Summer Touring 101: Beat the Crowds

Chasing other horizons

It may already be August, but there's still plenty of time left to salvage the summer for some memorable road trips. At this point in the riding season, you probably don't want to point your wheel at the usual hot spots-they're likely to be packed with tour buses and sightseers. Not to worry-you can still bag some good scenery without having to stomach the crowds if you aim your sights just a little further off the main track. These less-trafficked alternatives will give you just as much riding pleasure as the main show.

Sturgis -Right? Wrong
TRY: Spearfish And The Black Hills Instead
Downtown Sturgis will be swarming with machinery, beer stands and T-shirt vendors between August 9th and 15th-especially since this year marks the 70th anniversary-but fortunately for you, there's plenty of good riding to be found outside the immediate environs of Lazelle. Avoid the masses on Main Street and head west for the beautiful sweepers in Spearfish (take Spearfish Canyon Highway off I-90, and aim for Deadwood) or farther west, to the Black Hills National Forest in Wyoming (en route to Devil's Tower). And no trip to the Dakotas is complete without visiting Mt. Rushmore, about an hour south. It's still crowded, but at least you'll be moving.

Glacier Park North
TRY: Waterton National Park, Canada

Yea, it's a popular spot, but hey-Glacier Park is also 100 years old this year, so there's good reason to visit this two-country paradise. The park has centennial celebrations planned, and Going to the Sun Road-a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark-is a classic riding route, even if it's rather short and crowded. If you go, head in from the less popular eastern entrance. But to really duck the hordes, cross the border north from Glacier to its sister park, Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada, and the thickly forested, winding roads become a bit less trafficked...especially as you roll through waypoints with names like Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump.

Not Yellowstone
TRY: The Grand Tetons, WY

The Grand Loop Road through Yellowstone is a bear (sorry) in mid-summer, so spend some time rumbling through Grand Teton National Park instead, just south of Yellowstone, before you hit the main attraction. Teton Park Road provides some of the best roadside views of the Teton towers, and if you have a little more time, the drive east from Moran Junction along Highway 26 toward Dubois is worthwhile too. Chief Joseph Scenic Highway (also known as Sunlight Basin Road) is also a magnificent option that delivers you to Yellowstone from Cody.

Deeper Than Grand
TRY: Hells Canyon, ID

Skip the most popular canyon in America and go to the deepest one instead. The crowds are fewer, the weather's a bit more temperate in August, and if you go to Hell's Canyon, you can ride the 218 mile Hells Canyon Scenic Byway (400 miles if you factor in the many side trips) through Idaho and Oregon.

75 And Still Stunning
TRY: Blue Ridge Parkway

Another crowd favorite, but again, there's an anniversary to celebrate. The Blue Ridge-all 469 miles-is 75 this year. But it's still one of America's most-visited national park sites and that means contending with crowds and traffic jams. A less crowded (and also, less scenic) alternative is the Cherohala Skyway, a 15 mile-long roadway winding over the 5400 foot mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina.

Forget The Rockies
TRY: Gunnison Gorge

Forgo the jams in Rocky Mountain National Park and head west to experience Colorado's lesser-known, but no less scenic Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The South Rim Drive is paved and will offer you 12 viewpoints along the way. Head out along the North Rim Drive for some real solitude-it's the road less traveled, as it's mostly dirt. The earth is packed pretty well come summer, though, so adventurous types might want to check it out-at their own risk.

Go To The Bend
TRY: Big Bend National Park

Okay, so August isn't the best time of year to visit this park tucked against the border of Mexico, but that means you'll probably have the place to yourself. And since the park has areas of higher elevations, you can escape the heat by heading to the Chisos Mountains within the park, or the cooler compound of the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains, due north on Highway 118._ -AC_