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  1. #1
    the actual el guapo atomship47's Avatar
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    tour of yellowstone

    i rode 15 miles yesterday after nearly 2 months off ('cept for 30 minutes on the stationary bike every now and then). LORDY...am i out of shape!

    looking ahead, i'll be in jackson hole in mid july. i'd like to take the oppy to tour some of yellowstone then. i'm wondering what i should do to prepare.....we don't have many hills here so i'm thinking i should travel locally to do some tours over hilly terrain to prep. also, i'm not sure what to bring. my only rack with be a seat-post mounted rack. i'll bring 2 water bottles and a hydration pack. i'll have a pump, tools and a patch repair kit. i'll have my cell phone and gps. what else do you think? bear repellant? basic survival gear like thermal blanket, lighter, swiss army knife? camping food packs?

    i'll also establish a "flight plan" and give it to my wife so she knows my "intended" route.
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  2. #2
    My tank takes chocolate. FlowerBlossom's Avatar
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    Forget the bear repellent. You probably won't need it, and, it's highly likely it won't work. It'll only piss-off the bear more. Wear bear-bells and sing or shout. Play dead. Keep food in bear-safe bins. Don't sleep in the clothes you cook in. Don't cook in the tent. Wear as many flashing lights as you can---it might keep the RVers from running you over...which is more likely than seeing a bear.

    What else to bring depends on how many days and if you intend to do some camping and how much you feel you need bring. Some ultralite threads in this forum can give you suggestions...I've seen posts around 20lbs. Yellowstone in July will be cold at night. You will need a sleeping bag heavier than what you will need in the midwest. You may want a tent; the campgrounds in Yellowstone aren't built with privacy in mind, and, there might be mosquitoes (but not a lot) and other rascals running around at night. If you bring a tent you can bring a lighter bag than if you sleep under the stars. Etc.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member kalliergo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FlowerBlossom
    Forget the bear repellent. You probably won't need it, and, it's highly likely it won't work. It'll only piss-off the bear more.
    Well... It's true that, in the places you can get to via bicycle, you are somewhat less likely to encounter bears in situations that might necessitate defending yourself.

    OTOH, good bear sprays (which are pepper sprays) really do work. For information, visit the home of the original:

    http://www.counterassault.com/

    You certainly will encounter bison on Yellowstone's roadways. Tourists are more likely to be injured by these big fellows than by bears, but mostly because tourists insist on approaching way too closely to snap photos with inadequate cameras. A bull bison might weigh 1,800 pounds, and can go from statue-still to 30 mph faster than you can imagine until you've seen it. So, be careful. (They are very cool, though.)
    Last edited by kalliergo; 03-11-07 at 08:30 PM.

  4. #4
    Hooked on Touring
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    You offer very little information about what you intend to do.
    Flying in or driving?
    How long? A week, two?
    Camping or moteling?

    I know the park very well. Used to live in Jackson.
    Have cycled/skied the park every month in the year.
    I'll be glad to help with specific info if you could fill me in.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by kalliergo
    You certainly will encounter bison on Yellowstone's roadways. Tourists are more likely to be injured by these big fellows than by bears, but mostly because tourists insist on approaching way too closely to snap photos with inadequate cameras. A bull bison might weigh 1,800 pounds, and can go from statue-still to 30 mph faster than you can imagine until you've seen it. So, be careful. (They are very cool, though.)
    I spent a few summers working in Yellowstone and cycling around on my days off. Yes, you will encounter bison, and sometimes you'll encounter part of a herd grazing on one side of the road, and the rest of the herd grazing on the other side. This can be dangerous, because bison are very nervous about strange animals (like people on bicycles) trying to get between them and the rest of the herd. Whenever I found myself in this situation, I would wait for a car to come along and ask if I could motorpace behind the car to get past the herd. Bison in Yellowstone are used to cars, and they can't see well enough to pick out a cyclist drafting a car.

    Dunraven Passwas probably my favorite stretch of road in the park. Outside the park I rode the Beartooth Highway once (Cooke City to Red Lodge, Montana) and the road over Sylvan Pass to Cody a few times.

    Another big hazard in Yellowstone is the big motorhomes, although these are scary in any national park. The drivers tend to be elderly types who regard bicycles as toys that don't belong on the road, and they tend to drive very badly even when they're not distracted by the scenery.

