E-bikes in National Parks? *Everything You Need to Know*

The federal government now allows e-bikes in National Parks. The National Park Service recognizes that electric bikes offer positive impacts to our parks, monuments and other NPS managed lands. But, what does that mean for ebike riders, regular cyclists and visitors who drive automobiles who share the parks?

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E-Bikes in National Parks Info Guide

Ebikes in National Parks - Looking over Handlebars

If you’ve visited a National Park recently, I’m sure you’ve noticed the lack of parking for automobiles. You either have to either sit and wait for a parking space or not get one at all.

But while everyone’s fighting for parking spaces, the federal government implements a new e-bike regulation for National Parks. Positively, it’s proving it’s worth for ebike riders as well as other visitors and even the staff and volunteers in the Parks.

In other words, with the influx of National Park visitors of past years, the National Park Service is recognizing all of the positive impacts ebikes offer to the Parks.

Electric Bikes become federally approved in National Parks

Ebikes in National Parks - Bike Parked on Trail

In November 2020, the National Park Service published a regulation allowing the use of e-bikes in National Parks.

This regulation allows electric bicycles on roads and trails where traditional bicycles are also permitted.

The intent of the regulation is to allow visitors to use e-bikes for transportation and recreation in a manner similar to traditional bicycles.

This is huge because electric bikes have, in the past, been looked down upon from those who ride manual pedal bicycles.

And, years prior to the final regulation, e-bikes were misunderstood and categorized the same as motorcycles. However, the NPS now realizes that an electric bike is comparatively different from a motorcycle or even a scooter. The benefits electric bikes offer as a form of recreation, fitness and transportation are insurmountable.

Allowing e-bikes in National Parks also enables some disabled visitors who are unable to ride regular bicycles to still enjoy the National Parks while enjoying freedom to explore and fitness.

Are all Classes of E-bikes are Allowed in National Parks?

Ebikes in National Parks - Voyageurs National Park - Always On Liberty
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The National Park ebike regulation defines electric bicycle as a 2-wheel or 3-wheel bicycle with fully operable pedals. It’s electric motor cannot exceed 750 watts. The regulation also establishes a three-class system to differentiate between top-assisted speeds of e-bikes and ebike models.

Class 1 E-bikes have a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph.

Class 2 E-bikes have a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph.

Class 3 E-bikes have a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 28 mph.

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Why E-bikes are GOOD for National Parks

The National Park Service admits that ebike’s green technology allows visitors to travel through the parks and recreate responsibly.

“There are no emissions from electric bikes because they do not use any gasoline when in use and instead rely on a battery. As a result, there is less pollution in the air, as well as less greenhouse gases and particulates.” – Boogie Bikes

Electric bikes are a great alternative to driving a vehicle that uses fossil fuels. E-bikes expel zero emissions; therefore improving air quality to enable the natural environment to thrive better.

And let’s add that ebikes are much quieter to almost being silent which makes, not only the rider’s National Park experience more pleasant, but other park visitors’ as well.

Wildlife benefits from e-bikes as well. Electric bicycles are not loud or obnoxious in sound. And, there’s also much less risk of injuring or killing wild animals as opposed to automobiles who tend to travel faster or don’t see them.

Going a step further, as with all other bicycle types, there’s a significant decrease in traffic congestion.

And e-bikes in National Parks exponentially lessen the demand for parking spaces. An 8-bike bicycle rack takes the space less than a single car parking spot.

And since there are more bicycles on the road, visitors have become more aware of their existence and are learning to share the road with bicycles of all types.

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Why an ebike is essential to bicycle riders in National Parks

Ebikes in National Parks - Bicycles at Cuyahoga National National Park
Seniors riding ebikes in Cuyahoga National Park – Always On Liberty©

As mentioned prior, because there are more bicycles in the parks, visitors are more cognizant of regular bicycles and ebikes; thus their learning to share the road.

Ebikes allow cyclists to travel farther with less effort; thus making travel easier and more fun.

For those who are limited by disability, age, fitness level or even convenience, ebikes afford visitors the ability to enjoy the National Parks with a smaller footprint.

Except for crowded parks (weekends, holidays and summer vacations), ebikes and bicyclists worry less about waiting for parking spaces. And if you’re camping with your ebike, some National Parks offer bicycle racks at the campgrounds.

Know how to use your electric motor on your ebike in National Parks responsibly

Ebikes in National Parks - Scoping an uphill climb

The intent of the regulation is to allow visitors to use e-bikes for transportation and recreation in a manner similar to traditional bicycles.

Be aware though, the regulations prohibit operators of Class 2 e-bikes (see above) from exclusively using e-bike motor to propel for an extended period of time without pedaling. There is one exception, and that is in locations that are open to public motor vehicle use.

Always use common sense when riding up and down steep grades. 

Look far ahead of your intended destination. Pay attention to rocks, logs, dips and humps as well as other hikers and other cyclists.

Be mindful of what your electric bike is capable of; steep climbs, shifting gear, pedal assist modes, etc. Know how to properly accelerate and brake on your ebike.

And always be on the lookout for wildlife. Remember, animals are unpredictable and don’t have to follow traffic laws.

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Ebike Riding Tips in National Parks

Ebikes in National Parks - Bicycle on Backcountry Trail-2

It’s important to visit a specific National Park website for information before visiting. Ebike riders are encourage to look over the rules on the website. This will tell you what parts of the park are ebike friendly or accessible and what facilities and activities are open and available.

I highly recommend visiting the Ranger Station or Visitor Center before proceeding about your day at the Park.

Ebike riders and bicyclists are subject to the same traffic laws as all other motorists. Although ebikes are slower than automobiles, it’s important to stay within the traffic flow. And always stay to the right of traffic. Also, ride single file when group riding throughout each Park.

Both motorists and cyclists, including ebike riders, must adhere to sharing the road. While riding an ebike or manual pedal bicycle makes you vulnerable to larger automobiles, riders still have obligation to not put themselves in a position of harm.

Per National Park Service advisement, be aware that on most roadways in the parks, there are no shoulders or bicycle lanes. And sight lines are often poor, at best. Ebike cyclists will encounter frequent bus, private vehicle, RV, and heavy equipment traffic on both the paved and gravel sections of roadways.

Always be cognizant of wildlife and potential dangers of riding in the natural environments. Be aware of big cats, bears, large game animals, etc. Wildlife is unpredictable and can be dangerous if they’re threatened, cornered or confused.

If you’re riding through bear country, it would be wise to carry bear spray on your person at all times. Know your bear safety, on and off your ebike.

No bikes, traditional or ebikes are permitted in the wilderness areas.

PRO TIP: We highly recommend reading our article, Bicycle Safety: How to Ride Safely on Roads and Bike Trails.

How to prepare for your National Park visit on your ebike

I’m sure most know how to get ready for your day of riding around in your chosen National Park. But, as a reminder, we listed a few important things you should do to make your experience even more amazing.

      • Make certain you enter the Park with a fully-charged battery.
      • Any add-on lights should be fully-charged.
      • Pack a full-charged battery bank to charge your smartphone or tablet.
      • Let a loved one know exactly when you’re leaving, what National Park you’re visiting and when you plan to return.
      • Pack healthy protein snacks in your tail trunk cooler.
      • Wear your PPE (Personal Protection Equipment – Helmet, Closed Toe Shoes, Riding Gloves, Riding Jacket and Sturdy Trousers).
      • Dress appropriately for weather and temperatures.
      • Bring a sturdy bicycle lock.
      • Make certain your bike repair tool kit is stocked. Bring an extra bicycle tire tube and tire pump.
      • Pack high SPF sunscreen and bug repellent.
      • Bring your National Park Pass, Personal ID, and money for concessions.

And lastly, always be respectful, pack in pack out and leave no trace. Be a good steward to our Nation’s natural treasures.

PRO TIP – Don’t have a National Park Pass? Save time by getting yours before arriving.

Check out our video review off the Boogie Cruiser Ebike:

What NOT to do in National Parks with your E-bike

Ebikes in National Parks - Bikes Locked to Tree
These bikes were improperly secured to a tree at Mammoth Cave National Park. There was a bike rack only 50′ away.   – Always On Liberty©

There are a few rules to follow as a respectful ebike rider in the National Parks.

Operate your ebike like an automobile driver. All the same driving rules apply to ebike riders as well on the road way. Ride defensively, not offensively.

Never exceed the speed limit in any National Park. Just because your ebike is programed to travel 20mph, do not exceed the speed limit even to pass a motorist or other ebike riders.

Do not ride your ebike off the trail or off the roadways.

Never lock your ebike to a tree, picnic table, fence, or any place that hinders traffic. Always use a bike rack to secure your ebike to.

Do not ride your ebike if impaired or past your physical and mental capabilities.

How National Parks can improve an     e-bike riders experience

Bicycle Rack

Add Bike Racks & E-Bike Charging Stations

As ebike riders ourselves, we’ve noticed that our National Parks need to provide more bicycle racks at visitor centers, trailheads, exhibits and pullovers.

By not providing bicycle racks, it forces riders to lean or lock their ebikes to live trees. Even so, most trees are too large to get a bicycle lock or chain around anyway.

But also, this will dissuade bicycle riders from parking their ebikes just anywhere; including automobile parking spaces.

And thinking logistically, electric bikes are not cheap; some cost thousands of dollars. Not having a designated place to lock them to sets ebike owners up for theft.

And although a pipe dream, it would be nice if National Parks would provide a couple bike rack charging stations at the visitor centers. Even I wouldn’t mind a ‘pay per charge’ fee to know I won’t run out of juice; especially at larger National Parks.

Encourage Education and Awareness

Another issue ebike riders encounter is hikers not sharing the trail. As we’ve experienced, about 25% of hikers even know what trail etiquette is, let alone practice it.

That said, bicycle riders need to practice trail etiquette as well as adhere to bicycle safety rules.

Most of all, the National Park Service needs to remind ebike visitors, regardless of how they traverse the park, to share the road and trails.

Though I’m not a big proponent on lots of signage in our National Parks, occasional reminders need to be posted on the roadways and trails.

As well, boldfaced reminders need to be posted on road and trail maps and on National Park educational pamphlets.

Education and awareness is key to enhancing every National Park visitor’s experience.

Final thoughts on riding ebikes in National Parks

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Enjoying our ride in Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Always On Liberty©

The National Park Service recognizes that not all of their visitors can nor want to travel through the Parks by automobile.

Like regular bicycles, ebikes are a great solution to lessening the carbon footprint and decreasing traffic and parking issues.

But, as I can personally attest, ebike riders get a better National Park experience. All because we can travel and enjoy the scenery and wildlife without blind spots from riding in a car or over-exertion from pedaling a regular bicycle. 

Have more questions? Visit the NPS website for more information regarding ebikes in National Parks.

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