Our expertise shines on the asphalt, but our adventurous sides really come alive on gravel. That's why we've added a gravel ride to our lineup of Gran Fondos. This guide is your insider's look at the Hincapie gravel experience, plus our pick of over 22 of the best gravel races across the U.S. Ready for a rough and rugged ride? Gear up and join one or multiple top gravel races, where tough challenges, great fun, and awesome rides are guaranteed.
The best gravel bike races
March 15–16, 2024
Location: Merced, CA
Cost: Gran, Medio–$200 | Piccolo–$35 (standard entry)
The Gran Fondo Hincapie Merced is a remarkable cycling event that offers a fun challenge amidst the breathtaking scenery of the Sierra Nevada mountains. This event features three distinct rides catering to various skill levels: the 84-mile Gran Fondo, the 61-mile Medio, and the 2-hour Piccolo.
The Gran Fondo challenges riders with five climbs along the route that are sure to leave your legs burning. Three of the five climbs are timed, adding a competitive edge to the ride for those who wish to test their limits. You’ll also receive a custom jersey designed by the Hincapie team and have the opportunity to ride alongside George Hincapie.
The Gran Fondo Hincapie Merced isn't just about the ride; it's a family-friendly event with a festival atmosphere. The event offers an array of food options, live music, and activities that provide fun for everyone, regardless of age or cycling proficiency. Its challenging rides, stunning scenery, and festive atmosphere make the Gran Fondo Hincapie Merced a must-attend event for cyclists and their families looking for an unforgettable adventure.
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April 20, 2024
Location: Barry County, Hastings, MI
Cost: 18 miles–$60 | 36 miles–$70 | 62 miles–$80 | 100 miles–$85
The Barry-Roubaix race stands out as a versatile and challenging gravel race that caters to cyclists of all skill levels. With four different ride lengths, the event ensures that everyone, from beginners to seasoned riders, finds a course that suits their capabilities.
The 100-mile Psycho Killer is the crown jewel of the Barry-Roubaix, presenting riders with a grueling 7,000 feet of elevation gain. This route is not for the faint-hearted since there is hardly a flat section to be found. If you decide to take on the Psycho Killer, brace yourself for a relentless test of endurance and skill.
Barry-Roubaix is more than just a race–it's a cycling celebration. The event concludes with a festive atmosphere that includes bonfires, a variety of beverages, and an after-party. This post-race celebration offers an excellent opportunity for participants to unwind and share stories of their ride.
3. SBT GRVL
August 18, 2024
Location: Steamboat Springs, CO
Cost: Black: $275 | Blue: $250 | Red: $225 | Green: $200
The STB GRVL race, set against the stunning backdrop of Steamboat Springs and Routt County, offers four different routes for everyone, from beginners to the most seasoned gravel riders. The available courses include the Green route, covering 37 miles; the Red route at 56.5 miles; the Blue route, at 100 miles; and the most challenging Black route, which spans an impressive 125 miles.
The Black route demands skill and endurance with its daunting 10,000 feet of elevation gain. The Green ride offers a great introduction if you want to dip your toes in gravel riding. Its 37-mile length is challenging enough to give you a taste of gravel riding without overwhelming you.
August 21–25, 2024
Location: Lincoln, NE
Cost: Garmin gravel worlds–$165 | Long voyage–$180 | Privateer–$145
Gravel Worlds, designed by a group of passionate gravel cycling enthusiasts, offers you a chance to push your limits in a fun yet demanding environment. This event features three main rides: Garmin Gravel Worlds, which covers 150 miles; the Long Voyage, which covers 300 miles; and the Privateer, which covers 75 miles. Each of these rides provides a distinct challenge through the rural farmlands of Nebraska.
Garmin Gravel Worlds is the most popular choice and is entirely self-supported. You must be prepared to rely on your resources and resilience, making it an authentic test of your ability to handle unexpected challenges and conditions on your bike. This event is ideal if you’re looking to test your endurance and self-sufficiency.
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March 14–17, 2024
Location: Stillwater, OK
Cost: Inspiration 12-mile ride $25 | The Mid South 50-mile $125 | The Mid South 100-mile $100 | The Mid South double $225
The Mid South is known for its challenging courses and the unpredictable weather that often adds an extra layer of difficulty. This event offers a 12-mile "inspiration" ride designed for beginners, a 50-mile ride, and a 100-mile ride for those seeking the ultimate challenge.
The Mid South is infamous for its red dirt, which can transform into sticky, peanut butter-like mud during bad weather, which is common in Oklahoma. On the course, you may find yourself climbing through the muck, hauling your bike through certain sections, or using your wooden paint stick provided to scrape mud off your drivetrain. Even in dry conditions, the route remains strenuous. So throw your time out the window–just completing The Mid South is a significant achievement.
August 29–September 1, 2024
Location: Sun Valley, ID
Cost: Queen’s Stage Race–$499 | Harriman (Stage 1) & Dollarhide (Stage 2)–$135 | Tater Tot (Stage 3)–$49 | French Fry (Stage 3)–$179 | Baked Potato (Stage 3)–$229 |
Rebecca's Private Idaho, set in the picturesque landscape of Sun Valley, has become a favorite event for amateur and professional cyclists. Known for its stunning routes that weave through canyons and along creeks, the race offers a unique blend of natural beauty and challenging terrain.
Rebecca's Private Idaho features the Queen's Stage Race, a four-day excursion with three timed stages. You can complete all stages of the race or just participate in one. Regardless of your skill level or ambition, you can experience the blend of competition and natural beauty that Rebecca's Private Idaho offers.
July 13, 2024
Location: Beaver, UT
As the name suggests, Crusher in the Tushar is no easy gravel race. Despite being 69.6 miles long, shorter than some of the other races on our list, Crusher in the Tushar has earned its name for being an exceptionally tough ride. The demanding terrain of the Tushar mountains ensures the race lives up to its reputation.
The course challenges riders with its distance and steep climbs, unpredictable weather, and rough, often unforgiving gravel paths. This race also features the scenic vistas of Fishlake National Forest, which adds an element of wild, untouched beauty. Crusher in the Tushar will push your limits amid some of Utah's most stunning landscapes.
March 2, 2024
Location: Cave Creek, AZ
Cost: Waffle: $250 | Wafer: $250 | Wanna: $150
The Belgian Waffle Ride in Arizona takes you through deserts, showcasing the state's iconic mountains, cacti, and breathtaking sunsets. This backdrop not only adds to the aesthetic appeal of the ride but also contributes to the overall challenge as you navigate through the unique desert terrain. You can expect good weather 300 days out of the year, so chances are, you’re in for a sunny ride.
The event features three main rides to accommodate cyclists of varying skills and endurance levels: the Waffle, spanning a formidable 122 miles; the Wafer, a more manageable 70 miles; and the Wanna, a shorter 37-mile route for those looking for a less intense challenge. The Waffle, the event's centerpiece, encompasses steep climbs with a total elevation gain of 9,000 feet and is composed of 50% gravel, presenting a balanced mix of rugged off-road conditions and challenging ascents.
June 1, 2024
Location: Emporia, KS
Cost: XL: $255 | 200: $295 | 100: $200 | 50: $90 | 25: $55
Unbound Gravel, held in Emporia, Kansas (aka "Gravel City, USA"), features a 25-mile, 50-mile, 100-mile, 200-mile, and an XL ride stretching 350 miles.
Unbound Gravel is often described as suited for those with a "penchant for pain," a testament to the physical and mental toughness required to complete these races. This grueling XL ride is fully self-supported and designed for the most seasoned and daring cyclists. The 200-mile race, while still extremely demanding, attracts the most participants. It has gained a reputation as the cornerstone of the Unbound Gravel experience.
Emporia's varied distances and rugged terrain make this event a true test of endurance and determination. Whether a rider chooses the shorter courses or takes on the daunting XL challenge, Unbound Gravel represents the spirit of gravel cycling at its rawest and most adventurous, making it a must-attend event.
October 19, 2024
Loction: Bentonville, AR
The Big Sugar Classic, presented by Mazda, is a captivating gravel cycling event showcasing fall's stunning beauty in the Ozark Mountains. This race is known for its scenic, tree-canopy-covered course, which gives riders a spectacular view of the changing autumn leaves. The course weaves through the Ozark Mountains and alongside Sugar Creek. The route's sharp climbs add to the physical demand of the race.
You can choose between two gravel routes: a challenging 104-mile course with 7,000 feet of elevation gain or a slightly less daunting 52-mile route with 3,500 feet of elevation. Both options present riders with a mix of sharp climbs and breathtaking scenery.
One of the distinctive features of the Big Sugar Classic is its appeal to mountain bike (MTB) and gravel cycling enthusiasts. The event offers a unique challenge called the Sweet Tooth Challenge, which combines a 100-kilometer mountain bike ride with a 100-mile gravel ride. For those looking for a less intense but equally rewarding experience, the Semi-Sweet Tooth Challenge includes a 50-kilometer mountain bike segment and a 50-mile gravel ride. These combinations allow participants to experience the best of both worlds – the ruggedness of mountain biking and the endurance test of gravel riding.
