. Through these trails, you can see attractions in town like The Grand Traverse Commons, Front Street, and the State Theatre. Or you can choose to venture outside of town into magnificent outdoor areas like the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore, where a 22-mile paved multi-use trail passes through the National Lakeshore. Traverse City is a small-town gem that offers a wide variety of activities for every age, skill level, and interest.
Last on our list, but certainly not least, is Santa Monica, California. Santa Monica is a charming seaside town with a small-town feel but urban metropolis amenities. Set in sunny southern California, it boasts stunning ocean views, a gentle, humidity-free climate, and a city design that caters to cyclists. The city has installed more than 100 miles of bikeways, 19 miles of green lanes, and several hundred public bike racks. The bike share service in town, Breeze Bike Share, allows locals and tourists to use well-maintained bikes and e-bikes.
This town is meant to be seen on two wheels. You can take your cruiser on the 22-mile Marvin Braude Trail that leads straight to bucket-list attractions like the Santa Monica Pier, the Venice Skatepark, and Muscle Beach. After relishing in the unique culture and exciting shops, switch out bikes and head over to the Santa Monica Mountains for some thrilling mountain trails. Topanga State Park is just 20 minutes from downtown and features 36 miles of trails through open grassland, live oaks, and mountainous terrain. Santa Monica is a great destination to sit back, relax and enjoy the city’s many attractions. Every cyclist is guaranteed to find their favorite Santa Monica bike route.