9 Popular North Carolina Bike Trails & Cycling Routes

Pick a specific portion of these routes or plan to bike the whole thing over a few days. Whatever your mood and level of comfort on a bike, we've got a route to match.

Here’s a list of nine bike routes courtesy of WalkBikeNC and the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

1 US Bike Route 1

1 US Bike Route 1

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The North Carolina section of US Bike Route 1 is rated as moderate/difficult and peaks at 577 feet of elevation. Starting near the border of Vance and Warren counties in northern NC, this route then meanders south through 200 miles of rolling terrain, including between Raleigh and Durham, and through Sanford, Southern Pines and Laurinburg.

Make a stop: Falls Lake State Recreation Area in Wake Forest offers more than 300 campsites, five swimming beaches, plus hiking and mountain biking trails, all surrounding a 12,000-acre reservoir.

2 Mountains-to-Sea

2 Mountains-to-Sea

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For the ultimate scenic trek across all three regions of our state, this more than 700-mile, moderate route is your answer. Push your limits the first 250 miles, where elevations reach mile-high territory in the mountains, then settle into pastures and flats in the piedmont and coastal regions. You'll pass through some of NC's bigger cities on this route, including Asheville, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Durham and Raleigh.

Make a stop: Tanglewood Park in Clemmons, near Winston-Salem, is an 1,100-acre park offering two 18-hole golf courses, an arboretum, two stocked lakes for fishing, pedal boats and much more.

3 Ports of Call

3 Ports of Call

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By starting near the Great Dismal Swamp and ending in Calabash, you'll see the NC coast in a variety of ways. Bike through the major ports of the Colonial era – including Edenton, Bath and New Bern – on this roughly 300-mile coastal route that also passes two sounds and Wilmington's vibrant riverfront.

Make a stop: Stretch your legs as you stroll Edenton, aka "The Prettiest Small Town in the South," and take in historic buildings, water views, the Roanoke River Lighthouse and locally owned restaurants.

4 North Line Trace

4 North Line Trace

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This moderate route runs along NC's northern border for more than 400 miles, offering numerous options for small-town stops and memories in all three regions. It ends at Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge, where you can find even more cycling trails that are great opportunities to spot wildlife such as ospreys and otters.

Make a stop: Before heading across the water in Littleton, relax for an afternoon at WatersView Restaurant, Lake Gaston's premier waterfront restaurant.

5 Cape Fear Run

5 Cape Fear Run

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Beginning just south of Raleigh and roughly following the Cape Fear River, this 160-mile route passes through rolling hills, flat lands and swamps. It ends in Wilmington, where it meets with the Ports of Call Route, offering the option to continue back up the coast.

Make a stop: At the end of the ride, the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher invites you to go eye-to-eye with a sea turtle, touch stingrays and meet an albino alligator named Luna.

6 Piedmont Spur

6 Piedmont Spur

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This 200-mile route is a southern alternative to the Piedmont section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Begin in the Blue Ridge Mountain foothills and make your descent toward the Charlotte area before biking north and finishing in central NC.

Make a stop: As you pass through the heart of Seagrove, "The Handmade Pottery Capital of the U.S.," put your kickstand up and peruse the work of some of the 80+ potters in the area.

7 Ocracoke Option

7 Ocracoke Option

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Not only does this route cover 170 miles, but you also get to take a ferry ride to complete it. Meander through NC's coastal plains before reaching New Bern and eventually Cedar Island, where you'll hop the ferry to reach Ocracoke. Fun fact: Ocracoke's Lifeguard Beach was named Dr. Beach's No. 1 Beach in 2022.

Make a stop: Explore several history options within a few blocks of one another in New Bern, including the Birthplace of Pepsi, Tryon Palace (the first permanent capitol of North Carolina) and the North Carolina History Center (complete with a waterfront cafe).

8 Southern Highlands

8 Southern Highlands

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Enjoy charming mountain towns like Brevard, Saluda, Flat Rock and Tryon on this 120-mile route rated moderate to difficult. You'll begin in Brevard, "The Land of Waterfalls," and descend 15 miles down Pisgah Highway before heading east and finishing at the intersection with the Piedmont Spur route.

Make a stop: Want to ride the fastest and steepest zip line in the country? Consider making a reservation at The Gorge when pedaling through Saluda.

9 Sandhills Sector

9 Sandhills Sector

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Begin in Albemarle, northeast of Charlotte, and enjoy a moderate, 125-mile ride through the NC Sandhills. Roaming past Pinehurst and all its golf glory, through the area just south of Fayetteville then ending near the Cape Fear River, this route only reaches 650 feet in elevation.

Make a stop: Raise a glass in honor of those who served at veteran-founded Railhouse Brewery in Aberdeen; they place a beer on their Memorial Wall every day to remember those who have fallen.

If you're up for the challenge of a multiday group ride, Cycle North Carolina offers three different options throughout the year: Coastal (spring), Mountain (summer) and Mountains to Coast (fall).

Both the Mountain and Coastal rides offer loops of various distances each of the three days, ranging anywhere from 10 to 100 miles. And since the routes begin and end in the same spot every day in the host town, there's no hassle of moving camp.

The seven-day Mountains to Coast ride, which uses a new route with eight different host towns each year, gives bikers the opportunity to cycle across the state on scenic back roads. Have fun with this ride – it's not a race; it's meant to celebrate the beauty of North Carolina and promote physical fitness.

Visit Outdoor NC for additional tips on how to connect with nature and help preserve the natural beauty of our state, plus helpful information on preparing for a mountain biking trip.

Updated June 13, 2022
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