2018 Cycle Greater Yellowstone: The Road Biking Trip of a Lifetime in Greater Yellowstone

Have you been looking for a new place to ride, one where the land is still as wild as it gets and you can almost imagine that dinosaurs are still meandering around? Cycle Greater Yellowstone has you covered, and even if you’ve done the CGY bike tour in past years, the 2018 route is almost completely new and not to be missed.

The ride will take place Sunday through Friday, August 11-17, 2018, with a bonus ride on Saturday morning in Sinks Canyon. It will cover parts of Wyoming that have never before been a part of the route: Cody, Meeteetse, Thermopolis, Pavillion, Dubois, and Lander. Started in 2013, Cycle Greater Yellowstone (also known as "The First Great Ride in the Last Best Place") exists to help grow awareness for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. Over the years, the event has brought thousands of riders to areas in and around Yellowstone to appreciate the beauty and realize the importance of preserving our country’s lands. Along the way, camping and daily excursions are provided through nonprofit organizations in the area, so the ride has been able to take part in a community grant program that has given back about $175,000 to the various nonprofits on the route over the years. We call that a win-win-win for the local organizations, the riders, and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

The tour sells out almost every year, and if you’ve been craving the companionship of some new riding friends, Coordinator Jennifer Drinkwalter guarantees that the men and women you’ll meet on the ride will become lifetime friends. She’s seen, in past years, people who meet for the first time on day one of the ride and come back the next year as best friends and partners in the adventure.

If you’re looking for a tour that will challenge your riding endurance, but without leaving you totally wiped at the end of the day, this ride might be for you. Not only will you be getting in some serious base miles and having a blast, you’ll be ‘responsibly recreating’ around Yellowstone, which is the main goal of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. Their mission statement reads that members are "people protecting the lands, waters, and wildlife of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, now and for future generations." Just taking the time to ride in the area and combine that recreation with conservation is exactly what the coalition hopes for.

Most days, you’ll be pedaling for a few hours—with the exception of one rest day, where you can still pedal Togwotee Pass—but there’s still plenty of time to explore the small towns that are dotted along the route.

DAY 1: CODY TO MEETEETSE

The first day is just a warm-up, though if the 40 miles you’ll do as a group at the start of a ride isn’t enough, you can always add on 35 extra miles riding next to the Greybull River into the Shoshone National Forest. The tiny town of Meeteetse has less than 400 residents, and your chance of seeing wildlife—like elk, grizzly bears, and the black-footed ferret—is high. (If you opt to add mileage, there are a few mining ghost towns in the area immediately surrounding the town.)

DAY 2: MEETEETSE TO THERMOPOLIS

Your second day of riding will fall around 70 miles through Wyoming, and ending in Thermopolis is a serious bonus. Nestled in Hot Springs County, you’ll be able to soak tired muscles in soothing hot springs. The town is called the Gateway to Yellowstone and boasts the world's largest mineral hot springs. Another bonus? Fifteen miles outside of town in Kirby is the Wyoming Whiskey Distillery.

DAY 3: THERMOPOLIS TO PAVILLION

Day 3 includes plenty of views down into Wind River Canyon. Cycle Greater Yellowstone

Day 3 includes plenty of views down into Wind River Canyon. Cycle Greater Yellowstone

The third day will have you pedaling about 68 miles from Thermopolis (take one last morning hot spring soak if you can!) to Pavillion. You’ll ride through Wind River Canyon to get to Pavillion, where you’ll be enjoying a great night of camping in Pavillion. The river is gorgeous, and you’ll wind through a canyon looking down at the water for much of the ride.

