Should I Get a Hitch Rack or Roof Rack for My Bike?

Mountain bikers have two main options when choosing a bike rack for their vehicle: hitch racks and roof racks. Both rack styles have pros and cons, which can make one rack better suited to your needs than another. Read on to discover the rack style that will work best for you.

Courtesy: Thule

Hitch Racks

Hitch racks, which attach to your vehicle’s rear trailer hitch, can generally carry between one and four bikes and come in a variety of configurations—from those with trays that provide a platform for the bikes to stand upright on to those with cradles that the bike sits in.

Tray vs. Cradle

Hitch racks with trays are typically more expensive than models that cradle a bike in their arms like the Thule Helium Pro 2 Bike Rack. Tray models are super-versatile and can carry almost any type of bike without the need of an adapter, even troublesome models that are oddly shaped or small-sized. Tray models like the Thule T2 Pro XT also don’t contact the bike’s frame; rather, they secure the bike by the wheels, which minimizes the chance of damaging expensive carbon frames or scratching pricy paint jobs.

Hitch Rack Pros

  • Provided you already have a hitch on your vehicle, installing a hitch rack is super easy—just slide the rack into the hitch and you’re good to go. Similarly, this makes taking the rack on and off your car simple if you don’t want to drive around with it all the time or you want to remove it in the off-season.
  • Hitch racks hold bikes comparatively far away from your car, minimizing the risk of scratching it when loading and unloading your bikes.
  • Hitch racks require less lifting than a roof rack, which is especially beneficial for those driving taller cars like an SUV. Because the bike is held essentially in front of you a few feet off the ground, it’s also easier to confirm that it’s secured properly than when you’re attaching the bike on your vehicle’s roof.
  • Every cyclist knows someone with a story of driving into their garage, or some other low-hanging barrier, with their bike on their roof rack—no need to worry about that with a hitch rack!
  • A bike in a hitch rack is less susceptible to bugs and pebbles than one riding on a roof.
Courtesy: Thule

Hitch Rack Cons

  • A hitch rack increases the length of your vehicle which can make urban driving as well as maneuvers like parallel parking tricky.
  • They can interfere with backup cameras.
  • They can limit access to your hatch or trunk.

Must-Have Hitch Rack Features

Manufacturers have noticed some of the shortcomings of hitch racks and have adapted their products to address those issues. For example, cradle-style racks like the Thule Apex 2/Apex 4, have the ability to fold flat when not carrying a bike, shortening the often unwieldy length of the car plus rack, and increasing convenience for everyday use. Similarly, other cradle-style racks, such as the Thule Apex Swing, are able to swing or fold out of the way to improve access to the rear of the vehicle.

Courtesy: Thule

Roof Racks

Roof racks have been a reliable option for transporting bikes for as long as we can remember. There’s a roof rack for almost every type of user, they come in multiple configurations (namely wheel on and wheel off), and the number of bikes you can carry is limited only by the width and capacity of your vehicle’s roof.

Front Wheel On vs. Wheel Off

Racks such as the Thule Circuit XT that require taking the wheel off reduce the amount of weight you need to hoist onto your roof, are super secure, and minimize the height of your bike when it’s up there. Of course, there is that pesky question of what to do about that other wheel. The rack often also requires an adapter if your bike has a thru-axle. Conversely, racks like the Thule ProRide XT that allow you to keep the front wheel on are taller and eliminate the often-annoying step of removing your front wheel.

Roof Rack Pros

  • A great choice for multi-sport athletes who will use the base rack for hauling kayaks, SUPs, skis, a cargo box, and any other outdoor equipment on the roof.
  • Doesn’t interfere with access to the trunk or hatch.
  • Simple to add capacity as needed—you can just add a rack, or two, provided there is space. Conversely, adding capacity on a trailer hitch usually means buying a new, larger rack.
  • Your bikes have a much better chance of surviving a rear-end collision.
  • For every story about a person driving into their garage with a roof rack on, there is one about a buddy backing into something solid with their hitch rack.

Roof Rack Cons

  • More difficult to install and take on and off.
  • The added drag of a bike on the roof can lower a vehicle’s fuel efficiency.
  • Can be tricky to load, secure, and unload—especially if you have a tall vehicle like an SUV, you are short, or your bike is very heavy.
  • A bike on top of your car is often loud, especially if you have an open sunroof.
  • Parking garages, garages, and low clearance awnings at places like hotels are a constant threat.
Courtesy: Thule

There are a ton of different types of mountain bikers and a rack for all of them—the key is to determine your needs, match the rack to them, and then get out and ride. Do you have a rack preference? Tell us in the comments.


8 Steps to Planning a Family Bike Trip

A family bike trip can be a terrific way to reconnect with the people you love most. It requires some flexibility and a willingness to embrace the vulnerability that comes with traveling by bike, but if you can all agree to give it a try, you’re in for a memorable family vacation. Each trip begins with a plan. Here’s how to get there.
Credit: Sarah Hunter

1. Begin with Collaboration

The key to a successful family bike trip is that everyone wants to be on it, so it’s important to get everyone invested from the start by talking about what they want out of the trip. If they just want to dip their toes in the bike touring world, it might make sense to start with an overnight trip close to home. If they crave more adventure and want to travel for days at a time exploring a new area, the options are limitless. Spend time talking about what you all want. Paved roads or dirt paths? Camp or stay indoors? Cook your own food or dine out? Gather ideas from everyone. It all starts with a family brainstorming session.

2. Do Your Preliminary Research

Once you have a basic idea of what your family is looking for, you can go down the rabbit hole of researching trip ideas. There’s no need to recreate the wheel; There are lots of established bike routes out there. You might find one that’s perfect for you, but it’s more likely that you find one that you can use as a starting point, then finesse it to meet your needs. A few places to start: Bikeovernights.com, Adventure Cycling AssociationBikepacking.com, and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. State bike advocacy groups, like the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, often have a wealth of information on bike routes, too.

This part of the process can be a bit overwhelming, but fear not. Your trip is out there waiting for you. Narrow it down to a few favorites and talk about them as a group. This is a bonus to bike trip planning—it offers an endless source of dinner conversation.

Credit: Sarah Hunter

3. Delve into the Details

Take the feedback from your dinner conversations to flesh out the details of your family’s favorite options. If possible, delegate some of this research to older children.

  • Map it out and determine the distance between lodging options and whether or not there are stores for resupplying along the way. (The Google Maps bike option, while not perfect, can be a helpful tool.)
  • Contact lodging options to be sure there’s a safe place to store your bikes at night.
  • Learn about the type of terrain you’ll encounter. (How much climbing is there each day? Will there be any busy roads? Do they have shoulders? If riding off-road, what is the surface/condition of the trail?)
  • Determine where you can safely leave your vehicle. (Town offices or Visitor Centers can often help with this.)
  • If you’re doing a point to point trip, determine how you will get back to your vehicle. Are there shuttle options? Can you leave your car at the finish, rent a car, and drop it off at the start of your journey?
  • If you’re headed to the backcountry, research water sources and permit requirements and begin working on a meal plan.

Bring what you’ve learned to the dinner table and talk it over. This may have to happen more than once. Some trip options will be vetoed during this process. Some will be tempting but will have a few too many obstacles. Eventually, one will feel like the right fit.

4. Seek out Local Knowledge

Once you’ve landed on your trip and you have your route, it’s good to get some local intel. This can be particularly helpful if you’ve gone rogue and created a route all on your own, but it’s good to do even if you’ve stuck pretty close to an established route. Cyclists love to boast about how great the cycling is in their area. Take advantage of that, and share your itinerary with a local bike shop, club, or bike advocacy organization. They can give you tips you won’t find anywhere else.

5. Include Zero or Nero Days

Consider adding some zero days (rest days with zero miles) or nero days (nearly zero miles) to your final itinerary. These trips are not about crushing the miles. They’re about being together, having fun, and embracing the joy of traveling by bike.

Credit: Sarah Hunter

6. Assess Your Skills

You don’t need to be a bike mechanic to embark on a bike trip, but it’s helpful to have a few skills under your belt. If you don’t already know how to fix a flat, invest some time to learn. You can find great tutorials on YouTube, but for hands-on learners, consider taking a basic bike maintenance class offered by a local bike shop or advocacy group. This can be fun to do together, but if there’s one member of your family who wants to own the role of bike mechanic, that’s great too.

7. Brush up on Training and the Rules of the Road

If your family isn’t already in the habit of riding regularly, start getting some miles in the saddle in the weeks leading up to your trip. This can be challenging if you’re planning a spring trip and the weather is still chilly, but it’s worth it. Ride as a group as much as possible, and be sure that everyone understands the rules of the road and basic hand commands. Communication is critical while biking together.

8. Help Build Enthusiasm with Gear!

Use every gift-giving opportunity leading up to your trip to properly outfit the family—and build excitement. Packing lists will vary depending on the trip, but you’ll need:

It can be a bit daunting to plan a family bike trip, but the details fall into place when you’re on the ride. And some of the details will fall apart. Your trip won’t go exactly as planned, but that’s part of the adventure. The success of a bike trip isn’t measured by how closely it follows your itinerary. It’s measured in laughter, good food, and memorable moments with the ones you love.

Credit: Sarah Hunter

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Gear Nerd: How Does MIPS Save Your Noggin?

You’re cruising along sweet deep powder carving down the slope with the wind whipping on by and a giant grin on your face. And then suddenly…the slope isn’t where it should be and you’re about to experience what it’s like to be a snowball. Lovely.

Fortunately for you, you’re smart and you’re wearing a helmet. Because you’re wicked smart you picked a helmet with MIPS. Maybe this won’t hurt so bad?

As you’re lying in a snowbank catching your breath and checking to make sure everything still feels intact, you might be wondering just exactly how your helmet and the MIPS technology works.

Courtesy: MIPS

What is MIPS?

Identifying a MIPS helmet (whether it’s a ski helmet, a bike helmet, or something else) is pretty easy. From the outside, it looks pretty standard, but flipping it over puts the business end in full view.

All helmets have at least 2 layers: the hard outer shell and a thick inner foam layer. If something falls straight onto the top of your head, or you make a perfectly head-on (pun intended) impact with a tree, these two layers crush and absorb a lot that impact before it can get to your skull and brain.

But that’s not how most accidents work. More likely, you fall off your bike and your helmet hits the pavement at an angle, or you side swipe a branch after losing control on your skis. It’s those indirect impacts where the MIPS layer really comes in.

Taking a look at the inside of your helmet and you’ll find a thin piece of yellow plastic inside the foam layer. The pads sit on this one so it’s what comes in contact with your head. But it also moves in relation to the rest of the helmet thanks to some elastic. The result is a helmet that can “slip” back and forth, or side to side, when it’s on your head.

But how does that help you in a crash?

With a non-MIPS helmet, your brain and skull would have played a wild game of ping pong: As the helmet hit the ground, it would force your entire head to rotate violently, sloshing your brain inside your skull. But the MIPS layer let the helmet slip without your head, redirecting the energy by allowing the low friction layer to move 10 to 15 millimeters. When your helmet hits the snow, the outer two layers slide along the MIPS layer and your head, absorbing more impact and redirecting it away from your brain.

So where can I find it?

MIPS helmets are becoming more and more popular every year, making their way into ski, bike, climbing helmets and more. Look for the little yellow circular “MIPS” logo to know that the helmet features the technology.


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Bikes and Brews: Bear Brook and Concord Craft Brewing

Bear Brook State Park, located in south-central New Hampshire, is a mountain biker’s dream. With trails that offer options for every type of rider, Bear Brook is an easy trip for many in-state and Massachusetts-based mountain bikers, while its campground makes it perfect for those visiting from farther afield. Better yet: Combining a ride here with some post-ride refreshment from Concord Craft Brewing makes for a fantastic day out.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Biking

Originating through the Recreational Designation Area Program—a New Deal project to build public parks near urban areas—Bear Brook is located about 30 minutes from both Concord and Manchester, New Hampshire. The park sports an extensive and diverse trail system, with roughly 10,000 acres and more than 40 miles of trails. It is the largest developed state park in New Hampshire, and there’s no better way to explore it than on a mountain bike.

