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Eastern Divide Trail Route Nears Completion

May 18, 2021
by Alicia Leggett  
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Press release: BIKEPACKING.com

After several years of planning, the 5,000+ mile Eastern Divide Trail is nearing completion. The off-road-centric bikepacking route will start in Newfoundland, Canada, and end in Key West, Florida, connecting the grand vistas and ecosystems of the eastern mountains via gravel, dirt roads, bike paths, quiet backroads, and singletrack. The route will be divided into eight carefully designed segments that can be ridden sequentially or independently.


Background

Back in 2015, the Eastern Divide Trail (EDT) was conceived to link the two great Eastern Continental Divides and create a bikepacking-specific route akin to the legendary long-distance hiking trail in the same region, the Appalachian Trail (AT). Similar to the AT, the EDT will connect the scenic eastern mountains and their seemingly infinite ecosystems via the historical and cultural landmarks, natural wonders, and beautiful backcountry that thread through some of the oldest mountains in the world. What this region lacks in oxygen-deprived, high-altitude passes, it makes up for with boundless folded mountain vistas, bristling clear streams, lush forested vegetation, ever-changing ecosystems, and layers of history. Indeed, traversing these landscapes can provide an experience that rivals the one many bikepackers seek out on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

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About the route

Once complete, the 5,000+ mile Eastern Divide Trail will be the longest contiguous off-road-centric bikepacking route in the USA. The route will run from Cape Spear, Newfoundland, the easternmost point in North America, to Key West, Florida, the end of the road going south in the United States. The EDT will follow as much of the St. Lawrence and Eastern Continental Divides as possible, without compromising our focus on quality off-pavement riding and connecting the most incredible sights, landmarks, and landscapes in the eastern mountains. The route will ultimately wind its way through dozens of national and state forests, numerous ecozones, and countless places of Indigenous, geographical, and historical significance.

Our goal is to make the Eastern Divide Trail route feature as much off-pavement, mixed-terrain riding as possible. Using the best of several established routes and a wealth of new ones, this mix will include gravel, dirt roads, and mellow singletrack with the aim of providing a similar riding experience, level of difficulty, and surface variation as the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

The Eastern Divide Trail is made up of eight carefully designed segments that can be ridden sequentially or independently. Each segment starts and stops at a significant town or city where lodging, transport, and other such amenities are accessible. This provides bikepackers with the option to set out on a single ambitious adventure or take in the route over a lifetime by riding each segment individually. Additionally, the team is working on several network alternates that will provide opportunities for loops.

The route segments will be published on BIKEPACKING.com as individual guides. Each will provide highlights of the route segment, in-depth and educational information, maps, logistical data, and plenty of great photography to inspire people to get out and experience this unique adventure.

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The team

Originally conceived by Brett Davidson, the Eastern Divide Trail has been slowly percolating for over six years. Over the last three years, efforts to plan, scout, and finalize the project have ramped up, with a team of individuals at the helm who are deeply enmeshed in the East Coast bikepacking scene. The Eastern Divide Trail board consists of five Route Directors (below) with the direct oversight of each segment managed by one or two Route Stewards. There will also be local Route Stewards selected to represent each of the eight segments of the route.

Directors: Brett Davidson, Logan Watts, Jess Daddio, Joe Cruz, and Karlos Bernhart.


What’s next?

Route segment guides are expected to be published in the fall of 2021 with most of the additional guides completed in 2022 and the full project finalized in 2022-23. Here is a rough schedule:

Spring/Summer 2021: Engage local Route Scouts and finalize Route Stewards
Summer/Fall 2021: Publish guides for segments 4-6
Winter/Spring 2021/22: Publish guides for segments 7 and 8
Spring 2022: Finalize segments 1-3
Summer 2022: Publish guides for segments 1-3
Fall 2022-Summer 2023: Modifications, advocacy, and route refinement
July 2023: Possible group grand depart

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Public involvement


So far, the Eastern Divide Trail has mostly been a passion project. To bolster the effort in 2020, BIKEPACKING.com adopted the route among its Collective Routes—a member-funded project set up to develop, cultivate, and promote a collection of quality bikepacking routes around the world. After putting in thousands of hours planning, scouting, and designing, as well as committing a portion of funds into the project, there is still plenty of work to be done. The Eastern Divide Trail team is looking for financial support from cyclists and the industry, as well as scouting efforts and local knowledge from the bikepacking community up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

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The EDT crew is offering bandanas to anyone who chips in financially to help establish the route.

In short, the planning stage of the route is about 85% complete, but there is still a lot of documentation, photography, and videography that needs to be completed. To close the gap, BIKEPACKING.com is currently offering a limited run of Eastern Divide Trail bandanas and stickers as a premium for donations. After printing, shipping, and handling expenses, all proceeds will go directly to pay for photography, writing, scouting, and video creation to help complete the route.

Additionally, the team is looking for potential Route Scouts to help provide feedback, waypoints, photography, and valuable insight on several segments of the Eastern Divide Trail. Find out how to help at https://bikepacking.com/edt.

