Bike enthusiasts rejoice! In a recent move by the National Park Service, National Parks across the US have warmed up to allowing off-road bicycling on their trails. Some roads and trails that are closed to vehicles are now opening up to allow access to mountain bikes. Under the Wilderness Act of 1964, bicycles are prohibited in designated wilderness areas. However under the new rule park officials are designating 5% of the park area open to mountain biking. While cycling in the wilderness is still prohibited, cycling on paved roads in the park is permitted.
The International Mountain biking Association (IMBA) has been partnering with the NPS since 2005 to help advance mountain biking in National parks, and has been instrumental in lobbying for this move. The IMBA also hopes that NPS will have a trail system in place in the near future which would entrust mountain bikers with the responsibility of maintaining these trails.
With new regulations in place, more power lies with local park superintendents making it easier to control and earmark designated biking areas, while preserving the overall sanctity and quietude of these natural wonders. The rule though welcomed by a majority still faces some opposition from a few quarters such as the National Parks Conservation Association, or NPCA, which feels that the inclusion of mountain bikes will destroy the serenity of National Parks and lead to fewer visitors.
There are more than 40 parks throughout the United States that have off-road biking trails. Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, New River Gorge National River in West Virginia and Big Bend National Park in Texas are some of those which have welcomed the change. New River Gorge National River offers six trails with easy to difficult grades for mountain bikers, Big Bend has over 160 miles of dirt roads and the Rocky Mountain National Park is in the process of assessing the vast East Shore Trail stretching from Shadow Mountain Reservoir to south Grand Lake.
More National Parks are looking to join in and it will only be a matter of time until the Grand Canyon has trails open to mountain bikers.