Every year since 2013, the Cycle Greater Yellowstone ride has led hundreds of riders through some of the most picturesque scenery the West has to offer. Those who are up for the challenge can expect big days in the saddle, long climbs, longer descents, weather ranging from sunny to snowy—and the ride of your life.
The route changes every year and the host towns are as varied as the landscape. In 2018, cyclists from all over the country will haul their bikes and bodies up almost 16,000 feet across 350 miles (with up to 150 additional miles and 7,900 more feet to climb!) over the 7-day ride. From behind the handlebars, riders get intimate with Old West history, abundant wildlife, and stunning views. In 2018, the ride will be completely contained within the state of Wyoming, starting in Cody. Here’s our guide to each of the towns you’ll experience while on the route.
Founded by famed Pony Express rider, scout, and showman Buffalo Bill Cody, the “Rodeo Capital of the World” is steeped in cowboy culture. Buffalo Bill visited the area in the 1870s and immediately fell in love with the rich soil, natural beauty, and proximity to Yellowstone National Park. In 1872, Yellowstone became the world’s first national park, and Cody is the gateway.
Other outdoor adventures in and around Cody include rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, fly fishing, horseback riding, and river rafting. The postcard-worthy downtown is lined with unique shopping boutiques where you can find one-of-a-kind gifts from local artisans, browse through fine Native American and Western-style art galleries, and indulge in worldly and local cuisine. Fancy some Rocky Mountain oysters, wild game, or buffalo burgers? How about Mexican, Italian, or Asian fusion? Cody has it all.
After riding for 40 miles, riders find themselves camped in Meeteetse. A Shoshone word for “meeting place,” Meeteetse is a tiny town with a population of fewer than 400. The sidewalks are still wooden boardwalks and hitching rails and water troughs still line the streets. The town may be small, but the area has plenty to offer. Put in a few more miles to go along the Greybull River and Wood River towards the Absaroka Mountains.
The jagged Absaroka Mountains meet the Wyoming Badlands and deliver some of the best fishing, hunting, sightseeing, and wildlife viewing in the West. Grizzly bears, elk, deer, wolves, wild horses, and moose call the area home. In 1981, the last wild population of black-footed ferrets was discovered in Meeteetse since then, all black-footed ferrets alive today descend from that colony. (Fun fact: a group of ferrets is called a “business.”)
Day 2 finds riders cruising 72 miles to Thermopolis. It’s mostly downhill, but there is still 2,000 feet of climbing and the town just happens to be home to the largest mineral hot springs in the world. It’s the perfect place to soak those tired, worked muscles. Every day, 135-degree water flows over rainbow-colored travertine terraces along the Bighorn River, while a bathhouse maintains its pools at a comfortably warm 104 degrees. The best part? It’s free. Shoshone and Arapaho natives gave the state of Wyoming the hot springs in an 1896 treaty with the requirement that it remains accessible to the public free of charge.
Thermopolis is also a hotspot of natural and archaeological interest. Hot Springs State Park has a resident herd of bison, with a road that loops around and makes it possible to get up close and personal with these massive monarchs of the plains. There’s also 6.2 miles of accessible hiking trails and the famous swinging bridge, where you’ll get the best view of the Bighorn River and mineral terraces. Stop by the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, an excellent museum with well-preserved fossils of the giant dinosaurs that roamed Wyoming’s prehistoric landscape. There’s even an active dig where visitors are encouraged to get dirty in and unearth more ancient bones.
At the end of Day 4, riders end up in Dubois, the perfect place for Day 5’s well-deserved rest day. Although the definition of “rest” means different things to different people, there’s plenty to do here if you want to explore. (There’s also an optional 100-mile ride over Togwotee Pass if “rest day” isn’t in your vocabulary.)
Dubois clings to its frontier roots as one of the last authentic Old West towns. Locals like to say that it’s in the middle of nowhere but also at the center of everything. The town is located less than an hour to both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, making for easy day trips. In and around Dubois and the Wind River Valley, there is year-round fun to be had, whether it’s hiking and camping, world-class fishing and hunting, mountain biking, or backcountry horse packing.
The food choices are as plentiful as they are varied. From rustic to modern, down-home to world class, no one leaves town hungry.
The last overnight on Day 6 puts riders in Lander. Lander may very well be the outdoor recreation capital of Wyoming, and that’s saying something. (There’s a reason that the National Outdoor Leadership School is headquartered here.) Sinks Canyon State Park, Wild Iris, Shoshone National Forest, the Wind River mountains, and the Red Desert are some of the main spots to go mountain biking, mountaineering, rock climbing, paddling, hiking, fishing, and camping. The morning of Day 7 can be spent cycling in Sinks Canyon, so be sure to get off the saddle and try a short hike!
In town, culture abounds with rotating art exhibits and fairs, like the brewer’s festival, international climber’s festival, Shakespeare festival, various concerts, and the Pioneer Days Parade and Rodeo on July 3rd and 4th every year.
The word “epic” gets thrown around a lot these days, but the Cycle Greater Yellowstone ride truly lives up to the moniker. The combination of stellar riding, stunning terrain, and fascinating destinations make for a trip you’ll never forget. Every August, people come for the ride, but experience much more. They feel real cowboy courtesy, eat amazing food, and see places straight out of spaghetti Westerns. They come as guests but leave as friends. Some decide to stick around and don’t leave at all.
Originally written by RootsRated for Cycle Greater Yellowstone.