Author Topic: TransAmerica Sections 4 & 5. The Teton Valley Alternate to avoid Yellowstone NP  (Read 4878 times)

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Offline CMajernik

Due to safety concerns, some touring cyclists are choosing to visit Yellowstone National Park by renting a vehicle and driving through the Park to see the sights. The Park has heavy traffic with lots of RVs during the summer, and many of the roads are narrow 2-lanes with minimal to no shoulders. The 139.3-mile Teton Valley Alternate, https://ridewithgps.com/routes/35560313, begins in West Yellowstone, MT, and heads south and east through Idaho into Wyoming. The alternate ends in Jackson, WY, where you will connect to the Teton Spur on TA Section #5. There will still be traffic, but the alternate uses several separate bike paths in both ID and WY. The ID state highways are mostly narrow, and have minimal to no shoulders. The 33.5 mile Teton Spur rejoins the main route at the intersection of Teton Park Rd. and US 89/191/287 near Jackson Lake Lodge. The alternate, including the Teton Spur, is 80.3 miles longer than the main route through Yellowstone. See this pdf for services on the alternate: https://www.adventurecycling.org/default/assets/Image/Routes_Maps/Addenda/Teton_Valley_Alternate_services.pdf
Carla Majernik
Routes and Mapping Program Director

Adventure Cycling Association
Inspiring people of all ages to travel by bicycle.
800/755-2453, 406/721-1776 x218, 406/721-8754 fax
www.adventurecycling.org

Follow Routes & Mapping on Twitter: @acaroutes

Offline jamawani

I would like to stress that it is still possible - with care - to tour Yellowstone National Park.
I say that as someone who lives in Wyoming and has toured every mile of park roadway - many times.
Yes, there is considerable traffic, but planning and allocating sufficient time make the difference.
Still, for a bike tour across the U.S., Yellowstone is a major highlight.

There are five segments to consider on the TransAm:
(West-to-East)
1. West Yellowstone to Madison Jct.
2. Madison Jct. to Old Faithful
3. Old Faithful to West Thumb
4. West Thumb to Flagg Ranch
5. Flag Ranch to Colter Bay

Camping with hiker/biker campsites is available at:
Madison, Grant Village, Lewis Lake, and Colter Bay
Additional camping is at/near West Yellowstone (P), Flagg Ranch (P), and Lizard Creek.
Hiker/biker sites have a "No turn-away" policy - which permits late afternoon riding.

EASTBOUND -

1. West Yellowstone to Madison Jct. - 14 miles
Suggested time - Late afternoon/early evening. Greatly reduced traffic.
Moderate shoulders. Gradual uphill in river valley.
Overnight at Madison.

2. Madison Jct. to Old Faithful - 16 miles
Suggested time - Early morning. Light traffic early.
Backroads - Firehole Canyon Rd, Fountain Flat Rd, Old Faithful area bike trail.
Moderate climbing. Moderate shoulders on main road.
Spend midday hiking - few people venture more than 200 yards off pavement.
Restaurants and store. Historic Old Faithful Inn. Super busy.

3. Old Faithful to West Thumb to Grant Village - 19 miles
Suggested time - Late afternoon/early evening. Greatly reduced traffic.
Significant climbing, two mild passes. No shoulders. Fast downhill into West Thumb.
Overnight at Grant Village. Store, Restaurant, Showers.

4. Grant Village to Flagg Ranch - 22 mies
Suggested time - Early morning. Very little traffic southbound.
Rolling to Lewis Falls, then fast downhill. No shoulders.
Store/Restaurant at Flagg Ranch.

5. Flagg Ranch to Colter Bay - 17 miles
Suggested time - Morning. Most traffic still northbound.
Hefty climb on Rockefeller Parkway. Recently rebuilt with shoulders.
Overnight at Coulter Bay or continue on to Jenny Lake

WESTBOUND -

5. Colter Bay to Flagg Ranch - 17 miles
Suggested time - Mid morning. Moderate traffic.
Hefty climb on Rockefeller Parkway. Recently rebuilt with shoulders.
From Jenny Lake, start early morning. Stunning.
Late lunch at Flagg Ranch and hike along Snake River at South Entrance.

4. Flagg Ranch to Lewis Lake - 15 miles
Suggested time - Early Evening. After 6p. Little northbound traffic.
Major climb. No shoulders. Pull off as necessary.
Overnight at Lewis Lake. Have mosquito spray.

3. Lewis Lake to Old Faithful - 26 miles
Suggested time - Very early morning to West Thumb.
Skip Grant Village services turn-off to cross Craig Pass as early as possible.
Rolling to West Thumb. Two mild passes going to Old Faithful. No shoulders.
Restaurants and store. Historic Old Faithful Inn. Super busy.

