It’s Great Divide Mountain Bike season!
Depending on the location, parts, but very few, of the route could be ridden all year, but the real “season” is approximately from May until October. Many people from all walks of life will roll wheels on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, including the 100+ riders that will start the annual Grand Depart on the second Friday in June, otherwise known as the Tour Divide.
From May until October, many bikers will do day rides on parts of the GDMBR, many will tour a section in an allotted time frame, and a lot will try to tackle the entire 2700-plus miles of the route. Some will make it…and some will not.
Every time I return to the route I am always grateful and reminded of how amazing our country is with its vast expanses of land and the most wonderful people who live along the route and understand the life of a GDMBR tourist.
The GDMBR corridor is made up of so many amazing things: towns big, small, and everything in between; corporate businesses, single person ownership and cash-only establishments; lodging facilities from hotels, hostels, to cozy holes in the dirt. All are unique and deliver a different experience. I like to refer to many of these places as the a true ‘slices of Americana’.
It’s easy to miss certain things along the way and it’s impossible to see and/or visit them all. I’ve been fortunate enough to have toured certain sections of the route multiple times and have raced the full route six times. That’s a lot of miles on this path. I think I’ve scratched the surface but there is still so much more to discover along the route.
I’ve had many amazing experiences on the GDMBR and you will too, no matter how long or short your journey. I don’t want to spoil to much of the unknown or give out all the details to the hidden gems, but here is a list of places that stand out to me and have impacted my experiences on the spine of America.
-First, I highly suggest the Flathead Valley over the Fernie Alternate through Canada. It is one of the more remote backcountry spots on route and has the infamous ‘wall’ singletrack connector. The Valley holds big, beautiful Canadian Rockies views and there is a very good chance of seeing bears. I have seen several in this section.
-Rolling over the border into Eureka I always go to Café Jax for no less than a milkshake! The breakfast is also amazing. Nice local hometown feel. I had the same waitress last year as I did in 20017 and just as I remembered her, she also remembered me.
-Holland Lake, south of Condon, Montana, is off route a small distance, but timed well it is worth the detour for a good meal from the lodge before taking on Richmond Peak. Beware as it offers a very relaxing atmosphere and view that might capture you for longer than your anticipated stay.
-Something I suggest missing is getting caught in the rain on the Bannock Bench or Medicine Lodge Road before Lima…but enjoy the fast roads if they are dry.
-The Warm River in Idaho offers amazing fishing opportunities and Mesa Falls is a short detour away. You will also get your first glimpse of the Tetons from this area. This is my backyard. I ride up here often all year long, including snow season!
-There are many great places to sleep but a night in the Wind River Range and/or the Great Divide Basin in Wyoming has the possibility of offering up one of the best night skies you will ever see. I hear some describe the Basin negatively, but don’t be scared of it. Embrace it because it is one of those stretches of landscape you won’t forget. Just be sure to stock up properly from the quant mercantile in Atlantic City beforehand.
-Brush Mountain Lodge in northern Colorado is another iconic stop on the route. The lodge doesn’t really operate as a business anymore, but Kirsten, the amazing host, has been serving the Tour Divide riders since the event started. It’s an oasis as a Tour Divide rider. As a touring cyclist, your timing will need to be just right to catch her otherwise you will just have to pedal your way to the next outpost in Clark.
-After coming off the highest pass of the route, Indiana Pass, you will eventually descend into Platoro, an old mining town. You have to go to the Skyline Lodge and take on the Bigfoot Breakfast Challenge! It’s everything you can imagine it to be and the owners are big fans of the Tour Divide riders.
-If you know any spot on the route, you probably know Pie Town. This is where Salsa Cycles buys you two free slices of pie as a Tour Divide racer…just show them your 2018 Pie Town Top Cap. I personally suggest the Pie Town Café if it is open. And don’t forget to stop at the Toaster House! You can’t miss it!
-The Snack Shack is a roadside stand and the first place to get food in New Mexico. It was started by children as a lemonade stand and has morphed into this fully stocked shed, run by mom nowadays as the children have moved on. Do as the sign says and ‘Beep Your Horn’ and somebody will come out to help you. In 20017 I wrote in the guest book stating, “I want to bring my wife here.” Two years later, in 2009, Tracey and I rode their together on our tandem.
-If The Snack Shack is closed then El Farolito is a Mexican restaurant not far away. It serves the best Mexican food I have ever had. It is very well known, and people go out of their way to travel to it. Do not leave without getting a bunch of sopapillas for your jersey pockets!
-If you are finishing the full route from north to south, Antelope Wells, New Mexico will give you one of the best, indescribable feelings in the world. To me, it is both sad and satisfying. Sad to be done with the journey. Satisfied thinking back to all that went into the journey to get there.
Enjoy every inch, and all the iconic places, along this iconic route!
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"I do not train,” Jay Petervary says. “I ride my bike a lot because I love to!" Jay first discovered cycling post-college, but was immediately prepping for a 500km multi-sport event. He’s logged many races in 18 years, everything from cross-country mountain bike to a cross-the-country time trial. Nowadays he rides for adventure, the longer the better.