WHAT: Ride The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route
Known as the world’s longest off-road mountain biking trail, the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route hugs the North American Continental Divide between Banff, Alberta, and Antelope Wells, New Mexico. At nearly 4,300 km long, the route spans two Canadian provinces and five US states. It cuts through ghost towns, grasslands, mountain ranges, old Spanish land grants, deserted mines, national parks, boundless remote wilderness, and 200,000 feet of elevation ascent and descent. In short, it’s not for lightweights!
The riding surfaces are primarily gravel and dirt roads. Consequently, it’s no great technical challenge. However, attempting The Great Divide mountain bike route shouldn’t be taken lightly. What makes it so difficult is the sheer volume of miles covered daily. Meanwhile, you’ll need to navigate, resupply, maintain your bike, find or make shelter, and keep your wits about you.
The Greatest American Cycling Adventure
In 2009, National Geographic Magazine ranked the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route as one of the all-time greatest American adventures. The challenges are many. However, riders who are prepared, fit, and equipped are in for one of the most adventurous, memorable experiences in the mountain biking world.
The Great Divide mountain bike route’s reputation for humbling hardened biking egos is well deserved. An estimated 60% of riders never make the finish. Consequently, you should ask yourself the following questions before committing:
- How well do you deal with prolonged suffering?
- Are you happy camping in mud as the rains pounds down all night?
- Does carrying your bike, equipment, and supplies through waist-deep snow over a two-mile high mountain pass sound like fun?
Which Route Will You Take?
Most people ride the Great Divide Mountain Bike route from north to south. Due to weather conditions, southbound riders must begin no later than mid-June. From there, they have until the end of September to make the finish.
How Long Does the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route Take to Ride?
Route completion times range approximately from six weeks to three months.
The Great Divide Mountain Bike route burns a ton of calories. However, accommodation and reliable water and food stops are over 160km apart in many sections. In addition to camping and cooking kit, you’ll need bike maintenance equipment. You’ll also be weighed down the food and water necessary to fuel you through long sections.
Riders must endure rain, sleet, snow, strong winds, and temperature extremes at all times of the year. Attention to weather and climate conditions is essential. However, even with extensive preparations, riders can expect rain to turn dirt roads into impassable muddy quagmires. Riders have two options. Firstly, they can wait for the roads to dry out. Alternatively, they can carry their bike through lake-sized sections of mudwater.
The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is home to a ton of death-dealing mammals. These include moose, Grizzly bears, black bears, and the odd mountain lion. In addition, the blackflies and mosquitoes take no prisoners. Bear spray and insect repellant are essential items.
Very little of the route is signposted, so you’ll need map reading skills. In recent years, various long-distance cycling organizations have put together detailed route maps outlining directions and the most convenient camping and resupply options. Above all, remember you’ll be crossing between Canada and the US. So don’t forget your passport.
The Great Divide Mountain Bike Race
The Great Divide Mountain Bike Race is a self-supported, underground dash that attracts competitive endurance cyclists from around the globe. The race clock runs 24/7. Consequently, riders are free to move at their own speed and according to their own limits and capabilities.
In 2016, British endurance racer Mike Hall set a new record when he completed the Tour Divide Race in 13 days, 22 hours, and 51 minutes.
The Great Divide Mountain Bike Race has no entry fees and no prizes. It begins annually on the second Friday in June. After that, it’s three weeks of back-to-back riding for up to eighteen hours a day. So, if you think you’re capable, contact the organizers.
The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route begins in Jasper, Alberta, and ends in New Mexico. The entire route is 4,300 km long and proceeds as follows.
1. Roosville, Mt to Helena MT (598 km)
2. Helena, MT to Colter Bay, WY (730 km)
3. Colter Bay, WY to Rawlins, WY (588 km)
4. Rawlins, WY to Salida, CO (604
5. Salida, CO to Grants, NM (870 km)
6. Grants, NM to Antelope Wells, NM (635 km)
- Dehydration and food shortages
- Gnarly wildlife
- In the event of an accident, medical facilities are a long way off.
- The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is the stuff of mountain biking legend. Every day the route throws something different at you. For instance, challenging conditions, insanely beautiful scenery, places of historical interest, or the folks you encounter along the route. These diverse features make for a spectacular visual experience that many call an intense spiritual quest.
- The Great Divide Mountain Bike Race has no prizes. However, finishing well or even completing it is considered one of the greatest achievements in the professional mountain biking world.
- The route takes in some of America’s most majestic scenery. For example, highlights include Grand Teton National Park, Boreas and Indiana Pass in Colorado, Polvadera Mesa, Flathead Valley in Alberta, Wyoming’s Great Divide Basin, and the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico.