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Camping suggestions between West Yellowstone, MT & Moran, WY?

Old 01-12-16, 11:41 PM
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Camping suggestions between West Yellowstone, MT & Moran, WY?

I am looking for camping suggestions between West Yellowstone, Montana and Moran, Wyoming!

I will be in the area around May 20 (+/- a few days) and the only campground in the area that is open is Madison Campground (14.3 miles East of West Yellowstone) inside the park. This makes the ride into Moran 82.8 miles.

Is this doable? Taking into consideration I'd like to see Old Faithful and Morning Glory (between Madison Campground and Moran). I don't linger too much. Long enough to snap some photos and move on.

Are they pretty strict about dispersed camping along Highway 191?

West Yellowstone and Moran are not negotiable as I have host in both places.
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Old 01-13-16, 12:22 AM
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From what I've heard on these forums, most national forests and many national parks (at least in the backcountry) have a free, pack it in-pack it out policy. If this is true, large stretches of 191 should be OK to legal/wild camp in and it shouldn't be too difficult to stealth camp in the areas that has questionable legality considering the remoteness. Do you have a set schedule? If you don't, Yellowstone is amazing and worth spending some time there. May 20th is also early enough to beat some of the crowds which would make it more enjoyable. Please let me know your results for I'll be heading through in July.
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Old 01-13-16, 12:46 AM
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Originally Posted by RedandBlack
From what I've heard on these forums, most national forests and many national parks (at least in the backcountry) have a free, pack it in-pack it out policy. If this is true, large stretches of 191 should be OK to legal/wild camp in and it shouldn't be too difficult to stealth camp in the areas that has questionable legality considering the remoteness. Do you have a set schedule? If you don't, Yellowstone is amazing and worth spending some time there. May 20th is also early enough to beat some of the crowds which would make it more enjoyable. Please let me know your results for I'll be heading through in July.
No set schedule other than having to be back in Portland before October 1.

Thanks for the information!

I'll be sure to let you know. I'll be blogging about my trip and will send you the link when it's up. It'll also be in my signature as well.
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Old 01-13-16, 01:17 AM
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****, now I'm just curious. What is your route plan? The reason I'm asking is that you have 5 months but seem to be starting in high elevation decently North which means colder temps and lots of snow left over from this wet winter.
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Old 01-13-16, 03:48 AM
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First, camping outside established campgrounds in Yellowstone is not allowed. Get far enough off the beaten track and you might be okay but I wouldnt even think about a fire. You might have to worry about critters though... Yellowstone has a lot of bears and they're not shy around humans.

You should pay a lot of attention to weather - this is seriously high country and snow in mid-May is not uncommon. If you have the gear and can hunker down and wait a day or two for storms to blow through you should be okay.

An 80-mile day on a loaded bike at these elevations with serious grades is not chopped liver though. Again, if you're acclimated and in great shape it's doable, but you need to be realistic too.

- Mark
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Old 01-13-16, 06:34 AM
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I live in Wyoming - I know every mile of every road in Yellowstone and Grand Teton.
Much of what has been said here is guesswork at best.

Although there is dispersed camping in many national forests, Bridger Teton NF is more restrictive.
And there is ZERO dispersed camping in Yellowstone NP.

Your timing and schedule seems totally off - to me.
Late May can still be winter - certainly still snow on the ground.
(That's why campgrounds are not open, yet.)
Plus, grizzlies coming out of hibernation - very hungry.
Most urban cyclists have little idea how to random camp safely.

Here are the climate averages for Old Faithful in May -
Hi - 55F; Lo - 28F; Precip - 2.3"; Snowfall - 7.0"; Snowdepth - 4"
And those are averages - could be worse, could be better.
We almost always get a late May snowstorm.
And the scheduled opening date for the road from O.F. to the South Entrance is May 13th.

<<<>>>

That said, there may be two places in between - -

Lone Star - is a hike-in campsite south of Old Faithful.
You have to get a backcountry permit - but it is on a paved access trail.
The trail permits bicycles and it is only a few miles off the main road.
BUT, the area may be closed for bears and the trail may be snowbound.

Flagg Ranch - is an outrageously expensive private campground
It is just south of the south entrance of Yellowstone.
Not sure when they open for the season - possibly by late May.
BUT - you can disperse camp, legally, in the Rockefeller Parkway area.
That is the tiny chunk between Yellowstone NP and Grand Teton NP.
If you turn west at Flagg Ranch onto Grassy Lake Road -
You can ride a mile or two in and camp along the Snake River.
Grassy Lake Road is minimally maintained and can still could be snow-covered.
Plus, the river and its fish attract bears.

Just FYI - Jama
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Old 01-13-16, 07:23 AM
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You could take the Yellowstone bypass that ACA organized tours are required to take through Ashton and Victor ID then across Teton Pass to Jackson WY. There's a nice campground in Ashton (if it's open that early) and an RV park in Victor. It would add about 75 miles to the trip but if weather is prohibitive you may need to anyway.

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Old 01-13-16, 07:29 AM
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Post no. 6 nails it; there's not a lot to be added of value here unless someone has actual experience to the contrary.

To the OP: I believe you are riding across the US, right? If starting that early you might want to go East to West to avoid the conditions you are likely to find at altitude in the West in May.

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Old 01-13-16, 08:08 AM
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Plan C -

Plan B - Idaho route in case of bad weather, as above.

Plan C - Take the Yellowstone Loop counterclockwise via Canyon and Lake.
I actually suggest this over the posted ACA route in the park as far more scenic - 30 miles longer.

Canyon Village facilities do not open until later in the season, but the visitor center will have essentials.
Lake Hotel, Dining Room, and store open on May 20 - might be limited, but open.
Bridge Bay Campground opens on May 20, as well.

From West Yellowstone, it is 60 miles to Bridge Bay, 63 miles Bridge Bay to Moran.
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Old 01-13-16, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Ty0604
Taking into consideration I'd like to see Old Faithful and Morning Glory (between Madison Campground and Moran). I don't linger too much. Long enough to snap some photos and move on.
FWIW, I thought Grand Prismatic was a much more worthwhile stop than Old Faithful. We went back behind GP and ate lunch on a hill with a view. There was a bike trail that went there and went close to Fairy Falls. Also there was a lot of other interesting geothermal stuff there.
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Old 01-13-16, 08:51 AM
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While I am not the definitive expert on riding out west, I am going to echo what Jama wrote. I don't see any reason why you need to start when you are planning to if your only constraint is needing to be back in Portland on 10/1. By way of example, my first tour was ACA's unsupported Northern Tier tour. With cooking gear for 13 people we were not travelling light. Started in Seattle, rode up to the NT route at Mt. Vernon and then did the entire route, including the Alberta option with extra mileage to Waterton Village. Eleven rest days that I can remember. Everyone, from the twenty somethings to the 60 somethings to the 77 year old, finished the trip in only 93 days, and we were not moving fast. We could have finished sooner had we not done several short days in the flat part of Montana, where we would ride 40 miles with a stiff tail wind. And at least one of the rest days was pretty unnecessary. For another frame of reference, we were in eastern ND on July 4th and still managed to reach Bar Harbor, ME by August 23rd. If I were in your shoes, I would start in mid-May at the earliest. Even allotting a leisurely four months would land you in Portland, ME by mid-September, leaving plenty of time to make it back home by 10/1. Your plan carries with it a distinct possibility of disappointment and extra costs due to the need to pay for indoor lodging.
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Old 01-13-16, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
FWIW, I thought Grand Prismatic was a much more worthwhile stop than Old Faithful.
Heh. Some friends of mine were just in the park over the holidays. I thought Old Faithful was a bit underwhelming when I saw it. The crowd's reaction suggested that many other people felt the same. I asked my friends what they thought. They agreed. It was nearly 16 years ago, but I remember riding some bike trail on the way to Old Faithful. It went by some other geo features, including a smaller geyser that was about to blow. (There was a ranger there waiting to record the time.) You could get rather close, and there were only a few other people there. Much more intimate experience than Old Faithful.
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Old 01-13-16, 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
Heh. Some friends of mine were just in the park over the holidays. I thought Old Faithful was a bit underwhelming when I saw it. The crowd's reaction suggested that many other people felt the same. I asked my friends what they thought. They agreed. It was nearly 16 years ago, but I remember riding some bike trail on the way to Old Faithful. It went by some other geo features, including a smaller geyser that was about to blow. (There was a ranger there waiting to record the time.) You could get rather close, and there were only a few other people there. Much more intimate experience than Old Faithful.
Norris Geyser Basin at sunrise can be far more rewarding.
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Old 01-13-16, 09:54 AM
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191 has a ton of national forest camping on it. (Actually now that I see you're south of where I lived on 191.) If south of yellowstone is anything like north of Yellowstone (on 191) you should have no problem finding a place to camp. North of yellowstone there are generally jeep trails that you can ride up for a mile and find a decent camping spot. The only restrictions is that you camp a 1/2 mile away from the main road (191) and water sources. During the summer there are often fire restrictions in place as well.

