Couple of questions?
Your age? Your cycling experience?
When in May? Early May and late May are quite different.
Kind of bike you are using? Knowledge of West?
I have about 100,000 touring miles – mostly in West.
Been up to Alaska, Yukon, and NWT six times.
Generally, it took three months to do California to Alaska –
So six months for your proposed trip is certainly ample.
Here’s one of my journals - -
The section from New Mex to Montana is similar.
Your counter-clockwise direction is correct.
It’s the best way to have good temps, winds, snowmelt.
But why are you skipping Nevada and New Mexico.
Plus you have lots of California – not that California is bad, eh.
But don’t you want to get your full money’s worth?
I don’t know whether you already have your plane ticket –
But the Sonoran Desert is already very hot by May.
You will encounter temps in the 90s and often in the 100s.
Plus there are some big climbs right from the get-go.
Not a great way to start for someone without experience.
Here is the website for the Western Regional Climate Center –
They have climate averages for thousands of places – just click.
If you haven’t already locked in a starting point –
I would suggest starting in San Francisco.
Why? Because the coast is greener in May and brown by Oct.
(Although this year is a very dry year in Calif.)
Also, you would start with “lovely” rather than “grueling”.
If you are taking six months, then you MUST do Yosemite.
Again, Yosemite is at its most beautiful in May.
Plus, Tioga Pass will almost certainly open early this year.
(Because of the super low snowpack.)
All of this depends on how early in May we are talking about.
Late May/early June is the best time to cross Nevada.
No place in the West gives you a better feel for eternal spaces than Nevada.
I have biked a bazillion miles in Nevada and still love it.
Although it is very, very remote.
(That’s how you get the feel of the eternal, eh?)
Personally, if you do Nevada I would suggest Great Basin National Park.
Little visited – just the oldest living things on the face of the Earth.
Bristlecone pines. You have the time to hike up to the groves.
Although US 50 calls itself the “Loneliest Road” US 6 is lonelier.
If you start on a more northerly tack,
You can solve the Utah & Arizona issues easily.
By coming from the north, you can first visit the Utah parks –
Cedar Breaks, Bryce Canyon, and Zion are on the way to Grand Canyon.
Then you can ride up to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
The North Rim has only 10% of the visitors –
Plus the hiker/biker campground is right on the edge.
For the cyclist, the North Rim is one of the best park experiences.
Make sure you hike down into the canyon itself.
Even though it is impossible to get camping at Phantom Ranch,
You can usually get a spot at Cottonwood – halfway down.
You can hike the 7 miles down in the afternoon – in the shade.
Then spend two nights – so that you can hike to Phantom Ranch.
Again, with six months – you have the time.
From the North Rim, you ran zoom down to Lee’s Ferry –
Then ride south on US 89 to US 160 and Tuba City.
Under no circumstances should you stealth camp on Navajo or Hopi land.
Ask anyone – people are very helpful on the res.
Even if you do drink and/or partake – avoid doing so here.
And refrain from social or economic judgments.
The ride to Kayenta is pretty uneventful.
Monument Valley is a tribal park – not national.
You need to stock up on water before heading in.
The single campground is primitive.
The most spectacular riding is early and late.
Ride in with low western light –
Then do the loop at dawn.
BTW – you’ll be back in Utah.
You have to drop down into Mexican Hat –
Then climb over “The Comb” to Bluff – a nice little valley.
From Aneth to Cortez there is a nice – now paved – back road.
Cortez is a good resupply center with bike shop and all services.
Then the question might be to what degree are you interested in ancient Puebloan ruins.
Mesa Verde NP is the most impressive – but not very bike friendly.
Aztec NM is easy to access but is in a built-up area.
The real enchilada is Chaco Culture NHP – brutal to get to.
But because it is so hard to reach – it has few visitors.
It is THE best example of ancient ruins and sites.
Plus the clear night skies are unsurpassed.
Whatever you choose – you should continue on to Taos.
The bridge over the Rio Grande Gorge is not for those with fear of heights.
Although Taos Pueblo is heavily visited – it is worth it.
