Biking the Pony Express Trail - How & Why | National Park Service articles

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Riding the Pony Express National Historic Trail on an off-road bicycle, such as a gravel or mountain bike, is as close as you can come to seeing and experiencing the original trail as it was back in 1860.

Follow along with Scott Alumbaugh as he describes his experiences and provides some tips and tricks for anyone planning this epic adventure.
An orange bicycle sits next to a historic wooden barn. The original stage building at Hollenberg Station, near Hanover, KS.

Why Bike?

I’ve ridden most of the trail by bike: In the summer of 2020, I drove from my house, near Sacramento, to ride the California portion in a series of day-rides and overnight trips; I also scouted sections of the trail in central Nevada by taking hub-and-spoke rides from Fallon and Austin; in early summer 2021, I bikepacked the Pony Express Trail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Salt Lake City, Utah over five weeks. On every ride I found biking to be more rewarding than if I had simply driven to any given spot.

For one thing, riding enables you to follow the trail as nearly as possible from point to point. Some sections are closed to motor vehicles; other sections are too rugged. Bikepacking the route—carrying your food and camping gear—allows you to ride the trail without dedicated support. It also allows you to ride sections that even modern horseback riders on the annual Pony Express Re-Ride have to skip.

Secondly, your speed along the trail is close to the speed of the Pony Express riders, an average of about ten miles per hour. So, for instance, instead of reaching Chimney Rock just a few minutes after seeing it from the highway, you approach this natural landmark as the riders did, over the course of an hour or more, seeing the tip first peek out from between hills, watching it disappear and reappear, growing taller each time as you twist along the dirt roads of the Overland Trail. With enough planning, a rider could even start each day’s ride from one home station and end at the next, replicating each Pony rider’s run.

A third advantage of riding the trail is that it gets you out of the isolation of your car. In every town I stopped I struck up a conversation with someone asking about my ride. Often, they had some personal connection to the trail, such as a great-great-grand grandfather who was an Express rider. Other times they might offer a piece of local knowledge about the trail or the town that I would never otherwise know. When I reflect on my experiences, I find these conversations come back more vividly than the nearby landmark I had ridden there to see.

MoBikeFed comment: Scott Alumbaugh has spent the better part of the past two years riding the Pony Express Route St Joseph MO to Sacramento CA.

Read about his experiences, reasons for riding, and what he got out of the trip in this excellent article.

The eastern portion of the route, from St Joseph MO to Casper WY, is far more accessible to the average cyclist than the western portion. There are towns all along the route, with places to camp, stay, eat, and refill the grub bags. It is remote, but not SO remote as to be excessively difficult.

So you might consider taking a ride from St Joseph west - and see what you can see.

To make it a bit easier, MoBikeFed has been working on some connecting routes to St Joseph & western Kansas.

Ride the Pony Express 140 miles west from St Joseph to Marysville KS, then return by a beautiful and historic paved route - this would be a beautiful tour of a week or so:

Get to the start of the Pony Express Route from the Katy/Rock Island Trail system, the Kansas City Amtrak Station, or the Kansas City International Airport: