Author Topic: Great Parks (North and South)--Recommended Camping/Sites  (Read 2918 times)

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Great Parks (North and South)--Recommended Camping/Sites
« on: December 05, 2016, 10:45:57 pm »
Aloha from Hawaii.  I am planning to ride from Lake Louise to Jackson Hole at the start of June.  Would be very appreciative for any suggestions of areas not to miss for camping.  Or anything else you might be able to share from your experiences. Thank you so much!

Offline jamawani

Re: Great Parks (North and South)--Recommended Camping/Sites
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2016, 11:53:39 pm »
Early June is early - especially in the northern Rockies.
I live in Wyoming and have skied on fresh snow as late as June 22nd.
Plus, there's all that snow to melt out - esp. if it's been a snowy winter.
And you are heading north to south. (Although elevation decreases from south to north)

June 1 Average Hi/Lo

58/33 - Lake Louise
61/38 - Kananaskis
64/39 - St Mary
68/40 - West Glacier
71/43 - Missoula
64/32 - Wisdom
64/32 - West Yellowstone
56/29 - Yellowstone Lake
67/34 - Jackson

I had mixed snow/rain at lower elevations coming into Missoula this past summer on June 14.
Two days later, I offered a hot lunch at the Potomac cafe to a Divide Race rider who was almost hypothermic.
Now, granted, you might just have fine weather - but it's 50/50 in my experience. Esp. at altitude.

As for campgrounds, many do not open until mid to late June.
Here are the Glacier and Yellowstone campground pages -

Most importantly, Going to the Sun Road often does not open until late June.
It would be a shame if you missed this spectacular ride because the road was still closed.


You can do an early season ride, but be prepared for cold, wet, even snowy weather.
You will need to plan more lodging, but these fill fast during bad weather.
The dividing point between late spring and early summer weather is about June 15 in the northern Rockies.
A later start might allow for a much more enjoyable trip.


Re: Great Parks (North and South)--Recommended Camping/Sites
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2016, 11:57:22 pm »
Thank you so much Jamawani.  This is exceptionally helpful.  I'd love to hear other cyclist's perspectives.  First few weeks of June is all the time I have.  Beginning to rethink.  Again, much appreciated!

Offline jamawani

Re: Great Parks (North and South)--Recommended Camping/Sites
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2016, 12:41:42 am »
What about Santa Fe to Jackson?
I did it in 2005 - but in late June.

Another possibility is Flagstaff/Grand Canyon to Jackson.


Re: Great Parks (North and South)--Recommended Camping/Sites
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2016, 12:55:06 am »
Thanks Jamawani.  I appreciate the suggestions.  I plan to stew over this a few days.  Thoughts on the classic Pacific Coast Central (Eugene to San Fran)?  Thanks again.

Offline SP

Re: Great Parks (North and South)--Recommended Camping/Sites
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2016, 04:48:26 am »

Link to my 2015 Trip
No real issues with finding campgrounds, though we didn't get to Glacier until early July.


Offline jamawani

Re: Great Parks (North and South)--Recommended Camping/Sites
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2016, 11:09:03 am »
MP -

The Canadian national parks have fire trails which permit you to access backcountry campsites on a bicycle.
This is something that U.S. national parks do not allow for the most part.
So, depending on what you are riding, it is certainly worth considering.
But I would strongly suggest delaying until, at least, mid June - maybe July 1.
(Another option is to consider south to north - still, before June 15 is tricky.)

The major campgrounds in the Rocky Mountain national parks tend to be zoos.
That's why I do backcountry camping or seek out small, isolated campgrounds.
Plus, in the Canadian parks there are rustic hostels every 25 miles or so.

I used to live in Jackson and have ridden the parks up to Jasper many times.
Even though it is off your planned route - Mount Robson Provincial Park is amazing.
Plus you can ride into a backcountry site there, too.

Riding back from Sunwapta Falls along the Athabasca River you get to an incredible horseshoe.
360-degree panorama - and, usually, one or two other people.

Similarly, in Banff you have backcountry bikeable sites on Red Earth Creek and Brewster Creek.
The Spray River Trail from Banff south is fabulous and has a backcountry site, too.

The Spray River Trail connects to the Smith-Dorrien Road to Kananaskis.
It's unpaved, but hard-packed - and so much better than riding thru Canmore. (Done both)
Kananaskis is a secret jewel - visited mostly by Albertans.
At the lake there is a store and the walk-in sites by the lake are stunning.
The Great Parks North map routs you thru Kootenay N.P which is so-so.
I cannot believe they do not go via Kananaskis.

Two ways south of Kananaskis -
1 - Paved via Highwood Pass and Longview
     (Or you can do unpaved on the Trunk Road along the Livingstone River)
2 - Unpaved over Elk Pass to Elk Lakes and then via Elkford and Sparwood
15 years ago I was the only person camping in Elk Lakes Provincial Park.
There wasn't even a ranger at the ranger station - amazing, but a little spooky.

Waterton N.P. has a giant campsite in town - and there are some good cafes there.
But there are backcountry sites you can hike into from town just 1.5 miles away.
Many Glacier is not to be missed - great hiking, pizza cafe at the general store, etc.
Along Going to the Sun Road - opt for Sunrise on the east side and either Avalanche or Sprague on the west.
St. Mary and Apgar are zoos - huge RVs and constant noise - plus you pay extra.

Finally, I suggest US 89 on the east side over Hwy 83 on the west side in Montana.
Hwy 83 has more traffic, fewer shoulders, and limited views because of dense forests.
US 89 has been improved over the years with more shoulders and stunning panoramas.
(Of course, the views sometimes do come with winds - that's the trade-off.)

US 89 south of Great Falls is magically quiet with plenty of camping in the Belt Mountains.
The Eastside Road south of Livingston has almost zero traffic south of Pray.
Hot springs at White Sulphur Spgs and Chico.
Plus, you enter Yellowstone via the historic Arch at Gardiner.

Don't let people scare you about Yellowstone - just plan.
If you ride early and late you will encounter little traffic.
Getting up before sunrise and riding super early also lets you see more wildlife.
Then you can explore trails and scenery during midday.
Also, since all the campgrounds have hiker/biker sites, you can ride late without worry.

If you are entering Yellowstone at the North Entrance, (Gardiner)
then I suggest a route via Norris, Canyon, Lake, and West Thumb.
Norris makes a great overnight stop and you can do an out-and-back to Old Faithful.
(Old Faithful is the zooiest of zoos - they even have a cloverleaf interchange.
Norris geyser basin is so much more rewarding - especially early and late.)
Don not miss the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Hayden Valley - the Serengeti of America.
Best campgrounds - Indian Creek, Norris, Canyon, Lewis Lake. Skip Mammoth, Bridge Bay, and Grant.

Lastly, in Grand Teton N.P. there are great hiker/biker sites at Jenny lake close to the camp store.
Do plan on hiking - esp. from String Lake up to Leigh Lake and beyond.
(The Cascade Canyon Loop is brutal and will take all day on a long summer day.)
Plus, there are great backcountry sites on Leigh Lake and up further.
They require a permit, but you can stow you gear in bear boxes at String Lake.

Hope that helps - - J

Pic - Big Bend Campsite in the backcountry of Jasper N.P.