"New Teton Valley Alternate" - CycleBlaze

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"New Teton Valley Alternate"

Karen Cook

Hi,

I was just checking ACA updates for the Trans-Am route and found this on the "updates and corrections" page for section 5.

"(Apr 2021) NEW TETON VALLEY ALTERNATE: Due to safety concerns, some 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. This 139.3 mile alternate to avoid the Park 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_Sec05. There will still be traffic, but we have routed onto 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 Spur joins the main route at the intersection of Teton Park Rd. and US 89/191/287. The alternate, including the Teton Spur, is 80.3 miles longer than the main route through Yellowstone. Here is a pdf that lists services on the alternate."

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/35560313

Has anyone ridden this?  It looks interesting.  I have never ridden through Yellowstone so its something I want to do, but I could pick that up in the future, perhaps in September (when I assume its less crowded), like when I retire some day...

I'm mostly curious and am wondering if anyone knows the area and has an opinion.    Is this detour worth it to avoid traffic?

Thanks!

Karen

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6 days ago
Robert EwingTo Karen Cook

Never been to Yellow Stone but it's on my list. I have ridden on many narrow NP roads that were never designed for modern motor homes. It can be a test of nerves. A ranger once told me that the most frequent bike accidents in the NPs are from cyclists being hit in the back by RV side mirrors. My suggestion is to get the brightest daylight visible blinkie light available and set it to the most annoying flashing pattern and you should be alright.

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6 days ago
Henry DaltonTo Karen Cook

I rode the southern part of the alternate route, from Tetonia south. Tetonia to Victor is a pleasant farm road; fine riding, decent views of the back side of the Tetons, nothing spectacular. From Victor to Jackson over Teton Pass is an uphill slog through the woods; I don't remember the views from the top being particularly great. 

I've ridden in Yellowstone twice. I didn't have any close calls and didn't feel nervous, but maybe I just got lucky and am oblivious. Tourists don't hit the road until 10ish, so if you can get going at the crack of dawn, you'll have the roads to yourself for several hours. Yellowstone has so much to see that it would be a shame to skip it, so if you're nervous about riding there, renting a car for a couple of days would be worth it. And don't skip the Tetons, they're great.

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6 days ago
Jonathan HechtTo Karen Cook

Hi there,

I’ve done the West Yellowstone-thru Yellowstone-to Jackson route once (over 10 years ago), so I’m no expert. But I can tell you it was a bit harrowing back then. And it seems like those motor homes just keep growing. So finding another way to visit that park might be a good idea.


But...the re-route takes you over Teton Pass which is +/- 10% in places. I did that on a carbon fiber bike without gear. I’m not a Tour de France rider, so maybe it was just steep for me, but with gear, oh my. Another re-route possibility would be Swan Valley to Jackson. I’ve also done that route, although from Jackson. However that would add a bunch of miles.

Just some thoughts. 

By the way, I’ve followed a few of your blogs, particularly the ones with Leo. I was lucky enough to visit with him a couple of years ago when he kindly road down from his mountain top to meet me in Valence D'Agen as I was passing through. Also, if your trip brings you to Portland, I’ve got plenty of room...and a garage for bikes!

Jonathan

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6 days ago
Wayne EstesTo Karen Cook

I have pedaled both routes. The route through Yellowstone has more traffic and is higher elevation, with more unpredictable weather. But of course it has the many geothermal features and bison herds. Also several well equipped hiker/biker campgrounds.

The route in Idaho has less traffic, less climbing, less wildlife, and no geothermal features. It has more stores, restaurants, and motels. It has very good views of the Tetons for a few miles between Driggs and Victor, but the views are even better on the park side. It's a well traveled route for cyclists and motorists who want to avoid the crowds and traffic of Yellowstone.

If you have never been to Yellowstone before, I recommend biking through Yellowstone because it's so unique.

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6 days ago
Karen CookTo Jonathan Hecht

Hi Jonathan,

A 10% grade is unpleasant for anyone! ;-)

I'm sure I will be riding through Portland at some point. I may take you up on the offer.  Thanks.

Karen

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5 days ago
Karen CookTo Wayne Estes

Thanks for the input, Everyone.

Once I get to the fork in the road, I imagine I will be going left, towards Yellowstone, but it's always good to have information about alternatives, just in case.  And I assume I will meet west bound riders?

I think this will be kind of a crazy year anyway.  Campgrounds are sold out and I think people will be hitting the road in droves in an attempt for "normalcy" after being cooped up all year.  Hopefully people in their brand new RV's bring patience and good will?  Whether they have any experience driving a house on wheels is another matter.   We shall see...