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Author Info:
alicialeggett avatar

Member since Jun 19, 2015
745 articles

50 Comments
  • 41 9
 Why would anyone want to ride to Florida? Or is this an escape route out?
  • 7 4
 There’s some decent gravel and singletrack in Florida.
  • 11 0
 For many reasons but to pick up sum boiled peanuts would be top of my list.
  • 6 0
 @FUbob: You don't have to go that far for boiled peanuts when Georgia is the #1 producer of peanuts and produces almost 45% of the peanuts for the US.
  • 4 0
 @MTBLegend92:
I've had em there.. IMO the farther south, the better they get. Dothan is pretty good. Bonifay takes the crown.
  • 11 1
 Hey! We sort of have decent riding.
  • 1 8
flag bubbrubb (May 19, 2021 at 7:41) (Below Threshold)
 @FloridaHasMTBToo: NO. show me a forest and a mountain. I'll wait. When you travel out of FL and see what youre missing lemme know
  • 4 1
 @bubbrubb: Jeez someone can't take a joke. On the other hand I'd like to see you try some of our harder jump lines. I think you better call a lawyer ahead of time cause you might quite a few cases on your hands.
  • 5 1
 @bubbrubb: Dude, whenever you make a stab at someone's home unnecessarily, you're gonna see people get defensive, even if they are joking. Wherever YOU live, you can be sure that someone else thinks the trails, mountains and riding culture there is a joke. If you travel and ride enough, you'll get surprised. I don't live in Florida, but when I visit family there, I definitely bring my bike. Oh, and bawled peanuts are so good.
  • 1 7
flag bubbrubb (May 19, 2021 at 8:01) (Below Threshold)
 @FloridaHasMTBToo: ...someone cant take a joke. INDEED.
  • 1 0
 I jus felt like ride ing
  • 10 0
 Looks like a great ride for a long weekend!
  • 2 0
 I want one of those e-bikes that let you complete this trail in 3 days. Should be a wild ride.
  • 27 1
 According to my calculations, in order to ride 5000 miles in 72 hours, you would need to ride at a constant pace of around 69.420 MPH. That is not a lie, although I may have rounded the decimal down by 0.02 to make that funny number.
  • 2 0
 @imnotdanny: Holy shit you're right, NICE
  • 6 0
 Questions, this is a mtb/ gravel trail correct? second is this one long trail or is it a connection of trails?
  • 17 0
 It's definitely a mixed terrain route—not gravel only. There will be a significant amount of more mellow singletrack, and a singletrack alternate with more rugged stuff. It's a connection of trails, gravel roads, rails trails, dirt tracks, etc.
  • 1 0
 @bikepacking: cool! thanks
  • 8 0
 This looks epic.
  • 1 0
 Would love to ride it in its entirety but 5500 miles in one trip seems exhausting. Hopefully each of these segments will have some serious FKT attempts to watch (cough... Lachlan Morton... cough), maybe even some FKT attempts for the entirety of the trail.
  • 2 0
 Apologies for my ignorance, but what sort of bike would one take on this type of ride? Gravel bike? All road tour bike e.g. Sutra? Hardtail MTB?
  • 11 1
 Run what ya brung!
  • 57 1
 As you can see the route goes from north to south, meaning it's one long descent. I would recommend a full-on downhill bike for this.
  • 3 0
 I use a rigid 29er, 2" tire, disc brakes, flat bars, steel frame, lots-o-mounts, rear rack, 1x9 Microshift. But I used to use a Steel 700c Trek 730 that I welded disc tabs on and ran a 35mm tire with 3x9 Sraimano drivetrain, also flat bar.

Literally anything though.
  • 1 1
 @Mattin: looks like a Session
  • 2 0
 A rigid 29er, hardtail, or something like the Salsa Cutthroat is what we have in mind. By nature, East Coast bikepacking presents a mix of surfaces and challenges, so we have everything from hike-a-bike chunk to rail trails... and everything in between.
  • 1 0
 @Mattin: Perfect!
  • 1 0
 @BikesBoatsNJeeps: Thanks for the insight! This seems like a cool trail and totally out of my realm of experience. I am basically a downhiller with a trail bike,
  • 1 0
 @bikepacking: Neat! The older I get the more I want to do something long distance and the AT/PCT always comes to mind but I HATE walking so this seems right up my alley. However, I currently only have an enduro bike and I can't load that down thing down so knowing what kind of tool might make this the most efficient/fun is important. Thank you!!!
  • 2 0
 @v3sleeper: YouTube GDMBR.... I think you'll like what you see.
  • 2 0
 @v3sleeper: My first "bikingpacking" trip was done on a Trek Paragon 29er with a 100mm fork and I added a rack that attached under the QR on the rear drop outs. Since then I've built two dedicated bikes for packing, but the first was my disc-modded Trek 730, and now I have a Marino 29er hardtail with a rigid fork and clearance for 2" tires. But I've done probably a 15 or so trips over the last eight years and with numerous other friends and I've been with guys riding everything from a Salsa Vaya to an old steel 26" MTB, Trek DS-2, Trek FX hybrid, CX bikes, old steel road bikes, new Lynskey Ti gravel bike, etc. etc. etc. and they all work well for gravel crush and run light double track. Obviously the guys on the road bikes struggle if the trail gets muddy and the guys on the MTBs feel it on any road slogs.

If you look up "Trevor Garbow" on YouTube he has a good video on our first trip from Pittsburgh to DC on the GAP/C&O. You can see our set ups, his is pretty dialed and I literally got ready the night before the ride.
  • 2 0
 Very cool! Stoked to see this. These routes are incredible journeys. I hope they can lace in some good mountain bike riding hubs.
  • 3 0
 Will Canada be open in time for the July, 2023 grand depart?
  • 1 0
 I'd like to know what route they are going to take across Nfld cause if it's the old railway many sections would be pretty sketch.
  • 1 0
 I'm assuming the Trailway makes up the Newfoundland portion. Not easy but people do bikepack from Stephenville to St. John's
  • 4 0
 Yep it's the T'railway. Fat Bike is the best tool for the job to ride it but theoretically it can be done on any bike, just depends on how deep you want to go into the pain cave.
  • 1 0
 This looks like a great route for my Chromag Surface Voyager. Once we are allowed to leave Halifax again I'll start checking out the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick portions.
  • 2 0
 Incredible news, I'm excited to do it one day.
  • 3 2
 Newfoundland is not the US!
  • 2 0
 This looks amazing!
  • 2 0
 i need to do this
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