Poll

After going from Tucson to Glacier, and doing the Going-to-the-Sun Road, what would you rather recommend? (supposed there's not enough time for both)?

Continuing into Canada up to Jasper
4 (100%)
Doing the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway
0 (0%)

Total Members Voted: 4

Author Topic: Route Tucson to Glacier [AZ, UT, CO, WY, MT]  (Read 2827 times)

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Offline John Nettles

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Re: Route Tucson to Glacier [AZ, UT, CO, WY, MT]
« Reply #15 on: October 25, 2022, 10:13:41 am »
Stephan,

Looks like a great tour! Since you are willing to do gravel, you will love the Greys River area between point 41 and Alpine.  Just wonderful. Toward the top it is a bit rocky but if you take your time, it is doable, especially after you lose about 1000'.  There are a couple of rough spots where the river may have flooded the road but again it is a wonderful ride.

My overall concern is you are just a little early, not just for the weather but also I would not at all be surprised if lots of the services and campgrounds are not open yet.  For instance, the above Greys River Road may not be passable yet in mid-May and if it is, it very well be quite muddy.  I would definitely check with the local forest service office to get their opinion.  By starting 2-3 weeks later, you give yourself a much better chance of being able to do your route vs. a "detour" route due to closings.  Sure it may be a bit warm in Tucson but it will cool off fairly quickly as you head north. 

Another good climate source is WeatherSpark.com.

As far as Canada vs. the Skyline Drive, Canada definitely wins, due to the wonderful Icefields Highway.  Additionally, you end up near Edmonton which has a lot better international connections than the most parts of the Blue Ridge. 

Another option if you have even about a month more is to continue north to Whitehorse, YT.  This has a nonstop flight on Condor to Frankfort for around $600. Then you could come back at a later date and ride from Whitehorse to Prudhoe Bay, AK or Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories on the Arctic Ocean.  Then your next leg would start back in Tucson as you head south toward Ushuaia, Argentina thus allowing you to ride the entire length of the Americas!

Anyway, it looks like you got a great ride ahead of you! Tailwinds, John

Offline Stefan_E

Re: Route Tucson to Glacier [AZ, UT, CO, WY, MT]
« Reply #16 on: October 25, 2022, 11:26:10 am »
John Nettles and jamawani, thank you very much for your detailed information concerning roads. I will certainly retrace it on my map.

Also thanks to everyone for the deliberation between Canada and the Appalachians - it is going to be Canada then.

Seeing now that starting mid-March in Arizona might be between 2 and 4 weeks to early, I am thinking if I should do the trip the other way round:

- Starting in Canada mid-August
- Hitting Glacier just after Labor Day
- Entering Yellowstone mid-September
- Utah in October
- Grand Canyon end of October (maybe even North Rim)
- Arriving in Tucson Mid-November

Does this seem more realistic? Or is there just no reasonable way to avoid the summer holiday season in the US without getting in trouble with the weather?

Offline jamawani

Re: Route Tucson to Glacier [AZ, UT, CO, WY, MT]
« Reply #17 on: October 25, 2022, 12:04:04 pm »
Stefan -

Just in the few responses - it seems clear that the Canadian Rockies is the clear choice.

AND - - -
Your timing is not just a little off, but way off.
Some of the others here live outside of the Intermountain West.
I have lived in Wyoming & Montana for 30+ years. Including Jackson.
I live in Buffalo, now, which has "mild" weather compared to the Tetons and Yellowstone.

We have a high-altitude, continental climate.
It is more than just cold temperatures and snow.
It means highly variable conditions - much more so than in Germany or Virginia.
Last week it was 77F (25C) all week with sunshine and bright blue skies.
Anyone touring then would tell people, "It's great cycling Wyoming in October."
But a few years a go a professor from the University of Louisville died in October -
in a fast-moving, intense early October blizzard.

https://www.louisvillecardinal.com/2017/10/university-professor-dies-wyoming/

Spring is even more problematic because it seems to be more variable -
Plus there is a winter's worth of snow still on the ground in higher elevations.
That's why the North Rim (el. 2500m) doesn't open until May 15.
Most Yellowstone campgrounds (el. 2200m) don't open until mid June.

I would urge you to follow wildflower season as you head north.
That means somewhere around July 15 in Glacier - -
So then May 15 in Tucson?? (No earlier than May 1 - which I don't recommend.)
Plus, you can then hike across the Grand Canyon.
The reason there is a "Grand" Canyon is the elevation of the plateau.
Much of northern Ariz. and southern Utah is above 2000m.

