The Scoop: What to Know About Backroads

This active travel tour specialist has trips to every continent.

aerial view of vineyards and town with Backroads tour bicyclists on road
(Photo: Backroads)

Backroads got its start in 1979 as a small, regional bike touring company that offered trips in the western United States and the Canadian Rockies. Fast-forward to today, and the active tour company now offers more than 500 itineraries on all seven continents.

The company’s 45 years of experience, 40-person Trip Development team, 12 expert Trip Designers, and 200 Trip Experts help ensure that travelers enjoy memorable biking, walking hiking, and multi-adventure trips for all ages and abilities.

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Whether you want to take things slow or really push yourself, there’s a Backroads trip that will help you see the world in an active and inspiring way. And you don’t even have to be on the same page as your traveling companion, as trips offer several routes and a range of levels each day to help you set your own pace.

TourScoop Takeaways 

Hikers on a Backroads tour on a trail along a river
(Photo: Backroads)
  • Destinations: 513 itineraries in 57 countries and territories on all seven continents
  • Tour Size Average: The average group size for all Backroads trips is 16. In general, Walking & Hiking trips are limited to 20 guests, Biking and Multi-Adventure trips typically have no more than 26 guests, and Active Cruises have a maximum of 30 guests. Full Ship Cruises can host up to 100+ guests.
  • Tour Types: Bike tours, multi-adventure tours, walking and hiking tours, active cruises and safaris, snow adventures, women-only trips, family trips, and private trips

Credibility Check

Online travel agency Travelstride users rate Backroads 4.8 out of 5, and according to Backroads, its tour leaders get a 98.1% approval rating from guests. Note that there’s a U.K.-based company called Blue-Roads that sometimes comes up in search as Back-Roads, but that’s a different company than the U.S.-based company that offers active travel tours.

How to Book

Travelers can book tours through the Backroads website, by calling 800-462-2848, or with a travel advisor.

Tour Destinations

person looking out safari truck and laughing with zebras and savannah in background
(Photo: Backroads)

Backroads offers more than 500 itineraries that travel throughout Europe, the United States, Canada, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America, and Antarctica. New tours coming for 2025 include a Netherlands & Belgium Multi-Adventure Family Tour, an Iceland Ocean Cruise Walking & Hiking Tour, a California’s Yosemite Valley Women’s Walking & Hiking Tour, and a Greece & Mediterranean Ocean Cruise Multi-Adventure Tour.

Tour Types

Backroads has been offering bike tours since the company’s 1979 founding that travel scenic routes around the world on a fleet of custom-built titanium bikes. Walking and hiking tours immerse travelers in the culture and landscape of their destination, while multi-adventure tours include activities like kayaking and rafting along with hiking and biking.

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Active cruises feature ocean and river itineraries via small luxury ship, and active safaris take travelers to destinations like Tanzania, South Africa, and Botswana. There are also women’s adventures featuring all-female groups, lodge-to-lodge hiking tours, snow adventures in places like the Canadian Rockies and Iceland, and options for private trips. And while the company’s tours all provide a range of daily activity levels to let travelers choose just how active they want to be, Backroads also offers easygoing “Dolce Tempo” tours designed for travelers who want to explore at a slower pace.  

For families, Backroads is the only travel company to offer three separate trip categories based on kids’ ages. There are trips for families with teens and kids (generally ages nine to 17, but some trips can accommodate kids four and up), families with older teens and 20s (for ages 17 and up but siblings ages 14 and up are also welcome), and families with young adults in their 20s and beyond (with siblings ages 17 and up welcome).

Guests on Premiere Hotel trips stay at luxurious five-star hotels and dine at award-winning restaurants. Backroads Casual Hotel trips feature comfortable accommodations and meals at family-run eateries. Ocean and river cruise trips travel on small luxury ships.

Tour Guides

Backroads leaders have been rated 9.8 out of 10 by guests, and the company uses hiring, training, benefits, and compensation practices to attract top leaders. There are at least three leaders on each trip, and trips are never subcontracted. Biking trips are also supported with multiple vans that serve as mobile refreshment and bike repair centers and provide rides for guests who need a break or are done for the day. A trailer carries all luggage and gear.