There are a handful of parking options, but the biker/hiker parking lot or Hayes Field on Podunk Road—both off of NH-28—both provide a central jumping-off point for exploration. Generally, parking in the hiker/biker lot means beginning your ride with a climb, while parking at Hayes Field means ending your ride with one.

There’s a $4 per person fee to enter the park, which you can pay in advance on their website or in person at the “toll booth” on Podunk Road or the ranger station at the entrance to the biker/hiker parking lot. Even if you prepay, it’s a good idea to stop and get a free map—the park is vast, the trail signage could be better, and navigating is tricky at times.

Evidence of a pre-park time is apparent throughout most rides, as the park’s large trail system passes stone walls, long-forgotten foundations, and old cemeteries.

Bear Brook’s trails offer something for everyone, with everything from fast and flowy trails to techy rock gardens to playful side hits. There is also climbing—lots and lots of climbing.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Fast and Flowy: Ending almost in the hiker/biker lot, Big Bear is the crown jewel of Bear Brook’s trail system. It delivers huge smiles as you whip down the smooth trail and hurtle through banked turns—there are even a couple of optional jumps for those looking to clock some air time. Designed for descending, downhillers have the right of way on Big Bear. Across from the hiker/biker lot (after a short climb) is another great option for those with the need for speed: Hemlock offers a swift, bench-cut descent before giving way to fast, fun, rolling terrain.

Tech: One of the awesome things about riding at Bear Brook is that after the steep climbs and robust rock gardens, the best techy trails usually reward bikers with enjoyable, easier riding. Two great options are in close proximity to Hayes Field. Carr Ridge offers rock-strewn, punchy climbs and loose descents that give way to well-manicured and grin-inducing turns. Similarly, Bear Hill delivers climbing, intermittent rock gardens, a skinny elevated log ride (don’t worry, there’s a B-line), and a few fun things to pop off of, all mixed in with pleasurable, easy-rolling singletrack.

Climbing: When thinking about Bear Brook climbing, one trail immediately springs to mind: Alp d’Huez. Named after the iconic Tour de France climb, Alp d’Huez is less centrally located than other classics (it’s close to the toll booth), but offers a nice switchbacking ascent sure to have you breaking a sweat and trying to catch your breath. The Little Bear Trail—which starts near the hiker/biker lot and is the standard way to get to the top of the Big Bear Trail—provides a similar experience but is a little bit shorter and less steep.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Brews

One of the best ways to end a great day of riding at Bear Brook is with a craft beer—and Concord Craft Brewing in downtown Concord, New Hampshire, is the perfect place to kick back with friends, whether on the patio or in their cozy taproom. Just be warned, the brewery only serves cold beer and munchies (think pretzels, peanuts, and chips). Luckily, there are also a bunch of great places to grab a bite within walking distance.

Double IPA: IPAs rule the day at Concord Craft Brewing, and although you may not have claimed a KOM or QOM on your ride, you can still sit down with the Gov’nah. An imperial/double IPA, at 8.6% ABV, the Gov’nah is Concord Craft Brewing’s strongest offering. Fair warning—the more miles you’ve logged, the more powerful this brew seemingly becomes.

New England IPA: If 8.6% ABV feels ambitious, you can seek a safe space—a Safe Space IPA, that is. A classic hazy New England-style IPA checking in at 6% ABV, Safe Space is the ideal treatment for those tired legs, but not so dangerous to affect your odds of riding again tomorrow.

Session IPA: If you’re planning to spend as much time on the patio as you did on the trails—or feel like you deserve a beer for each trip you took down Big Bear—consider a Finding NEIPA, a delicious low-alcohol (4.2%) brew that won’t leave you feeling like you went over the handlebars the next morning.

Sour Slushie: For non-beer lovers and those super-hot days, you can’t go wrong with a Sour Slushie. A delightful treat that will have you yearning for your youth, but happy to be over 21, Concord Craft mixes its Berliner Weisse Kettle Sour in a slushie machine for a truly unique treat.