11. Rooted Vermont
Location: Richmond, VT
Cost: Sip of Sunshine–$165 | Little Sip–$155
Rooted Vermont is characterized by its striking contrasts – from serene pastures to rugged mountains and from smooth to rough gravel paths.
The event features two main rides: the Sip of Sunshine and the Little Sip of Sunshine. The Sip of Sunshine is a more demanding option, with an impressive 8,000 feet of elevation gain and incorporating class-4 jeep roads, which present a unique challenge even for seasoned gravel riders. The Little Sip of Sunshine offers a shorter but still challenging ride, spanning 48 miles and ascending 4,000 feet. This route is ideal for cyclists who want a burst of challenge without committing to the longer distance.
Rooted Vermont depicts the value of hard work, a characteristic of the Richmond community. After completing your ride, you’ll have the opportunity to taste Vermont's local flavors, including its famous maple products.
Location: Mt. Shasta, CA
Grinduro, set in the majestic surroundings of Mt. Shasta, California, is designed to emphasize fun and community, making it a favorite among gravel cycling enthusiasts looking for more than just a race. This event combines the thrill of gravel riding with the enjoyment of food, art, bike festivals, music, and camping.
The course is a single, long loop that spans 60 miles, divided into four segments. Compared to many other cycling events, the overall time is not the primary focus in Grinduro. This format allows you to enjoy the ride at a more relaxed pace, offering an excellent opportunity to socialize and connect with fellow cyclists.
If you can’t make it to California, Grinduro also has locations in Pennsylvania, Japan, Italy, France, and Germany.
June 26–30, 2024
Location: Bend, OR
The Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder presents an extraordinary cycling experience beyond the traditional race format, offering the "Adventure of a Lifetime." This event is not just a gravel ride–it's a five-day “bike vacation” that intertwines challenging cycling with the joys of camping and community.
You can choose between two ride options: the Pioneer, spanning 350 miles, and the Settler, spanning 290 miles. This year, the Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder features courses with less elevation and smoother paths to promote a more race-focused experience.
On your bike vacation, you’re provided with tent accommodations, gourmet meals served in breakfast and dinner buffets, massage services, and entertainment. There’s a special package for non-cyclists so your friends and family can participate in the five days of fun alongside you.
May 19, 2024
Location: Chatham, NY
The Farmer's Daughter Gravel Grinder offers two courses: the Farmer’s Daughter, a 63-mile gravel gran fondo, and the Farmer’s Grand-Daughter, a slightly shorter 43-mile ride. Both routes are known for their significant amount of climbing.
This gravel ride stands out for its non-competitive spirit of a gran fondo. You are encouraged to enjoy the ride at your own pace, taking in the mostly dirt road terrain that weaves through scenic landscapes. This approach lets you focus on having fun with other riders rather than on finishing times or rankings. At the end of the ride, you’ll be treated to a meal where you can relax, refuel, and share stories from your day on the road.
September 1, 2024
Location: Cody, WY
Cost: The good–$55 | The drifter–$70 | The bad–$95 | The ugly–$115
The Fistful of Dirt Gravel Race is known for bringing "the best of the west" to the gravel cycling scene. The race offers four courses–The Good at 20 miles, The Drifter at 40 miles, The Bad at 60 miles, and The Ugly for the ultimate test at 100 miles. Each course offers a unique opportunity to experience the rugged beauty of the American West.
In addition to the race, the Fistful of Dirt Gravel Race has a vibrant after-party. This event features an array of brews, a live concert, and various attractions, making it a perfect way to unwind and celebrate after a day of riding.
October 31–November 3, 2024
Location: Patagonia, AZ
The Spirit World 100, starting from Patagonia, Arizona, and extending to the border of Mexico, offers a truly unique and otherworldly gravel cycling experience. Cycling through the rugged terrain from Patagonia to the Mexican border, you’ll be immersed in the natural beauty and solitude of the Arizona wilderness, or the “Spirit World.” This challenging 100-mile race features 6,658 feet of elevation gain and 92.3 out of the 100 miles on dirt paths. To avoid the hazards of cycling in the dark, you must reach mile 68 within 6.5 hours.
17. The Dead Swede
June 1, 2024
Location: Sheridan, WY
Cost: 100-Mile Crusher–$125 | 60-Mile Creeper–$110 | 40-Mile Cruiser–$100 | 20-Mile Ripper–$85
The Dead Swede gravel race is set in the Bighorn Mountains. With distances ranging from 20 to 100 miles, the event ensures everyone finds a suitable challenge. The 20-mile ride allows kids and new cyclists to gain experience in gravel riding on a less demanding but equally enjoyable course.
