Bicyclists get Yellowstone Park roads to themselves for a month

A bicyclist rides past freshly plowed snow along the road between Norris and Canyon Village. (Ruffin Prevost/Yellowstone Gate file photo - click to enlarge)

A bicyclist rides past freshly plowed snow along the road between Norris and Canyon Village. (Ruffin Prevost/Yellowstone Gate file photo - click to enlarge)

From Staff Reports

CODY, WYO. — Bicycling through Yellowstone National Park can be both a grand adventure and a harrowing undertaking. With winter bicycle travel impossible on most roads and summer roads often clogged with buses and RVs, some hardy cyclists focus on the month before the park opens each spring as a time when they have roads largely to themselves.

As park road crews continue to plow snow for the start of automobile travel next month, a portion of the park is open to bicyclists for this short “bicycle season.” Now through April 19, the road between West Yellowstone, Madison, Norris and Mammoth Hot Springs is open to travel by what the National Park Service calls “adventurous and prepared bicyclists.”

Park officials warn in a statement released Friday that “a bicycle trip into Yellowstone this time of year is not to be undertaken lightly.”

Rapidly changing weather can be blustery, snowy and brutally cold. Snow and ice may cover sections of roads. Bears, bison, elk, wolves and other wildlife can be encountered at any time.

There are also no public services along these sections of road. Cyclists should expect to encounter (and yield to) snowplows or other vehicles operated by park employees or construction workers traveling in as part of park operations.

Bicyclists are required to ride single-file and follow all other rules of the road. Park officials strongly encourage cyclists to carry bear spray and to be prepared to turn around and backtrack when encountering wildlife on the road.

Riders should be appropriately equipped and prepared to endure severe winter conditions for an extended period of time, in case they experience a mechanical breakdown, injury or other emergency. Cell phone coverage throughout the park is sparse, and rangers do not regularly patrol these routes at this time of year, so riders must have a plan for self-rescue or repair.

Snow removal efforts may allow for a brief period of bike access into the park sometime in May from the South Entrance to West Thumb and from the East Entrance toward Sylvan Pass. There is no spring bicycle access to Old Faithful or Canyon.

The road from the North Entrance at Gardiner, Mont. to Cooke City, Mont., at the park’s Northeast Entrance, is open year-round to cyclists and automobiles, weather permitting. Some interior park roads don’t open to automobile travel until Memorial Day weekend.

If you go…

Cyclists may call 307-344-2107 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. on weekdays for updated road access information, or 307-344-2113 for 24-hour weather information. Updated Yellowstone road information is always available by calling 307-344-2117. 

Additional planning information is also available online at the Yellowstone Park web site.

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