If you’re staying at the campground or heading south to get home, there’s still a great way to sample some of the brewery’s choice beverages. Concord Craft beers abound at grocery and convenience stores near Bear Brook. Be an après-hero and grab a four-pack (or two) for your crew for some post-ride refreshment.

Have you visited Bear Brook or Concord Craft Brewing? If so, we want to hear about your favorite trails and what ales you in the comments below!

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

10 Tips to Get Ready for a Big Bike Ride

While the experiences of cruising the Kancamagus Highway on your road bike and getting down and dirty covering all 35 miles of machine-made singletrack at Green Woodlands on your mountain bike are vastly different, preparing for long rides is remarkably similar. Whether you’re going the distance on a road bike or planning to go big on a mountain bike, here are some secrets for a successful big bike ride.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

1. Log Miles 

The success and enjoyment of your ride depends on what is done in the weeks and months leading up to it. Everyone has different training needs, but in general, the more time you put in the saddle, the better the big day is going to feel. Don’t wait until the last minute to train; Ideally, the week prior to the ride is reserved for gentle sessions that leave you feeling fresh and ready for your big ride.

2. Reconnoiter the Ride

Before hitting the road or trail, it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into. Studying the route to get a clear understanding of the terrain (hilly, rolling, flat), infrastructure (are there places to get food or refill water?), and key intersections (trail or road) is a good way to ease stress and set yourself up for success. Nothing beats tires on the ground—try riding a smaller section (or sections) of your planned ride to get a feel for what you’re up against. Riding a few sections in advance also reduces the likelihood of you getting lost on your big ride, which is likely to be very important as fatigue sets in.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

3. Small-Sized Segments 

Whether tackling massive mileage, vast vertical, or just pushing a personal best, a big bike ride can seem daunting. A smart strategy is to break the ride into smaller, more easily-accomplished segments. Plan ahead and have rewards waiting—riding the first 50 miles of a century is less unnerving when there’s a piece of pizza (or two) waiting.

4. Get in Tune with Your Bike 

An underperforming, malfunctioning, or broken-down bike will suck the enjoyment from your ride and may even end it early. Before heading out, make sure your bike is in top mechanical condition. Here are a few things to confirm before the big day:

  • All bolts are tight
  • Brake pads aren’t worn
  • Shifting is smooth—there is no skipping
  • Wheels are true and there no loose spokes
  • Tires have tread and aren’t damaged—for example, there are no glass shards in tread or excessive wear in the sidewalls
  • Tire pressure is set correctly

And if you ride a mountain bike, you’ll also want to make sure:

  • Your suspension is set up correctly
  • The dropper post (if you have one) is functioning properly
  • There is sealant in tubeless tires (if you have them)

If you don’t feel confident tuning your bike, bring it to a professional. Just make sure to leave them plenty of time to go through it.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

5. What Can Go Wrong, Will Go Wrong 

No matter how well you train or prepare, something inevitably will go wrong. Luckily, unforeseen events don’t have to mean an end to your ride. Pack a small repair kit and practice making common fixes such as changing a flat tire. A good basic repair kit includes:

  • A multitool
  • Two tubes
  • Tire levers
  • Tire repair tool and plugs
  • A pump or CO2 inflator and cartridges
  • Chain breaker and master link
  • A spare derailleur hanger (for mountain bikes)
  • A couple of zip ties
  • Duct tape

6. Other Essential Items 

In addition to mechanical problems, it’s important to prepare for other eventualities. A fully charged cell phone can help you summon a ride in the event of a blowout (either your bike or you), and a $20 bill or a credit/debit card is a blessing if you need to procure a much-needed snack. Lastly, carrying an ID or wearing an identification band is essential in the event of an accident.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

7. Correct Clothes

Like any outdoor activity, you’ll want to have the proper layers on hand for your long ride. While the exact layers will depend on when and where you’re riding—and the amount of space you have available to carry them—one item stands apart from the rest: padded bike shorts. Padded bike shorts cushion your sit bones and protect your most delicate parts, ultimately making cycling more enjoyable. The longer your ride, the more valuable a good pair of bike shorts becomes.

