Backroads Company Milestones

A Brief History of the World's #1 Active Travel Company

Tom Hale founds Backroads.
1980 Tom Hale is Backroads: leading bike trips through Death Valley, Northern California, Colorado, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, Canadian Rockies, Puget Sound, and Bryce, Zion and the Grand Canyon; answering phones; driving vans; and repairing bikes—all while working part-time cleaning fondue pots.
1983 Tom's lawnmower, car and power tools rebel—Backroads' corporate headquarters vacates Tom's garage and moves to more spacious quarters in a San Leandro, California, warehouse.
1984 The fun continues year-round when winter trips to Hawaii are added.
1986 Backroads ventures Down Under with a new biking trip in New Zealand.
1987 Backroads guests traverse the tundra when Alaska is added. They warm up Backroads' new Baja trip, bicycling along the Sea of Cortez.
1988 Mountain bike trips (in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains) are introduced, as is another continent—Europe. Backroads biking guests begin exploring the pleasures of France's Loire Valley.
1989 Backroads celebrates its 10th anniversary by adding special departures for families and solo travelers and by expanding geographically—to the Northeast—with new trips in Vermont and Virginia. Horizons are further broadened to include Asia and a trip in China. With all this broadening, corporate headquarters once again outgrows its digs and moves to Berkeley.
1990 The charms of the Old South are showcased with new trips in Louisiana and North Carolina.
1991 Elephants and longboats join Backroads' modes of transportation as part of a new bicycling trip in Thailand. Backroads steps out with the introduction of walking and hiking trips.
1992 Backroads' new Walking & Hiking trips are a hit! They expand to California with two new hiking itineraries in Point Reyes and Muir Woods.
1993 Winter wonderlands become part of the Backroads experience, with the introduction of cross-country skiing vacations. A mountain biking trip in Costa Rica launches Backroads in Central America.
1994 Backroads turns 15 and celebrates with the addition of even more activity—the Go Active Sampler vacation, featuring mountain biking, in-line skating, trail running and tennis, among other activities.
1995 Backroads mountain bikers test their fat tires in South America—on a new trip in Chile and Argentina.
1996 Backroads unveils a program of 19 multisport adventures—trips that combine biking and hiking with other activities such as kayaking, rafting and snorkeling. Oh, and it's happened again—corporate headquarters needs more room and undertakes an expansion of its Berkeley home. Backroads also goes online with a website in cyberspace, which presumably, one cannot outgrow.
1997 Active adventurers travel to South Africa to hike and safari in luxury on Backroads' first African trip.
1998 Families and solo travelers have more to choose from than ever, with 67 itineraries featuring special departures for solo travelers, and 23 featuring special departures for families. Morocco and Nepal join the hit parade of Backroads destinations.
1999 Backroads commemorates its 20th anniversary by adding 20 new trips—two multisport, five walking and three bicycling itineraries. The wine regions of Chile and Patagonia, the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan and the Lake Como, Umbria, Parma Valley and Puglia regions of Italy are but a few of the new destinations ripe for exploration. Backroads also introduces Millennium trips, six memorable adventures to celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime event.
2000 Backroads dives into the millennium with the introduction of multisport itineraries that include activities such as sea kayaking, rafting, snorkeling and boating. Backroads' new Active Gourmet collection features itineraries that blend exhilarating activity with an opportunity to explore the culinary arts. New destinations include Denmark, Hungary, Vietnam, Japan and the French Alps, just to name a few.
2001 A Cooking and Walking Sojourn adds spice to our tasty menu of trips in Provence. Other new adventures debut in Bordeaux, Portugal, Canada's Prince Edward Island, Vermont and Wyoming. Trips Exclusively for families and solo travelers boom in response to guest demand.
2002 Thirty new trips highlight Backroads' 23rd year. Asia is hot, with new adventures in Tibet, India, Thailand and Nepal. And families rule, with 20 new trips designed for active travelers of all generations. More multisport with golf makes an appearance in Bordeaux.
2003 Backroads introduces Easy Explorations & Epic Journeys. Easy Explorations are ideal for both first-time and experience active travelers who want to vacation at a more relaxed rhythm. Epic Journeys are a collection of two-wheeled adventures with special appeal for cyclists who contend that the long way is the best way.
2004 Backroads celebrates its 25th Anniversary! Backroads introduces Epic Walking on France's Mont Blanc, Easy Biking in Bordeaux. Maine Walking, Alaska Multisport, and more.
2005 Backroads offers a new way to travel actively: Casual Inn Trips, featuring comfortable and cozy hotels and inns. New Backroads destinations include Sicily, Quebec, Kauai and Colorado. More family trips added during popular vacation times.
2006 Guests are offered even more choice with Adventures Beyond—trips with added dimensions that make them extra special. For example, an active safari in South Africa & Botswana and trekking in Bhutan. The number of Casual Inn Trips more than doubles. Backroads introduces its new custom-made titanium bikes.
2007 New in Europe: biking and walking trips through Hungary, Slovakia & Poland; biking in Italy's Piedmont region and much more. A new walking & hiking in Tibet & Yunnan; Wine Country weekend bike trips and new family adventures worldwide. Backroads is now open seven days a week!
2008 Backroads branches out with 12 new “Insider Trip” destinations that take guests deeper into a region's culture. New active trips include mountain biking in northwest Argentina, biking in Italy & Slovenia, biking in Oregon's Crater Lake area and multisport camping in California's Redwood Empire, home of the big trees.
2009 Backroads celebrates its 30th anniversary in the wake of the 2008 financial crash. Business slows down.
2010 Backroads is back on track after last year's slowdown.
2011 Crampons on a Backroads trip? You bet—Backroads debuts 14 new trips including a hiking vacation in the French Alps featuring an epic guided glacier walk. New for bicyclists, the Greek isle of Crete is hot—for families too. Other additions include biking trips in Sicily, Burgundy and Nova Scotia, and walking trips in Spain, the Pacific Northwest and Maine.
2012 Backroads has its best year to date. In addition to unveiling 17 new itineraries, Backroads also increases its commitment to providing two support vans on nearly every trip. The company expands its bike fleet to include upgrades to pro-level bikes and the Co-Motion tandem. New features also include downloadable GPS directions, improved elevation profiles and bike cyclometers. And single travelers rave about the return of Singles-Solos departures.
2013 Backroads continues to thrive, with our biggest increase in quality (as measured by our guests) ever. Continuing to set unprecedented quality standards, Backroads commits to having three leaders (or more) and two vans on virtually every trip. New destinations span the globe, from Israel and Myanmar to Andalucía and the Argentine Andes. Debut trips closer to home include the canyons of Utah and Arizona, and in the vineyards around Santa Barbara. Introduces first Cuba People-to-People tours.
2014 Backroads celebrates 35 years in active travel with an all-new redesigned Custom Titanium bike fleet, including electric-assist bikes (e-Bikes), and new and expanded trip options. Rolling out 24 new Classic, Family and Singles-Solos itineraries to destinations both near and far away—from British Columbia's Undiscovered Isles, to Provence Gourmet Walking and the Carolinas—we have active trips for every kind of traveler.
2015 Backroads launches active river cruises with 20 departures on the Danube River adding adventure to this popular market segment. Family Breakaway trips for families with older teens and 20-somethings continue to gain in popularity, with trip options more than doubling since launch. The Family Coppola Resorts announce that Backroads guests will stay at two of their properties in Central America—Blancaneaux Lodge in Belize and La Lancha in Guatemala as part of Backroads Belize & Guatemala Multisport Trips.
2016 Backroads rolls out free GPS devices on biking trips in Europe, North America and Hawaii, with pre-loaded easy-to-follow directions. Printed directions are also still available. Free upgrades to custom electric-assist bikes (e-Bikes) are now available on our biking trips in Europe, North America and Hawaii. Our ever-popular active river cruise segment has expanded from its initial launch on the Danube to now include trips on the Seine, Douro, Rhine and Mekong Rivers.
2017 Active River Cruises remain popular and our Danube Full Ship Celebration (150+ person) departure sells out quickly. New Iceland small ocean cruise departures are introduced, and Backroads heads to the Amazon for a journey through the Galápagos, Andes and Amazon with a mix of premiere hotels and a luxurious small ship. In Japan a walking tour from imperial Kyoto to the Alps reveals contrast of the modern and the ancient. Closer to home a new walking tour in Crater Lake National Park features a section of the famed Pacific Crest Trail.
2018 Northern Lights anyone? A new multi-adventure tour in Iceland joins the expanding offer in the Land of Fire & Ice. Other new adventures include Slovenia & Croatia, Chile's Lakes & Volcanoes District and Scotland. Cuba by bike debuts in January making Backroads the first American company licensed to offer road biking focused trips in Cuba. Family trips are further refined with offerings for Families with Older Teens & 20s (17+), Teens & Kids (9-17) and Younger Kids (4-12), and additional new family walking departures are debuted across the globe.
2019 Backroads expands its commitment to families with the launch of the 20s & Beyond segment for families with adult kids in their 20s and early 30s. The popular Multi-Adventure Tour segment continues to grow with new itineraries in Tanzania, Greece and Crater Lake. Bike Tours span the globe in new locales from Kentucky to Japan. And of the dozen new Walking & Hiking Trips introduced, the multi-country journey in Sardinia & Corsica was an instant hit. 
2020 This proves to be a big year for rolling out exciting new segments despite setbacks in global travel. The wildly popular 20s & Beyond segment continues to grow to nearly 80 itineraries and there's a surge of interest in Private Trips. Backroads launches a brand-new fleet of custom-designed e-bikes. And for travelers short on time, there are new offerings in our Active Weekend Getaway collection, with trips to Charleston, Texas Hill Country, Northern Vermont and other popular spots.
2021 Backroads had its biggest year ever in the US with guests clambering to travel as the pandemic receded. Guests of all ages joined us in the US national parks, Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Vermont and many places in between. We rolled out a new Georgia & South Carolina Underground Railroad trip in conjunction with Outdoor Afro. Our new easygoing  Dolce Tempo trips continued to be a guest favorite resulting in increased departures to keep up with demand. And for our e-bike-loving guests, we now offer them on most biking and multi-adventure trips and will continue to expand our fleet.
2022 Travel is back in full swing with families, couples, friends and solo travelers wanting to get out and explore actively, making it our biggest year ever! We rolled out new trips in Oman, Bali, the Carolinas, England’s Cornwall and Argentina’s Mendoza Wine Region. As the only active travel company to offer family trips designed for three distinct age groups, we’ve seen continued strong growth across our family segments. Health and wellness continue to be a big part of our philosophy and have been since the company started more than 40 years ago.
2023 As we’re poised to break all our records, this year is huge for active travelers and with that comes the rollout of even more new trips and regions. Active Ocean & River Cruises continue to grow with new sailings on Dutch & Belgium Waterways for optimal Tulip Time viewing, the launch of a new Tahiti Ocean cruise and Full Ship Celebration sailings on the Danube and Portugal’s Douro Rivers. Dolce Tempo Easygoing Adventures are hot, hot, hot with expanding e-biking, walking and multi-adventure departures.

For more information contact Liz Einbinder.