The Powerful Lure of the Beartooth All-American Road

The road from Red Lodge to Cooke City via the Beartooths awaits us – hibernating through the long winter months – showing it’s glory in spring and summer. We can’t begin to describe the glacial carvings, lakes, and life above the high tree line. Defining the wild in wilderness.

Beartooth Butte

Locals anxiously wait for the opening of the gate to the Beartooth Pass. The Red Lodge Chamber plays host to the Beartooth All-American Road, featured in Cycle Greater Yellowstone’s seven day bike tour of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Skiers, cyclists, hikers, photographers, local businesses such as Beartooth Guides, anxiously await it’s spring opening.

Skier shredding Beartooth Basin Ski Resort – summertime Beartooth skiing!

Some adventurists find features in the Beartooth mountains to be long-time goals – whether its summiting the Bear’s Tooth or road cycling the pass.

“Even though I am a Montana native, I am always in awe of the extraordinary beauty of the Beartooth mountains. It is spectacular. I rode it for the first time a few years ago, and it is completely obtainable for an average rider. The Beartooth Pass can’t be missed.” ~ Emily Hurd, Cycle Greater Yellowstone Volunteer Crew and local cyclist.

Emily Hurd

Whether you choose to take on Cycle Greater Yellowstone and the Beartooth Pass on Day 3 or find time to visit the Beartooth All-American Road on your own, be sure to experience what we think is one of the best places on earth. As Caroline Byrd, Executive Director of Greater Yellowstone Coalition, talks about the Beartooths in the Cycle Greater Yellowstone Video, imagine yourself taking in the sites from the bike saddle this summer.


Cycling and Connecting through CGY

We connect.

We are cyclists, and through that we find friends – and sometimes reconnect with old friends. The story of making friends while riding is told, over and over in different ways.

One of our favorite groups that connect is this little crew from California – Shawn, John and Rob. They even managed to win a trip to Cancun, Mexico on our tour in 2013.

JohnRobShawnGoofing around on the Chief Joseph Pass Summit at Dead Indian Vista Point (If you have any fun photos from Cycle Greater Yellowstone to share, post it to Facebook or Instagram and use the hashtag #cyclegreateryellowstone)

And then we have the volunteers on Cycle Greater Yellowstone that make friends. They really are the nuts and bolts of CGY. These people connect and become friends for life – especially after holding it together for 650 cyclists throughout the week. I don’t even think they complain about it!

Course MonitorsPre-tour in 2013 – the route crew!

232323232-fp93232-uqcshlukaxroqdfv8-5;=ot-27;6=356=86-=36-535677933-nu0mrj2014 Volunteers mid-week working the road

One of our crew volunteers has a great blog about the entire week, with fabulous photos. Gretchen talks about her connections, new friends and the route in The Vagabond Diaries. Check it out

We hope your connections through cycling bring you to Cycle Greater Yellowstone for 2015! Whether or not you can join us, we want you to make life-long friends through cycling. Here’s to cycling and friends ~ Cheers!


Slots still available for Cycle Greater Yellowstone ’14!

CGY2014_Day 1_003_0527

Our numbers are climbing steadily, but we still have room in this year’s First Great Ride in the Last Best Place. Already, 43 states are represented, with Portland, Oregon, leading the way once again!

Need more incentive? By participating in CGY you’re not just riding across a beautiful landscape – you’re riding for a cause. Proceeds benefit the Greater Yellowstone Coalition’s work to protect the lands, waters, and wildlife of one of the last intact ecosystems on Earth.

One of the best days I’ve ever spent on a bike

Maybe it is the adrenaline. I am standing at the top of Chief Joseph Pass looking out over the spectacular Absaroka Mountains that form the eastern boundary of Yellowstone National Park, and I am weeping with joy. Or maybe it’s the fact that the pain is finally over, after pushing my bike up switchback after switchback (wishing I had another granny gear). All around me people are either elated.  Or passed out!


We’re riding in Cycle Greater Yellowstone — the First Great Ride in the Last Best Place – and this has already been one of the best days I’ve ever spent on a bike.
We left our camp at Pilot Creek early in the morning, deep in a remote area near the Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone. Cycle Greater Yellowstone is a benefit ride for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, which for 31 years has been working to protect the ecosystem around Yellowstone Park, and the previous night they had talked about how their work had brought back the grizzly bear.

And sure enough, as soon as I hit the road outside of camp, there was a grizzly on a bison carcass, not 50 yards from the road. Then I was flying along the smooth rolling road into Sunlight Basin, the Wild & Scenic Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River canyon on my left. The spectacular basin unfolding in front of me. And then that climb.

This was the first year of Cycle Greater Yellowstone and it was already a huge success. I kept running into people who had come from all corners of the country, seeing the Greater Yellowstone area for the first time, who were overwhelmed by the wildness and the beauty, and wanted to help do anything to protect this place, one of the last intact ecosystems on Earth. And that is Cycle Greater Yellowstone’s mission.

I’d never been on a fully supported ride before and I was blown away by how thoroughly they took care of almost 700 riders. Huge delicious meals. Regular food and water stops along the route. Fully equipped shower trucks. Washing stations (complete with charging outlets for my phone). And, best of all, never a wait for the Porta Potty or a hot shower. I loved how people in each of the communities we stayed in welcomed us and were excited about Cycle Greater Yellowstone’s mission.

But what I hadn’t anticipated was the camaraderie. I was surrounded by people who were just as crazy about bike riding as I am. All kinds of people — guys with speakers on their bikes rockin’ out to classic R&B, super-hot riders, and mellow riders just enjoying the scenery. It was like being on a rolling party with hundreds of people just like me. At the top of Chief Joseph, I hooked up with one of my newfound buddies and we dropped in to the descent, flying at up to 50 mph down sweeping curves into Cody, Wyoming. Woo hoo!


This is CGY’s second year, and the 2014 ride will start and end in Jackson, Wyoming, looping around the Wind River Range, the Gros Ventres and over five stunning passes — including a 10 percent grade for six miles up the legendary Teton Pass on the first day.

Oh yeah, I’ll be back.

Geoff Stephens of Bozeman, Montana, is a filmmaker, a transplanted New Yorker, and a dedicated bicyclist.

Check out our April ‘Group Challenge’

One of the best parts of Cycle Greater Yellowstone is pedaling with friends across some of the most spectacular landscapes on Earth. We want to make that image just a little more enticing for you.
So here’s the deal: Organize a group of 12 new Cycle Greater Yellowstone registrants between today and April 30, and we’ll give you one complimentary registration to use any way you like! Spread the savings among your group, raffle off the ride as a fundraiser for your favorite non-profit, or pedal from Jackson Hole to Grand Teton National Park on us.
Your group doesn’t have to belong to a single cycling club, corporate riding group or even community. Reaching across state lines is just fine. The only caveat: Your dozen riding friends must still be registered after the 30-day refund deadline. And sorry – no enlisting already-registered riders.
We are swiftly approaching our limit for this year’s ride, so hurry! Let’s sell out this year’s ride and ensure Cycle Greater Yellowstone continues to be the best-organized and most unforgettable rides in America.
For more details, or if you think you can round up 12 companions for the First Great Ride in the Last Best Place, contact Jennifer!

CGY 2014 Official Route Announcement!

CGY2014Route AnnouncementIt’s a day we’ve all been waiting for – we’re ready to officially announce both our routes and our camp locations. We’ve been excited since we started scouting this region, and now you can all get a more complete sense of why – what a great route it is, and how cool our host communities and camp sites are.

As you might imagine, getting all the pieces to fit into the puzzle takes some maneuvering when you want to take 800 or so cyclists down the road and into a small town to camp out overnight. CGY typically gets a very warm welcome – who wouldn’t want us in their town, right? – and this year is no exception. But it takes time to cross those T’s and dot those I’s.

So here we are – we’ve got daily route descriptions, maps and elevation profiles, camp locations, town descriptions and information on lodging choices, plus a photo slide show of each day, from our preride in September 2013. (Well, except for the days we got snowed out!) Check it all out on our 2014 Route pages.

And how pumped are we that we’re the first major bike tour to have our event finish inside a national park? And not just any national park, but Grand Teton National Park – one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places in the country! Your Day 7 ride is going to be a lifetime memory.