If I remember to look, I'll take a look at my Yellowstone maps and see if I can find any jeep trails that lead into national forest land south of the west entrance. Don't worry about the critters. Bring bear spray and be happy.

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Old 01-13-16, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
Heh. Some friends of mine were just in the park over the holidays. I thought Old Faithful was a bit underwhelming when I saw it. The crowd's reaction suggested that many other people felt the same. I asked my friends what they thought. They agreed. It was nearly 16 years ago, but I remember riding some bike trail on the way to Old Faithful. It went by some other geo features, including a smaller geyser that was about to blow. (There was a ranger there waiting to record the time.) You could get rather close, and there were only a few other people there. Much more intimate experience than Old Faithful.
Unfortunately the area around old faithful is mostly a tourist trap now. I don't believe there are any bike trails anywhere near it. You were probably thinking of Beehive Geyser. It's a slightly unpredictable one but is almost as tall (or taller) than old faithful. The Grand Prismatic spring is great (on warmer days.) On cold days the steam/fog make it very hard to see anything.

I tell most people that go to Yellowstone this. Go hiking. Find a trail and just walk. It's much more rewarding than seeing all the touristy things. There's a trail that goes behind the Grand Prismatic spring that I heard is great! You should go see old Faithful, for the heck of it and just to say you did, but go do things people don't generally do.
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Old 01-13-16, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by jamawani
Lone Star - is a hike-in campsite south of Old Faithful.
You have to get a backcountry permit - but it is on a paved access trail.
The trail permits bicycles and it is only a few miles off the main road.
BUT, the area may be closed for bears and the trail may be snowbound.
You probably know this: a little east of LS, beyond the pass is the trail South from 191 to campsites at Shoshone Lake. 3 mi in (and out), permit required. No bike access, you'd have to lock up at trailhead parking area. Doesn't open until late May/early June, and you may still be postholing all the way back to the lake shore.
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Old 01-13-16, 05:07 PM
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Originally Posted by jamawani

Your timing and schedule seems totally off - to me.
Late May can still be winter - certainly still snow on the ground.
(That's why campgrounds are not open, yet.)
Plus, grizzlies coming out of hibernation - very hungry.
Most urban cyclists have little idea how to random camp safely.

Here are the climate averages for Old Faithful in May -
Hi - 55F; Lo - 28F; Precip - 2.3"; Snowfall - 7.0"; Snowdepth - 4"
And those are averages - could be worse, could be better.
We almost always get a late May snowstorm.
And the scheduled opening date for the road from O.F. to the South Entrance is May 13th.
Thanks for the information. Spoke with a ranger about my route and even if the roads are closed to car traffic they'll be plowed and cyclist will be allowed. The snowpack this year wont be nearly as much as in previous years. May 1 is actually later than I wanted to start but about as far back as I could push it back.
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Old 01-13-16, 05:08 PM
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Originally Posted by jamawani
Plan C -

Plan B - Idaho route in case of bad weather, as above.

Plan C - Take the Yellowstone Loop counterclockwise via Canyon and Lake.
I actually suggest this over the posted ACA route in the park as far more scenic - 30 miles longer.

Canyon Village facilities do not open until later in the season, but the visitor center will have essentials.
Lake Hotel, Dining Room, and store open on May 20 - might be limited, but open.
Bridge Bay Campground opens on May 20, as well.

From West Yellowstone, it is 60 miles to Bridge Bay, 63 miles Bridge Bay to Moran.
As mentioned in my original post, West Yellowstone and Moran are not negotiable so there will be no rerouting.
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Old 01-13-16, 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
While I am not the definitive expert on riding out west, I am going to echo what Jama wrote. I don't see any reason why you need to start when you are planning to if your only constraint is needing to be back in Portland on 10/1. By way of example, my first tour was ACA's unsupported Northern Tier tour. With cooking gear for 13 people we were not travelling light. Started in Seattle, rode up to the NT route at Mt. Vernon and then did the entire route, including the Alberta option with extra mileage to Waterton Village. Eleven rest days that I can remember. Everyone, from the twenty somethings to the 60 somethings to the 77 year old, finished the trip in only 93 days, and we were not moving fast. We could have finished sooner had we not done several short days in the flat part of Montana, where we would ride 40 miles with a stiff tail wind. And at least one of the rest days was pretty unnecessary. For another frame of reference, we were in eastern ND on July 4th and still managed to reach Bar Harbor, ME by August 23rd. If I were in your shoes, I would start in mid-May at the earliest. Even allotting a leisurely four months would land you in Portland, ME by mid-September, leaving plenty of time to make it back home by 10/1. Your plan carries with it a distinct possibility of disappointment and extra costs due to the need to pay for indoor lodging.
May 1 is later than I wanted to start. This season it should be fine due to the El Nino year and the weather patterns across the Northern USA. The rangers I spoke with at Yellowstone NP said they're expecting some cyclist to come through in April. However they weren't able to tell me about camping in the area due to what's open that time of year.

My lease is up at my condo on October 1 so I need to be back in enough time to find a new place to live. At least by September 15. October 1 is just the last day I can be back but I'd rather not crash on my friends couch

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Old 01-13-16, 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by BobG
You could take the Yellowstone bypass that ACA organized tours are required to take through Ashton and Victor ID then across Teton Pass to Jackson WY. There's a nice campground in Ashton (if it's open that early) and an RV park in Victor. It would add about 75 miles to the trip but if weather is prohibitive you may need to anyway.

https://goo.gl/gNZqiL
Thanks, I'll check it out. However, is this route avoids West Yellowstone and Moran than I'll have to pass.
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Old 01-13-16, 05:12 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
FWIW, I thought Grand Prismatic was a much more worthwhile stop than Old Faithful. We went back behind GP and ate lunch on a hill with a view. There was a bike trail that went there and went close to Fairy Falls. Also there was a lot of other interesting geothermal stuff there.
Where is that at? Between West Yellowstone and Moran on 191?
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Old 01-13-16, 05:13 PM
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Originally Posted by corrado33
191 has a ton of national forest camping on it. (Actually now that I see you're south of where I lived on 191.) If south of yellowstone is anything like north of Yellowstone (on 191) you should have no problem finding a place to camp. North of yellowstone there are generally jeep trails that you can ride up for a mile and find a decent camping spot. The only restrictions is that you camp a 1/2 mile away from the main road (191) and water sources. During the summer there are often fire restrictions in place as well.

If I remember to look, I'll take a look at my Yellowstone maps and see if I can find any jeep trails that lead into national forest land south of the west entrance. Don't worry about the critters. Bring bear spray and be happy.
Thanks for the information! I have bear spray and a cozee for it so it fits into my water bottle cage on my bike. Goes everywhere with me on tour. Works great as a dog deterrent as well.
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Old 01-13-16, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig
Post no. 6 nails it; there's not a lot to be added of value here unless someone has actual experience to the contrary.

To the OP: I believe you are riding across the US, right? If starting that early you might want to go East to West to avoid the conditions you are likely to find at altitude in the West in May.
Correct. I am riding from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. Going East to West would be torture this year. The longterm forecast are calling for stronger than average West to East tailwinds across the Northern USA. They've been accurate the last few years. Due to El Nino the weather will be the best it's been in the Northern USA in a long time.
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Old 01-13-16, 05:16 PM
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Originally Posted by RedandBlack
****, now I'm just curious. What is your route plan? The reason I'm asking is that you have 5 months but seem to be starting in high elevation decently North which means colder temps and lots of snow left over from this wet winter.
I'll be posting my route on here sometime in February.
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Old 01-13-16, 05:22 PM
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Originally Posted by markjenn
First, camping outside established campgrounds in Yellowstone is not allowed. Get far enough off the beaten track and you might be okay but I wouldnt even think about a fire. You might have to worry about critters though... Yellowstone has a lot of bears and they're not shy around humans.

You should pay a lot of attention to weather - this is seriously high country and snow in mid-May is not uncommon. If you have the gear and can hunker down and wait a day or two for storms to blow through you should be okay.

An 80-mile day on a loaded bike at these elevations with serious grades is not chopped liver though. Again, if you're acclimated and in great shape it's doable, but you need to be realistic too.

- Mark
Not too worried about the snow or bears. I run for a living so I'm in good shape. I wont be carrying a ton of gear. 12lb bike + 20lbs of gear. I might take my BOB with me, not sure. Wasn't considering a fire so not a concern. Thanks for the information though.
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