Who's ready for an adventure? If your family enjoys outdoor activities like hiking and biking, your crew might love rail biking. Rail biking is a super fun way to enjoy nature and see the sights while pedaling a special bicycle along a stretch of abandoned rail trails. From Cape May to the Adirondacks, there are several places to go rail biking near New York City. These beautiful rail trails in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut are a jumping-off point for a picture-perfect family outing.
Find more fun things to do in our Guide to Family-Friendly Outdoor Fun.
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Depending on the location, families can rent rail bicycles with two or four seats, and it's pretty easy to do—even if you're not used to taking long cycling excursions. A word to the wise: Be sure to check the restrictions for riders before snagging a reservation at one of these rail trails. Some places have height and weight minimums for riders, and most have weight maximums, too. Nearly all require riders to wear closed-toe shoes.
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Revolution Rail Co. takes families on a scenic rail trail near the charming town of Cape May, New Jersey. Photo by Lisa Warden
Where to Find Rail Trails in New Jersey and Pennsylvania
This new four-mile rail trail takes riders from the heart of Cape May through a wildflower meadow and scenic marshlands and is perfect for families. It takes about 1.5 hours to make the round trip, and you can stop at the Garrett Family Nature Preserve on the way back. Rentals are $80 for a double and $140 for a quad.
Experience the Pocono Mountains in a whole new way with a rail biking adventure! This rail trail along the Lackawaxen River in the charming town of Hawley. This six-mile route boasts amazing views and fascinating history. Rentals are $150 for a quad bike; tandem bikes are $85. The season runs from Memorial Day through Halloween.
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The Secret Valley Explorers rail trail traverses the Secret Valley Forest for a wildlife-filled journey.
Bike the Colebrookdale Railroad rail trail and get an up-close-and-personal view of the Secret Valley forest. The trail departs from Old Glasgow Street, crosses over bridges, and passes by some lovely creeks. If you're lucky, you'll spy wildlife like deer, fox, herons, and bald eagles. This four-mile trip takes about an hour. Rent a four-person bike for $155 for specific time slots during its season, which runs from May-September.
Rail Trails in New York State for Your Rail Biking Adventure
Timber Ridge or River Run...take your pick from two rail biking trails! With Timber Ridge, riders take a seven-mile roundtrip ride featuring spectacular views of the Adirondack Mountains. The River Run is a slightly shorter ride and hugs the Moose River. Both have slight grades and are fun for all ages. Rentals are about $150 for a quad bike. The season runs from May through mid-October
Rail Explorers gives rail riders some great rail trail options in the Empire State. Experience the beauty of the Catskill Mountains as you travel along Esopus Creek and through the beautiful woods on an eight-mile round trip. In Cooperstown, you can ride the 12-mile Milford Track through farmlands and forests by the Susquehanna River. Or, pick the shorter Charlotte Valley Express, an eight-mile trip to the Riverside Turnaround and back. Don't worry about getting too tired on these rail trails. These rail bikes are equipped with electric pedal-assist motors and are $160-175 for a quad. The Rail Explorers season runs from May through October.
Revolution Rail has four different trails in the Adirondacks, which are open from May through October. Try the North Bridge run, which meanders for six miles through the forest with glimpses of the Hudson River. Or, opt for the South River Run, which travels 7 1/2 miles up and down the Hudson River and under a canopy of trees. You'll even pass a beaver dam and pond. Both these tours start with check-in at the station in North Creek, and then you'll be shuttled to the launch point. Meanwhile, the Hadley run meets at Hadley Station and traverses six miles. It travels over a 200-foot bridge overlooking the rapids below. Be sure your group is OK with heights since the bridge is a soaring 90 feet in the air. Its Stony Creek rail trail takes visitors on an eight-mile roundtrip journey from its Thurman depot in the shadows of Hickory Mountain and alongside the Hudson River, before exploring a scenic 1,000-acre ranch at the turnaround spot. All these rides take about 2 hours to complete and cost $90 for a double bike and $160 for a quad. Tickets are sold for specific timeslots.
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The Essex Steam and Riverboat offers a short season of rail biking on its rail trail.
Where to Go Rail Biking in Connecticut
From April through June, you can enjoy an eight-mile rail trail adventure over lovely terrain from Essex Station south to Old Saybrook. On the way back, pass by beautiful conserved land. Rentals are $115 for a double and $185 for a quad.
Photos courtesy of the rail trails