June 21, 2010
Common knowledge among the mountain-biking crowd is that there's no off-road riding in Yellowstone National Park, where the hiking paths are indeed off-limits to bicycles. Last week I made a circuit around the park with my full-suspension Jamis to determine if the rumor is true or not.
The photo at the top of this page was taken at the southern end of the Bunsen Peak Road, an old two-track path that offers a challenging ride of about six miles (twelve miles out and back) not far from Mammoth Hot Springs. Total solitude, and this sign at the trailhead did get my attention. (The black scribbling reads, "Sow w/ four cubs in the area.")
Always bear aware in Yellowstone, another good, albeit short two-mile out-and-back ride (four miles total) led me along a lovely stretch of the upper Firehole River to Lone Star Geyser, located not far from the much better known Old Faithful geyser.
Other options are available, too, a couple of which I sampled. All in all, I say it's definitely worth hauling your mountain bike to Yellowstone. There's also a ton of great riding — some of the best on Earth, in fact — in the national forests surrounding the world's first national park.
Yellowstone National Park photos by Michael McCoy
BIKING WITHOUT BORDERS was posted by Michael McCoy, Adventure Cycling’s field editor, highlighting a little bit of this or a little bit of that — just about anything, as long as it related to traveling by bicycle. Mac also compiles the organization's twice-monthly e-newsletter Bike Bits, which goes free-of-charge to over 45,000 readers worldwide.
While we feel mountain biking has it's place, as a company that leads backpacking trips through Yellowstone, we are opposed to mountain biking in the backcountry for a number of reasons. We view wilderness as an opportunity to learn about the natural world, to pursue solitude, renewal, to have an appropriate adventure in wild country and to get in touch with my wild self. It's hard to do this well when passing by nature at a high rate of speed.
Also, A few years ago in the DuNoir three mountain bikers were attacked by a grizzly bear. To a grizzly bear (and a mountain lion) mountain bikers probably look like prey.
Mountain bikers have other options and opportunities to ride. Wildlife are limited to wildlands. If you can ride a mountain bike you can hike. The backcountry is home to a multitude of species and processes that are wilderness dependent. It is the responsibility of humans to provide habitat for these species experiences, while they pursue their own good, in their own time, unrelated to human desire and convenience.
So, while we feel mountain bikers should be free to enjoy their sport in designated areas, we are opposed to mountain biking in the backcountry of national parks and wilderness areas.
Howie and Marilyn Olsen
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Howie and Marilyn, thanks for your comments. I couldn't agree more, as long as you're equating 'backcountry' with federally designated wilderness (and because you write "... we are opposed to mountain biking in the backcountry of national parks and wilderness areas," I assume this is what you mean). However, if you're saying that mountain bikes should be excluded from non-wilderness backcountry--well, that gets a bit dicier. I would contend that this needs to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Just where does the front country end and the backcountry begin?
BTW, if it's the same instance you're referring to, I wrote about that bear attack near Togwotee Pass in the "Waypoints" section of the November/December 2004 Adventure Cyclist magazine. In that case, one man was attacked and the grizzly was ultimately repelled through a combination of pepper spray, the other two men's screaming, and the barking of a dog, who was also along for the 'ride.'
As you know, plenty of hikers have also been attacked by grizzlies--including hunters, who are the quietest of hikers. Not to mention campers, as evidenced by this summer's tragic event over on Soda Butte Creek.