I'm not overly skittish about traffic but it does seem that pick up trucks are getting larger and mirrors are sticking out farther.

I don't like starting early when its cold (and I imagine it will be cold at 6am even in July) but starting at 6:00am would be good incentive to ride 4-hours or so with lighter traffic.  That's a good tip.

On a totally unrelated side note, the coldest camping night I ever experienced was in Wyoming in July.  Not long out of college I went up in the mountains someplace in the proximity of Cheyenne (in a car) with my brother using some kind of sleeping bag that was likely an army surplus summer bag from my dad.  The temps dipped below freezing.  Lesson learned, and that was with being able to get in the car and blast the heat in the morning.   Why we didn't just sleep in the car with the heat blasted all night just shows how stupid college kids can be. ;-)

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5 days ago
George HallTo Karen Cook

Karen;

I rode thru Yellowstone in the same direction you would on my 2015 "Both ends to the middle" Transam.  I went thru Aug 30 and 31, so there MAY have been less traffic than normal since it was later in the season and the fires were bad that year and some folks may have cancelled their vacation plans.  Regardless, there was plenty of traffic, but it was mostly tolerable.  I had been warned by more than 1 WB cyclist I had met that it was bad traffic in Yellowstone - 1 suggested that I may just want to ride thru the night to get past it!  

In my case, I left West Yellowstone an hour before sunrise and got as far ahead of the tourists as I could - this helped, the normal tourist traffic didn't get bad until 9 - 10 am.  From W Yellowstone to Grant's Village, there was a small shoulder most of the time - maybe 18 inches or so - so that helped a bit.  I stopped at Old Faithful and watched it blow, then ate lunch at the lodge there, and I stopped for wildlife pics and a brief stop at the Prismatic Springs - so I did slow down a bit and do the tourist thing.  It wasn't super horrible traffic-wise that 1st day from W. Yellowstone to Grant's Village, but there was plenty of it.  You can see the small shoulder on the right in the pic below;

"Shoulder" on the Right - Pull-off area on Left

You can also see the "problem" in the pic above - giant RV's, and every one of them is towing another vehicle.  From Grant's Village to the end of the park, there was virtually no shoulder.  Again, I started fairly early to get ahead of the tourists.  But, with no shoulder, even 1 or 2 of those giant RV's behind you makes for a stressful ride, and this day was not as much fun cycling as the day prior.  Going thru Yellowstone was a mixed bag for me - I had never been there, and it was good to see Old Faithful blow and see other sights, but it's not a good cycling situation.  Still, if you leave very early and eat some asphalt before the phat pholks in steel boxes commence rolling, and if you are experienced and confident in your traffic road skills, you will do fine.  Yellowstone is a situation where you sometimes need to ride far enough left so as to "control" the lane and prevent folks from attempting to pass until it's safe.   Below is what the road looked like from Grant's Village to the end of the park;

It's a Fine Road, But There's No Shoulder

Before we changed our plans recently, we were going to ride the Transam this year- would have been my 2nd time - and I was planning on going through Yellowstone again for the benefit of my touring partners.  So it's not like I have nightmares about the traffic there - I would do it again, and I think if you do it that you will be just fine and glad that you got to see Yellowstone.  The alternative route you showed is 80 miles longer - so that's 1-2 days more, plus you miss seeing Yellowstone.  If you want to "do" Yellowstone, then do it!  You will be fine regardless.

One thing to mention - my ride was 6 years ago - it's possible that the roads may have been repaved and perhaps more shoulder added - I suggest you use Google Earth and  evaluate what it looks like along the route before you make a final decision.   Or, you could take the alternate route AND ride through Yellowstone as well - do I have to think of everything?  :>) 

Buddy Hall


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5 days ago
Karen CookTo George Hall

Hi Buddy,

Thanks for the info.  All good tips.  I will strive to pull myself out of my warm sleeping bag early ;-)  And I do want to see Yellowstone...

Actually I was hoping they are maybe doing road work this summer.  I love construction zone traffic breaks when I am riding, especially with pilot cars.  You get long stretches of car free road and can pull over for a minute to let everyone pass at once.  Wishful thinking, eh? ;-)

Karen

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5 days ago
Karen CookTo Wayne Estes

BTW I was thinking that one good thing about going through a National Park is that the speed limits are lower, and more likely to be enforced.

Karen

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5 days ago