Select park roads open to bicycle traffic

By Jessianne Wright EBS Contributor

Last year approximately 2.5 million vehicles rolled through Yellowstone National Park, in the form of tour busses, family cars, campers, park vehicles and more, often bumper to bumper during peak visitation periods. But for several weeks every April, and again in the fall, many of the park’s roads close to motorized vehicles and open for bicyclists.

Yellowstone opened for the first day of spring biking on March 27. The road from the park’s West Yellowstone entrance to Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming, is open to the public for non-motorized travel, although minimal traffic from Park employees is possible.

Spring biking in Yellowstone will last a little over three weeks this year, closing April 21, when motorized vehicles are again allowed in the park.

“It’s a really unique experience because you kind of get the whole park to yourself,” said Kelli Hart, co-owner of Freeheel and Wheel bicycle and ski shop in West Yellowstone. “There’s usually still snow on the sides of the road and it’s a great chance to see wildlife.”

Leaving from the West Entrance, cyclists may travel 49 miles to Mammoth Hot Springs, sighting wildlife and natural features along the way. The Park Service reminds cyclists that wildlife have the right-of-way and animals shouldn’t be approached or fed. PHOTO COURTESY OF MORGEN AYRES

Leaving from the West Entrance, cyclists may travel 49 miles to Mammoth Hot Springs, sighting wildlife and natural features along the way. The Park Service reminds cyclists that wildlife have the right-of-way and animals shouldn’t be approached or fed.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MORGEN AYRES

“I’ve never had a close encounter, but I have had to wait for bison to move along before zipping past them,” said Big Sky local Morgen Ayres, who describes biking in the park as one of her favorite things to do.

“When you are pedaling through Yellowstone, the 360 degree views, the fresh spring air and the quiet peace is unforgettable,” Ayres said. “You can take your time and bike through all the pullouts to watch the herds of bison and elk or get a lot of miles in for a great workout.”

Beginning at the park’s West Entrance, cyclists can travel 14 miles east to Madison Junction and continue north to Mammoth Hot Springs, a 49–mile ride. Depending on snow removal efforts, cyclists might also be able to access the park from the East Entrance, traveling six miles into the east end of Sylvan Pass, and from the South Entrance to West Thumb Junction. The road from the North Entrance traveling to Cooke City is open to automobiles as well as cyclists all year, weather permitting.

In addition to dictating road closures, the weather also impacts bicycle travel.

“Watch out for the weather. It changes quickly. You can start off the ride in the sun and end up finishing in the snow. Bring your layers, gloves, hat and jacket,” Ayres said, adding, “Don’t forget your bear spray.”

During the spring bicycling period, internal services are closed in the Park and cyclists should be prepared with their own food and water. The National Park Service stresses that cell phone coverage is sparse and unreliable for communicating emergencies.

For road closure updates and information about spring biking in Yellowstone, call Freeheel and Wheel at (406) 646-7744 or visit nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/springbike.htm. Updated road information is available 24 hours a day at (307) 344-2117.