8. Food and Drink

A long ride is no time to count calories or worry about your diet. A good rule of thumb is to eat before you’re hungry and drink before you’re thirsty. A big ride is also no time to mess around with new foods. Use your training miles to figure out what works for you—some riders prefer gels and bars while others prefer real food like wraps or PB&J sandwiches cut into small squares.

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9. Move Around 

Even the most seasoned cyclists cramp up and get stiff when stuck in one position for too long. During your ride, move your hands around the bars, shift back and forth on the saddle, and stand up from time to time to keep from placing too much strain on one body part.

10. Power of Positive Thinking 

The fact is most long bike rides fall into the second category of fun—that is, the experience is blissful in hindsight, but feels a lot like suffering in the moment. It’s okay to feel tired and it’s normal to get sore, but don’t let those physical ailments turn into negative thoughts. Think in positives—for example, at the 50-mile mark of a century, you don’t have half the ride left to finish, rather, you’ve already completed half the ride.

The old saying, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” often holds true. Since a big bike ride is challenging enough, don’t make it harder by failing to show up properly prepared. If you have any more tips for riders looking to tackle a big ride this year or any favorite long rides that others should check out, let us know in the comments!


Tired of the Winter? These 7 Southeast Adventures Will Warm You Up

If you’ve had enough cold and snow for the season, why not plan a late-winter/early-spring vacation in the Southeast? In just a few hours you can fly into Atlanta, Georgia, or Jacksonville, and feel the sun on your face! Whether you’re a hiker, paddler, cyclist, or camper, you’ll want to check out these seven Southeast activities that are sure to warm your spirit for adventure during the Northeast’s coldest part of the year. 

Joe King gets his feet wet on the Florida National Scenic Trail. This 30-mile section of Big Cyprus is located at the southern terminus, and borders the Everglades. | Courtesy: Aaron Landon
Joe King gets his feet wet on the Florida National Scenic Trail. This 30-mile section of Big Cyprus is located at the southern terminus, and borders the Everglades. | Courtesy: Aaron Landon

Get Your Feet Wet at Big Cypress National Preserve

Big Cypress, bordering Everglades National Park, is the southern terminus of the Florida National Scenic Trail and offers a very challenging 3-day, 30 mile hike through an otherworldly wet cypress forest. This is considered the toughest backpacking trip in Florida, but if you can handle being wet most of the time, and don’t get too freaked out by the vast loneliness of hiking through a swamp, you’ll come away from this experience a changed person. If you want to continue north on the Florida Trail, keep going and you’ll reach Billie Swamp Safari within the Seminole Indian Reservation where you can sleep in a real Seminole Chickee hut.

Cumberland Island’s 50 miles of trails meander through pristine maritime forests under live oak canopies. Courtesy: Troy Allen Lair
Cumberland Island’s 50 miles of trails meander through pristine maritime forests under live oak canopies. | Courtesy: Troy Allen Lair

Cumberland Island National Seashore

Cumberland Island is Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island, featuring pristine maritime forests, undeveloped beaches, and wide marsh views. There are many miles of rustic hiking trails, backcountry campsites, historic sites, and lots of wildlife, including sea turtles, turkeys, wild hogs and horses, armadillos, and abundant shore birds. To make the most of your time on the island, set up camp at Yankee Paradise, a primitive campsite located in the middle of the island. From there you can explore Cumberland’s breathtaking seashore, Plum Orchard Mansion, Dungeness Ruins, and the Settlement, an area located in the north end of the island that was settled by former slaves in the 1890s. Make your camping and ferry reservations in advance because the number of visitors to the island are limited.

The Dirty Pecan ride and Thomasville Clay Classic are two gravel rides featuring stunning scenery beneath live oak canopies. | Courtesy: Phillip Bowen
The Dirty Pecan ride and Thomasville Clay Classic are two gravel rides featuring stunning scenery beneath live oak canopies. | Courtesy: Phillip Bowen

Cycle Through the South

The 40th Annual Florida Bicycle Safari will be held April 18-23 this year, and includes six days of riding in North Florida and South Georgia. “The Florida Bicycle Safari is much more than just a ride,” says Louis McDonald, Safari Director. “We’ve planned six days of cycling, food, games, live entertainment, and plenty of Southern hospitality at Live Oak and Cherry Lake. Our riders are from all over the country. Different routes are offered each day, including two century rides. Being the 40th anniversary, this year’s event is going to be our biggest yet!” 

