The southern state of Mississippi is named for the famed river that flows along its western boundary. Its name is derived from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi, meaning great river. The Great River Road is a wonderful choice for a scenic drive exploring the course of the Mississippi river by automobile. What about slowing down to the river’s pace and taking in the Mississippi on two wheels? We’ll explore the pedaled pace as we take a look at the longest biking trail in Mississippi!
The Longest Biking Trail in Mississippi
The longest biking trail in Mississippi is the Mississippi River Trail. It travels alongside the famed Mississippi river and winds approximately 300 miles across the length of the state.
Those seeking a day ride will find plenty of sections of this route to explore, while others may want to ride the entire length of the trail within the state, or even the entire trail. The trail in its entirety runs roughly 3,000 miles from north to south and traverses ten states from Minnesota to Louisiana.
The Entire Route of the Mississippi Trail
The ride begins at the headwaters of the Mississippi at Lake Itasca in Minnesota and follows the waterway south down to Louisiana. Here, the cycling journey ends, where the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Mississippi River trail utilizes existing roadways and bike or pedestrian paths to guide riders along the corridor, touching on unforgettable recreational and historical destinations along the way. The entire route is one of the longest rides in the country, so it’s sure to be a challenging ride in some respects. However, it’s mostly flat compared to many others, so it’s great for those that want a long, sustained challenge.
The Mississippi River Trail Route History
The Mississippi River Trail Project was initiated in 1996, but it wasn’t until 2008 that the route was established along the entire length of the Mississippi River. The Bicycling Guide to the Mississippi River Trail documents the journey, providing maps, directions, services, and points of interest.
The creation of the Mississippi River Trail is thanks to MRT, Inc, whose board members and staff worked diligently to see the vision of this route become a reality. Their goal was to outline a world-class bicycling route to guide cyclists along the length of the Mississippi, traversing the ten states that border the river. They offer riders that complete the entire route, either cross-country or as smaller multi-day tours, a Certificate of Completion award signed by the Executive Director and reflects the order in which the rider completed the route in relation to others with a serial number. Add this one to the bucket list!
Navigating The Route in Mississippi
The longest biking trail in Mississippi begins at Walls and follows Old Highway 61, also known as the Great River Road Scenic Byway. It passes through Lake Cormorant to the Tunica, Mississippi County Line. This is where families and beginners might want to end their route at 35 miles. This is a great ride for beginners and for families due to the flat terrain.
More daring riders can continue on the route following the Mississippi River all the way down to the southern border of the state. Hernando DeSoto River Park is one of the stopovers and is the county’s only access to the Mississippi River. Bass Landing offers some incredible views of the mighty Mississippi. It can also offer an opportunity for advanced riders to practice their speed and work on interval training. Although the Mississippi River Trail is marked along much of the route there are areas where signage is absent and proper preparation is key. Bringing along a guidebook or physical copies of maps is recommended.
The Mississippi River Trail Difficulty
This route is flat, paved, and well-maintained, so it is not considered a difficult trail, aside from its length. As a rider, you can decide how much of the trail you’re up for, whether that’s just a comfortable day ride or a multi-day tour. Mississippi has a humid climate where the summers are long and hot and the winters short and mild. Be sure to prepare for the humidity by dressing in layers and bringing plenty of water!
You can say you’ve tackled the longest biking trail in Mississippi if you complete the Mississippi section of this trail. It’s an exciting opportunity for those who want a long, sustained ride along one of the richest natural treasures in the nation.
Other Long Trails to Explore in Mississippi
The Mississippi River Trail is certainly the longest biking route in the state. However, the route pieces together many existing roads and pathways, so we also want to consider the longest continuous route dedicated to biking in Mississippi.
The Rails to Trails Conservancy connects communities throughout the nation via established public trails, many of them former rail lines. The Tanglefoot Trail is Mississippi’s longest Rails to Trails route. It winds 43.6 miles through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains within the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area. The path guides riders through fields and forests, meadows, and wetlands along a former railroad line.
The Mississippi Coastal Heritage Trail is another border-to-border trail worth exploring. On the opposite side of the state from the Mississippi River Trail, this coastal biking trail traverses 101 miles of Mississippi’s gulf coast.
Wildlife on the Longest Biking Trail in Mississippi
While biking the Mississippi River Trail, you might come across some white-tailed deer grazing along the path. You may hear the song of the northern mockingbird or the drum on the red-bellied woodpecker as you pedal. You are also likely to encounter some river-dwellers along the banks of the river. Otters, beavers, blue herons, and pelicans might be spotted along your journey. Perhaps you’ll spot a majestic bald eagle in flight, or perhaps swooping down to catch one of the many fish that call this river’s waters their home. These included catfish, walleye, carp, and garfish, as well as crappie and bass.
Bicycle touring puts you into a state of harmony with the natural world as you travel at a rate that is more in line with your surroundings. So have fun exploring, just be sure to respect the territories you traverse along your way.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Jacqueline Nix
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.