This is information about cycling and mountain biking in Grand Teton National Park and the Jackson Hole, Wyoming, vicinity for De Anza College Outdoor Club trips. It can’t be kept completely up to the minute, so check with Rangers for the most current rules and any trail closures, especially due to animal activity.
Bike riding in Grand Teton park can be as safe as at home, but has a few risks different and greater than in other places.
Please note that vehicles on the road will be very busy watching the scenery, not you on your bike.
Riding on the main highway with it’s often narrow shoulders could be dangerous.
Vehicles kill dozens of animals every year in the Tetons and Yellowstone despite warnings:
Yellowstone warns: “Motorists frequently do not see bicyclists or fail to give them sufficient space on the road. Drivers sometimes pass on hill crests, blind curves, or in oncoming traffic. Vehicles, especially motor homes or those towing trailers, may have wide mirrors, posing an additional hazard.”
The park service warns:
“Some roads in the park predate today’s bicycling popularity. Most roads have a paved marked shoulder, providing limited space for safe bicycling. Some roads have only a very narrow shoulder, or lack one altogether. Use extreme caution.” . . .”Riding a bicycle abreast of another bicycle on paved roads within the park and parkway is prohibited. Ride single file for your safety and compliance. During low visibility and between sunset and sunrise, bicyclists must display a white light or reflector from the front and a red light or reflector from the rear. Drivers are often distracted when driving through the park, ride defensively.”
Don’t bike or jog/run by yourself, it is safer to bike in groups since there are very large, potentially dangerous and unpredictable animals potentially everywhere.
Please, no trail running Grand Teton National park: “Trail running is strongly discouraged; you may startle a bear.” Glacier National Park: “Trail running is discouraged as there have been an increasing number of injuries and fatalities due to runners surprising bears at close range.”
It is safer to enjoy a bike ride on a designated bike/roller blade/walk path like the Teton multi-use pathway, than on the road/highway with drivers looking at scenery instead of you on your bike, and there is an 8 mile long pathway from South Jenny Lake to the Moose Visitor Center, then under the highway and into town along the east side of highway 191/89/26. This section is usually closed Dec. 1 to April 30 to protect migrating elk.
Please walk your bike in the parking lots. Bikes yield to others.
Only NON-MOTORIZED METHODS of transportation are permitted on the multi-use pathway. Persons with physical disabilities may use electric and battery operated transportation. Pets (except guide dogs) are prohibited and the pathway is closed from dusk to dawn for wildlife and public safety. The pathway is open whenever it is predominantly free of snow and ice.
Whoooooa, stay alert. . . occasionally a driver gets lost and ends up driving on the bike pathway.
Announce your presence before passing (you could say something like ‘passing on your left’ as you approach a pedestrian, slower biker, or someone stopped by the side of the pathway).
Tips for better cycling:
Choosing and using bike helmets:
Maps of bikeways in the county can be found at:
A map of the Jenny Lake area, with the location of the start of the pathway in the park, is at: http://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/upload/JLVC_map_2010.pdf
Maps of bikeways in town can be found at: http://www.tetoncountywy.gov/DocumentCenter/View/4157 one bikeway runs all the way into Grand Teton park and thru to Jenny Lake.
As of an article in the Jackson Hole News and Guide, June 2018: bike riders must come to a full stop at stop signs, not just slow down and ride thru intersections as they might do in other western states.
. . . police say the potential ramifications are too great to ignore minor traffic violations.
“The negative consequences for violating the law and the potential of injury is so high that we think $135 is appropriate for a cyclist running a stop sign,” Schultz said. “I would rather have you hate me for giving you a stop sign ticket than have you hate me for not protecting you from yourself and your family hating me for not doing my job and you getting killed.”
Maps and rules for Yellowstone biking:
Park rules say do not approach wildlife, stay 100 yards from bears or wolves and 25 yards from other wildlife including nesting birds. If you have an accidental, surprise or inadvertent closer encounter with wildlife you must remove yourself to those distances.
You can rent bikes in the park, but bringing your own on a vehicle is cheaper.
Bike helmets are required for biking on De Anza Outdoor Club trips, at all times (all ages of riders), even if bike riding is not an official part of the trip. Yosemite Search and Rescue reminds us: “California law requires riders under 18 to wear helmets. Helmets are optional for bicycle riders 18 and over but they are an outstanding idea, inexpensive, and in many cases are the difference between a minor headache and life-altering or life-ending injuries. Unfortunately, when one observes bicycle operations in the Valley, the majority of adult bike riders, and even some children, opt to skip the helmet. Once the crash occurs, it’s too late to reconsider your decision to skip the helmet.”
Grand Teton Park says: “Helmets and bright-colored clothes are recommended due to heavy traffic.”
Look for a warm beanie/ knit cap that fits comfortably under your bike helmet (and climbing helmet) and does not interfere with the proper fit of your helmet.
Drownings are the number one cause of accidental death in the National Park Service. Next to drowning, motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of accidental deaths in the National Park Service. One study found that “visitors distracted by scenery was a contributing factor in 27% of all motor vehicle crashes, alcohol was a contributing factor in 23% of the crashes, visitors from Asia and Europe crossing over the centerline to drive on the left side of the road was a factor in 14% of the crashes, excessive speed was the primary factor in 8% of the crashes, and visitors driving off-road and hitting stationary objects or rolling over was the primary factor in 11% of crash fatalities.
Studies suggest that rates of sudden encounters with bears are much higher among cyclists than hikers, due to the speed at which bikers come up on animals. Some of these incidents have been fatal to the human. Read on to find ‘grizzly bears and cyclists’ below.
For your safety hiking, the Rangers warn “Always carry bear spray and know how to use it,” which applies to cyclists as well. your safety in grizzly bear territory tells you what to do if you see a bear in the distance or a bear charges you, has info about Bear Sprays that you should carry even when biking.
From the National Park Service Daily Report of Thursday, September 21, 2006,
Grand Canyon National Park (AZ)
Runner Charged, Struck By Bull Elk
A long-time park resident was running on a trail behind the Albright Training Center between Center Road and the Grand Canyon School around 6 a.m. on September 19th when he was charged by a large bull elk. He saw that the elk was rubbing its antlers on a tree and acting aggressively, so he took evasive action and ran off trail into the woods around it. The elk pursued, though, and knocked him down. He was able to get away and flagged down a passerby, who called for assistance. The runner suffered scrapes and bruises along with an ankle injury and was transported by ambulance to the Flagstaff Medical Center. Park wildlife biologists and rangers will spend the next several days in the area where the incident occurred and will attempt to move the elk out of the area using aversive conditioning. Although encounters with bull elk have not been common within the park, rangers are reminding residents and park visitors that it is rutting season for both deer and elk. During this period, generally September/October, these animals become increasingly aggressive and may become angered by any intrusion into their territory. Elk, which can weigh as much as 1,000 pounds, have been known to injure or kill people who approach them. [Submitted by Maureen Oltrogge, Public Affairs Officer]
Bikes or other wheeled vehicles are not allowed on hiking trails or in the backcountry on or off trail. They are only allowed in the park on paved and unpaved roads where cars can legally go, on designated bike/walk pathways and on the Colter Bay Marina breakwater. Keep reading to find legal mountain biking trails outside of the park.
The park says about safe biking: ride single file on the right hand road shoulder, use hand signals to communicate with drivers, wear a helmet at all times (all ages of riders). Please also wear highly visible clothing. Bright colored, preferably reflectively enhanced, clothing is best.
The Park Service does not recommend biking at night , but if you do bike before sunrise of after sunset you will need a forward facing white light/reflector and a rear facing red light/reflector.
Read more at:
photo below used with permission from Ron Niebrugge: http://www.wildnatureimages.com/
Yellowstone biking safety page: http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/bicycling.htm
The Teton Wilderness and the Gros Ventre Wilderness are much of the land to the east of Grand Teton National Park up to Yellowstone and to the east of and below the town of Jackson. Go to:
http://www.fs.usda.gov/btnf/ click on recreation, then bicycling, then the appropriate section.
Please remember bikes yield to hikers and horses, hikers yield to horses.
The local Forest Service office reminds us:
YOU ARE TOO CLOSE TO WILDLIFE IF:
· The animal stops feeding or resting.
· The animal starts moving either toward or away from you.
· The animal starts panting, huffing or making unusual sounds.
· The animal begins pawing the ground or swinging its head.
· Neck hair or feathers stand up.
· The animal appears nervous, uneasy or stressed.
If you notice these signs you are disturbing the animal and it is time
to slowly move away. The safest way to view wildlife is through
binoculars or spotting scopes.”
Grizzly bears and cyclists
The following info is from a study of the effect planned road improvements could have on animals in the park. The study of bears mentioned is from Canadian parks, but the same incidents could happen to cyclists anywhere.
“Some information on cyclist encounters with grizzly bears is available from Herrero and Herrero (2000), from which the following information was taken. In North America, 33 records were found for cyclist encounters with grizzly bears in which the bear responded aggressively. Five of these occurred on roads used by cars and the remaining occurred on trials or nearby.
In most cases grizzly bears charged or chased cyclists. In 12% (4 of 33) of encounters, cyclists were injured by grizzly bears; in 75% of these cases(3 of 4), injuries were serious (requiring more than 24 hours in a hospital).
The majority (22 of 33) of encounters occurred in Banff and Jasper National Parks, where mountain biking is allowed on some trails.
Ninety-five percent of encounters in which distance was estimated, the cyclist first became aware of the bear at less than 50 meters, “which Herrero (1985) defined as a sudden encounter.
Importantly, while not conclusive, the data suggest that rates of sudden encounters with bears are much higher among cyclists than hikers.
“Indeed, in Canada’s Kluane National Park, park managers state that “Mountain bikers travel quickly and quietly on the trails. As a result, they are much more likely to have surprise encounters with bears and other wildlife, than hikers, and horses” (Kluane National Park 1997).
Most of the encounters documented by Herrero and Herrero (2000) and discussed above occurred on dirt trails, where bicycles would be expected to travel slower and make more noise than they would on a paved pathway.”
Grizzlys can run as fast as 30 mph in short distances.
Bison can run three times faster than humans can sprint. Bison can spin around faster than a horse.
Don’t count on a bison giving warning. Stay a minimum 75 feet (or more) away from all large animals. See also: Before a bison charges
Park rules say do not approach wildlife, stay 100 yards from bears or wolves and 25 yards from other wildlife including nesting birds.
If you have an accidental, surprise or inadvertent closer encounter with wildlife you must remove yourself to those distances, including while driving on a road.
To visualize 100 yards, picture the length of a football field.
To visualize 25 yards, picture four car lengths, six kayak lengths or the width of an Olympic-sized pool like ours at the college.
Check out riding in rain and darkness, ways to deal with tough situations, and more at:
your safety in grizzly bear territory tells you what to do if you see a bear in the distance or a bear charges you, has info about Bear Pepper Sprays that you should carry even when biking. Before a bison charges tells what a bison might do before it charges and has details of injuries.
Camping solutions for women has tips for and answers typical questions from first-time women campers, including the question: Can menstruating women camp or backpack around bears? YES.
Grand Teton National Park sightseeing has place to stop at along each of the park main highways, many of them accessible from the bike pathway.
Bears has links to general info about bears, then practicalities of camping and backpacking around bears, (food storage, what to do if you see a bear) mostly geared towards De Anza College Outdoor Club trips around black bears in California.
Some people bring bikes on their vehicles, but there are rentals available as well. Costs are often posted at: Grand Tetons trip cost at the ‘expensive trip’ section.
For details about the next De Anza College Outdoor Club trip to Grand Teton National Park, go to: Grand Tetons.
Grand Tetons trip pages index has brief descriptions of most of the pages about this trip.