6 Days, 350 Miles: A Road Biking Trip to Remember in Greater Yellowstone

Experience the scenic landscape of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem all from the seat of a bike.
Experience the scenic landscape of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem all from the seat of a bike. Rick Smith Media for Cycle Greater Yellowstone
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A bike tour like no other, Cycle Greater Yellowstone has been changing the way that people see the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem since the ride’s inception in 2013. This six-day ride, known as "The First Great Ride in the Last Best Place," is part of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition—America's Voice for a Greater Yellowstone. Across more than 20 million acres, three states, and two national parks, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition works to defend the "Wild Heart of North America.” And now, you can help support them while having the time of your life and seeing the best America has to offer from the saddle of your bike.

This 350-mile ride travels around Yellowstone and takes you to scenic falls, secret back roads, mountain ranges, and local breweries. The local wildlife may also make an appearance—the protected area in Yellowstone hosts numerous endangered, iconic species like the gray wolf. Route highlights include places you’ve likely heard of but never experienced: West Yellowstone, Mesa Falls, Caribou-Targhee National Forest, Pine Creek Pass, Snake River, Grand Targhee, Warm River, Red Dune Road, and the Centennial Mountains.

In the Cycle Greater Yellowstone tour, you won’t just ride your bike non-stop. After each morning ride (usually around 60 miles) and for the entirety of one rest day, there are planned and open activities, from hiking to checking out local breweries.

There is much more to this tour than just riding a bike. Stops in each town are full of fun sites and activities.
    Rick Smith Media for Cycle Greater Yellowstone
There is much more to this tour than just riding a bike. Stops in each town are full of fun sites and activities. Rick Smith Media for Cycle Greater Yellowstone

Even if you’re not a cyclist, but consider yourself to be a recreational outdoors enthusiast, the tour is still for you. "You’re seeing the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem by bike," said Jennifer Drinkwalter, event promoter, “but in each town, there are tons of other things to do.”

Highlights include hiking or mountain biking at the Grand Targhee Ski Resort, which showcases the best views in the Caribou-Targhee National forest. There are also several brewery stops along the way plus a beer sponsor to keep you sudsy every night. For your viewing pleasure in 2017, there is a layover day in Driggs, designated so you have time to view the once-in-a-lifetime total solar eclipse on August 21.

After a morning of riding, setting up camp and hanging out with fellow riders makes for the perfect afternoon.
    Rick Smith Media for Cycle Greater Yellowstone
After a morning of riding, setting up camp and hanging out with fellow riders makes for the perfect afternoon. Rick Smith Media for Cycle Greater Yellowstone

"We want active people of all types to come," said Drinkwalter. “You know, ride 60 miles, have a sandwich and a beer, and head down to the river or the best local hangout.” There will also be stretching classes before and after rides at the campground for anyone who wants to join.

Being comfortable along the ride is of the utmost importance so make sure your bike has the right set up and a proper fit.
    Rick Smith Media for Cycle Greater Yellowstone
Being comfortable along the ride is of the utmost importance so make sure your bike has the right set up and a proper fit. Rick Smith Media for Cycle Greater Yellowstone

Throughout the ride, you’ll find well-maintained, paved roads with some alternative and bonus additions that include a little bit of unpaved road for gravel grinders. To make it through the 350 miles, make sure your tires are durable—think thick and wide versus lightweight and racer-thin—your saddle is comfortable, and your bike fit is dialed in. You’ll be camping every night (though some towns have hotels if you’re feeling like sleeping in a real bed), so a perfectly-fit bike is important for avoiding things like nagging back pain or grumpy knees, especially when there are so many amazing afternoon activities available at each campground.

"We have people come and bring their 10 best friends, we have people come as couples, we have people come on their own, and they leave with 20 best friends," said Drinkwalter. "And those people come back by themselves every single year. It’s not for one group or another, it’s for everybody."

The goal is to show riders and athletes in general how to "responsibly recreate," by creating a combination of conservation and recreation.

"Bringing people out and riding the radius of Yellowstone is really special," said Drinkwalter, and that’s why she’s been helping riders see the area since the ride started. “2013 was the first year we went ahead with it and let as many people ride as possible—we had 600 people registered!”

After that year, the promoters realized they needed to reel in the numbers. Some of the ride’s stops are in really tiny towns, and the towns and campgrounds aren’t large enough to house or host 600 riders. So, in 2015, the ride was scaled back to a 350-person limit, and almost immediately sold out. Now, two years later, the August event is less than 100 riders away from a sell out, and it’s only December.

The tour itself has about 80 crew members and staff for everything from ride support to on-road van service, and aid stations along the route. Every year, the ride is changed to showcase new roads and views, so the crew is working furiously on the event year-round.

Cycle Greater Yellowstone’s staff works year round to prepare for this annual event.
    Rick Smith Media for Cycle Greater Yellowstone
Cycle Greater Yellowstone’s staff works year round to prepare for this annual event. Rick Smith Media for Cycle Greater Yellowstone

The event itself is not hard to get to. You can fly into West Yellowstone or Bozeman Airport, or drive. Note: West Yellowstone only flies late May through September so you may have to call Delta Airlines. Shuttles from this airport to the tour start site will be free for riders.

There are around 100 spots left on the tour, and the $1,195 price tag covers all of your meals on route and in camp, warm showers, camping space, route and gear support, baggage haul from camp to camp, and basic mechanic support. You can pay extra for a "sherpa" who will even set your tent up every day so all you have to do is pedal, explore, and enjoy!

Originally written for Cycle Greater Yellowstone.

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