The last bike tour that Mary and I did together was with Lizard Head in and near Yellowstone National Park in August 2019. We biked EFI (every fricking inch) for the first four days with the following itinerary.
Day 0 (Saturday, August 17): Fly from San Diego to Seattle and on to Bozeman. Day 1 (Sunday, August 18): Shuttle to West Yellowstone and then bike to Canyon Village (40 miles & 2,500 ft of climbing); this was my best birthday ever: riding a bike with my best friend through spectacular scenery in perfect weather with a tailwind! Day 2 (Monday, August 19): Canyon Village <-> Yellowstone Lake with side trips to the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (47 miles & 2,300 ft). Day 3 (Tuesday, August 20): Canyon Village -> Grant Village (66 miles & 3,700 ft). Day 4 (Wednesday, August 21): Grant Village -> Cody (103 miles & 3,400 ft).
Mary did these challenging rides with a cold that worsened each day. By the time she got to Cody, she was exhausted and decided that she could not bike the even tougher days ahead. Thus she rested on Day 5 and flew home on Day 6 😦
I continued on, however, with the following itinerary.
Day 5 (Thursday, August 22): Out-and-back from Cody along South Fork Road (52 miles & 2,000 ft). Day 6 (Friday, August 23): Cody -> Cooke City (77 miles & 8,000 ft). Day 7 (Saturday, August 24): Cooke City -> Red Lodge (66 miles & 5,300 ft); shuttle back to Bozeman.
Photos and commentary follow.
Day 0: Saturday, August 17. I had a great view of the High Sierra during our flight to Seattle; Thousand Island Lake is at the lower left, Banner Peak and Mount Ritter are at the lower center, and Mammoth Mountain is at the upper right. Mount Rainier towers above the clouds in this view from our flight to Bozeman.
Day 1: Sunday, August 18. After a morning shuttle, we biked from West Yellowstone to Canyon Village; we followed the Madison River upstream to its source at the junction of the Gibbon and Firehole Rivers; we whizzed along with a tailwind most of the day At the river junction, we continued up the Gibbon River Steam vents are prominent throughout the Norris Geyser Basin Emerald Spring gets its beautiful color from the combination of yellow from sulphur lining the pool and reflected blue light from the sky Steamboat Geyser is the world’s tallest! major eruptions of 300 ft are infrequent; minor eruptions of 10 to 15 ft are common; although it is just steaming here, I have a video of a minor eruption Day 2: Monday, August 19. We biked an out-and-back from Canyon Village to Yellowstone Lake We followed the Yellowstone River for miles; on the way back we stopped at Hayden Valley, shown here, which is prime habitat for bison This one was on the other side of the road; we saw lone males every day in the park but no herds; they were reportedly further north in Lamar Valley, which is closed to bicycle tours When we neared Canyon Village, we took side trips to the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone; this famous view is of the Lower Falls The Upper Falls, though not as tall, is also impressive; we biked across the bridge above the falls Day 3: Tuesday, August 20. We biked from Canyon Village to Grant Village and went past many more steam vents Old Faithful was true to its name; thousands of people joined us to watch this spectacle; I also have videos of the eruption We crossed the Continental Divide from west to east twice; this first crossing of the day at Craig Pass featured Isa Lake, a narrow little lake covered with lily pads You can read here about this remarkable little lake Day 4: Wednesday, August 21. We biked from Grant Village to Cody, outside the park; here are our vans and trailers at the first rest stop; the bikes on top of the blue trailer belong to guests who wanted a “bump” so they would not need to do the entire 103-mile ride Throughout the park, we passed miles and miles of burnt trees from various fires, the most massive of which were in 1988; these trees are above Yellowstone Lake After a steady climb, we reached Sylvan Pass at Mile 43; from here we had 60 miles of downhill to Cody! along the way, we left the park via its east entrance and encountered sporadic showers Our long downhill followed the North Fork Shoshone River We biked through three tunnels at Shoshone Canyon; this is the first and longest one A weary but relieved Mary stands in front of the cabins at Buffalo Bill Village in Cody, our home for this night and the next; her face and helmet are spattered with mud from drafting me on rain-soaked roads; in the four days since we left West Yellowstone, we biked EFI (every fricking inch) without a shuttle, covering 256 miles and climbing 11,900 feet
Day 5: Thursday, August 22. This was an optional rest day, but I chose to do a relatively easy out-and-back ride on South Fork Road, which follows the valley of the South Fork Shoshone River; the lack of traffic compared to Yellowstone was a pleasant change; I got worried when my thermometer hit 93 °F before the turnaround; fortunately clouds moved in and dropped the temperature by 10 °F The most distinctive landmark along the way was Castle Rock, shown here left of the sign Day 6: Friday, August 23. I was one of only six or so guests who biked all 77 miles from Cody to Cooke City; most shuttled the first 17 miles to the start of the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, which covered all but 13 of the remaining miles to Cooke City These are the long, sweeping switchbacks that I climbed at the start of the byway Eventually I got to Dead Indian Pass (8,071 ft), which commemorates the unsuccessful 1877 flight of the Nez Perce to escape the US Army; this is the jaw-dropping view of the switchbacks I descended from the pass; at the bottom, I crossed Dead Indian Creek and had a gradual climb from there almost all the way to Cooke City After crossing Dead Indian Creek, the byway first goes along a bench above the canyon of Clarks Fork Yellowstone River and later follows the river itself; Pilot Peak is the pointed spire in the distance This group photo in Cooke City shows our 20 guests (without Mary) and four guides Day 7: Saturday, August 24 The last day’s ride was entirely on the Beartooth Highway from Cooke City to Red Lodge; the first 13 miles retraced the end of the previous day’s ride except that the temperature was in the 30s most of the way and reached a low of 35 °F! fortunately it got warmer once the sun came up and we started to climb; this view back shows Pilot Peak in the morning light Once again, there were long, sweeping switchbacks to climb; this view back above timberline is just below the summit Here I am at Beartooth Pass, the high point of the tour! After crossing the summit plateau, I was treated to an incredible downhill all the way to Red Lodge; long straights were broken up by these spectacular switchbacks going down; at one point I hit 43 mph in a 45 mph zone! Four happy bikers celebrate the end of an awesome tour in Red Lodge; Bruce, Ilse, and Jeff are friends from Vancouver who biked with Mary and me in Arizona three years before; in the final three days, I biked 195 miles and climbed 15,300 feet, which gave a total of 451 miles and 27,200 feet for the week