Railbike is about to become your new favorite family adventure
Traveling by rail remains one of the best ways to experience the United States. There are thousands of miles of trails that separate mountains, pass through towns and wind through stunning landscapes. But that doesn’t mean you have to discover them from inside a train car. Across the United States, companies have taken advantage of the many stretches of outdated railroad tracks to offer railbikes, an activity that lets you and the kids pedal together while taking in the scenery. It’s a great family adventure.
Railbiking is a growing activity in the United States and abroad where cyclists pedal open-air carts along unused railroad tracks. Derived from a 19th century German railway vehicle, the handcar, rail bikes are four-wheeled recumbent surrey bikes that interlock on the rails and are spaced for rail gauge under the carriage. Since rail bikes are powered by pedals, a family of up to four can accelerate to speeds of up to 15+ mph and slow down with the easy use of a handbrake. Sometimes bikes have electric assist to help increase power.
Many companies in the United States offer scenic bike-rail tours that wind through rarely seen tunnels, bridges and beautiful landscapes. There is no national rail bike authority, so the rules vary from company to company. Generally speaking, there are weight restrictions per person, around 250 pounds. Times vary depending on the length of each tour, but the longer ones (i.e. 12 miles) are paced to last around 2-3 hours. Prices and seasonal hours also vary by company, so do your research and book ahead. Expect to spend around $100 for a family of four.
All ages are welcome at most railbike companies, although children must be accompanied by a parent. If the kids get tired, they can always come for the ride – you’ll just have to do more cycling reps. But your leg muscles will be spared as the rail bike tours are designed to be leisurely, focusing more on scope scenery and wildlife than sweating it out.
But rail biking offers a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the outdoors while getting a bit of exercise – with all the fun and novelty of riding on trainless train tracks. If you’d like to give it a try, here are some of the most popular rail bike companies and the tours they offer across the United States.
9 bike-rail tours in the United States
1. Railway revolution (Maine, New York, New Jersey, Colorado)
With multiple rail lines in four states, Revolution Rail is one of the largest rail bike companies, offering dual and quad rail bike experiences through the banks and valleys of New York’s Adirondacks (options from 6 to 12 miles), Woodstown area of New Jersey plus Cape Mai on the shore (4-11 mile options), Rio Grande River area of Colorado near South Fork (10 mile round trip, with a one-way, return raft option), and occasionally Kennebunkport, ME (3.5 miles), in partnership with the Seashore Trolley Museum.
2. Hobo Railroad Rail Bike Adventures (New Hampshire)
Traverse New Hampshire’s Lake District with this scenic train travel agency that ventures into the increasingly popular bike-rail space with a five-mile round-trip that takes you from the old train station to Laconia built in 1892, along Boston, Concord and Montreal streets 19th century Railroad line to Lake Winnisquam. Along the way, you’ll pedal over the Winnipesaukee River via a trestle bridge.
3. Railway Explorers (Rhode Island, New York, Iowa, Nevada)
With locations across the country, Rail Explorers is another major provider of rail bikes, with experiences across historic Aquidneck Island and Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island (both 6-mile options), the New York’s Catskill Mountains and Cooperstown area (8 to 12 mile options), the scenic Des Moines River Valley (20.5 km), and the Mojave Desert and River Mountains near Las Vegas (6 to 13km). Don’t be intimidated by longer rides; their rail bikes have electric assistance.
4. Secret Valley Excursions (Pennsylvania)
This Pottstown, Pennsylvania-based railbike company brings volunteer riders on a 4-mile course. round trip along the old Colebrookdale Railroad line. If you enjoy wildlife watching, you might spot a deer, fox, heron, or bald eagle while pedaling through the forests of historic Secret Valley.
5. Tracks and Yaks (Maryland)
Based in Frostburg, Maryland, this rail bike outfitter offers two tours through the scenic Allegheny Mountains, including a 15-mile long one. road from Frostburg to Cumberland. Unlike other routes from other offers, these routes go downhill, but don’t worry; there is no need to pedal backwards as a shuttle or train is waiting for you at the end.
6. Carson Canyon Railbike Tours (Nevada)
Cycle through the brush of scenic Carson Canyon with this bike-rail operator from Carson City Eastgate Train Depot. It’s a 90-minute tour that takes you over a highway and into the desert, to the historic Eureka Mill district. There is a 2% climb with some curves, but electric assistance is in the railbike to make the adventure more relaxed than challenging.
seven. Skunk Train Rail Bikes (California)
Mendocino County’s historic Skunk Train has ventured beyond its scenic train ride with two e-bike adventures through the majestic Redwoods of Northern California – home to herons, ospreys, otters and deer, if you can spot them. The easiest 2h. The excursion takes place on the Redwood road along Pudding Creek, while the most difficult takes 4 hours. we go on a railroad reserved for handcars along the Noyo river. Keep in mind that they only offer two-person rail bikes, so plan accordingly.
8. Joseph Branch Railriders (Oregon)
Based in the northeast region of Oregon, this rail bike company offers five deals ranging from 6 to 20 miles. excursions on their electric-assisted draisines. The longer the drive, the more immersed you are in the valleys of the Wallowa Mountains, with open grasslands and dense pine forests. They also offer a special “Golden Hour” twilight tour for keen landscape and wildlife photographers on the lookout.
9. Vance Creek Railriders (Washington)
Cycle the 13-mile round trip on the historic Simpson Logging Company Railroad through the scenic Olympic Peninsula from a former logging camp in Shelton, WA. Along Goldsborough Creek you will spot different birds or even salmon swimming in the waters. Pedal assist is only available on demand, so keep that in mind for the one-mile stretch with a 2.2 percent angle one way.