The 1,287-mile trail connects Yellowstone National Park to Minneapolis.

By Meena Thiruvengadam
July 14, 2020
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This may be the summer of the road trip, but cyclists just got a new reason to leave their cars at home.

A new 1,287-mile bike route now connects Montana to Minnesota, winding through mountains and prairies while taking riders from Yellowstone National Park — America’s first national park — to the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. The Parks, Peaks, and Prairies route from the Adventure Cycling Association cuts through Black Hills National Park and Badlands National Park, passing by Devils Tower National Monument in northeastern Wyoming and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

The route is broken up into three parts, each between 380 and 508 miles long. The first leg starts in West Yellowstone, Montana, and winds through Yellowstone National Park, home of the Old Faithful geyser. Its 398 miles take riders through the iconic wild west town of Cody, Wyoming, and into Gillette, Wyoming, a hub of American coal, oil, and methane gas production.

The second leg of the trail is the shortest, coming in at almost 380 miles. It takes riders to the Devils Tower National Monument (the oldest national monument in the U.S.), through the the Black Hills (home to Mount Rushmore National Park), and through the scenic Badlands National Park. Expect to encounter pine-lined cliffs and old gold mining towns. This stretch includes Powder River Pass, the highest elevation point on the route at 9,675 feet, and a ride above the scenic Needles Highway, a road defined by several granite “needles.” This is an area known for brutal winds, inclines, and tough pedaling.

The third leg of this epic journey is the longest, at 510 miles, but the terrain becomes flatter as mountains give way to prairies. This is the place for relaxing at lakeside campsites in between rides past farmland and the thousands of lakes that dot the landscape. It ends in Minneapolis, a city known for its world-class bike trails.

Riders can download the Adventure Cycling Association’s Bicycle Route Navigator app or download GPX data for use with GPS tools. Check with the National Park Service for information about camping locations and closures along the route.

For truly ambitious riders, the Parks, Peaks, and Prairies path is part of a larger network of cycling routes connecting Astoria, Oregon, with Bar Harbor, Maine.