European Bikepacking Routes

Bicycle Times Bikepacking Europe1 28Luxembourg, GR5/E2 trail

Two years ago I wondered about bikepacking routes in Europe.  After eight months of riding, researching, and blogging from Amsterdam to Sevastapol to Athens, this resource is the culmination of our efforts.  Europe is a great place to explore by bike, off-pavement, and self-supported.  Eat great food, visit fascinating cultural and historical places, and learn new languages, in between bike rides.  In Europe, there are rides and routes for every interest and skill level.  Use the search function or the archives on this page to learn more about our rides in Europe through the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Czech, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, and Greece.  Read more about our adventures across Europe in the Bicycle Times article Bikepacking Europe: North Sea to the Black Sea.

This is an incomplete list of European bikepacking routes.  These routes are either mapped, signed, and/or available as GPS tracks.  Many routes originate as self-supported off-pavement endurance races, multi-day stage races, or challenging routes for solo ITT.  Some are government tourism projects.  Others are the creation of avid riders or cycling organizations to promote the riding in their home country.  Lastly, some routes suggested here are repurposed walking routes, which may be done in sections or as a whole.  One route is currently planned, but is incomplete.  Additional rouetplanning resources include online retailers of maps and guides, or digital trail-finder resources.  The basic concept of this project is to awaken the world to the breadth of bikepacking possibilities in Europe, despite the lack of a single superstar route such as the Great Divide Route, Colorado Trail, or the Arizona Trail.  Bikepacking is a global phenomena, born of the passion to ride somewhere, off the beaten path, self-supported.

Use these links as a springboard to do your own research and riding.  Some routes may be easy with significant paved sections, non-technical terrain, and uncomplicated logistics.  Others are extremely challenging, with a large component of hike-a-bike.

Any assistance to improve the list is welcomed, including relevant comments about any of the listed routes and new route suggestions with links.  When possible the routes are linked to the most informative or relevant webpage, which most often originates from the route organizer or creator.  In a few cases, routes are listed without an official webpage or an official GPS route, such as The Red Trail in Poland, but the route is known to exist on the ground, is signed, and is indicated on Compass brand maps (and others).  To keep this listing simple I have chosen not to indicate the distance, difficulty, or source of route guidance (map, GPS, signs).  These features may come in the future, and if anyone wishes to host this list in further detail, contact me directly.  Start dreaming and get riding!

Please use the comment form below and check back in the future as this page develops.  Special assistance is needed to include routes from many countries, including: Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary (The Countrywide Blue Tour?), Serbia, Kosovo, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belorus, Russia, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.  Israel is not in Europe, but is included due to a growing bikepacking scene.  Surely, there are many more routes in the countries listed.  Tell your friends.  Share it online.

Spain: TransAndalusTranspirinaicaTransiberia, Camino de Santiago, Camino del Norte, Transcantábrica, Via de la Plata, Camino del Cid; GR 48, Transnevada.   Many Spanish route maps and guidebooks available from labiciteca.com.

Portugal: Rota Vicentina, Via Algarviana

France: Traversée du Massif Vosgien, Traversée du Jura (maps), Traversée du Massif Central, GR5/E2 trail; VTTrack.fr for interactive MTB trail map of France

Belgium: GR5/E2 walking trail (general info); also, some images and info about the section in the Ardennes Mountains

Germany: GST: Grenzsteintrophy

UK: Bearbones 200England-Wales-EnglandLakeland 200, Pennine Bridleway, Ridgeway Double, South Downs Double, Coast to Coast, Trans Cambrian, Welsh Coast to CoastDevon Coast to Coast (Westcountry Way).  All routes and links thanks to selfsupportedUK.net.

Scotland: Scotland Coast to Coast, Highland Trail 550, West Highland Way, Cairngorms Loop

Italy: Italy Coast to CoastTuscany TrailSan Remo-Monte CarloMyLand Non-Stop (Sardinia), Alto Adige-Südtirol Extreme Bike TrailDolomiti TrailItalia TransmountainsThe Fat River (fatbike route), Transardinia.  Most routes courtesy of bikepacking.it.

Switzerland: Navad 1000National TrailsAlpine Bike #1Panorama Bike #2Jura Bike #3; Alpencross; National website for Mountainbiking in Switzerland

Sweden: Kungsleden

Poland: The Red Trail (Sudecki and Beskidzka, basic info only).  Compass brand maps show all hiking trails and cycling routes, including the long-distance red trails.  Note, the red trail is not a single trail across Poland, but a series of trails with lesser trails marked with painted blazes of other colors.  There is a route most of the way across the country E-W, mostly along red trails.

