The Adventure Cycling Association Southern Tier Bicycle Route is ACA’s shortest cross-country route and offers a wide variety of terrain, vegetation, climate, and people across the United States from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.
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.
The route is a total of 3159 miles (5086 km) . The Southern Tier Route can be ridden between early fall and late spring. In September and May, there still might be some very hot weather to contend with at either end of the route.
Note that snow can occur at any time in the higher elevations in the Southwest during the winter, and the highest pass in New Mexico is over 8,000 feet (2400 meters). Riders doing a winter trip must remember that there will be short daylight hours. Due to changing local conditions, it is difficult to predict any major wind patterns, but there are a few known observations. In California, dry easterly winds predominate in the fall, blowing west from the desert. In western Texas, winds from the Gulf of Mexico will cause headwinds for eastbound riders.Hurricanes can occur from July through November along the Gulf Coast and the Florida panhandle and can also hit the Atlantic seaboard.
After climbing away from San Diego on the California coast and topping out at 3,800 feet (1160 meters), the desert appears. 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, the snowbirds abound as the route travels through Phoenix, Arizona, 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. The route passes through dry, sparsely populated ranch country where every town will be a welcome sight and a chance to top off 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 dwelling.