The centerpiece of The Dead Swede is the 100-mile ride, renowned for its technical challenge. This route comprises 71% gravel and 7,671 feet of elevation gain through the majestic Bighorn Mountains.
In addition to the satisfaction of completing the race, you’ll get to enjoy a variety of goodies and post-ride amenities. This includes a meal and beer after the ride to celebrate your achievement. You’ll also receive a T-shirt and an assortment of swag.
18. Rule of Three
May 16–19, 2024
Location: Bentonville, AR
The Rule of 3 gravel offers a 50-mile or a more demanding 100-mile route, with 20 out of the 100 miles featuring a “world famous” winding single track. This singletrack is beautiful but also technically challenging, so you can expect the ride to take longer than usual.
One of the unique aspects of the Rule of 3 is its mixed terrain, which can change quickly and unexpectedly, adding an element of surprise and requiring constant adaptability from the riders. This event also offers the flexibility of opting for a traditional mass start or riding in a 3-person team.
If you’re seeking an extreme adventure, the Rule of 3 also features a 200-mile course that is entirely unsupported. This option is perfect for the most adventurous and self-reliant cyclists, presenting an ultimate test of endurance, navigation skills, and self-sufficiency.
19. Omaha Jackrabbit
Location: Blair, NE
The Omaha Jackrabbit gravel ride in the backcountry of Nebraska offers a rugged cycling experience. This event features two main rides: a challenging 100km route and a more relaxed 25-mile fun ride. The 100km ride is known for its steep terrain that will test your climbing abilities and endurance.
The Omaha Jackrabbit is entirely unsupported, so cyclists participating in this event must be self-sufficient and equipped to ride in the dark. The route includes several miles of Minimal Maintenance Roads (MRR), which adds to the adventure.
This non-timed ride allows you to focus on the experience and adventure of gravel riding rather than on competition. Riders are encouraged to take in the beauty of Nebraska's backcountry and enjoy the journey at their own pace.
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20. Dust Bowl 100
July 27, 2024
Location: Eminence, IN
Cost: 100-mile–$100 | 80-mile–$85 | 44-mile–$70
The Dust Bowl 100 gravel race combines challenging routes with history. The route crosses numerous historic bridges, offering riders a glimpse into the rich history and heritage of the Hoosier State. You can choose between a 100-mile ride, an 80-mile ride, and a 44-mile ride.
You’ll be welcomed with pre-race donuts and coffee, and after the race, you can indulge in a well-deserved meal, unwind with live music, and even enjoy camping. You’ll also receive a T-shirt and a swag bag and have the chance to win giveaways all day.
September 28, 2024
Location: Trinidad, CO
Cost: Stubborn Delores: $175 | Anteloop: $110 | Frijole: $75
The Rad Dirt Fest offers an exceptional blend of natural beauty and challenging routes amidst the Spanish Peaks in Trinidad. The event offers the Stubborn Delores, a formidable 112-mile course with 10,440 feet of elevation gain, the Antelope, a 70-mile route, and Frijole, a 40-mile option. The Stubborn Delores comprises 90% gravel, providing an authentic gravel grinding experience. On any of the Rad Dirt Fest courses, you’ll find yourself surrounded by snowcapped mountains and abundant wildlife.
July 28, 2024
Location: Whitefish, MT
Cost: Big Horn Sheep: $190 | Mountain Goat: $160
Ending our list with a nod to its name, The Last Best Ride is the last best ride on our list, but it's far from being the least. The ride offers two main routes: the Big Horn Sheep, a 91-mile course with 8,189 feet of elevation gain, and the Mountain Goat, a 48-mile ride with 4,189 feet of elevation gain.
The Big Horn Sheep is a thrilling ride with three strenuous climbs, pushing even the most experienced riders to their limits. Among these, the Caribou Climb is so demanding that, to date, no one has managed to ride it. You may also encounter bears on this ride, so carry bear spray as a safety precaution.
These 22 gravel rides span various landscapes and challenges and represent the best of gravel cycling. From the scenic Sierra Nevada mountains of Gran Fondo Hincapie Merced to the rugged wilderness of the Last Best Ride, each event offers a unique blend of physical challenge, natural beauty, and community spirit. These rides are not just tests of endurance and skill but celebrations of gravel cycling, inviting riders of all levels for adventures that are just as rewarding as they are challenging.
If you’re training for your very first bike race or want to increase your cycling ability and stamina for your next race, these guides will help equip you: