“Riding a bicycle on a closed road in Yellowstone is magical.”
That’s what an avid bicycle enthusiast, former bike shop owner and backcountry guide told Cowboy State Daily after he and his bicycle were finally allowed in the northeast gate to Yellowstone National Park on Tuesday.
After receiving conflicting information from authorities in the park about whether bikes would be allowed in the entrance, Rick Roach and his wife Denise rode 12 miles round-trip from the northeast entrance at Cooke City, Montana, to where the road is damaged so severely, it will be months before the highway can handle vehicle travel again.
“We saw one bear in Yellowstone,” Roach said of their adventure Tuesday. “We saw bison and a coyote.”
Tuesday’s ride occurred after several attempts to get clear information about whether or not bicycles would be allowed in from the northeast entrance.
Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly had told reporters at a news conference last Friday that although the northeast gate was closed to vehicles, foot and bicycle traffic were allowed.
“We’ve opened our side of the Beartooth Highway for visitor access for Cooke City,” Sholly said Friday. “We’re allowing visitors to come into the park, although they can’t drive, but they can bike, they can hike, they can fish, both from Gardiner (Montana) and from Cooke City.”
Silver Gate and Cooke City businesses had been given the same information more than a week prior.
“Yellowstone is open to foot traffic on Saturday (July 2),” Chris Warren said Cooke City and Silver Gate residents had been told at the end of June. “I did just find out a few minutes ago (on June 30), that you are going to be able to walk into the park and fish in the park and things like that, but there will be no traffic access.”
But that information apparently didn’t get relayed to officials in charge of the northeast gate.
“(The road) was still closed, according to the Yellowstone information,” said Roach, who decided to drive to Cooke City on Monday morning, after reading Sholly’s statements in a Cowboy State Daily article. “And we were trying to confirm that as we were driving up. And we finally got a live person on the phone, and they said, No, it’s officially closed. You can’t go bicycling in Yellowstone.”
Roach said that despite sharing Cam Sholly’s statements from the Friday press conference with the ranger he spoke to, his request to bike from the northeast entrance was denied.
“Information is only official when it comes from the park via a News Release and/or updated on our Official website,” was the email reply from the park ranger.
But even within National Park Service personnel at the northeast entrance, information wasn’t consistent, according to Roach.
“So I got a correspondence on social media (Monday) evening when we returned home that some friends of mine had the time of their lives on an open road from the Northeast entrance to the damaged area,” Roach said.
Which is why he said he and his wife packed their bikes again on Tuesday morning and headed for Cooke City, where they were easily allowed access and had a “magical” ride.
A Boost for Cooke City Businesses
As a former business owner (he owned Absaroka Bicycles in Cody for 17 years before retiring in 2018), Roach advocated for the businesses devastated by the park’s shutdown in several email exchanges with a park ranger at the northeast gate.
“It is my thought that the Park Service could do a great service to the Silver Gate/Cooke City communities by that road being opened to bicycles, sooner rather than later,” Roach wrote to the NPS employee. “These communities can use any help they can get to help salvage their summer.”
Finally, Tuesday evening, Yellowstone’s Public Affairs Office sent out an official press release notifying the public that the northeast entrance was, indeed, open for bike and foot traffic.
“Bicycles allowed on limited portions of the North (Gardiner) and Northeast (Cooke City/Silver Gate) Entrance roads in addition to hiking and fishing access,” was a sub-heading of the press release sent out Tuesday evening, which also announced the reopening of the Slough Creek backcountry area.
“My goal in all of this was to help these gateway communities fill restaurants and put heads to beds,” Roach told Cowboy State Daily. “They need all the help they can get. Maybe a few cyclists riding a magical closed road in Yellowstone could help a little bit!”