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Journeys Through America is a nonprofit organization providing educational material for all school-aged children across the country. The program will form partnerships with local school districts to provide children with a new, interactive, educational experience integrating the history of America and its National Parks. Journeys Through America's goal is to foster a fun and adventurous learning environment that will promote altruistic growth within our children and our greater community.

Cycling Your Way Through Our Parks

By Mar 15th 2011 No Comments »

One thing that was apparent while traveling through our National Parks during the summer of 2010 was that every park visited had something to offer for those looking to ride bikes during their visit. In fact, quite a few may offer better views of their surroundings while being on two wheels instead of four. For instance, Acadia National Park has 45-miles devoted to their dirt-road infrastructure – better known as the Carriage Roads.  Unfortunately for most travelers – and even Karianne & I, where hauling bicycles 17,000 miles across the country just didn’t seem suitable, getting themselves to the park is half the battle – dealing with flights, car rentals, equipment rentals, etc – bringing a bicycle is just not possible.

However – I think (and I hope) that we are seeing some new trends in the benefit of the two-wheeled mobile, making exploring our parks that much easier and that much funner.

At the Grand Canyon, Bright Angel Bicycle’s is the first bike rental shop to open its doors on the South Rim. However, their arrival wasn’t so ‘grand’ as they were met with some hesitations from the park.

“We got turned away a couple of times when we tried to do this,” says Wes Neal, owner of Bright Angel Bicycles. “But we had a vision and we stuck to it. That’s the key to our success. We knew it was going to make the park better and improve the overall visitor experience. And that’s the park’s goal, too.”

Bike rental and interpretive bike tours at the Canyon are a big hit with the visiting public. The feedback has been very positive, and people are enjoying the chance to see much more of the park than they could if they were walking or driving, and getting fresh air and exercise in the bargain. A bike shuttle service, with drop-off and pickup, is quite well received too, as there is one climb that can cause trouble for riders not used to riding at 7,000 feet.

From the park’s perspective it’s been a hit, as well. Visitor who bike help reduce auto traffic and congestion on park buses, both systems nearly overloaded by the popularity of the park.  Bright Angel submits a monthly report about to keep park staff up-to-date on rental activities and challenges that arise (which, thankfully, haven’t been many).

In the future, Bright Angel hopes to introduce “smart bikes”, allowing visitors to swipe a card and check out a bike and helmet at several locations in the park.  And they’re hoping to work with the park on a staff bike-sharing program, since many park personnel already ride their bikes to work.

The goal of bicycling in national parks is not extreme speed or thrills, but quiet, nonpolluting transportation and a deeper visitor experience.  For visitors seeking the sense of freedom, energy, and healthfulness that the national parks embody, two wheels can be just the right speed.

Fortunately for us, the initiatives don’t just stop there. Other parks are welcoming the idea of bike rentals for use by tourists, volunteers and park staff in efforts to keep the park more eco-friendly – cutting back on automobile congestion, traffic, and noise and air pollution.  At Zion National Park, they’ve introduced the “Green Fleet,” a ‘fleet’ of 17 bicycles to be used by park employees, volunteers and other staff members to help them get to and from administrative buildings, visitor centers and other operational facilities.

It seems that before you know it the main source of transportation at our national parks will be on two wheels as opposed to four. That’s certainly not a bad thing – the physical and mental health benefits certainly seem to out-weigh all potential ‘downfalls’ to biking in our national parks. In fact, I don’t really see any potential downsides to that notion, do you?

When Karianne and I were leaving Acadia National Park we wished two things (in addition to a trip extension, of course)…we, 1) wished we had bicycles so we could have explored more of the park grounds in a day and 2) that they had on-site bike rentals for those of us who couldn’t make it to the park with one.  Hopefully, by the time we return, one of our wishes will come true.

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