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Close Encounters of the Moose Kind: A Motorcycle Trip Out West

Inspiration for a great motorcycle trip isn't hard to find in our home. Multiple books, with titles containing phrases such as "The Most Scenic Highways and By-Ways of America," litter our bookshelves. So, when the itch to take a motorcycle trip comes along, those books are the first place we turn looking for inspiration.

Luckily, my husband and I had the opportunity to take a motorcycle vacation this year. After some discussion and a little "inspiration hunting" through our book shelves, we settled on flying into Salt Lake City, Utah where we would rent a couple of Harleys from Eagle Rider.

The plan was to spend five action packed days riding through Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. We planned our travels to accommodate time for me to shoot photos as we passed up through Yellowstone National Park, over Bear Tooth Pass, and back into Utah through the Flaming Gorge.

I am always excited to explore any new area, but I had no idea what was in store for me on this particular journey.

(day one map)

Determined not to let a speed bump called "lost luggage" slow us down, the sunrise saw us hitting the road early our first morning in Salt Lake City. We rode north to Brigham City and jumped onto US 91/89, wiggling through Utah into Idaho along sweeping curves and rolling hills and into Logan and US 89. I think we both began to really wake up once we hit the Wasatch-Cache National Forest and the natural charm the road held for us as it twisted its way up and around the mountain.

But, what really gave us a jolt better than a Double Shot at Starbucks was the view of Garden City as we crested that last peak. The blue in Bear Lake was SO vividly radiant, it caused us both to pull to the side of the road simultaneously with mouths hanging open. The word "Wow" was muttered too often, but in some cases, words just do not come. We sat and stared at the breathtaking view below us trying to soak it in, just knowing that no amount of film or digital media could possibly capture its true essence.

OK, I am a photographer by trade, and would feel incomplete passing such a scene by and not even trying to snap off a few frames. But, trust me when I say- you just have to see many of the places in this article with your own eyes, smell the air with your own nose, and feel the grandeur of the ride and views with your own soul.

No words I can type here will express what simply needs to be experienced in person- but until you have the chance to ride out yourself- the least I can do is try! So peek at the photos, scroll down, and read on, my friend....

I'll continue our story with passing through the charming little town of Garden City, where we stopped for breakfast with the locals. I was feeling especially thankful that morning for the leather jacket and chaps loaned to us by Eagle Rider, (after our riding gear was misplaced by the airline) because this Florida Girl was just freezing beneath all that leather PLUS my own leather pants and other layers piled on- IN AUGUST!

Alpine Junction was a highlighted area of mountainous scenery in this area, aptly named for the terrain. Once on US 26, we also made a quick stop at Palisades Reservoir to admire the view. In Swann Valley, we took Idaho 31 Scenic Highway across the Snake River Range to Victor and Idaho 33. Traveling north on the west side of the Teton Mountains and whipping around the twists, turns and roller coaster roads of that area. It felt like we were crossing from Idaho into Wyoming and back in Idaho several times. I lost count along the way, but we made sure to do our silly raised arms dance at each state line as we crossed to signal "WooHoo State Line Crossing!"

We then followed US 20 into Harrison State Park and Henry's Lake State Park, where we were ready to settle in for the night at West Yellowstone after a bit of touristy wandering in the town of shops and restaurants. There was even a Shakespeare in the Park presentation if you were willing to brave the chilly air while watching. This wimpy Florida Girl had experienced her share of cold weather for the day, and passed on Shakespeare for an extra hour of sleep before heading into the Yellowstone National Park for the first time the next morning.


ruffrider says:

Holy Moose! That is one sweet moose encounter! :) thanks for sharing your story!
Thu Jun 6, 2013 at 7:52 AM

BikerMeme says:

Ragan....thanks for your article. It brought back memories of the trip my husband & I took in 2009. We were 4 couples riding from Winnipeg, MB Canada. We rode through 8 states total....but my favorite part of the trip was riding through Yellowstone and the Bear Tooth hwy. Another beautiful ride was the Chief Joseph hwy. which we rode coming back from Red Lodge, Montana. This was a 2 week trip....and what beautiful scenery we took in. At the time I rode behind my husband. Since getting my license 3 years ago I want to do that same trip again....but this time on my own motorcycle. What a thrill that would be. Keep riding safe

Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 1:16 PM

UtahDave2 says:

The blue of Bear Lake (1st picture) is different from any other lake I have ever seen. The state has put in a big pullout / rest area where you took you picture. Great ride - good article. Thanks for reminding me to go that way again this summer.
Mon Mar 28, 2011 at 6:01 PM

jeannine57 says:

Best memories for sure. I turned 50 in '07 and decided I'd find out if I was too old to keep riding. Headed out from Visalia, CA in late July. I kept going through many of the roads you wrote about. Destination Sturgis. 2 weeks later and 5000 glorious miles added to my Dyna I felt younger than ever! You've inspired me to write about the next adventure. Thanks!
Thu Mar 18, 2010 at 10:10 AM

duhbaglady says:

Your story brought back good memories, in 07, I decided it was time to go west, had wanted to do this for long ---Being an alabama girl ,i knew it would be a long trip, so I start checking the miles , GOOD GOD !! 5 days to get where I wanted to go ? So, by July 08 I had gotten over the shock and went for it , me and my road king. There is truly no words or photos to describe it. So, when I got home , my friends wanted to know about the trip. I just had to say , I can't do it justice with a few words. Find out for yourself.
Sat Nov 21, 2009 at 6:20 PM


I am also a South Florida rider. I would love to ride this area during the summer. I have only ridden in the Blue Ridge. I am a little squimish of heights. How was the riding in this area, I kmow you said your husband was a little nervous...also, what about the wildlife, did they ever approach you while riding? I want to be able to ride these areas but I don't want to nervous.
Thanks for the info from anyone.
Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 2:47 PM

felon says:

Depends how big the trailer is. Either way it sure wouldn't be as fun as riding!!
Fri Jan 9, 2009 at 4:09 PM

pego says:

How hard would it be to do the "Bear Tooth Pass" with a trailer?
Tue Jan 6, 2009 at 11:33 AM

felon says:

JoeMc: We ran Hwy. 78 between Columbus and Red Lodge, didn't make it up to Roberts.
Fri Aug 29, 2008 at 4:01 PM

JoeMc says:

Hey Ragan, nice report. I have ridden some of the roads the roads you mention in '98 and your descripton and pics are excellent.
When you rode through Roberts MT did you happen to notice if Montana Mikes was still there?
Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 5:04 AM

Pete4750 says:

Leathers don't keep you warm enough out here in the mountain west. I'm surprised Eagle Rider didn't know that. The elevation is what gets you. I've had days with a 5,000 foot elevation change and a 50 degree temperature change. The only thing that works as far as protective clothing in this environment is high-tech fabric clothing with zip-in liners. Even then, there are times I wished I had an electric vest and gloves.
Mon Jun 16, 2008 at 6:15 PM

mjdegeiso says:

You know it seems like we all come across a moose one time or another. It is amazing how big they are. Great story.
Thu Jun 12, 2008 at 1:51 PM

SgtRock says:

What a neat trip. Makes me want to do the fly-ride thing.
Tue Apr 1, 2008 at 8:43 PM

Pusanguy says:

I was born and raised in Logan, Utah. I've been on those roads countless times. I spent 23 years trying to get out of that town and the next 15 trying to get back. I look forward to riding those roads each summer when I go back for vacation. The ride up Logan Canyon to Bear Lake and Garden City is a gorgeous ride along twisting alpine roads. I spent many days skipping high school and university classes to make the run to Bear Lake to have a raspberry shake at La Beau's diner in Garden City. Flaming George is also an absolutely breathtaking piece of country. I'm glad you enjoyed the ride.
Fri Mar 21, 2008 at 12:53 AM

felon says:

Female moose, they don't have horns.
Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 4:04 PM

lmartin780 says:

The west is great for riding. I've done a similar trip several times..... but I'm not too sure that was a moose. Hard to tell with it's head down, but that sure looks like an Elk.

Great pics either way! Larry
Wed Jan 30, 2008 at 9:59 AM

TQ says:

Way to go Ragan .....passing your article over to all the gals in our chapter...
Wed Jan 30, 2008 at 3:45 AM

Birdman says:

Great article, make's me want to book a plane and check it out!
Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 1:23 PM

lillypad1752 says:

Excellent,fun article!
Tue Oct 23, 2007 at 12:12 PM

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