If you have a 90-day visa - you could do the Skyline Drive loop in the beginning of May.
Fly into Washington, DC. (Dulles Airport terminal is a mid-20th C. masterpiece by Saarinen.)
And an early May loop in the Shanandoah Valley and back on Skyline Drive is a lovely warm-up.
Or you can connect from many airports right into Tucson. LAX may be easiest.

https://www.atlasofplaces.com/atlas-of-places-images/ATLAS-OF-PLACES-EERO-SAARINEN-ASSOCIATES-DULLES-INTERNATIONAL-AIRPORT-IMG-2.jpg

The nice thing about going north into Canada is that you won't have as much pressure from the 90-day visa.
Of course, you have to have a return flight out of Canada and not re-enter the U.S.
You may save money by flying into and back from Canada and making connections from Canadian airports.

I don't know how stretched you will be for money.
It's $100 to ship your bike and gear from the South Rim to the North Rim -
but it is absolutely worth it.
Be glad to help you plan since I have done it so many times.
https://www.trans-canyonshuttle.com/rim-to-rim-shuttle-schedules

My Canada suggestion is north to Jasper then west to Prince Rupert.
Oh - - and there are great bikes-permitted trails deep into the Canadian Rockies.
(There's a train from Prince George to Prince Rupert if you need to save time.)
https://www.vacationsbyrail.com/expert-advice-inspiration/2021/january/five-things-you-may-not-know-about-via-rails-skeena-train/

If you have time, even a short trip out to Haida Gwaii is worth it.
https://travelingbc.com/haida-gwaii-travel-guide/
Than ferry (1st) or fly (2nd) down to Vancouver and back to Germany.

Pic - Mount Robson Provincial Park - You can cycle into Kinney Lake and hike up to Berg Lake

Offline jamawani

Re: Route Tucson to Glacier [AZ, UT, CO, WY, MT]
« Reply #18 on: October 25, 2022, 01:53:34 pm »
Stefan -

Kann ich 'Nein' sagen?
The longest day of the year is June 21.
The best 90 days for daylight are May 7 thru Aug 6.
The best days for temperatures are about June 1 thru Aug 31.

The autumn trip is way too late regarding temperatures,
but also very short days and many park closures.

I understand that you want to avoid crowds.
We all do. But there are other ways of doing so.
I have camped on the cliffs north of Golder Gate Bridge -
Where there are three backcountry campsites and the park is closed at night.
The same applies to the major national parks.
If you are flexible, why deprive yourself of the best season?

Also, in spring and fall Americans still travel in their giant RVs.
When I lived in Jackson, May and Spetember used to be for locals.
They are not any more. They are as busy as summer with fewer facilities.
Almost no one tent camps these days - too difficult, I suppose.
Walk-in tent sites can be amazingly empty even in a busy park.

I have only looked closely at your Arizona section so far.
I'm not sure about your experience level or what you want to get out of this trip.
This is especially important regarding remote dirt roads.
Grays River Road is gorgeous, but had moderate traffic.
There are other dirt roads where you may not see anyone all day.

Of course, the natural beauty is always on the list.
But are you also interested in Native American cultures?
What about ecosystems - not just the eye-popping ones - but deserts, mesas, and valleys?
And the towns along the way? Plus, any friends you plan on stopping to see?

Pic - Empty Road, Red Hills, Wyoming - turns to dirt at the cattle guard ahead

Offline ray b

Re: Route Tucson to Glacier [AZ, UT, CO, WY, MT]
« Reply #19 on: October 25, 2022, 03:58:30 pm »
(Juan - might have said it before, but we are waiting to purchase your guidebook including the chapter on how and how not to plan routes.... Many thanks for your contributions.)
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline jamawani

Re: Route Tucson to Glacier [AZ, UT, CO, WY, MT]
« Reply #20 on: October 25, 2022, 04:09:15 pm »
(Juan - might have said it before, but we are waiting to purchase your guidebook including the chapter on how and how not to plan routes.... Many thanks for your contributions.)

It's buried deep in some computer file I am no longer able to find.   ;-)
Thanks - J

Offline Stefan_E

Re: Route Tucson to Glacier [AZ, UT, CO, WY, MT]
« Reply #21 on: October 26, 2022, 02:48:10 am »
jamawani, thank you. I try to answer to all the points you made.

- Nein sagen, yes you can. I totally see your point concerning the seasons. So I will start in May.

- I will have a proper Visum, so I am not restricted to 90 days

- The shuttle for the bike from South to North Rim sounds great, another argument for a later start

- I am experienced in dealing with heavy traffic, but avoiding it is still preferred of course. The AZ 89A Sedona to Flagstaff sees mostly leisure traffic? Then an early start on weekdays would be advisable. In general I prefer cycling on paved roads, but longer stretches of unpaved road are also fine if they are worth it.

- I did some cycling in remote areas, like in the Balkans, but not for several days like would have to in the US. But I think I can scale that up, so im not that concerned.

- I already thought about continuing to Prince Rupert and taking the ferry, depends on how fast I advance on my trip. Taking Via Rail to Prince Rupert would save time and looks great, too. It's good to hear you would recommend it.

- Native American culture, yes I am interested, thats why I would do a detour to Mesa Verde and other monuments.

- Friends, well, only one in LA. So I could start there instead of Tucson, but Tucson is more suitable for a south north route.

So far, still happy about recommendations further north.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Route Tucson to Glacier [AZ, UT, CO, WY, MT]
« Reply #22 on: October 26, 2022, 10:38:11 am »
Since you are starting later, a couple of other suggestions if you are willing to do gravel. 

I personally think this route https://ridewithgps.com/routes/41304095 is more scenic than your route between points 35 & 41.  Granted, mine is more remote but I prefer scenery over other factors generally.

Depending on your updated arrival time, if you can handle remote high altitude, and it has not been raining recently, I highly recommend the Gravelly Range Road between Centennial Valley Road which you access via point 45 & I-15 on your map.  It is a high alpine meadow two-track road that if you hit it when the wildflowers are in season is wonderful.  Note that you either have to carry your own water and/or filter from the various streams or snow banks.  You still might be a bit early for the wildflowers but since you are going that way anyway, you can keep it available if the conditions work. Here are some photos of the Gravelly Range Road:
https://www.bigskyfishing.com/scenic-drives/photographs/gravelly-range/gravelly-range-18.php

Tailwinds, John


Offline Stefan_E

Re: Route Tucson to Glacier [AZ, UT, CO, WY, MT]
« Reply #23 on: October 26, 2022, 01:48:13 pm »
Thank you John, I added your first suggestion to my route and saved the second one.

Doing it later in the year, I changed the route also between Moab and Grand Junction, taking the La Sal Loop Road, then North End Taylor Flat Road and CO141. It's around number 37 in my updated route now.
Any feedback on that route are still very welcome :-)

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Route Tucson to Glacier [AZ, UT, CO, WY, MT]
« Reply #24 on: October 26, 2022, 01:55:21 pm »
Consider this route https://goo.gl/maps/YZnkZQQeJmmQp7rG7 for the return from Islands in the Sky.  Check out the photos near the twisty part.  Nice ride but definitely easier toward Moab as it is downhill.

Offline Stefan_E

Re: Route Tucson to Glacier [AZ, UT, CO, WY, MT]
« Reply #25 on: October 26, 2022, 03:36:36 pm »
Consider this route https://goo.gl/maps/YZnkZQQeJmmQp7rG7 for the return from Islands in the Sky.  Check out the photos near the twisty part.  Nice ride but definitely easier toward Moab as it is downhill.

Done, thanks. I did see it on the map, but wasn't sure if it's possible without a mountain bike.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Route Tucson to Glacier [AZ, UT, CO, WY, MT]
« Reply #26 on: October 26, 2022, 04:17:43 pm »
It is better than Grey's River Road further north.  Sure you might get some sandy spots but it was fine about 7 years ago  ;) .

Offline jamawani

Re: Route Tucson to Glacier [AZ, UT, CO, WY, MT]
« Reply #27 on: October 27, 2022, 05:27:43 pm »
Stefan -

I've lived mostly in Wyoming since 1990 and taught in Montana.
My sister lives in New Mexico - so I know the Four Corners regions pretty well too.
I tend to recommend caution with the weather because it is so highly variable.
People who have only taken a trip or two out West may have been lucky.
Especialy in the spring or fall when things can change in a matter of hours.

I noticed that you mentioned whether or not you should have a mountain bike.
If you plan on doing a lot of dirt roads - you should.
You heard about the flooding in Yellowstone.
Floods like that are not uncommon in the Intermountain West.
Arid regions with 10 inches of average rainfall don't get 8 inches one year and 12 the next.
They might get 2 years with 10 inches; 6 with 3-5 inches; 1 with 20; and one with 36.

What that means is that remote dirt roads that are o.k. one year may be horrible the next.
They are rarely maintained and can have deep washouts.
I have had two crashes where I came over a little rise and there was a huge gully.
And I was on a mountain bike both times.
Plus, it's not like the Balkans - because you may be 150+ km from any water or assistance.

