The Ozarks are home to some of the best hiking trails in the United States, and that includes bike trails. Already, it is home to two of the most infamous cycling routes – Route 66 (not to be confused with the highway) and Route 76. These are colloquially known as the TransAmerica Trail, and are ridden every year by cycling enthusiasts with high goals of crossing the United States on bike.
Now, these two infamous Ozark trails are expected to meet a new member, the United States Bike Route (USBR) 51. This proposed trail has been in the pipeline for years and is being championed by the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation as well as the Adventure Cycling Association. Both of these nonprofits have gone through a lengthy approval process and have now kickstarted the project.
This new route is a “no-construction” project, meaning that it will work with existing trails and roads to create an official route quickly. All that’s left is to get final approval since most of the route through the Ozarks and beyond must take place on low-traffic roads.
USBR 51 has plans to connect trails and roads across five states, spanning over 640 miles from Arkansas to Iowa. That’s not all, as there will also be an alternative route.
How USBR 51 Differs from the Ozark’s Existing Bike Routes
The USBR 66 and 76 routes run east to west, while the new proposed route will go north to south, adding essential coverage for bikers in the area. That being said, the USBR 66 and USBR 76 are just two of the largest bike paths in the area. The region is a nexus of trails and roads, allowing for full flexibility for bikers in the area. This means that there are short trails, loops, out-and-back, and custom trails to take, depending on each cyclist’s preferences.
Expanding Routes Open Up Options for Cyclists
This also gives more opportunities for different biker preferences. While some long-haul cyclists are happy to camp in a tent during their stay, others prefer the creature comforts of a hotel. A popular option for cyclists in Branson, for example, is to book a hotel in the area, complete one of the many loops in and around the city, and return to the comforts of a resort like Westgate. Cyclists who prefer not to camp should visit website for the resort to see just how close hikes and bike trails can be, all without giving up the creature comforts of a luxury stay.
Family bike groups, in particular, can benefit from a stay-and-bike experience rather than a cross-country experience. Alternatively, you can plan your own route that includes night stops at hotels to enhance the experience and stay safer during your trek.
In Honor of the New USBR 51: The Best Bike Trails in the Ozarks
USBR 51 is an essential trail that’s set to open up soon, thanks to the no-construction take that simply uses existing trails or roads to plan out a new route for biking enthusiasts. The area, however, is already home to many infamous routes, including:
- Table Rock State Park
You’ll find 12 miles of natural surface, stunning views of Table Rock Lake as well as Lake Taneycomo, waterfalls, and so much more on the White River Trail System. Do keep in mind that this trail does have some serious elevation, so you’ll need to be able to bike up nearly 710 feet in total.
- Frisco Highline Trail
The premier scenic rail trail in the Ozarks is the Frisco Highline trail. This lovely trail is long, totaling 35 miles, and takes you around Springfield to Bolivar. It includes an old railroad corridor, taking you through exciting woods and vibrant city streets, so you can take the time to stop at restaurants, see art and museums, and so much more.
- NW Arkansas Upper Buffalo Headwaters
Those who are looking for an extreme mountain bike path will love NW Arkansas Upper Buffalo Headwaters. You will need to drive two hours from Branson to get there and will need to plan a multi-day experience through the rugged terrain. The entire route is 40 miles long, and there will be places where you’ll need to carry your bike through water crossings, but in terms of adventure and views, it’s hard to beat.
- Busiek State Forest
This trail is just a short 30-minute drive away from Branson and can be found in the small town in Ozark. The stunning forest trail is popular with cyclists, hikers, and even some horseback riding tours. You can expect up to 18 miles of beautiful trails where you’ll see forests, wildflower fields, and streams. Thanks to its short nature and proximity, it’s one of the most popular trails in the Ozarks since many stay in Branson for the music activities.
- USBR 66
USBR 66 is a very popular route that will take you through the Ozarks, though unless you plan on traveling cross-country, you’ll likely only care to bike a portion of it. One of the most popular routes for those in the area is the Springfield to St. Louis (or vice versa) trek.
- Dogwood Canyon Nature Park
This 10,000-acre nature park is a must to explore on foot, by bike, or even by horse. The best part is you can rent a single-speed bike on-site, which appeals to those who are interested in a day bike experience but not the hassle of bringing their own bike to their vacation. Do plan to spend the entire day there, since there’s so much to do.
- Roark Creek Trail
This lovely paved trail is a must for beginners and families with young children. You can start the trail at Branson Landing and take it 2.7 miles to Stockstill Park. The short distance, easy-access trail, and great bluff at the end make it an excellent day trip for beginners in the area and a top spot for picnics.
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