    While you're in Jackson, make some time to go hiking in Grand Teton National Park. Amphitheatre Lake, Paintbrush Canyon, and Garnet Canyon were my favorites. If you're really feeling ambitious, the Paintbrush Canyon-Cascade Canyon loop with an off-trail stretch along the shore of Jenny Lake to get back to the start was my favorite back around 1989 or 1990. Not sure if I could still do it in a day, though.

  6. #6
    Senior Member kalliergo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markf
    Yes, you will encounter bison, and sometimes you'll encounter part of a herd grazing on one side of the road, and the rest of the herd grazing on the other side. This can be dangerous, because bison are very nervous about strange animals (like people on bicycles) trying to get between them and the rest of the herd. Whenever I found myself in this situation, I would wait for a car to come along and ask if I could motorpace behind the car to get past the herd. Bison in Yellowstone are used to cars, and they can't see well enough to pick out a cyclist drafting a car.
    +1

    Split herds deserve your serious attention.

  7. #7
    the actual el guapo atomship47's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani
    You offer very little information about what you intend to do.
    Flying in or driving?
    How long? A week, two?
    Camping or moteling?

    I know the park very well. Used to live in Jackson.
    Have cycled/skied the park every month in the year.
    I'll be glad to help with specific info if you could fill me in.
    well, i don't know a whole lot yet. we're driving in for a family reunion in jackson. i don't know where we're staying yet and i don't know how long we'll be there (maybe 5 days). my thought was to bike thru the park on 2 different days but not camping. i was thinking of doing a north south trip across the park one day and east west another. is that possible without breaking each trip into 2 days? if not, i may bike a whole day, camp, then bike out the next day.

    not sure just yet.
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  8. #8
    Hooked on Touring
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    Well - that gives me a better idea.

    First off - there's the issue of acclimation to altitude.
    Jackson is at about 6300 feet.
    Most of the Yellowstone Plateau is 7800 feet and above.

    For someone from the Midwest who also is just getting back on a bike that may be an issue. However, since you are driving out, you will have some time to acclimate. For people coming to higher altitudes, you get less oxygen and tire more easily. Alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine usually make symptoms worse. I'd avoid these prior to riding.

    Yellowstone is quite nice, but can really be nasty to bike in July because of the narrow roads and the extremely heavy tourist traffic. The best riding times are early morning and evening - - but that entails staying in the park. From what you are saying, you might enjoy riding more in Jackson Hole and touring Yellowstone by car. If you can take your bikes, a nice short ride for people of all abilities is on the old Gull Point Road along Lake Yellowstone - practically no cars and stunning views - plus a nice picnic area at the point.

    Jackson Hole / Grand Teton National Park has some really fine riding options that - while not car-free - have far fewer cars than Yellowstone and generally better roads. US 89 has good shoulders, but considerable traffic, too. If you are willing to do about a mile of dirt, Spring Gulch Road heads out from Jackson at the junction of US 89 and WY 22 between the buttes thru quiet ranch preserves then pops you out into a view of the Tetons - still with very light traffic. Plus its fairly level. Then you can take Gros Ventre Road to the hamlet of Kelly and loop back to US 89 via Antelope Flats Road. Stunning views, wildlife, and light traffic.

    Then there's the park loop. It has more traffic, but people expect to see cyclists, plus there's a small shoulder. The campground at Jenny Lake (where it is nearly impossible for car campers to find places) has a great hiker/biker camp area. The Jenny Lake store is not far - plus there are lovely trails down to the lakeshore. (For you or for everybody - Dornan's Bar & Grill at Moose has a 2nd floor deck that will take your breath away - if the altitude hasn't already.) Don't forget to do the Jenny Lake Loop - the views are closed in, but still nice - and make sure to head out to String Lake. The trail heading north to Leigh Lake is fairly level and offers incredible views. (Again, appropriate for nearly everybody.)

    You should continue on up to Jackson Lake. Jackson Lake Lodge has great views from the dining room. It's architecture is post-war "Moderne" in contrast to the "Piney Woods" look. The willow flats down below have a lot of moose. Buffalo Valley Road east of the park is another great ride.

    If you are still wanting to ride in Yellowstone, keep in mind that it is 50 miles from Jackson to the South Entrance. The biggest thing between the South Entrance and Lewis Lake is the climb - about 1000 feet. After that the south loop of the figure-8 is fairly level (by Wyoming standards) in a counter-clockwise direction until you get past Old Faithful. Then there are two passes between Old Faithful and West Thumb - neither are that bad. But if you start at Lewis Lake and head east at West Thumb, then north to Canyon, then west to Norris, then southwest to Madison, and then south to Old Faithful - you will have a pretty easy ride.