Czech/Slovakia: 1000 Miles Adventure

Croatia: Adriatic Crest

Montenegro: Top Biking Trail 3: Eastern Enchantment

Greece: Bike Odyssey

Israel: Holyland Bikepacking Challenge, Israel National Bike Trail (in progress), Israel National Trail (hiking)

Other resources: Footpaths provide the basis for many routes in Europe, most of which have developed over the past century.  Generally, these routes allow bicycles, with local exclusions, but they do not exclusively travel singletrack trails across wild lands and will pass towns, farmland, and paved sections.  The European Rambler’s Association (ERA) aims to complete a long-distance international trail system of footpaths throughout Europe, with numbered routes from E1-E12 currently in various phases of completion.  Most routes are assembled from pre-existing local and national trails. Each country may provide more detailed resources in the native tongue via dedicated websites or guides about national trail systems, such as the GR5 listed in France and Belgium, above.  Most often, printed regional trail maps can be found at local touristic centers, and commercial maps and guides may also be available.  Detailed roadmaps are also suitable for broad-scale navigation, and often show more detail than typical road maps in the USA.

Also worth mentioning is the EuroVelo network of cycling routes, fashioned much like the ERA, with international cross-continental routes numbered 1-12 in various stages of completion.  EuroVelo routes are generally ridable on a trekking bike, hybrid, or rigid mountain bike, and in some places are not recommended for a tire less than about 40mm.  Check out the EuroVelo6for the popular route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea.

If you wish to submit a route, please provide a link to the best source(s) of information and a brief description of your experience on that route, if any.  To qualify a multi-day off-pavement route for this listing, consider that it must be documented in detail, like the routes listed on Pedaling Nowhere-Routes or Bikepacking.net.

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Poland, The Red Trail

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Czech, Sumava National Park

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Ukraine, Polonina Borzhava

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France, Traversée du Massif Vosgien, Château Bernstein

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Ukraine

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Serbia

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Slovakia, 1000 Miles Adventure

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Greece, Bike Odyssey

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France, TMV

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Greece, Bike Odyssey

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Luxembourg, GR5/E2 trail

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Belgium, GR5/E2 trail

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Guidebooks for routes in Spain.

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Poland, The Red Trail: one of many PTTK resources for hikers and cyclists available in the mountains, often serving hot food and cold beer.

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Maps in a Slovakian supermarket.

Bicycle Times Bikepacking Europe1 25Belgium, GR5/E2 trailNicholas Carman1 1789Albania

The Luxembourgish Way

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Three days in Luxembourg.  The National Holiday falls on the solstice.  It celebrates, well, the National Holiday.  Nobody could tell us if it meant anything in particular, except that it wasn’t always scheduled in the middle of the summer as it is now.  Even in late June, partygoers are still bundled in rain jackets and scarves.  It is a wet country, and this is a particularly wet year.  The language of Luxembourg?  Luxembourgish, German and French, officially, as well as some Dutch and English.  The cuisine of Luxembourg?  German, French, and Belgian.  The people are Luxembourgish, although in French they are called Luxembourgeois.  Luxembourg claims the highest GDP of any country in the world.  They still have a monarch, the Grand Duchy, who appears in shop windows all over the cities and is very well dressed.  Luxembourg is home to piss beer–Diekirch and Bofferding; some big names in cycling– Frank and Andy Schleck, for example; and some of the friendliest and most contented people anywhere.  Some of the obvious questions about Luxembourg have been answered by our brief trip, although much remains a mystery.  One thing is certain: the Luxembourgeois know how to throw a party.

Diverting from the GR5 along the Our River at Vianden, we follow rural roads and urban cycling routes to the big city– Luxembourg (City).  It has been a wet summer, which brings a bounty of life and an excess or surface water.  The country is very orderly.

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A party requires a party dress.  Fourteen euro at a discount clothing store next to the supermarket scores a lightweight packable number.  Joe Cruz calls this hobo-chic.  In this case, a little more chic than usual.  Bikepackers need not sacrifice style.

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A pleasant place to live and travel, for sure.  Luxembourg is calm.  Enjoying a dry moment in the park before the festival, we enjoy a picnic of baguette, cheese, and Bitburger.  Bitburg, Germany is less than a day away by bike.  It is always fun to shop for food in Europe.  It is always amazing to see what Lael pulls out of her seatpack.  Eggs, arugula, wine, odorous cheeses, and saucissons are common fare.

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The city lives on a hill above the Alzette River.

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How to throw a party.  Invite the Duchy and his wife, for sure.  Sit him down with a bunch of his friends and parade the entire country in in front of him.

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Flags.