2. Old Faithful to Madison - 16 miles
Suggested time - Late afternoon. Moderate traffic decreasing in late afternoon.
Backroads - Old Faithful area bike trail, Fountain Flat Rd, Firehole Lake Dr.
Moderate downhill. Moderate shoulders on main road.
Take time to explore thermal features - few people venture more than 200 yards off pavement.
Overnight at Madison

1. Madison to West Yellowstone - 14 miles
Suggested time - Early morning. Very little traffic westbound.
Gentle downhill. Moderate shoulders.
Riverside Dr. backroad option.

<<<>>>

If Madison is first/last overnight in the park,
I suggest camping well west of West Yellowstone.
West Yellowstone is an expensive tourist town and simply nuts.
National Forest campgrounds do not have hiker/biker sites.
Plan to arrive moderately early.

Although Jenny Lake is off of the TransAm route,
there is no more beautiful place to camp than its hiker/biker campground.
Fabulous hikes, camp store.

<<<>>>

I have biked most of the alternate route. Used to live in Jackson.
Teton Pass is steep, narrow, with heavy tourist and commuter traffic.
The Idaho side of the Tetons lacks the spectacular vistas.
North of Ashton is mainly wooded. Mesa Falls are nice on Hwy 47.
US 20 is unpleasant. Busy. The 2-lane sections have little to no shoulder.

I do not believe that it offers enough benefits to outweight riding through Yellowstone.
If - - - if - - - you plan, ride early, and give yourself enough time to do it gradually.
YMMV.

Pic - Yellowstone Lake at West Thumb

Offline Pat Lamb

Like John, I think it's still possible to ride safely through Yellowstone, and I think it's worth the ride.  I can hardly imagine a trans-continental cyclist arriving at Yellowstone, with 1,000-3,000 miles under his or her tires, and find it un-rideable.  (Though I wouldn't recommend someone with no more than bike trail riding experience renting a bike to ride across the park.)

Though his post was well thought out, I'd add two comments and a question.  First, when leaving Old Faithful, wait until 20-30 minutes after an eruption to hit the road.  There'll be a traffic jam of cars, trucks, and RVs leaving, so let them go.  Second, Firehole Canyon Rd. is one way uphill.  It used to be a very narrow two way road, and I've never seen a lot of traffic on it, so if you're west-bound and careful you can likely make it down (and there's some interesting river there!).

My question is, how do you secure your bike and gear for a mid-day hike?

Offline jamawani

Yes, unbelievably thy buit a cloverleaf interchange at Olf Faithful -
To handle the massive exodus after O.F. spouts.
Cars and RVs arrive at all times - but leave all at once.
So, yes, wait a 20-30 minutes and the lanes leading away from O.F. will have less traffic.

Firehole Canyon Rd. is southbound (eastbound) only.
You can be ticketed for riding in the opposite direction.
Bicycles must obey all traffic regulations in the park.
Firehole Lake Rd. is one-way northbounf (westbound) in the geyser basin.
Lovely, practically empty road.

As for leaving your bike. Gotta have trust.
Plus using a cable lock - harder to find places for a U-Bolt.
Double plus - stinky laundry dangling off bungee cords.
The latter tends to discourage too much curiousity.
Of course, I don't leave my wallet, camera, phone etc.

Offline TCS

Due to safety concerns, some touring cyclists are choosing to visit Yellowstone National Park by renting a vehicle...

It makes me sad that after ~45 years of advocating for cycle travel Adventure Cycling is offering a route to bypass the crown jewel of America's National Parks due to motor vehicle traffic.

Is there any organized lobbying effort to extend the cycleways of Jackson and Grand Teton National Park up through Yellowstone?

I can dream of a day when, instead of cyclists renting a car to see Yellowstone, motorists park their car at the entrance and rent a bike to see Yellowstone.
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline staehpj1

I'd still ride there.  I'd recommend riding early in the day and I'd try to avoid weekend traffic.  Sunday isn't bad in the late afternoon/evening.  Also realize that the weekend traffic can start early.  So Friday should be considered the weekend at least the afternoon and evening.

It has been a while since I toured there but traffic seemed to still be okay if you followed those recommendations  when I drove through more recently.

Then again I may be more traffic tolerant than some.

Offline amywally

Due to safety concerns, some touring cyclists are choosing to visit Yellowstone National Park by renting a vehicle...

It makes me sad that after ~45 years of advocating for cycle travel Adventure Cycling is offering a route to bypass the crown jewel of America's National Parks due to motor vehicle traffic.

Is there any organized lobbying effort to extend the cycleways of Jackson and Grand Teton National Park up through Yellowstone?

I can dream of a day when, instead of cyclists renting a car to see Yellowstone, motorists park their car at the entrance and rent a bike to see Yellowstone.

It really is a shame, but safety is one of our highest priorities. We like to think that introducing the Teton Alternate is a perfect case of being proactive, rather than reactive, when it comes to avoiding cyclist crashes/deaths along our route network. Hopefully this decreases this chance by funneling more people around Yellowstone.