    I'm not sure what you mean by east to west, then north to south? Will you have someone dropping you off and picking you back up? Otherwise, you have to get back to where you started from. The upper loop of the figure-8 is much harder to do - with the exception of the stretch between Norris and Upper Mammoth. Also, almost all of the park roads are narrow with lots of traffic and lots of big RVs. I live in Wyoming and the last time I biked thru I swore it would be my last. I've had impatient drivers scream at me to "Get off the f***ing road!" It's a sad statement that the park service caves in to more and larger vehicles. They still have no shoulders, but they have RV pull-thru parking places. How they choose to pour the tar speaks volumns.

    For all kinds of reasons, Yellowstone is not a great place for cycling - especially for someone with limited experience. I think you would have MUCH better riding in Grand Teton and Jackson Hole. Since you have multiple options and a vehicle, I'd urge you to enjoy Yellowstone by car - maybe do a little riding along Yellowstone Lake or the Madison River - then do most of your riding along the Tetons.

    Be glad to answer any other questions -

    Best - J

    PS - The most dangerous animal for cyclists in Yellowstone is the distracted driver.
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    Last edited by jamawani; 03-11-07 at 10:58 PM.

  9. #9
    the actual el guapo atomship47's Avatar
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    not sure just yet....but, yes, ideally, i'd like to be dropped off and picked up so i can ride across the park rather than do a loop.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member velo2000's Avatar
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    Great info in this thread folks, thanks! I'll be passing through Yellowstone in July on my way from Denver to Alaska. I was hoping to sightsee in Yellowstone a bit, but maybe I'll check out Grand Teton more and just pass through Yellowstone quickly. My plan is to be back that way in late Sept or early Oct on my way home. Maybe I'll linger in Yellowstone at that time when the herds (of tourists) are thinner.

    I'm planning on camping. Will I need reservations for campsites in Yellowstone and Grand Teton or do you think I could find empty sites (in either July or late Sept)? Or is it possible (or even legal?) to stealth camp in those parks? If not, any suggestions on places to try and camp just outside the parks?

  11. #11
    Hooked on Touring
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    Actually - -

    Yellowstone can be quite nice in July IF - -
    If you ride as early as possible - and then again fairly late.
    There are hiker/biker campsites at almost all campgrounds.
    The big campgrounds like Grant Village and Bridge Bay suck -
    You are surrounded by RVs or next to the dumster.

    Lewis Lake is super. Canyon is very private. Norris is on a little stream.
    Madison and Mammoth are lousy.
    Stealth camping is illegal and expensive if they catch you.
    You can hike into a close-in backcountry site at Ice Lake between Canyon and Norris.
    Be sure to lock your bike and hang your panniers as high as possible.
    There's another hike-in site at Lone Star that you can bike into.

    I rec looping east at West Thumb to Lake and then down the Hayden Valley.
    The lakeshore is beautiful and Hayden Valley has some of the most expansive views plus herds of buffalo.
    The south/east rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone has fewer people and less traffic.
    From Canyon, I would cut over to Norris - the geyser basin is surreal in the evening and early morning.
    If you are heading north thru you can go thru Mammoth or West Yellowstone.

    Personally, the US 89 route is the best in Montana - there's a great backroad south of Livingston.
    If you go thru Hayden Valley you miss Old Faithful. If you do Old Faithful, you miss Hayden Valley.
    Since Norris is so much better and quieter than O.F., it's a no brainer for me.

    September is nicer, but is no longer quiet as it once was.
    Last Sept., I couldn't find a campground with hiker/biker sites still open.
    With all the retiree RVs - they gobble up what campsites remain open.
    I was really pissed - seeing as how I live in Wyoming.

    If you camp in Grand Teton - check out the hiker/biker sites at Jenny Lake.
    BUT - there are great hike-in sites along Leigh Lake.
    The ranger office is right next to the Jenny Lake campground.
    Consider storing your stuff in the bike lockers and taking a night in the backcountry.

    Best - J

    Photo - Hayden Valley
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  12. #12
    rep
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    Do NOT stealth camp in Yellowstone. Sleeping in the National Forest is fine until you enter the Park. I follow the bike touring rule "never pay to sleep" except when I am in the National Park System. It's important in Yellowstone, because you interfere with the wildlife, which has plenty of problems on their own. Specifically, camping outside the campgrounds, but near the roads, has lead to bear problems. Pepper spray only works when you are awake. A habituated bear is a dead bear.

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