About the Southern Tier

Southern_Tier_DennisCoello

Experience fascinating landscapes, fabulous food, and diverse cultures.

The Southern Tier Bicycle Route is our shortest cross-country route and offers a wide variety of terrain, vegetation, climate, and people all the way across the nation from the Pacific to the Atlantic. The route is rich in human culture and history — ranging from the Spanish and Mexican influences in California, to the ancient indigenous pueblo cultures in Arizona and New Mexico, to the imprint of the Spanish conquistadors in Texas, to the bayous and French influences of Louisiana, to the Old South of Mississippi and Alabama, to a four-hundred-year-old city in Florida.

After climbing east from San Diego and topping out at 3,800 feet, you’ll enter desert country. The route travels through the Yuha Desert and the below-sea-level, irrigated Imperial Valley, before splitting the Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area in half. In Arizona, snowbirds abound as the route travels through Phoenix and its surrounding communities, and the copper-mining towns of Miami and Globe. The Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park east of Superior and the Besh Ba Gowah Archeological Park in Globe are attractions not to be missed. You’ll be riding through dry, sparsely populated ranch country where every town will be a welcome sight. Don’t pass up the chance to top off your water bottles. New Mexico offers Silver City for the latte drinkers, along with the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, some of the best preserved Mogollon cliff dwellings around.

The ride along the Rio Grande into El Paso, Texas, is a treat for bird lovers, especially during migration season, when birds are flying north or south. Texas dominates this route, taking up an entire third of the mileage. Starting in El Paso, just across the Rio Grande River from Juarez, Mexico, the route follows the river southward before turning east and heading through the Davis Mountains, where some of the friendliest folks on the whole route reside. You’ll pass the McDonald Observatory atop 6,800-foot Mt. Locke. There’s a visitor center with daily tours, and evening “Star Parties” three days per week. After the Davis Mountains, towns are few and the country desolate, full of sagebrush and tumbling tumbleweeds. As you travel through central Texas, the terrain starts to feel like the Alps, but this is actually the famous “hill country.” This diverse area serves some great barbeque. In Austin, make sure you go hear some of the diverse music available at the nightclubs on Sixth Street.

Louisiana is like no other state in the United States due to its history, language, culture, and food. First of all, they have parishes instead of counties. Traveling right through the middle of Cajun country, in places like Mamou, a stop in a cafe is a trip unto itself. The crowd is speaking English, but you can’t understand the words. Try to hear some lively Cajun music if you have the time. Mississippi offers rural riding all the way into Alabama, where the route crosses a bridge to Dauphin Island. From there it’s a ferry ride across Mobile Bay to Gulf Shores and some of the whitest beaches in the world. If the ferry is closed due to inclement weather, you will have to take the alternate route through Mobile.

The scenery varies greatly across Florida, from the historic coastal city of Pensacola to the alligator-filled waters of the area around Palatka. The route ends in St. Augustine, a city full of interesting buildings and the Castillo de San Marcos, a fort that has guarded the city’s waterfront for over three centuries.