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Kids with drums and torches.

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Relic firefighting equipment, including a wagon with a barrel of water on it, dating from the 1700’s.

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Must have music.  Invite Canadian, English, and America bands to headline the festival.  Everybody loves Celtic-Canadian-Mexican-English folk-pop-rock-world fusion.  Flutes and fiddles get people in the mood.

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And when the party is over and the sun begins to rise, it is time for a quick dash out of the city.  Fifteen kilometers later– including an elevator, lots of stairs, some wrong turns, and finally, empty roads– we arrive in the countryside, on a dirt road, at our temporary home.

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Awaking the next afternoon, we shoot for France.  Instead, we encounter a professional cycling race.  More beer and sausage.  The Schleck brothers were on hand.  We spectated.

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Again, escaping towards France, we encounter another festival celebrating the National Holiday in Kayl.  More quaint than the party in the city, we linger to sample Luxembourgish food– German spätzle, French (Alsacienne) tarte flambé, and Belgian gaufres.

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Dodging rainclouds, we make one last camp in Luxembourg, only 4 km from the French border.

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In the morning, we connect local mountainbiking routes intertwined with abandoned iron mines.  Feels much like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to me– beautiful, rusty, and abandoned.

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Luxembourg uses unique signage for their national routes, including the GR5/E2 route we had been following.  Arriving in France, we resume our hunt for red and white signage– a familiar and welcomed sight.

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Quickly, we find changing soil and terrain– the region’s terroir–to stifle our forward motion by bicycle.  Clay rich soil makes for a particularly tacky type of mud.  Considering other routes…

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GR5: Stavelot to Vianden

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More of the same, which is nothing to complain about.  Climb out of Stavelot by bike, on foot, and back on the bike towards the top.  The trail often climbs steeply out of town between fencelines, sandwiched between diverse properties.  Further up, forests and farms leave room for a more generous track or trail.  Some great roads and trails exist in these forested hilltops.  It is amazing to find so many signed routes in this county– for walking, cycling, and mountain biking.  Europe is relatively dense with people and things, but an abundance of trails and resources makes adventures like this possible.  The same is true of the vast network of forest service roads in the American west, in contrast to places like Alaska that do not invite visitors by bicycle.  Access is the word.

Access is enabled by facilities and resources.  Roads and trails are required, yet maps and signage must make them known and easy to follow.  The latter require little public funds– maps, signs, and painted blazes are cheap.  Consider that the Great Divide Route is entirely a mapped resource, with no on-the-ground facilities (excepting a few errant signs).  The former, such as paved trails, can be more costly and potentially more valuable, but they should not serve as an absolute benchmark for all projects.  More affordable facilities have the capacity to enrich communities and enliven local economies, even in small towns where money is tight.  Numerous local walking and biking routes are proof that facilities are not always expensive.  

These aren’t answers, exactly, but the questions that come to mind every day in Europe are important.  Why do we have so much money for roads in America, but very little money for human-scale facilities?  Why are many American cities decentralizing, even when we love our losing ‘Main Streets’ and we travel to Europe to photograph and remark at the history?  How long before we invest in ourselves and our communities, as one takes an interest in their own health?

Climbing out of Stavelot.

   

 

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Little used forest tracks, inundated with water.  

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Except for the 4×6′ patch of ground inhabited by our tent.

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In Burg-Reuland, on the border of Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg.  Rent and E-bike!  Lots of walking and biking tourism here.

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Drying, eating, cleaning, lubing.

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And back up.

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In Luxembourg, following the Our River.  Red and white blazes have disappeared without notice, although a half-dozen other markings take their place.  Mostly, we follow the radiant sun of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, and various local walking and cycling routes.  Luxembourg is densely crumpled, rising and falling steeply.  For now, it is saturated after months of rain.  A little more like coastal Oregon than Pennsylvania around here.

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The diversity of trail surface is astounding.  Some highly rideable and pleasant, some prickly and challenging.

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Wet from days of rain, swollen rivers serve to soothe tired muscles and launder muddy t-shirts.

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And just before the skies opened again, we happen upon a free camping zone along the road.  This is the first that we have seen like this.  The timing could have not been any better.  As soon as the rainfly was affixed, it poured.

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On pavement on our way to Luxembourg City to connect with a friend.  

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Road construction nudges us back onto singletrack, and some prickly hike-a-bike around a reservoir.  Should have taken the advised road detour.  

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After some delay, we finally drop into Vianden, marked by a castle on the hill.  Finally, sunny skies for the afternoon.

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On our way to Luxembourg City for the national holiday and all-night parties in the streets.  Partying the Luxembourgish way.  

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