We want to thank all these host towns, plus the county, state and federal agencies involved, for helping us make this happen.

So if you’ve already signed up, let the anticipation ratchet up even more. If you haven’t, let this be the information that tips you over the edge into registering and coming along. And if you know anyone else – anywhere in the world – who might enjoy this event, now is the time to give them a nudge.

We are gonna have so much fun…

Register now:


The neurobiology of vacations, and why Cycle Greater Yellowstone is a good one.


Everybody loves vacations. Or at least we think we do.

However, it’s not always true: research suggests vacations often end up being even more stressful than our daily lives. For example, in a Gallup poll a few years back, more than half of those polled reported being more stressed after coming back from vacation than before leaving!

This has always been puzzling to me. Shouldn’t it be easy to choose the right vacation? Apparently not. It begs the question: what’s the difference between a good vacation and a bad one, and how to make sure we only go on good ones?

Let’s start with this: what role should a good vacation serve? Most people I’ve talked to give two answers:

  1. to relax.
  2. to break free of ruts, by which I mean unwanted, habitual ways of thinking.

But these aren’t actually two separate things. Breaking free of our ruts is key to relaxing. We may be sipping colorful drinks with miniature umbrellas in the friscalating dusklight of some far flung tropical island, but if we’re still thinking about some problem from back home, it’s not relaxing. For this reason, we need to think about how vacations free us from our ruts, or fail to.

To do so, it helps to know a bit about how the brain works. Lucky for you, I’m a neurobiologist, or at least I used to be, before I became a conservationist.

Also lucky for you, the relevant concepts are simple: the first, and maybe only, thing you need to know is that we think and remember associatively.

All this means is that things remind us of other, related things. For example, let’s say you always use the same kind of pen at work. And let’s say you are on vacation and when you check into your hotel you see the hotel clerk use the exact same kind of pen to sign you in.

All of a sudden, you’re thinking about that invoice you left on your desk, or the work you promised to do before you left but didn’t.

This associative thinking is not an occasional thing. It is fundamentally the way our brains work. One thought leads to the next, by association, all day long, every day. That is both a blessing and a curse, depending on the circumstance. When you’re stressed out and trying to relax, it’s a curse.

In fact a rut is just a self reinforcing circular chain of associated thoughts. A vacation’s job, therefore, is to break that chain.

And perhaps the best way to do so is to expose ourselves to stimuli and environments which are as different as possible from the environment we were in when our rut formed.

The reason is that external stimuli play a strong role in guiding our associative thinking. In the example above, if you never see that pen, your thoughts are less likely to go spiraling back to work. Moreover, if instead of seeing that pen, you were to see something entirely new and different and dramatic, like let’s say, a supervolcano, it would send your thoughts spiraling off into some place likely unrelated to your problems back home, which would help dramatically in keeping you out of your rut. The longer you stay out of a rut pattern, the weaker its hold on you becomes, until eventually it stops being a rut.

You see what I’m getting at. Many vacations contain all sorts of things which can remind us of our problems back home. The hotel rooms we stay in during our vacations remind us of the hotel rooms we work in, the cars we move around in remind us of our commutes, and so on.

That’s why, above all, we need to choose vacations for which the minute-to-minute, all-day-long stimuli are as completely, absolutely different from anything we’re used to back home as they can be.

And that’s why bike tours, and especially Cycle Greater Yellowstone, make for amazing vacations. It’s not the usual succession of cars and buildings and streets and pens.

There will be a breeze on your skin all day long. You will be in the sun. You will be under the stars.  You will be with a great big group of brand new people who are doing exactly what you are doing and enjoying it just as much. And you will be on the flanks of a supervolcano surrounded by an abundance of wildlife the likes of which most people never get to see in their lives.

In short, you WILL be freed of your ruts.

It’s another reason we’re so utterly, completely, deliriously happy we decided to organize Cycle Greater Yellowstone.

Nick Bentley

image courtesy Left Eye Images

Play misty eyes for me


It was late morning on Cycle Greater Yellowstone’s opening day, hot even by August’s standards. Sweat beads glistened on the forehead of a 60-ish cyclist as she stood on a sagebrush bank of southwest Montana’s upper Madison River, mesmerized by flotillas of anglers gliding past on the emerald water.

