spring ride

A cyclists pauses to take photos of bison in Yellowstone National Park during a spring ride to Old Faithful.

If you had any plans to bicycle in Yellowstone National Park in the next couple of weeks, strike the South Entrance off your to-do list.

Yellowstone National Park permanently closed the South Entrance Road from the entrance station to the West Thumb Junction to spring bicycling last week. The road will remain closed to bikes until the road opens to motor traffic on May 14.

“This was not precipitated by a specific incident but more so to ongoing concerns,” said Linda Veress, park public information specialist. “Quite a bit of snow falls in the southern part of the park and in spring, after plowing, there are high snow banks and cyclists aren’t able to safely get off the road should they encounter traffic or wildlife.”

In years past, the South Entrance Road has been open to cycling traffic during the shoulder time after roads were plowed and before public motor traffic was allowed. Some park employee and administrative traffic continues to use the road during this time period.

This section of road also has other issues.

“There is also a lack of restroom facilities in this stretch of road,” Veress said.

A map on Yellowstone’s “Spring & Fall Bicycling” (nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/spring-fall-bicycling.htm) web page reflects the new regulations.

The park notes in its closure of the South Entrance Road that the narrow roadway and lack of shoulders adds to the risk for bicyclists.

“Most importantly, high snow banks, often on both sides of the road, make the road even more narrow, limits site distances and drivers’ ability to see bicyclists, and leaves no escape route for bicyclists in case of the need to leave the roadway,” the park said.

The South Entrance Road to Old Faithful and to Lake Village will be open from May 14 to Nov. 8 for all traffic.

“The closure applies to spring biking only,” Veress said. “Fall biking continues to be a possibility if conditions allow for it.”

Veress said the park doesn’t keep statistics on the number of cyclists using park roads in the spring.

Last year, spring biking was closed park-wide because of the pandemic.