Have you ever dreamed of having Yellowstone National Park all to yourself? Do you ever imagine the stunning, 360-degree mountain views without the distraction of cars or crowds? Visit West Yellowstone in the spring for your chance to explore YNP on a bike—and without a car or crowd in sight.
Spring visitors to West Yellowstone can experience YNP for a brief period of time without the distraction of peak-season traffic. As park access shifts with the seasons, visitors can bike, walk, run, and enjoy non-motorized activities for a few weeks on certain roads before the gates open to public cars, RVs, and tour buses. A popular activity for visitors during this period is to bike along YNP’s clear roads with only limited traffic from park employees and construction crews.
“Biking in Yellowstone National Park when there are no cars around is one of the most unique experiences that you will have in your lifetime,” said Kelli Hart, co-owner of Freeheel and Wheel in West Yellowstone. “With no cars around, it’s a time to have the park all to yourself.”
Bikes allow visitors the freedom to move through the park at their own pace while experiencing panoramic views of the park’s dramatic transformation from winter to spring. The snow gradually melts, the bears start to emerge, and migratory birds begin to appear in the trees. Since there was heavy snow this past winter, visitors might even catch a glimpse of an animal feeding on a winter carcass.
The beauty of the seasonal change, coupled with minimal crowds, makes spring an ideal time of year to visit YNP and the surrounding region. Below, we’ll break down all you need to know for your spring cycling adventure in West Yellowstone.
When should I visit for spring biking?
Following the winter season, the the park roads close to snowcoaches and snowmobiles in order to remove snow and allow the roads to dry. Depending on the conditions, certain park roads open to bicycles and other non-motorized traffic on a to-be-determined date between late March and early April. The roads do not re-open to public vehicle traffic until late April.
For 2019, the west entrance opened to bikes on March 29, 2018, and to public vehicles on April 19, 2018.
Where can I bike?
From West Yellowstone, cyclists can enter YNP through the west entrance and bike to Madison Junction. From Madison, they can then either return to the west entrance or continue the journey to Roaring Mountain (due to construction). Keep in mind that those exiting through the west entrance during this time of year should prepare for a headwind on the return trip and plan accordingly. Visitors can take advantage of the limited road traffic to pause and savor the dramatic landscape.
For visitors who want to venture outside of YNP, a scenic bike route begins at the Highway 191/287 junction north of town and continues along Highway 287 to Quake Lake. The road offers both mountain and lake views as cyclists wind along the north shore of Hebgen Lake.
Are there any restrictions?
There are a few rules and restrictions for spring cyclists in YNP. These include:
- Bike in a single-file line on the right side of the road.
- Use a white bike light in the front and a red bike light in the back if cycling before sunrise or after sunset.
- Maintain a safe distance from animals (100 yards from bears and wolves, 25 yards from other wildlife).
- Only cycle on specified, open roads. Many popular routes, including the road from Madison to Old Faithful, are closed to the public and only accessible by authorized personnel during this time.
Can I rent a bike?
Visitors can rent or purchase bikes and gear at Freewheel and Wheel, West Yellowstone’s local bike and ski shop. Rentals include a bike, a helmet, and a water bottle. Cyclists can rent road bikes for $40/day and mountain bikes for $35/day.
What should I wear?
Cyclists should endeavor to wear high visibility clothing, even in light of limited vehicle traffic. Since spring weather in West Yellowstone can be unpredictable, cyclists should also dress for all conditions. A spring bike ride from West Yellowstone might begin on a warm, sunny morning, but the weather can quickly shift to chilly wind, rain, and even snow. Consider dressing with wicking materials, an insulated layer, a windbreaker, long socks, a light hat, and gloves before you set out for the day.
Whether you are a seasoned traveler in need of a break from the crowds or a first-time visitor in search of a quiet escape, cycling opportunities in YNP and the surrounding region make West Yellowstone an ideal spring biking destination.
AUTHOR: CAITLIN STYRSKY