Route Overview





Days Out


Recommended Tire Size

40mm to 2.2``


April-mid October

Elevation Gain



5/10 Physical
4/10 Technical

Primary Surface(s)

~60% smooth gravel
~20% rough gravel

Route Map

Route Details

Historic iron furnaces harken back to a barren industrial past in which the area was repeatedly clear-cut, yet the lush forest of today showcases nature’s ability to recover when given the chance. As you pedal over the forest’s many hills, you’ll experience constantly changing terrain, a wide variety of unpaved surfaces, and minimal motor vehicle traffic. The relatively short distance and blend of backcountry feel with occasional front country amenities make this route rewarding for any rider and accessible for novice bikepackers.

This all-road route crisscrosses the Appalachian Trail on Michaux State Forest’s extensive network of unpaved roads and trails. Your hard work on the many 500–1000ft climbs will be rewarded with miles of sinuous tree-lined gravel roads, fast descents, minimal motor vehicle traffic, and numerous double-track and singletrack segments to spice up the ride. There is also a refreshing swimming lake in the state park near your choice of backcountry, primitive, or developed campsites.

The route features a variety of unpaved surfaces that are accessible to a wide-tire gravel bike: smooth gravel, rocky gravel, grassy double-track, a few miles of fairly easy singletrack, and a brief rail trail segment. These surfaces (and the many climbs and descents) are interspersed throughout the route — you’ll rarely ride more than a few miles without the terrain changing significantly.

Historic iron furnaces along the route are evidence of the forest’s industrial past, but when you experience the forest as it is now, you’ll find it hard to believe this arboreal paradise was repeatedly clear-cut in the 19th century.

The route’s halfway point aligns with the halfway point of the Appalachian Trail, where you can meet thru-hikers at Pine Grove General Store and — if you enjoy large quantities of ice cream — join them in the Half Gallon Challenge.

  • Paved: 14%
  • Smooth Gravel: 60%
  • Rough Gravel: 20%
  • 4×4 Road: 3%
  • Singletrack: 3%

Detailed logistics information and POIs can be found on the route’s RWGPS page.

An ideal tire size for this route is 45–55mm, but 40mm will be sufficient for confident riders in dry conditions. Front suspension is not necessary but may be occasionally appreciated. Potable water is available at several places along the route, but it’s best to be prepared to purify water from one of the numerous streams along the route.

The primary riding season is April through mid-October, but the route can be ridden year-round if you are prepared for unmaintained roads and trails, a lack of seasonal services, and potential snowy conditions (a fat bike may be necessary).

The recommended itinerary starts at Caledonia State Park with free parking, restrooms, and water nearby. There are four reservable primitive state forest campsites off Woodrow Rd halfway through the route (near mile 41), and Rattlesnake Ridge (mile 42) is a small backcountry site nearby. Once you set up camp, explore the nearby singletrack or take a 10–15 minute ride into Pine Grove State Park (general store, fresh water, restrooms, and swimming lake) before retreating to the solitude of your campsite.

If you prefer a different style of trip, there are many other camping/lodging options near the route’s midpoint, including a developed state park campground, reservation-based primitive sites with vehicular access, and even the historic Ironmaster’s Mansion (now an Appalachian Trail hostel that welcomes bicyclists).

The figure eight route also provides options for customization, such as:
(1) For an easier overnighter, ride only the 55-mile northern loop
(2) If you’re short on time on day 1, start with northern loop and ride 15-20 miles to your campsite, saving the majority of the route for day 2
(3) If you prefer developed campgrounds (e.g., camping with family or a larger group, not all of whom will ride with you), reserve a site in Caledonia State Park (the center of the figure eight) for 2 nights, ride the southern loop one day and the northern loop the other day, and enjoy “slackpacking” (traditionally, backpacking without carrying all the gear on your person)

In addition to the campgrounds and hostels marked as waypoints, there are camping options throughout Michaux State Forest and permits are not required for primitive camping stays of one night at any one location.

For a longer car-free trip, use the Triforest Traverse ( to ride to the route from DC (via C&O Canal or MARC), State College, the TransVirginia Bike Route, or the Eastern Divide Trail.

Pennsylvania State Forests are open to hunting so it is wise to check season dates ( and wear orange if riding during firearm seasons.

Geoff Patterson and Sean Byrne co-created and co-photographed the Michaux-vernighter.

A little bit about Geoff Patterson: “As a child, learning to ride a bicycle meant freedom to explore my surroundings. As an adult, pedaling through a forest is a great way to recapture this feeling. Plus, it’s just fun!

I created and maintain C&O Canal Byways (, a collection of routes ranging from a few miles to 500+ miles that intersect the C&O Canal but primarily feature more adventurous terrain. For the last few years, I have been specializing in routes that are possible without car for riders who can get to Amtrak or other regional transit.

I enjoy all aspects of creating routes, including poring over maps, scouting and refining a route, seeing a place in different seasons of the year, hearing feedback from other riders, and spending hours thinking about each little choice that defines the route. Route creation is both a rewarding personal experience and a way to share that experience with riders who might otherwise stick to the comfort of the most well-traveled roads and trails.”

A little bit about Sean Byrne: “Sean has been a mountain biker and backpacker since his early teens. He was a backpacking guide and trail building instructor at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico during his college summers which incubated his interest in GIS and mapping as well as land stewardship. By day, he’s an electrical engineer, but nights and weekends are often occupied by planning and executing local overnighters as well as making OpenStreetMap edits to ease future route planning.”

Geoff and Sean have offered to be available to answer questions if you are planning a trip on this route. We encourage you to be respectful of Route Stewards time though and to review publicly available materials first before reaching out with questions.

Please also get in touch with any updates on route conditions that may be relevant to other riders.

Please submit your questions and comments on the route via the contract form below.

    This route traverses the traditional lands of the Susquehannock.