Remember, these are peoples’ homes – not a museum.
Go as early as possible to beat the turistas.
From Taos you can head north to Great Sand Dunes.
Near Questa there is a rec area on the cliffs of the Rio Grande.
The San Luis Valley is huge and flat – and windy at times.
The most stunning views are in the evening with the Sangres behind the dunes.
Let me say again – because you are taking six months –
You can zig and zag and backtrack as much as you like.
The loveliest distance between two points –
Is almost always not the straight line.
Here’s my take on Colorado –
Much of it has become the backyard for Denver.
That is especially true of the stretch between Salida, Breck, and Kremmling.
I love Buena and Leadville – but the traffic can be thick.
I would suggest heading thru Saguache, Gunnison, and Crested Butte.
Then crossing over to Glenwood Springs.
That means doing a moderate stretch of dirt north of Crested –
But it is mostly downhill heading north.
Gunnison and Crested are super bike friendly –
Plus you can random camp all over the place in the meadows.
From Glenwood you can head northeast to Walden and the TransAm route –
Or you can take a more remote route thru Meeker and Maybell to Rock Springs.
Colorado compared to Wyoming –
Yeah, the mountains may be higher in Colorado,
But the roads in Wyoming usually have shoulders and don’t in Colorado.
This is especially true of roads in NW Colorado – use caution.
Wyoming does, however, have a thing called “wind”.
Learn it, understand it, live it.
You cannot beat the wind – it will only beat you.
The Wyoming Wind Festival runs from Jan 1 thru Dec 31 each year.
That said, the route choices make a difference.
The ACA route – US 287 – has a more westerly tack and will have more headwinds.
If you head thru Rock Springs using US 191, there will be more sidewinds.
There’s plenty of info on the ACA route.
If you choose to go thru Rock Springs –
Maybell has a nice free camping park, little store, and café.
There’s a Colorado DOT station 50 miles west where you can beg water.
Then there’s a 22-mile dirt section thru Irish Canyon before pavement again in Wyo.
Halfway to Rock Springs there are some houses where the road doglegs west.
Here again, you can ask for water.
Another possibility is to head west to Browns Park.
There is camping along the Green River.
Who knows – you might meet some folks who let you raft with them thru the Gates of Lodore.
If you take US 287 – you may want to consider a short dirt excursion to Brooks Lake.
Of the thousands who ride the TransAm, almost no one does – their loss.
If you do US 191 – it is a long slog with moderate traffic to Pinedale.
There is ice cream at the store in Farson. Oregon Trail ruts just north.
The Green River Lakes north of Pinedale are well worth a detour.
Or west of Bondurant – take 10 miles of dirt to Granite Hot Springs.
There’s a CCC-built pool for a few bucks –
But there are natural springs by the waterfalls.
Sheer cliffs thousands of feet high.
Jackson is Jackson – I lived there.
Truly awesome – overwhelmed with tourists.
Grand Teton NP has the most spectacular vertical mountain front in the U.S.
There are hiker/biker campsites right on Jenny Lake.
Spend at least two nights and do a day’s hiking in the high country.
Yellowstone is to wildlife what Grand Teton is to mountains.
But there is lots of traffic – especially RVs.
The secret is to ride early and late.
You can do this because almost all campgrounds have hiker/biker campsites.
Plus the wildlife viewing is best in the morning and evening.
Speaking of wildlife – you will be in bear country for much of this trip.
Never, NEVER, eat in your tent. Never store food or cosmetics in your tent.
If you have eaten in your current tent, I would suggest a different one.
Bears have noses 100,000 times more sensitive than ours.
They can smell last month’s PBJ sandwich.
Also, always store your food properly. Use storage bins.
And learn how to hang food properly.
Since I absolutely insist that you use US 89 in Montana -
I will be suggesting a route that skips Old Faithful.
Then again, O.F. is a zoo with a cloverleaf interchange for the traffic.
(Actually, the geysers at Norris Basin are stunning.)
If you enter YNP in the south there is camping at Lewis Lake and Grant Village.