What’s Included

Backroads trips with hotels include:

  • Accommodations
  • All breakfasts
  • Most lunches, including the company’s trademark grand picnics
  • All dinners except for one (on most trips)

Backroads cruises include:

  • Your stateroom
  • All breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, including wine

All trips also include:

  • Expert Trip Leaders
  • Snacks and beverages between meals
  • Additional regional guides and experts on many trips
  • Multiple vans and (in most cases) at least three Trip Leaders to support a variety of route options
  • A comprehensive Travel Planner with detailed pre- and post-trip information
  • Private guided explorations of museums, historic and cultural sites, and more (as noted in the Travel Planner)
  • All gratuities except for Backroads Trip Leaders
  • Special events, including wine tastings and unique local experiences (as mentioned in the Travel Planner)
  • Use of fully equipped Backroads titanium bike, plus helmet, accessories, and GPS device for trips with biking, along with custom-designed kids’ bikes and helmets as well as trailer bikes and carriers for family trips
  • Equipment and experienced specialty guides for kayaking, rafting, snorkeling, sailing, and canoeing as described
  • Park and other entry fees
  • Fares for trains, ferries, and other modes of travel listed in the Travel Planner
  • Select coach transfers
  • Baggage transfers and porterage
  • Backroads water bottle

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What’s Not Included

Backroads trips do not include:

  • Airfare to and from the trip destination
  • Gratuities for Backroads Trip Leaders
  • Most alcoholic beverages (Backroads provides wine and beer at select events and cruises include complimentary wine at meals)
  • Personal expenses

Typical Travelers

Kayakers on Backroads tour paddling through sea caves
(Photo: Backroads)

More than half of Backroads guests have traveled with the company before or were referred by a friend. Backroads guests share a love of active travel and often come from the major metro area of the U.S. as well as from Canada, the UK, Mexico, Brazil, Australia, and a handful of other countries. With the variety of tour styles offered, guests can travel as couples, with friends, on their own, and with their families.


After booking, guests receive a Travel Planner, which includes detailed information about arrival and departure, pre- and post-trip hotels, transportation, a detailed trip itinerary with routes and activities, clothing and gear, passport and visa requirements, and more to help them prepare for their trip. The Travel Planner is mailed to the primary contact on the reservation, sent via email, and is available via a guest’s Backroads Account. 

An online tutorial helps guests set up their Backroads Account, where they can make payments, select bikes and apparel, indicate dietary preferences, and submit required forms. Guests can also download the Backroads On Trip app to access their trip experience (including daily snapshots, routes, elevation profiles, and local dining recommendations) after receiving a code in their Backroads Account or pre-trip email.

Once a trip is booked, travelers receive updates from the Backroads Guest Services team about their reservation, reminders to complete the Trip Checklist, information about trip accommodations, and contact information for Trip Leaders closer to departure. Backroads also sends email updates about anything essential travelers should know about the destination or itinerary, as well as any significant changes to the trip.

Loyalty Program

Any adult who’s traveled with Backroads on at least one trip is automatically enrolled in the Backroads Extra Special Travelers (BEST) Club program. Membership is free, and after their third trip members receive perks like Backroads-branded gifts when they complete milestone trips, credits toward future trips for referring friends or family, and exclusive discounts on gear from top brands.

Health and Safety Practices

Backroads ships have certified responders for medical emergencies on board and first-aid kits with options to alleviate seasickness. Helmets are required and provided free of charge for biking trips, and travel insurance is recommended for guests. Read more about Backroads’ health and safety practices here

Sustainability Efforts

Backroads has been committed to responsible travel since its founding and makes efforts to positively impact the places it visits. That includes supporting organizations like World Bicycle Relief, Trust for Public Land, Outdoor Afro, and Adventure Travel Conservation Fund. 

Biking, walking, and hiking trips have sustainability baked into their tour styles. Field Operations teams look for creative regional solutions for reducing waste and plastics, such as donating spare food to food banks and other local organizations and bulk buys to reduce packaging. More information about the company’s sustainability efforts can be found here.

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Beth Luberecki writes about travel, business, and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in publications including The Washington Post, USA TODAY,, and The Indianapolis Star. The Florida-based writer shares her travels on her website and on Instagram at @bethluberecki and @findingfloridafun.