Biking Overview: Yellowstone National Park

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Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park
Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park (Philip Nealey/Digital Vison/Getty)

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

  • Follow the Yellowstone River as it leaves the park on the abandoned railroad grade running from Mammoth Hot Springs to the north entrance in Gardiner. It's a five-mile, one-way trip.
  • The quiet, forested Blacktail Plateau Drive is open to bikes travelling both directions south of the Grand Loop Road between Gardiner and Tower-Roosevelt.
  • From the Grand Prismatic Spring to the Nez Perce picnic area, the Fountain Freight Road runs 5.5 miles through the Lower Geyser Basin south of Madison.
  • A bike route to Natural Bridge leaves the road just south of the Bridge Bay Marina. It joins the hiking trail after a half-mile and reaches the iconic formation another half-mile later.
  • Because bikes are banned from backcountry trails, you cannot do any authentic mountain biking in Yellowstone. Still, a mountain bike is advised, as many of the park's bike-friendly paths exist consist of rough, gravel roads.

With 300 miles of roads open to bicycles, Yellowstone offers great on-road touring. And unlike many national parks, Yellowstone has designated several gravel routes for mountain bike and foot travel only. If you are two-wheeling in the park, don't miss Rules & Regulations and Road Conditions & Safety.

On-Road-Cycling

On road, be prepared for long distances. The park has two highway loops (see the scenic driving map). The upper circle encompassing Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris, Canyon, and Tower Roosevelt runs 70 miles. If you are making this circle, you face some tough climbs. Starting at 6,239 feet at Mammoth, you'll climb to 8,859 feet at Dunraven Pass on the east side of the loop.

The lower circle runs from Grant Village counterclockwise through Canyon, Norris, Madison, and Old Faithful. During the route's 96 miles, Craig Pass rises to 8,261 feet, a hefty climb from Madison at 6,806'.

For the really ambitious, combine the loops into a figure eight—a mere 166 miles.

Several gravel roads are also open to BOTH bicycle and automotive traffic. The Old Gardiner road and Blacktail Plateau Drive allow two-way bicycle travel and one-way auto traffic. These roads are best suited for mountain bikes.

Off-Highway Routes

Off the highway, Yellowstone has reserved several routes for cycle and foot traffic. Among the highlights is the climb to Mt. Washburn from the Tower-Roosevelt area. At its peak, the Beartooth Mountains form a jagged set of teeth against the northern sky. Also try the five-mile run along the Yellowstone River just outside Gardiner.

Mammoth Area (see Mammoth Area map on hiking)

The abandoned railroad bed paralleling the Yellowstone River between Gardiner and the park boundary at Reese Creek. 5 miles.

Golden Gate service road between Golden Gate and Joffee Lake. Approximately 1.5 miles.

Mammoth service road beginning at the top of the hill on the Old Gardiner Road above Mammoth running northwest to the telephone microwave station. 1.5 miles.

Swan Lake gravel pit road, 6 miles south of Mammoth. Approximately 1 mile.

Superintendent's campground road, adjacent to the entrance to the Indian Creek Campground. 0.4 miles.

West Entrance Area

Riverside trail from entrance area to Barns road. 1.4 miles.

Old Faithful Area (see Old Faithful Area map on hiking)

Lone Star Geyser road from the Grand Loop Road to the Lone Star Geyser parking lot. 2 miles.

The paved trail beginning in front of the Lower Hamilton Store at Old Faithful to Morning Glory Pool. 2 miles. Bicycles are not allowed on the unpaved trail continuing beyond Morning Glory Pool to Biscuit Basin.

Fountain Freight Road located 6 miles north of Old Faithful.

Daisy Geyser cut-off to Biscuit Basin. Abandoned service road. 1.4 miles.

Lake Area (check for seasonal closures)

Natural Bridge Road near Bridge Bay. 1 mile.

The old roadbed near the lakeshore between Lake Hotel and where the roadbed joins the main road south of Lake Junction. 1 mile.

Tower-Lamar Areas

Mount Washburn Service Road, from the Chittenden Road parking area to the summit of Mt. Washburn. 3 miles. Bicycles are not permitted on the trail between the summit and Dunraven Pass parking area.

Old Chittenden Service Road, between Grand Loop Road and Tower Falls Campground. 2 miles.

Rose Creek Service Road behind the Lamar Ranger Station. 1 mile.

Rules & Regulations

  • Bicycle riders on public roadways in Yellowstone National Park must obey the same rules and regulations that apply to motorized vehicles.
  • Bicycles are not allowed on any park trails or in off-road backcountry areas. Service roads and utility corridors are closed to bikes unless use is expressly permitted.
  • Bicycles must exhibit a white light on the front and a red light or reflector on the rear during periods of low visibility.
  • Riding bicycles abreast on a public roadway is prohibited.

Repair Services

Repair services and parts are available in the gateway communities of West Yellowstone, Gardiner, and Cooke City (hardware store). Additional bicycle shops are located in the more distant communities of Red Lodge, Livingston, and Bozeman, Montana; Cody and Jackson, Wyoming; and Ashton, Idaho. Rentals are available from several bicycle shops outside the park.

Road Conditions & Safety

Yellowstone's roadways are typically narrow, rough, and without shoulders. During May and June, the narrow roads with high snowbanks make travel more dangerous, especially in the south-central area of the park. Road construction activities and closures can be anticipated on some park roadways throughout the summer season. The condition of service roads open to bikes is highly variable, but generally these roads are better suited for mountain bikes.

There are many potential hazards for the bicyclist in Yellowstone. Heavy traffic, large vehicles, wide mirrors, narrow roads, and erratic driving behavior all contribute to the bicycle-motorist accidents that occur each year in the park. Wear a helmet and high visibility clothing. Ride single file. The maximum number of cyclists traveling in a single cluster may not exceed 15 and these clusters must be at least one-half mile apart. Report all accidents as soon as possible to a park ranger.

Traffic flow is heaviest from mid-June to mid-September, with daily peaks from mid-morning to late afternoon. Roads most heavily used are those that serve the well-known points of interest in the park. Plan accordingly to avoid peak traffic periods and heavily used roadways. Pull over and allow motorists to pass if you are impeding traffic flow. Service roads open to bicycling may be used by both hikers and horse riders. Yield the right-of-way to these users where you encounter them. Further the interests of all bicyclists by staying on designated routes, off foot trails, and out of closed areas.

Snow-covered roads and mountain passes prevent bicycling from November through most of April. Cool and cloudy days are typical during the months of May and June. July and August are characterized by warm days and cool nights, with occasional afternoon thundershowers. September and October generally have clear and cool days, providing excellent riding weather. However, occasional early-season snowstorms can occur in late September and October.


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