DAY 4: PAVILLION TO DUBOIS

Day 4 brings riders past Crowheart Butte on the way to Dubois Cycle Greater Yellowstone

Day 4 brings riders past Crowheart Butte on the way to Dubois Cycle Greater Yellowstone

With 66 miles of riding plus an option for more, you’ll be feeling ready for the rest day when you pull into Dubois. The town of Dubois is on US Route 26 and is the beginning of the Wyoming Centennial Scenic Byway. It’s also called one of the last ‘Old West’ towns, with a population well under 1,000. Despite the small town vibe, there are a dozen restaurants ranging from Mexican to an old-fashioned American diner to homemade donuts to brick oven pizza to choose from, plus two bars in town to dance the night away.

DAY 5: DUBOIS LAYOVER DAY

Resting in Dubois is a challenge with all the trails and historical sites in and around town OR THE ICONIC TOGWOTEE PASS RIDE. Cycle Greater Yellowstone

Resting in Dubois is a challenge with all the trails and historical sites in and around town OR THE ICONIC TOGWOTEE PASS RIDE. Cycle Greater Yellowstone

OK, ‘rest day’ might not be quite accurate, simply because there are too many things to see on foot or by bike. If you’re still feeling spry, there’s an out-and-back ride through Togwotee Pass, where you cross the Continental Divide. But if you want a day off the bike, there will be hikes in the area. Really need a rest day? Some folks will head to the National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center and then hit the historical bars, following the tracks of Butch Cassidy, trappers, and traders.

DAY 6: DUBOIS TO LANDER

Sinks Canyon, at the southern end of the Wind River Mountains, is a must-see ride - offered on the saturday morning after the ride from dubois to lander. Cycle Greater Yellowstone

Sinks Canyon, at the southern end of the Wind River Mountains, is a must-see ride - offered on the saturday morning after the ride from dubois to lander. Cycle Greater Yellowstone

Your final day of pedaling is a big one of about 75 miles, plus the option to explore Sinks Canyon the next day—a can’t-miss stop filled with beautiful creeks, rivers, and bridges at the base of the southern Wind River Mountains. The hip mountain town of Lander itself is an excellent end point as well. Mountain biker Nancy Miller says despite the town’s major tourist attractions, great restaurants, and amazing breweries, it still has a mountain town vibe and hasn’t started boosting prices to gouge tourists. So your well-deserved pint of beer won’t break the bank.

HOW TO GET IN

Registration is now open for 2018, but it does sell out fast, so make sure you're checking the website regularly for updates. The price tag in 2017 covered all of your meals on the route and in camp, warm showers, camping space, route and gear support, baggage haul from camp to camp, and basic mechanic support, so expect 2018 to be similarly organized.

Originally written by RootsRated for Cycle Greater Yellowstone.

Getting Into the Nitty Gritty

Has it been a year already?  Well almost!  The 2016 Cycle Greater Yellowstone ride was full of big blue skies,  majestic mountain ranges,  rivers for days, roads that stretched towards the horizon and some of the friendliest people in Montana. Good times.

We've been preparing all year, but now we're getting into the nitty gritty:  lead crew members took to the road to look at sites after winter released it's cold grip.

First Stop:  West Yellowstone.  

Rob, CGY Site Coordinator  and Troy, sherpa and recycling leader working for the campground layout in West Yellowstone

Rob, CGY Site Coordinator  and Troy, sherpa and recycling leader working for the campground layout in West Yellowstone

CGY crew members working with a  local manager - rest stop preparation

CGY crew members working with a  local manager - rest stop preparation

Group discussion - parking? tents? showers?

Group discussion - parking? tents? showers?

Lower Mesa falls - day 1 rest stop

Lower Mesa falls - day 1 rest stop

Mary was working with warm river site manager - where do we put the port-a-potties?? 

Mary was working with warm river site manager - where do we put the port-a-potties?? 

Working the campsite  in Warm River, Idaho

Working the campsite  in Warm River, Idaho

Medic team lead, Christi, preparing with EMS in Driggs, Idaho

Medic team lead, Christi, preparing with EMS in Driggs, Idaho

Working with local Community Liaison, Corey McGrath in Driggs, idaho

Working with local Community Liaison, Corey McGrath in Driggs, idaho

Roads Prep - where the support vehicles drive......your gear, food, showers, and yes....always a port-a-potty

Roads Prep - where the support vehicles drive......your gear, food, showers, and yes....always a port-a-potty

Open season!

Open season!

Crew member troy  looking for  the perfect sherpa tent space

Crew member troy  looking for  the perfect sherpa tent space

Site Coordinator Rob walking on the Red road

Site Coordinator Rob walking on the Red road

Sand Dunes  on Red Road, Idaho - we've never brought our riders to the dunes before!

Sand Dunes  on Red Road, Idaho - we've never brought our riders to the dunes before!

Local land owner, dale,  in Kilgore, Idaho - centennials make a nice back drop don't they?

Local land owner, dale,  in Kilgore, Idaho - centennials make a nice back drop don't they?

On the road - always with a bike in tow

On the road - always with a bike in tow

we are tent professionals, promise.

we are tent professionals, promise.

Smile -- this will be fun!

Smile -- this will be fun!

We are looking forward to riding with you in August and showing you more of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the bike saddle.  Until then, ride safely and we'll keep getting ready for CGY 2017.  See you soon!

Photos By Jiayu Su

Sometimes Less is More by John Murphy

Sometimes less is more.  The 2015 Cycle Greater Yellowstone ride included snow, ice, hail,  temperatures in the mid-20’s and grizzly bear patrols.  The 2016 version of the ride offered more of what Montana is known for:  big blue skies,  majestic mountain ranges,  roads that stretch towards the horizon and some of the friendliest people you could ever hope to meet.

Brett Wartenberg and I flew into Bozeman, Montana which served as the starting point for the 2016 ride.  Bozeman is the home of Montana State University and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition which sponsors our ride.  The ride does not begin until Sunday morning.  We decide Saturday is a good day for a warm-up ride to prepare for the seven days of rigorous riding ahead.   We head south out of Bozeman and begin a long uphill ride into the  Gallatin National Forest.  A beautiful mountain steam runs parallel to the road from the reservoir at the top of our climb.  We see a solitary fly fisherman working the stream.  This is the area where many of the scenes in Robert Redford’s A River Runs Through It were filmed.  We slowly wind our way up the mountain road until we arrive at the reservoir at the end of the road.  After a short photo break, we plunge back down the mountain until we hit the outskirts of Bozeman in the valley below.
 

Bozeman, MT Day 1

Bozeman, MT Day 1

We join 300 other riders for the start of the ride on Sunday morning.  Our destination is Livingston,  an old railroad junction which now serves as a magnet of sorts for celebrities who have vacation homes south of town including Meryl Streep, Dennis Quaid and Harrison Ford.  We ride northeast out of Bozeman and begin a long climb up into Bridger Canyon.   The road tops out at Battle Ridge Pass at 6,372 feet where cowboys and native americans reportedly fought in 1878.  From here, we coast downhill towards Livingston.  We pass through the Shields River Valley which the Lewis and Clark expedition passed through in 1806.  We enter Livingston later that afternoon and camp in a park alongside the Yellowstone River.  

John Murphy at Lower Bridger School - an old one room school house along Bridger Canyon Road into Bozeman.

John Murphy at Lower Bridger School - an old one room school house along Bridger Canyon Road into Bozeman.

After riding back to Bozeman the following day,  our ride turns west.  Our destination is Whitehall, population 1,038 which sits squarely in the Jefferson Valley.  It is brutally hot when we arrive at our campsite at Whitehall High School, the alma mater of the late NBC newscaster Chet Huntley.  We soon discover there are virtually no trees in Whitehall and we all scramble to find a shady spot.  The downtown consists of two or three square blocks and has clearly seen better times.  I find a dilapidated laundromat in town with a broken black and white television set on the wall where I settle in to do my laundry. 
 

We continue west the following morning into the Rocky Mountains by way of Pipestone Pass.  Multiple railroads used the pass beginning in 1909 to travel from Chicago to the Pacific Northwest.  The steady but not particularly steep climb up the pass goes on for over 20 miles.  We are told that the Continental Divide cuts directly through the pass near it apex.  I envision a majestic vista with boundary markers and abundant photo opportunities.  Instead, I find that the Continental Divide is marked by an unimpressive wooden sign in a dirt parking lot with a few portable toilets and nothing else to see.  We head down the pass through the towns of Divide and Wise River on our way to our campsite in Dewey beside the Big Hole River.  

Big Hole River, on the way to the "Dewey Bar"

Big Hole River, on the way to the "Dewey Bar"

Dewey has a name but it is hard to describe it as a town.  It appears to consist solely of a general store that closed over 20 years ago and the one-room Dewey Bar.  The primary business in and around Dewey is fly fishing.  

Dewey Bar

Dewey Bar

This afternoon,  the bar is filled with fishing guides and cyclists with their laptops trying to take advantage of the bar’s wifi connection.  Dewey is in “dark territory” in this section of southwestern Montana.  There is no cellular service and the ride staff are joined by a team of volunteer hand-radio operators in order to maintain communications over the next 24 hours.  This hardly matters back at the Dewey Bar.  I grab a Coors and a basket of pretzels and sit on a bench on the porch of the bar chatting with a local television reporter from Bozeman who has joined us for the ride.  Time passes slowly here and what is happening in the rest of the world outside Dewey hardly matters this afternoon.  

Brett Wartenberg, left, John Murphy, right

Brett Wartenberg, left, John Murphy, right

We continue west through an industrial area on the outskirts of Butte, Montana the following day and stop at Bannack,  an old gold mining town that once was home to over 10,000 residents.  Today, Bannack is a ghost town maintained by the State of Montana as a tourist destination.  The town today includes a hotel,  a one-room school house and a church.  In 1864,  Bannack briefly served as the capital of the Montana Territory.  The remainder of our journey takes us through two other gold-mining towns, namely,  Nevada City and Virginia City.  Virginia City is the bigger tourist draw with well-preserved buildings that include music halls, soda shops and assorted eateries.   I stop briefly for a soda in one of the local shops, knowing that a steep 3 to 4 mile climb lies ahead as we leave town.  

Bannack, Montana

Bannack, Montana

As I slowly wind my way out of town through a series of switchbacks,  I see a male and female cyclist of the side of the road.  Given the rigors of the climb,  I slowly pull over towards the side of the road to catch my breath in the guise of merely being sociable.  As I do so,  the woman cyclist asks “Do you see the bear in the tree?”  I instantly decide that rest can wait and turn back up the road at a cadence I did not think I was capable of achieving. 

The remainder of our trip takes us through the towns of Dillon and Ennis.  We ride back to Bozeman on a sunny Saturday morning with the scenic Madison River at our side.  My Garmin shows 490 miles of riding over the last eight days with over 17,500 feet of climbing.  Brett tells me my climbing number is substantially understated.  

CGY2016_Day7-9.jpg

Brett and I have already signed up for the 2017 ride which will run from August 19 to August 25.  The ride will begin in West Yellowstone, Montana and head west into Idaho.  The ride will be shortened to six days with an optional rest day.  On August 21, we will have a prime vantage point in the mountains of eastern Idaho to see a total eclipse of the sun.  Brett and I hope you will join us.  You don’t need to be fast.  You simply need to focus on your endurance as you build up for the ride.  Although this is primarily a camping trip,  the camping is easy.  For a modest fee, you will have a tent set up for you and taken down at each campsite.  Hot showers,  massages,  good food, wine and beer are available at each campsite.  You will stand in awe at the scenery that surrounds you and will make friends that return year after year.  Brett and I would love to share this special experience with you.

By John Murphy