Biking becoming popular way to experience park

Posted: Friday, August 20, 2004

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho Grand Teton National Park is all about the mountains.

Doing almost anything is more fun while watching the jagged peaks shift in front of forested hillsides and alpine lakes, and biking through the park is becoming one of the most popular ways to do that.

California visitor David Sasaki took his 14-year-old son and a friend through the park on rented bicycles during their vacation last week. ''We like this much better than Yellowstone especially with the kids because it's less time in the car,'' Sasaki said.

Traveling at a slower pace in the open air also allows visitors to notice things, like the purple and yellow wildflowers along the road that are benefiting from the summer rainstorms.

''In the last five years, there's been an exponential growth in bicycling in the park,'' said spokesperson Joan Anzelmo.

It's a trend she attributes to cycling's growing popularity across the county, perhaps helped by Lance Armstrong's record-setting performance in the Tour de France. You don't have to have Armstrong's mountain-stomping legs to enjoy the park. In fact, since biking is limited to roads, you can't even ride up the mountains while inside the park. But there are still plenty of unpaved and paved routes to ride while enjoying views of the gray peaks.

It's something Beverly Charette of Driggs tries to do every few weeks. However, her favorite time to tour the park is in the spring, when the roads are plowed but still closed to vehicles to allow the ground underneath to thaw.

For summer rides, Charette recommends doing the loop around Jenny Lake and stopping for a dip in String Lake to cool off, if an afternoon thundershower doesn't beat you to it. A word of advice, however, before attempting a long outing, do some shorter rides you'll be less sore. Also, make sure your bike fits. You'll get more power out of your pedals when your seat's at the right height.

You can ride your bike straight out of Jackson on a newly constructed bike path that leads to Teton Village and the border of Grand Teton National Park. You can continue into the park on the Moose-Wilson Road, which is scenic, but has a gravel stretch and no shoulders in some areas.

Rides inside Grand Teton National Park:

Jenny LakeThe scenic road along Jenny Lake drive is very popular, and you can avoid crowds by going early morning and mid-afternoon and evening. The road becomes one-way after the North Entrance for a bit, and has a bike and pedestrian-only cut-off.

Riders can return to the north entrance along the paved park road for a short 6 mile loop. Or start and end at Moose Visitor Center to make it into a 15-mile loop. The park road along that stretch has bike lanes.

Antelope Flats These paved and gravel roads have much less vehicle traffic than the western roads do. You can enjoy a flat 12 miles alongside fields and the occasional buffalo while going down Mormon Row.

Snake River The 15-mile dirt road on the western side of the Snake River can be bumpy, but has few vehicles and offers great views on both sides.

Shadow Mountain You can find slightly more difficult mountain bike terrain on a 7-mile dirt loop that leads up the west side of Shadow Mountain just outside the park. Technical singletrack leads down the east side of the mountain.

Cyclists entering the park are charged a $10 for a bike pass. For more information, call Grand Teton National Park's visitor information desk at (307) 739-3300, or Adventure Sports, which rents bikes and other gear at Dornan's, just south of the Moose Visitor Center.

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