The Eastern Divide Trail: A 5500-Mile Bikepacking Route in the Making
BIKEPACKING.com recently announced the creation of a new long-distance trail – the Eastern Divide Trail (EDT). Once completed, the 5,500-mile trail will be the longest contiguous bikepacking route in the USA that is predominantly off-road. Starting in Newfoundland, Canada, the EDT will follow the St. Lawrence and Eastern Continental Divides all the way down to Key West, Florida – meaning riders will find themselves gliding past everything from mountain flowers to palm trees.
Originally conceived in 2015 by Brett Davidson, the EDT was sketched out as a bikepacking-specific trail akin to the Appalachian Trail (AT). Like the AT, the EDT will run predominantly along the divide – linking new and existing bikepacking trails. Along the way, prospective bikepackers will find themselves winding through public lands, various ecosystems, and countless places with historic and Indigenous significance. With the EDT passing through iconic locations like Shenandoah National Park and Green Mountain National Forest, riders will get to explore many of the same majestic places as Appalachian Trail hikers.
The Path to 5,500: Eight Interconnected Segments
The Eastern Divide Trail will consist of eight interconnected route segments ranging from 500-1000 miles. These segments will each have their own unique character and charm.
Lupine: Cape Spear to Port Aux Basque Newfoundland (550 miles)
Tamarack: Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Northern Maine (750 miles)
Boreal: Maine to Poultney, VT (500 miles)
Spoonwood: Poultney, VT to State College, PA (575 miles)
Hellbender: State College to Damascus, VA (625 miles)
Blue Ghost: Damascus to Mulberry Gap, GA (550 miles)
Trillium: Mulberry Gap to Tallahassee, FL (900 miles)
In order to make section riding easier, the EDT board has carefully designed each segment to be easily accessible (with route termini near a significant town or city) and is developing individual guidebooks for each section. The first guidebooks are expected later this fall – providing those who want to trailblaze with an informed way to do so. From the Canadian ridgeline to the swamps of Florida there is sure to be a segment for anybody.
A (Mostly) Off-Pavement Trail
While riding the divide, bikepackers will be met with a mix of gravel, dirt roads, and singletrack. The creators of the EDT are laser-focused on featuring as much mixed-terrain trail as possible and keeping riders off-pavement. This should provide bikepackers with a similar feel and difficulty level to the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.
When asked what his favorite part of the route-making process was, Route Director Logan Watts said, “it has been incredible to see the diverse ecosystems and beautiful places that are preserved up and down the East Coast.” Watts shared that the goal of the EDT is to “open up ] to a whole new audience and help preserve them for future generations.”
What’s Next for the Eastern Divide Trail
The EDT board has set an ambitious goal of finalizing the full 5,500-mile project by 2022. Along the way, the rest of the route segments will be finalized and have their guidebooks periodically released.
While the EDT has come a long way in the six years since its inception, Watts notes that there are still some hurdles left for the trail – notably Northern Maine. Watts states that “the northern half of the state is owned by private logging companies, and while there is a wealth of beautiful dirt roads on these lands, bicycles are not allowed.” So while the first guides may be coming out later this year, there is still plenty of room for new folks to join in the fun and help scout and advocate for the remaining sections of the EDT.
If you want to support the EDT or stay up-to-date with route segment guidebook releases, visit the official EDT page here.
All images, including featured image, courtesy of BIKEPACKING.com.
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