And if gravel riding is your thing, the Dirty Pecan ride will be held on March 7 in Monticello, Florida, followed by the Thomasville Clay Classic on April 13 in Thomasville, Georgia. “I really love being off paved roads where there is little to no traffic,” says cyclist Cheryl Richardson, a member of the North Florida Bicycle Club. “Both of these rides feature beautiful tree canopies and spectacular scenery the entire route.”

The Okefenokee Wilderness Area offers over 400,000 acres of wetlands and swamps to explore with seven overnight shelters. | Courtesy: Troy Allen Lair
The Okefenokee Wilderness Area offers over 400,000 acres of wetlands and swamps to explore with seven overnight shelters. | Courtesy: Troy Allen Lair

Paddle the Okefenokee Swamp

A multi-day paddling trip though Georgia’s Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is a bucket list must do. There are wooden platforms throughout the swamp where you can pitch a tent at the end of each day of paddling. You’ll see lots of alligators, birds, and rare plants—The swamp is a photographer’s dream come true. You can bring your own canoe or kayak, or rent them at the park’s concessioner. They also offer guided paddling trips to suit your needs. Other activities include fishing and hiking. The Okefenokee will leave you spellbound.

The Pinhoti Trail’s Cheaha and Dugger Mountain Wilderness areas offer an otherworldly hiking experience. | Courtesy: Troy Allen Lair
The Pinhoti Trail’s Cheaha and Dugger Mountain Wilderness areas offer an otherworldly hiking experience. | Courtesy: Troy Allen Lair

Hike Alabama’s Pinhoti Trail

Start your 335-mile hike at the southern terminus, Flagg Mountain, and meet famous hiker and author, Nimblewill Nomad, who is now the caretaker there. The Pinhoti traverses through Talladega National Forest, Cheaha Wilderness, and Dugger Mountain Wilderness before entering Georgia, where it eventually meets up with the Benton MacKaye Trail, and onto Springer Mountain. Appalachian Trail hikers consider the Pinhoti a great practice hike before attempting the AT.

Providence Canyon is a hidden gem in the state of Georgia, with just enough elevation changes and glorious scenery to make it fun for all ages.
Providence Canyon is a hidden gem in the state of Georgia, with just enough elevation changes and glorious scenery to make it fun for all ages.

Visit Georgia’s Providence Canyon State Park 

Called Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon, Providence Canyon is a hidden gem. Massive gullies as deep as 150 feet were caused by poor farming practices during the 1800s, yet today they make some of the prettiest photographs within the state. Hikers who explore the deepest canyons will usually find a thin layer of water along the trail, indication of the water table below. The hike is not strenuous but has enough elevation changes to make it fun! Guests who hike to canyons 4 and 5 may want to join the Canyon Climbers Club. Backpackers can stay overnight along the backcountry trail which highlights portions of the canyon and winds through a mixed forest. This is a great trip for families who may prefer to stay in the developed campground and take day hikes. 

South Carolina’s Palmetto Trail includes the mysterious Swamp Fox Passage, where you can expect to do a little wading through Wadboo and Dog Swamps. | Courtesy: Troy Allen Lair
South Carolina’s Palmetto Trail includes the mysterious Swamp Fox Passage, where you can expect to do a little wading through Wadboo and Dog Swamps. | Courtesy: Troy Allen Lair

Hike South Carolina’s Palmetto Trail

South Carolina’s Palmetto Trail is a new trail, and still in progress (350 miles of the trail are completed; the entire trail will be 500 miles long). Swamp Fox Passage is the longest section of the cross-state Palmetto Trail at 47 miles, and traverses four distinct ecosystems through Francis Marion National Forest, including swamps made famous as hideouts of Revolutionary War hero, Francis Marion. This trail is both dry and wet, and hikers will enjoy wading through Wadboo and Dog Swamps, along with Turkey Creek. Swamp Fox Passage is close to Charleston, so be sure to give yourself an extra day or two to explore the city.


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