Backroads is the world’s #1 active travel company. Since 1979, we’ve been doing what we do best: taking people on unforgettable active vacations around the world. What sets us apart? Our thoughtful, meticulous trip design. Our elegant hotels and world-class dining. And our Trip Leaders, who are consistently described by our guests as the best guides they’ve ever had. Backroads sets the benchmark for incredible biking, hiking and multi-adventure trips worldwide. Never subcontracted, in more than 65 countries and with more dates to choose from than any other company. That’s the Backroads standard.
Tom Hale & Backroads
A native of Moraga, California, Tom Hale possesses a passion for two seemingly divergent interests—business and back roads—which he has powered into the world's most successful active travel company.
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It was the back roads that first attracted him, as a competitive runner at Campolindo High School (where he still holds the two-mile record at 8:57.2) and at the University of Oregon, where he was a teammate of legendary runner Steve Prefontaine. Armed with a Masters in Environmental Planning from UCLA, Hale was six months into an environmental planning position in Las Vegas when the back roads called again—big time. A middle-of-the-night inspiration to start a bike touring company motivated him to pedal 5,000 miles alone through the West, all the while formulating plans for his new business. Settling in Berkeley, Hale washed fondue pots by night and built his fledgling travel company by day. In true entrepreneurial fashion, he did it all—designed the itineraries, maintained the bikes, led the trips, produced the catalog. His first trip—a bike tour of Death Valley—attracted four guests (one of them his mother). Fast-forward to 2021 and over 40 years of nearly consistent growth.
Today Backroads annually hosts thousands of guests on Biking, Walking & Hiking, Multi-Adventure, Private and Family trips worldwide. Their 231 trip itineraries showcase the best lodging, dining, cultural attractions—and of course back roads—in destinations from California's Wine Country to classic settings in France, from the pampas of Patagonia to the hill country of Thailand. Backroads is staffed by some 192 people in its Berkeley headquarters and regional offices in Utah, Canada and France, and also employs more than 500 Trip Leaders worldwide.
From the beginning, Hale has strived for and succeeded in offering off-the-charts trips, believing that the world is best experienced up close and under one's own power. Backroads' success is largely measured by an exceptionally high rate of repeat guests—on average about 75% become repeat and referral guests. When he's not at the Berkeley office or on the road as Backroads' most eagle-eyed quality controller, Hale can be found at home in Kentfield with his wife Liz, daughters Avery and Georgia, and son William.