“Whaddaya think?” I asked quietly, so as not to jolt her.

She shook her head. I could see moisture gathering in her eyes, too.

Less than 50 miles into the Greater Yellowstone Coalition’s first Cycle Greater Yellowstone, and less than two days into her first Bucket List visit to Yellowstone, she was, she confessed, awestruck beyond expectation by lands, waters and wildlife she’d otherwise experienced only in nature films from her East Coast living room.

She recounted with exuberance the meandering drive past sculpted red-rock outcroppings west of Cody, Wyo., along the gurgling North Fork of the Shoshone River. She spoke breathlessly of cresting Sylvan Pass and getting her first glimpse of the cobalt vastness of Yellowstone Lake. And she welled with emotion when describing encountering her first bison, elk, grizzly bear and pronghorn roaming unfettered across wild landscapes.

There it is, I thought: All the reasons for creating Cycle Greater Yellowstone, crystallized in the misty eyes of a woman traversing a land she has jointly owned all her life but never seen.

Certainly CGY has been wonderful for starting and building relationships with park gateway communities so vital to Greater Yellowstone’s ecological and economic health. And if all goes as expected, CGY will eventually help us re-invest in our work to protect the integrity of one of the world’s last intact ecosystems.

First and foremost was our desire to inspire.

The only surefire way to let Yellowstone weave its special magic is to get people here, while avoiding the hordes of July visitors that get their obligatory iPhone shot of Old Faithful before disappearing into trinket shops for rubber tomahawks and “Yellowstone” T-shirts.

Hence, CGY.

Give 700-1,000 active, passionate people from around the world a vehicle in which to immerse themselves in Greater Yellowstone at 15 mph, and watch what happens.
On that front, CGY went precisely as scripted.

Cyclists paused at every overlook to snap photos and etch a lifetime of memories. They stood in reverent silence, many of them partners poignantly locked arm in arm, as a full moon cast its gleam on the Yellowstone River. They pointed, child-like, at a bull elk’s silhouette on a sage bench in Gardiner and the ominous power of a distant grizzly bear scavenging for grubs in a lowland meadow along the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone River.

One man told me that he’d pedaled more than 50,000 miles across North America and Europe, and never had he seen a stretch of road more beautiful than the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway over Dead Indian Pass.

Our script concludes with our cyclists and volunteers all vowing to return, whether on a bicycle or on more traditional wheels, and further immersing themselves in this wondrous place.

Naturally, it also includes our fervent hope that they’ll be as passionate as we are and become a voice for this magnificent ecosystem through the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

Time will tell whether we on the right track. But if the first CGY is any indication of Yellowstone’s magic, we’ll be seeing a steady stream of misty eyes for years to come.

Jeff Welsch

photo courtesy KoiFish Communications

We’re 400 strong!

It’s barely into the new year, and 400 riders have already made their commitment to be part of CGY 2014. We know a lot of people aren’t to the point of finalizing their summer plans in the heart of winter, so this is a great number for January 15. This year we want more riders than the 665 who experienced the inaugural Cycle Greater Yellowstone… but not too many more.

We got a lot of feedback from first-year riders who really liked the cozier, more intimate feel of a medium-sized ride (as compared to a couple thousand riders). Of course, with 60 toilets, a couple dozen shower stalls and a crew of 80 volunteers following us around all week, CGY isn’t exactly just you and a few of your friends doing a self-guided tour, taking turns driving the van – we’re undeniably a big operation. But the balance of amenities and number of riders is something we want to optimize. You don’t get a live concert, yoga classes and a fleet of support vehicles when you do it on your own. And yet, when your fellow travelers number in the hundreds instead of the thousands, it has more of a “CGY family” feeling.

We’re deep into our planning for CGY 2014, which is a lot of fun for us. As we’re reaching agreements with host communities (we’re got some killer campsites lined up), vendors (some new amenities for you!) and sponsors (stay tuned for some fun new partners), our sense of giddy anticipation is building – because we know how much fun it is when we’re all out there together for an epic week on the road.

So congratulations to those who’ve already signed up for 2014 – and for anyone else thinking about it: Sign up to join us! We promise it’ll be memorable.