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Using Trails

How to Pull Off the Ultimate Trail Picnic

November 9, 2014

Group picnic and flying kites - Photo by Scott Jungling
Photo by Scott Jungling

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Whether you’re planning a fun-filled summer afternoon with your kids or trying to impress your new love interest, a trailside picnic (if done right!) could be just the ticket. Follow our quick tips, and transform your next trail outing into a proper picnic experience.

Pick the Place

Route planning for your perfect picnic doesn’t have to be a daunting task. A quick visit to TrailLink will help you pick the ideal trail for your outing. Search for trails nearby, look at photos of the area, and decide how many miles you’ll pedal before your hunger takes over!

Pack Up

However you choose to get your gear to your picnic, be sure to remember your knife and utensils; pack them first to avoid any last-minute forgetfulness. Oh yeah, plates are also a good idea.

A backpack will work fine, but a handmade picnic basket will make it feel like an extra special outing.


Depending on the mood of your picnic, choose the appropriate beverage. Of course, pack plenty of water, but surprise your fellow picnickers with a little something extra. Chocolate milk and juice boxes will get you a gold star from the young ones.

For more mature tastes, consider bringing your favorite wine. Our resident trailside sommelier recommends ditching the glass bottle and opting for a portable wine bag or sack, which will keep the wine fresh and be easier to transport.

Group picnic with bikes - Photo by Victor Shey
Photo by Victor Shey

Get Comfy

It’s not a picnic without a “blanket”—whether it’s a sheet from the closet or an old-fashioned gingham number. For a true bike-picnic experience, consider one that attaches to your bike. A reasonable alternative to a blanket are camp chairs, but be sure to go with something that is light and packable.


Of course, the food and drink are the centerpieces of your trailside picnic, but for a memorable event, the little extras will be the ticket. Flying disks and kites are musts if your trip involves kids, and everyone will love having music to accompany their meal. Throw in a few tea candles and a lighter if you’re going for a romantic mood.

Chow Down

Let’s get to the main event: the food! A cheese plate with apples is the perfect picnic appetizer. Choose your cheese depending on your taste and the flexibility of your pocketbook. For the main course, consider a baguette, pesto, cream cheese and salami. These foods travel well and are delicious and classy. Fruit and vegetables, and crackers and hummus are also good options.

Late July? Throw together some cucumber and cream-cheese sandwiches, and plenty of watermelon. Early autumn? Opt for soup made at home; transport it to your picnic destination in an insulated container or thermos.

Take note: You’ll look like a picnic amateur if you forget dessert. Throw in a chocolate bar or cookies for the final course.

Keep It Clean

Offering your picnic guests a cloth napkin at the beginning of the meal will win you some brownie points. Or,consider throwing in a pack of baby wipes to keep your fingers clean. When it’s time to head home, a spare trash bag will save the day.

With just a bit of preparation, you can turn what might have otherwise been a drab mid-ride meal into a trailside picnic for the record books. With good company, tasty food and a trip along your favorite trail, the deck is stacked in your favor. Bon appétit!

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