May 29, 2024, West Yellowstone, WY
Yellowstone was the United States’ first national park. The wisdom and foresight of those who helped create this sanctuary, including Teddy Roosevelt, deserve the thanks of every generation.
The Park is a treasure chest of natural beauty with so many interesting combinations and varieties that your senses overflow with joy. Riding a motorcycle through the lower loop of the park brings you close to all these elements. You can inhale the scent of fir trees, watch the bison grazing, their new-born calves wobbling beside their mothers, see steam rising from the hot springs, feel the cold winds blowing across the ice floes of Lake Yellowstone and smell the ocean-like odors of the sulfur fields.
The riding is pleasant and affords scores of opportunities to lean into delightful sweepers. There aren’t any terrifying twisties and even hopping over the Continental Divide wasn’t a chore. However, we were dogged all day by a persistently aggressive breeze that knocked us around regardless of our direction which required keeping our attention on the road and not the unfolding spectacle of scenery before us.
Our day began with a 10 minute wait to get into the west entrance to park but we were soon rewarded with the chance to go into a turn-out where bison grazed at the edge of the parking area. Across a gentle river more bison rested in the grass with their young.
From that point on, we followed the path of many tourists before us. The tourists in their cars, vans, campers, and mammoth RVs, not the wild animals, were the real danger to us. They abruptly pulled out on to the roadway or lurched suddenly into a turn-out to click away at the bison or the landscapes. To make matters worse for me, the horn on my bike inexplicably conked out just when I needed to warn more than one driver to pay attention.
We took a death-defying three mile to loop on a rough one-way road with loose gravel, no shoulders or guard rails to Firehole Falls which seems to rush out of nowhere and plunge down, its waters churning furiously.
Then it was on through the hot springs and geyser basin until we came to Old Faithful. Luckily, we only had to wait about 45 minutes before we witnessed the glorious three-minute eruption with its rooster tail of steam spewing into the clear Wyoming air. Yellowstone Park is reputed to sit on one of the hottest hot spots on earth.
From there, it was over the Continental Divide—the road actually crosses it twice, once at about 8,300 ft. and then a few miles later at 8,400 ft. After dropping down another 1,000 ft. in elevation, we encountered massive Yellowstone Lake, with 141 mi. of shoreline, still covered in spots with slabs of ice. The lake sits at an elevation of 7,733 ft. and has a maximum depth of 410 ft. It’s the largest high mountain lake in North America and is believed to be the crater formed by enormous volcanic activity. An impressive sight.
After passing the Mud Volcano and the Sulfur Caldron, which you smell long before you see it, our next stop was the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, a narrow canyon that goes straight down for 800 ft. to 1,200 ft. without any interruption to the Yellowstone River.
From there we continued northward a few miles and finally turned westward back toward the west entrance enjoying the afternoon sunlight on the rivers and running the straightaways, a bit over the posted limit, and leaning into more of those sweet sweepers until we left the park and returned to West Yellowstone.
Before we turned down the street to the Bear Crossing RV Park where the Badger Den awaited us, we saw the Westward Ho Motel. Hey, they named their place after our trip. How cool is that?
The total for an all day trip: 126 delightful miles, not our longest ride but one with a surprise at every bend in the road.