I also dream of a day when we can cycle through Yellowstone, unhindered by traffic!

Amy Wally
Routes Department
Adventure Cycling Association

Offline LouMelini

I returned yesterday from my 5th trip through Teton and Yellowstone since 2014, including one during a TransAmerica ride with my wife Julie. I also toured through the parks in 2005 and 1975, the latter date was my 1st trans-America ride. Other than 1975, I've enjoyed my rides through Yellowstone and Teton NPs without incident. I am planning on a future ride where I take the bus from my home in Salt Lake City to West Yellowstone, ride a week in the Parks, then return by bus from Jackson.

If people wish to use a car to travel in Yellowstone, that is OK with me. I don't find the Parks unsafe to warrant renting a car or riding the alternate route. Are there statistics of bicycle/car accidents in the Park? If there are significant numbers of incidents, then I can see strongly suggesting an alternative.

Julie and I have a timeshare in Island Park, about 27 miles south and west of West Yellowstone on route 20. As Jamawami stated, route 20 is unpleasant with high speed traffic and lots of large trucks. I'm not sure if that is a safer alternative to Yellowstone NP. In Yellowstone the speed limit is 45 and regularly patrolled (I saw two cars pulled over on this recent ride).

Jamawami also gave good advice about biking in the park. Following that advice would help make one's experience better, perhaps better than the alternate route north of Ashton. Taking the trail on the alternate route and the bike trail south to Victor Idaho is a good idea.

The road north of the South Entrance of Yellowstone is narrow and does not have a shoulder, perhaps the most unpleasant road in the park. I would hope that the ACA's new advocacy director would lobby the park service to improve this road in any way possible. It should be a high priority, even if it means providing a grant of money to accomplish that goal.

Offline TCS

It really is a shame, but...

So is that a 'no' on a lobbying effort to either fix the roads or extend the cycleways?
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline CMajernik

In previous years we have had a staff person working with some of the national parks on bicycling infrastructure. Presently she is on vacation until June 14. I don't know what the status is with Yellowstone. I've let her know about this conversation, so she can add to it when she returns.
Carla Majernik
Routes and Mapping Program Director

Adventure Cycling Association
Inspiring people of all ages to travel by bicycle.
800/755-2453, 406/721-1776 x218, 406/721-8754 fax
www.adventurecycling.org

Follow Routes & Mapping on Twitter: @acaroutes

Offline scottmoses

What are the implications for the new Parks Peaks Prairies route that starts in West Yellowstone and continues across the park, assuming an eastbound rider?  I'd be particularly interested in the thoughts of jamawani.  Given the discussion so far, I am considering to start at Bridge Bay rather than West Yellowstone since I have that option.

Offline jamawani

Scott -

Start in West Yellowstone if you have never toured the park before.

My suggestion if you have the time -

Night 1 - Norris
Night 2 - Canyon
Night 3 - Rex Hale

Day 1 - The earlier you start the shorter the line at the entrance. Plus, less traffic.
The road to Madison has moderate shoulders and is quite scenic.
Maybe detour down the Firehold Canyon Road and along the Firehole River to some out-of-the-way geysers.
Later afternoon back to Madison and early evening to Norris.
Then do an evening walkabout in the Norris Geyser Basin.

Day 2 - Just to Canyon - use Virginia Cascades Road eastbound - got some uphill to do. Set up camp early.
If you are daring head over to the South Rim - but hike either on the North or South to get away from the crowds.
The roads are zoos, but go 200 yards off pavement and nobody.
The rim trails are fairly busy - Seven Mile Hole (N) & Ppoint Sublime Trail (S) are sweet.

Day 3 - Early, early start and the Hayden Valley will blow your socks off it is so beautiful.
The RVs and family SUVs don't get out there until 7 or 8. If you start by 5:30 it can be magical.
Spend some time exploring the lakeshore of Yellowstone Lake. The Inn is lovely.
More climbing to get to Sylvan Pass and its tiny little lake.
Then a murderous downhill to Pahaska - but no tent camping for a chunk of miles.
Continue following the Shoshone River's gorgeous canyon to Rex Hale where tent camping is legal.
Reservations essential. Clearwater - 2 miles east - has walk-in tent sites.

(Two days - overnight at Canyon; skip the Firehole; get a little Canyon hiking in.)

Offline CMajernik

To TCS:
I checked with my coworker in the Advocacy Dept., and she said: I don't know of an organized effort to push for trails in Yellowstone. The Great American Rail Trail corridor is planned through YNP, but that is a very long term project so there aren't any efforts yet.

Sincerely,
Carla Majernik
Routes and Mapping Program Director

Adventure Cycling Association
Inspiring people of all ages to travel by bicycle.
800/755-2453, 406/721-1776 x218, 406/721-8754 fax
www.adventurecycling.org

Follow Routes & Mapping on Twitter: @acaroutes