Whether you are brand new to cycling and want to find bike trails near you to ride, or you are an old pro at biking but are visiting a new city and unfamiliar with the trails, the good news is that there are a variety of tools available now a days to help you find them.
There are really several types of “bike trails”, and it’s important to differentiate what kind of trail you are looking for. A bike trail might be:
- Paved bike path or multi-use paths
- Dirt or gravel rail trails
- Singletrack mountain bike trails
- Paved bike “routes” — these aren’t really trails but are sometimes labeled as such
Depending on what kind of trail you are looking for, there’s probably a best tool for you. Below we break down our favorite tools for finding bike trails, and which might be best for you.
TrailForks is my very favorite tool for finding mountain bike trails. I spent a year traveling around N. America, and TrailForks was my go-to hack for finding local trails to ride.
It works best as an app on your phone (although you can look at their website version as well). The app shows your location so you don’t get lost at trail junctions, and rates singletrack rails as green (beginner), blue (intermediate), or black (advanced). Gravel roads, rail trails, and paved trails generally show up as purple.
I also like that Trailforks provides a description of the trail, an elevation profile, and shows trailheads so you know where to park.
There is both a paid version and a free version. The paid version (which is $2.99 per month) allows you to look at trails all over the world, while the free version limits you to trails within your immediate area. If you’re going to travel very much, I highly recommend the paid version.
Best For: Mountain Bike Trails + Paved Bike Paths
Learn More: https://www.trailforks.com/
Like Trailforks, MTB Project works as an app or via their website. It is more “route” focused than Trailforks, and describes specific rides you may want to do (rather than just trails).
The routes have detailed descriptions to help you along, and are rated by difficulty level. It also allows you to download a GPX file if you have a Garmin or similar GPS device you like to use. Or, follow the route within the app.
Best For: Mountain Bike Trails
Learn More: https://www.mtbproject.com/
TrailLink is my top choice for finding paved bike paths and rail trails. The tool (website or app) provides trail descriptions, photos, and descriptions for where to park.
The basic tool is free, but if you want to download GPX files or getting detailed trailhead information, you’ll need to pay for a membership. It costs $29.99 per year.
Best For: Paved Paths + Rail Trails
More Info: https://www.traillink.com/
Strava is a popular app that allows you to track your rides and track your times and compare to other folks. This makes it ideal for Type A personalities.
Even if you’re not a competitive rider, the app can still work well for finding routes and trails simply because there are sooo many users. I’ve used Strava to find “secret” trails that none of the other apps are showing.
To use the route planning feature, you’ll have to use the paid version. It costs $11.99 per month.
Best For: Road Routes, Mountain Bike Trails
More Info: https://www.strava.com/
Bike map is a website (and app) that shows cycling routes all around the world. Although it focuses heavily on bike touring, it also works well for finding bike trails wherever you may be located.
All the data is crowd-sourced so it can be a little harder to digest, but if you’re willing to spend some time digging through routes, this site can be a treasure trove of information. You can also create your own route and then download the GPX file for use in your navigation device.
There are both free and paid versions. The latter allows you to use additional map layers and download GPX files. Paid is €9 per month.
Best For: Route Routes, Paved Bike Paths
More Info: https://www.bikemap.net/
Local Bike Maps
Most cities and towns have a local bike map. These are usually printed paper maps as well as available online as PDFs. Bigger cities might even have an interactive online map.
Try googling your city name plus “local bike map” and see what comes up. If nothing does, stop by some local bike shops and ask them if there are any local bike maps.
These maps will usually show bike routes as well as paved bike paths, and sometimes will include dirt trails as well.
Your Local Bike Club Or Group
Perhaps the best way to find bike trails near you is the lowest tech option–find people to show you the best trails! If you don’t already have bike friends, join your local bike club or cycling group.
Don’t know any groups? Check out our big list of Women’s Cycling Clubs And Group Rides.
Riding with folks who are already familiar with local trails is ideal. You don’t have to guess what the best route is, or if it’s going to be too challenging. They can show you hazards to look out for, give you a warning about sections you might have to walk, and share the secret low-traffic routes.
Want more? Here are other tools you can use to find trails.
- Google Earth – Use the arial view on Google Earth to spot trails. You can also look at roads to see how much traffic they appear to have.
- Map My Ride – Enter your city and search routes that other users have created.
- Google Bike Maps – In Google Maps, you can choose “bike” rather than “car” to find a suggested route.
- AllTrails.com – Tends to be more oriented toward hiking, but you can find trails for mountain biking as well.
- Singletracks.com – An interactive map that lets you zoom in toward your area.
- Gaia GPS — Great for finding dirt roads to ride.
- OnxMaps – The OnyX app is primarily intended for hunting, but can also be used to find dirt trails and roads.