Mountain - Plains - Cycling in Yellowstone??
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04-25-10, 12:21 PM
So I recently got a job working in Yellowstone for the summer (May - October) and I was wondering what the cycling is like up there. I would imagine that there aren't too many people on bikes because its a vacation spot mostly and I would assume most people would leave there road bikes at home.
I've also never been there so I don't know if the roads are even safe to ride on. I've searched on youtube and found a bunch of videos with bison and bears roaming out into the road which would be a bit scary, not to mention distracting to drivers which means more danger for people on bikes. Has anybody ever gone on any substantial rides there and was it safe enough? I'll be living within walking distance of Old Faithful.
I spent a few summers working in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks (1988-92), I had a Marinoni road bike with me that I logged a lot of miles on. Back then the roads were crappy and the RV drivers were terrible, but I had a great time anyway. I used to ride the "Grand Loop" every so often, using the Norris Canyon road to make a figure 8 and covering about 140 miles in one long day. The East Entrance road is also fun and lightly traveled. If you have a car, drive out to Cooke City (NE Entrance) and ride the Beartooth Highway from Cooke City to Red Lodge and back (126 miles round trip, or you can just go to the top of the pass and back).
Wildlife: I never saw any bears on the roads, just in the back country. A couple of times a herd of bison were grazing on both sides of the road and walking back and forth across the road. I waited for a car to come by and asked the driver if I could motorpace him through the herd at 15-20 mph. Bison have such bad eyesight that they thought I was part of the car, and the bison don't pay any attention to cars.
Roads: Back then the roads were crappy. Lots of narrow, shoulderless stretches, lots of broken pavement. I just dealt with it and had a good time.
Traffic: The RV drivers were truly scary back then, and I'm sure they still are. Rule of thumb, the bigger the RV, the older and worse the driver. They're not out to get you, they just don't know how to drive. I'm sure you know that driving an RV doesn't call for a special driver's license, even the great big ones that are the size of a Greyhound bus. People in cars and rented RV's were no problem, it was the retirees in their gigantic motor homes that scared me. The one point in your favor is that everybody is out of their comfort zone on those roads, so most people are extra careful. Old Faithful is a pretty crowded area of the park, so you'll have to be extra careful.
Before Memorial Day and after Labor Day the park will be pretty quiet, and the roads will be more pleasant to ride on. It can get very cold at those times, though, so bring warm cycling clothing. I remember getting caught in a snowstorm in mid May when I was just out on a day ride from Old Faithful.
In spite of the rotten roads and scary RV drivers, I had a great time riding my bike in the park, and I hope you do the same.
05-07-10, 09:40 AM
Wow! I worked at the old Hamilton Store in Old Faithful for a couple years late April to Sep.....1970 or so......what fum. In 70-71, I was the only person of a 100 or employees in the Old Faithful area that brought a bike. I rode all over the park and never saw a soul on a bike and yes the roads were awful.
A lot has changed. my recent riding confirms what markf states. He captures it all very well. All the newer roads have good shoulders. The one section I do no not like is from the South Entrance to Lewis Lake. It is up hill and narrow and busy with folks going a breakneck speeds to get that campsite.
Canyon to the top of Dunraven Pass was crumby. narrow and heavily used but traffic was courteous and slow. Again the newer raods are good. Ride before 10 A or late and avoid a lot of traffic.
Also, near Old Faithfull are a couple gravel roads legal for MTB......Lone Star Geyser Road to the south and the Old Freight Road to the north.
Where are you working?
Hope to ride there again soon.
05-08-10, 09:23 PM
I go to Ystone nearly every summer and know it well. Take your bike. The road from Olf Faithful to Madison Junction, about 17 miles, is very smooth and has a good shoulder. One substantial climb... not bad. You can also ride pretty well from Madison Junction to West Yellowstone... about another 15-16 miles. The rest of the park roads are more difficult and much narrower and hillier. As for wildlife, bears near the road are very rare. Bison, on the other hand, are common and sometimes cross the roads in herds causing traffic to stop and wait. You would want to wait too, I would think. Mule deer and elk are also occasionally around the roads and you want to use caution around them, of course. There will be traffic but speed limits are 45 and people stick to that fairly well. Use the road from OF to Madison and a nice 35 mile ride can be had on the shoulder. It goes mostly along the Firehole River... extremely nice. I would not ride at night.
Riding off-road is not permitted except in a few places... one or two near Olf Faithful. There is a nice little trail ride near OF that goes out to Lone Star Geyser... but it's not a very long ride.... maybe 4 miles one-way as I recall. PM me if needed. But... take your bike. (Rides from West Yellowstone, MT north are also very possible and safe... good shoulder on that road... I think it might be Rt 91.)
Pics taken in Hayden Valley.
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