America’s national parks are some of the most beautiful places in the world. If you want to visit them and don’t have a car, there are plenty of ways to get around: buses, trains, boats and even horse-drawn carts! But what if you want to go off on your own without having to carry everything with you?
That can be tough unless you have an electric bike or e-scooter. But as it turns out not all national parks are created equal when it comes to ebikes and other motorized vehicles! So let’s take a look at what these rules mean for visitors with mobility issues (like me).
So, Are EBikes allowed in National Parks?
Short answer is yes, and no! National Parks treat bikes as just another means of transportation so if they are being used for just that and not near wilderness, they are ok.
There are no national park rules that prohibit e-bikes, but regulations vary by national park. Each superintendent has the authority to set their own rules, but it is best to check with each one before making your trip. Some parks allow them, while others do not. If you are unsure, check with the local visitor center. A ranger can answer your questions about the regulations and other details.
The NPS failed to comply with the law under NEPA, preventing individual park units from considering the effects of e-bikes. The agency did not consider the full negative impacts of e-bikes on ecosystems or other sensitive areas. Instead, it ignored public input and did not give local communities the opportunity to weigh in on the issue. It also did not consider alternative modes of transportation.
The National Park Service recently changed its policy, allowing e-bikes in certain areas. However, there are specific rules for each type of e-bike, and a few national parks prohibit the use of e-bikes on all trails. Canyonlands and Arches are two examples of this. These parks follow federal rules on vehicle use. Since e-bikes are classified as motorized vehicles, they cannot be used on hiking trails. In addition, off-road vehicle use is prohibited on all park property, including backcountry areas.
Non Motorised trails
Officially, these trails are called “non-motorized (bicycle) trails” but that doesn’t hold much weight when an electric bike can travel 15 mph (24 km/h) on flat ground. So you might be able to take your e-bike on the road and not be breaking any laws, but you will definitely be breaking the law if it goes off-road.
But how do they define motorized? According to NPS regulations:
A motorized vehicle is any device having an engine with a rating of more than 250 watts or a cylinder capacity not exceeding 50 cubic centimeters (50cc). This includes mopeds, scooters, dirt bikes and ATVs.* A bicycle is defined as a device propelled solely by human power using pedals that does not exceed 20 miles per hour (32 km/h) ebike must also have functional pedals for human propulsion.* Bicycles which meet these criteria may be operated only during daylight hours in areas where cycling is permitted.* The peak speed limit for all non-motorized vehicles must not exceed 15 miles per hour.
It may be difficult to sort out which rules apply to which parks since each one creates its own specific regulations in line with the NPS rules, but some general guidelines can be found here.
- Not all national park units allow e-bikes. The U.S. Forest Service, however, has no restrictions on e-bikes or other types of electric vehicles (EVs) and allows them on any designated road or trail (including those within wilderness areas). In fact, back in 2010 a group of riders even completed an unsupported coast-to-coast ride across America using only EV bikes and trikes!
- If you do decide that an EV is right for you while visiting a national park unit that doesn’t have any rules regarding their use—which would include most of them—it’s important to remember that local jurisdictions may still have regulations prohibiting their use on public streets and roads outside the boundaries of a national park unit.
- Also keep in mind that if your journey includes entering or leaving from another jurisdiction where EVs are prohibited (such as state highways), then there will likely be no option but to tow your vehicle behind your car rather than riding it into those areas.
First things first, the NPS is a federal agency. That means they set the rules for all of their parks across the country. However, each park has its own rules—some allow ebikes and some don’t. In addition to this, some parks allow ebikes on certain trails and not others. So it’s important to check with your local park before planning your trip!