Some shorter dirt segments are o.k. - provided you touch base with others here.
AND you inquire on your ride with reliable sources before you head out.

Southern Utah -

Be aware that bicycles are not allowed through the Zion N.P. tunnel.
I have bothered ZNP for years about the hardship this places upon cyclists.
Bicycles haven't gotten bigger over the years - it's the huge RVs.
There is one-way traffic with a flagger most of the year.
Sometimes the flagger will try to help you get a truck for your bike.
Other times you have to beg for yourself.
(This is especially dangerous for women cyclists.)

Also, Zion has no hiker/biker campsites.
You need to reserve a campsite well in advance.
Yes, that is difficult to do 3 weeks into your tour -
but you have to make your best guess and do it early.
I'll write Zion yet again asking for them to improve cyclist access.

If you cannot find camping in the park and stealth camp,
you can be arrested - esp. if you are in the park - and face a large fine.

Camping can also be a challenge at Bryce and Capitol Reef.
But Zion is the worst with the highest visitation levels.
Both Bryce and Capitol have public lands just ourside the parks.
Or - - - you can plan a short day into the park,
so that you arrive at the campground aby noon.

Utah Hwy 95 is verrrryy remote.
And the Hite Crossing store/marina has been iffy over the years.
Part of the reason is because reservoir water levels are at record lows.
If boats can't access the lake, then the marina closes.
If the store/marina is closed it is 150 km from Hanksville to Natural Bridge.

https://www.nps.gov/glca/planyourvisit/hite.htm

You will probably want to head into Blanding to resupply.
And wash the red dust off.

Best - Juan



« Last Edit: October 27, 2022, 06:39:51 pm by jamawani »

Offline Stefan_E

Re: Route Tucson to Glacier [AZ, UT, CO, WY, MT]
« Reply #28 on: October 28, 2022, 04:44:25 am »
Juan, yes, now that I have longer gravel roads in my route, I would definitely have gravel tires on my bike. It's a high quality steel touring bicycle that has seen a lot of really bad roads. But things can go bad always, as in your examples. And without a friend I would probably stay on regular roads completely, too much risk if something goes wrong.

I know about Zion and the tunnel. It's nice that you are urging the NPS to improve conditions for cyclists. It is in their own interests to do so. Good to know about Bryce and Capitol Reef, too. I will be there in the morning to be safe.

Offline jamawani

Re: Route Tucson to Glacier [AZ, UT, CO, WY, MT]
« Reply #29 on: October 28, 2022, 04:35:26 pm »
Here is a suggestion for Jackson Hole - low traffic, scenic, and sane.
I lived in Jackson for a number of years. Even then it was busy.
Now it's crazy - and expensive - and a hang-out for the mega-rich.
But the scenery is amazing - the hiking world-class.
And there's a hiker-biker campsite right on Jenny Lake.

Your map is simply wrong at km 3322 -
Where it puts you on the Old Highway east of the Snake River.
There was a landslide 30+ years ago - locals try to keep a deer trail.
But the hillside keeps sliding and it varies from year to year if you can get through.
Not to mention that the bike trail along U.S. 89 is o.k., but loud and with gas fumes.

Since you are coming north from Alpine - the Snake River Canyon is nice with good shoulders -
You should plan to turn north on Wilson - Fall Creek Rd. - about 5 miles south of Hoback. Well signed.
The first 5 miles are gravel then paved - light traffic, but not empty. Worth it.

From Wilson you can take a paved bike trail with a great bridge across the Snake River into Jackson.
There is an Albertson's grocery, two bike shops, and a department store right at the juntion of US 89 and Hwy 22.
If you are interested, you can take city streets (Alpine, Snow King, Cache) into the middle of town.
And, you can also head due north from town, but I would head back west and take Spring Creek Road.
Spring Creek has protected lands and gorgeous first views of the Tetons. Light-moderate traffic.

I would cross US 89 and the bike trail and head northeast towards Gros Ventra Campground.
There's a warm springs at Kelly if you want to take a dip.
Then head north on Mormon Row - the views are the best in the valley.
Then swing around the north end of Blacktail Butte and onto the paved bike trail into the park.
I have never had any problems getting a campsite at the Jenny Lake hiker/biker area.
People with cars wait for days to get into the campground.
There is a ranger station and a camp store just a few hundred meters away.

If you wish, you can backcountry camp a night or two heading into the high country -
or you can backcountry camp along some small lakes at the base of the Tetons.
I'll tell you how if you are interested.

Best - Juan