Stage Your Own Multi-Day Bike Trip

white rim murphys hogbackbraveskimom logoLast October, I was inspired.

I was inspired to outfit the family and venture on a multi-day point-to-point backpacking trip. I even went so far as to buy a book on the Colorado Trail.

Unfortunately, with a late wet spring, our window of opportunity closed before it even opened. My inspiration failed to become a reality.

But we did do an awesome multi-day trip. It just wasn’t on foot.

It was on bike.

la sal view white rim

Create Your Own Bike Tour

In May, we went on a self-supported mountain bike trip with friends in Canyonlands National Park. We spent four days biking and three nights camping on the White Rim Trail. We biked (and drove) a loop of close to 100 miles, with kids ranging in age from 8 to 16 (and in the past we’ve had kids as young as 3 along).

We could have gone with an outfitter. An outfitter would have set up our tents, hauled our gear, cooked our food and taken our money.  So we went for the D.I.Y. version, even though it meant we all couldn’t bike every mile and we had to set up and tear down camp every night. 

Having done a D.I.Y. bike tour twice, we’re convinced that it’s the only way to go.

And whether your idea of biking heaven involves road or mountain bikes, the keys for success are the same.

It’s all in the planning.

white rim canyon

Keys to Success

1. Invite the Right People.

This is critical. Invite people who are good sports. When biking with kids, it’s not about speed or miles, but about having fun. And when you’re on a self-supporting tour, every adult needs to be willing to help drive – even if this means missing some of the cycling mileage.

mountain bike white rim

2.  Be Realistic. 

When mountain biking, we shoot for an average of 25 miles per day. On road bikes, the average distance could be increased. Still, it’s important that each night’s campsite or lodging is within an appropriate distance. While everyone enjoys riding a bike – for a while –afternoons in camp can be as much, or more, fun. Also, build in time to set up and tear down camp. This always takes more time than expected. On both trips we’ve been on, we’ve been lucky to get rolling by 10:00 a.m. each morning. Of course, if you’re in hotels, there’s nothing to tear down or set up. What a luxury!

canyonlands maze white rim

3.  Plan Ahead. 

Know where you will stop for lunch each day, the best spots for bathroom breaks and possible diversions (a short hike, an enticing bakery?) along your route.  Spontaneity is great, and you shouldn’t rule out changes to your   itinerary, but knowing where you’re going and we’re you will stop keep everyone focused and ensures that both the fastest and slowest riders, as  well as the vehicles, arrive at the same place.

musselman arch white rim

4. The Kitchen Boss Rules.

Food and drinks are important on a multi-day adventure. Rather than having everyone bring their own, it’s easier and more fun to have one family plan and buy the food, and then split the cost between everyone else. This doesn’t mean they have to do all the cooking and cleaning. In fact, the Kitchen Boss should do less of the cooking and cleaning. For he or she did the shopping and packing. 

tents white rim

5. Ain’t Too Proud to Sag.

The sag wagon is an essential part of any bike tour. First, it carries (or they carry, as we always have more than one vehicle) all of the gear. Second, not everyone wants to ride every mile. For sag wagon success, it’s helpful to have snacks, water and books (for the kids and for adult drivers – there is a lot of downtime driving the sag wagon) handy.

Schaefer Trail White Rim

6. A Strong Start and a Cheering Section.

To keep the kids motivated, we think it’s a good idea for all of them to begin the day on bikes. They usually leave in a pack and while the pack diminishes over time, they all ride at least some distance. Once they’re ready to stop, no one gives them a hard time and if they stop for a bit and then decide to ride again, everyone is supportive and excited.


Portions of this post originally published as an Adventure Moms column at Women’s 

Related Posts

The White Rim: We Came. We Rode. We Conquered.  October 12, 2011.

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  1. says

    Were the bike trails close to the roads (or on the roads) to allow for kids hop into the wagon when too tired? Curious how those logistics worked?

  2. says

    Good question David! On this trip, in Canyonlands National Park, the White Rim is a jeep road. So most of the road is very rough dual track, accessible to trucks and jeeps. When it was time to take a break, the truck rolled up and the kid jumped in.

    For a road bike trip, it would be similar. Other mountain bike trails, such as Kokopelli Trail in Western Colorado would be more tricky. There are vehicle access point, but no vehicle traffic. Riding on that sort of trail would require more research and planning and, possibly, fortitude!

    Thanks for asking! Enjoy!