Lewis Lake is quite and soft, Grant has 500 campsites with all the amenities.
Of course, you can always camp at Lewis and use the Grant amenities next a.m.
(Showers, store, laundry etc.)
Make sure to take the back road to Gull Point – quiet spot on the lake.
Then spend a little time at the waterfront of Lake Hotel.
Hayden Valley is the Serengeti of North America.
Animals do not punch a time clock.
Take your time and you will be rewarded.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is awesome.
It’s hard to choose between Canyon and Norris to camp.
The Norris Geyser Basin is best at dawn and sunset.
You should allow yourself one day to hike in Yellowstone.
Most tourists never get 100 yards off pavement. It is their loss.
There are wonderful trails along both rims of the canyon.
Bighorn Pass Trail – out of Indian Creek Campground – is one of the best.
Wildflowers, wildlife, vistas – but you are in grizzly country.
I have biked nearly every paved road in western Montana –
And a lot of unpaved ones, too.
US 89 from Gardiner to Saint Mary is one of the best rides.
Plus it puts you on Going to the Sun Road in Glacier NP.
There’s a great back road on the east side of the Yellowstone –
Just before the highway bridge to Livingston.
Then a back road north of the river to US 89 – don’t get on I-90.
From there US 89 is a light traffic paradise with occasional towns.
Livingston and Great Falls have all services.
(Hwy 200 get busy heading into Great Falls)
From Fairfield north you will have vistas of the Front Range.
Glacier NP is not to be missed.
I would first head to Many Glacier – great base for hiking.
Going to the Sun Road is one of the foremost rides in the U.S.
I prefer Rising Sun to Saint Mary on the east side for camping.
Saint Mary is a 400-site zoo – Rising Sun is perfect – with café, store, and showers.
Same goes for west side – Avalanche and Sprague mush better than Apgar.
Start early – but not too – you will have the early sun illuminating the mountain peaks.
When you get to Logan Pass – plan to hike Highline Trail.
Literally, you are on top of the Continental Divide.
The sheer cliffs with cable hold tend to keep use low.
(The boardwalk to Hidden Lake is a stream of tourists)
Consider using Wolf Prairie Road west of Trego rather than US 93 to Eureka.
It has almost no traffic – connects to Fisher River Road into Libby.
The hike to Kootenay Falls is worth it – last major undammed falls on the Columbia system.
The Northern Tier is a great ride through western Montana, Idaho, and Washington.
Remember, though, that it has pass after pass.
I like to camp at Early Winters so I get an early start heading up Washington Pass.
I wish that North Cascades NP had a campgound in the high country – but they don’t.
Make sure to head out to Anacortes and take the ferry to the San Juan Islands.
(But make sure to plan to do it on a weekday – since summer weekends are crazy.)
Friday Harbor is a party town – campground on west side of San Juan Island has great water views.
I prefer Lopez Island – quiet, camping, store, bakery/café.
When heading down the Pacific coast remember to take the extra loops.
First among these is the Three Capes Loop – at Tillamook.
The Oregon coast gets less busy as you head south.
If you hit the coast after Labor Day it should be much quieter –
But I wouldn’t do it much after Labor Day as weather starts to change.
Here’s a proposition - -
Since you are doing so much coast – why not inland?
The one big inland is Crater Lake NP.
Late summer/early fall is the perfect time.
There is a great route up following the Umpqua River from Roseburg.
Then you can follow the Rogue down to Grants Pass and US 199 to Crescent City.
(US 199 is bit busy – but there are flashers at the tunnel)
Then you are back on the coast for Redwood NP
And the spectacular Pacific Coast Highway to the Golden Gate bridge.
Early October tends to be quite pleasant still.
The first storms hit about mid October.
If you still have time – and you don’t have moral objections –
You can use October to hit the desert parks of southern Calif.
Simply hop on Amtrak with your bike.
Perhaps ride historic Route 66 to Mojave National Preserve –
Then ride down thru Amboy to Joshua Tree National Park –
Then to Anza Borrego before ending in San Diego.
Anyhoo – I’ve obviously rambled.