With fewer tourists and cars clogging up the roads, shoulder season is the best time for bikes in these three popular national parks.

During peak season, national park cyclists have to dodge RV mirrors while simply trying to enjoy the scenery, but spring offers a short window when riders can have the roads mostly to themselves. After plows have cleared away snow, there’s often a short gap when the roads are clear but not yet open to motor vehicles. Keep in mind this only applies in a few national parks, and each one will have different (and often variable) dates and times when the pavement opens for human-powered recreation. Check with each park to ensure the road is currently open for your intended use, heed all warnings and closures, and stay clear of plows and other vehicles. 

Spring is a time of unpredictable and rapidly-changing weather, so be prepared for evolving conditions, and don’t expect a smooth, ice-free ride. Prepare to be self-sufficient since most facilities will be closed and services will be non-existent or very limited. Cell phone service will be slim to none. Also be aware: Wildlife is very active this time of year, so carry bear spray and know how to minimize and safely manage encounters. While roads are closed to the visitors, park vehicles will still be on them, including plows and heavy machinery, so wear high-visibility clothing and use extreme caution. 

Grand Teton National Park 

Just outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park offers postcard-perfect views alongside smooth macadam. The park’s main road is closed to motor vehicles from the Taggart Lake Trailhead to Signal Mountain Lodge through April 30. Be sure to check road conditions and read up on biking in the park and the rules of the road before heading out, and prepare to encounter bears and other wildlife. nps.gov/grte

Rocky Mountain National Park

Plan to pedal through Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park on one of the routes labeled with “winter road status.” These bike-friendly roads typically include Upper Beaver Meadows Road, Endovalley Road and Kaley Cottage Road, though conditions may be variable, including packed snow and ice as well snow drifts—so you might want to consider a fat-tire bike for the ride. Travel along Trail Ridge and Old Fall River Roads April 1 to November 30, except during specific closures. Be sure to check conditions and that  your intended route is open before you decide to venture out. nps.gov/romo

Yellowstone National Park

With its geysers and wolf packs, Yellowstone is an extra-special treat before its highways open to the masses. The park offers a webpage with spring and fall-specific advice on biking the park roads. Several routes may open each year, depending on weather and conditions, including the West Entrance to Mammoth Hot Springs and the South Entrance to West Thumb. Cyclists must follow all vehicle regulations. Watch for bears and other wildlife. nps.gov/yell

—Kristen Pope