WEST YELLOWSTONE - It's a cyclist's dream - wide open roads in America's first National Park with not a car in sight.
It's an epic bike ride and open only during a small window of time every spring.
If you’re biking in Yellowstone National Park or really anywhere in Montana this spring, packing to be prepared is essential. Bringing extra layers of clothes, warm gloves and a hat, sunscreen, bear spray, plenty of water and a little snack, as well as a first aid kit, will make sure you have an awesome trip.
The adventure starts with a stop at Freeheel and Wheel right outside of the West Entrance to the park.
“We’re a bicycle and cross-country ski shop," said owner Melissa Alder. "We’ve been here in West Yellowstone for 27 years.”
The business equips people for outdoor adventures year-round, and April can be the perfect time for a trip into the park on two wheels.
“In April, if weather permits, they do allow bicyclists to go in and utilize some of the roadways in the park, without the public traffic happening," said Alder.
On a recent sunny day with dry roads, I was ready to try a trip into the park myself. My ride was a 30-mile round trip from West Yellowstone to Madison Junction. Several other cyclists on the road had more ambitious plans.
“Gardiner today," said one rider named Tom. "I’m going all the way through.”
Your plans can change quickly while biking the park's empty roads, with local wildlife sometimes slowing you down and inclement weather moving in.
And sometimes you'll come across sights so beautiful you'll have to slow down and enjoy the view, or even come to a full stop to take it all in.
The West Entrance offers the best options for bicyclists now. From there you can ride all the way to Mammoth, which is about 50 miles in one direction.
It's important to be prepared as conditions in the park can change quickly. And with no services available, if you get in trouble you have to get yourself out.
“The park is essentially closed," Alder said. "There’s no services. There’s no rescues.”
The toughest part of my ride was Yellowstone's infamous headwinds that make the 15-mile ride back toward town feel extra challenging.
These roads open to cars on April 21, and Alder doesn't recommend cycling on the roads when summer tourist traffic hits.
So you've got about a week to enjoy Yellowstone's magical Spring should season.