Don’t get us wrong. Mountain biking in Lake Tahoe is fun, but variety is the spice of life. We needed a break from the monotony. And what better way to do this than by going on a road trip for a mountain biking adventure. But where? The answer was simple: Teton Valley and Grand Targhee Mountain Bike Park.
Why We Picked Teton Valley
For us, the list of places to go on a mountain biking adventure in the summer is short. We want cool weather, and tacky dirt. With the truck packed, we headed east to Idaho and Wyoming! Of course, like any good road trip, we’d make a few diversions on our way out of town. A good example of this is checking out the newest lift accessed mountain biking in Idaho:
Warm-Up Before Grand Targhee
The plan was to arrive a day early and explore the Teton Valley mountain biking trails ahead of our stay at Grand Targhee. If you’re curious about just how good the mountain biking is at Targhee, check out our in-depth article found here:
Horseshoe Canyon & The Big Hole Mountains
Like most great mountain biking destinations, there’s an alliance that keeps the local trails in awesome shape, and for Teton Valley, it’s the MBT or Mountain Bike The Tetons. Since this was our first day, we wanted to keep it mellow but still have fun. We set our sights on Horseshoe Canyon just west of Driggs. It’s the local’s after-work special.
Emptiest Trailhead Ever
The directions seemed pretty straight forward… take Old Horseshoe Road until it ends. Pulling up to the trailhead, I couldn’t believe how empty it was. There was one car and that person was only out there to take his dog for a walk. The only thing you could hear were the birds chirping and a few crickets. Regardless of what the trail had in store for us, the opportunity to not see another person all day was worth it.
Since this was a new trail network for us and no cell service at all, we made sure that someone knew where we were and our plan for the day. We also double checked our gear to ensure we had all our essentials just in case something bad happened, including bear spray. For a full run-down of what we were carrying, check out our in-depth guide:
Gravel Grinder First
Looking at the trail system, there were two options on how to get into the network. The first was to pedal up Channel Lock. The second was to take Horseshoe-Packsaddle Road. We chose the latter since it seemed easier to climb. On a beautiful summer’s day, we pedaled up the gravel road slowly but surely.
Bear. Bear. Cow.
As we zipped up the meandering route, we suddenly heard a rustle in the trees. Is it a bear?!? We knew this is grizz country. Our hairs stood up, and we shouted to each other to make sure our presence was known. Jaime grabbed the bear spray ready for anything. And out came a…. cow. Chewing some cud, the cow looked at us and bellowed a loud MOO! We shook our heads and continued on our way.
Time To Wade Through A Creek
Not a single person around, we took in the rolling mountains and beautiful scenery filled with aspen groves and a few pines. It looked like a random road pulled to the right and drove straight into the river. Not thinking that was the right trail, we just kept going.
Local Freshies® Tip: Be Sure You Have GPS on or you’ll miss the turn!
About a mile down the road, we looked at the map and our GPS and realized it was our trail. Time to ford a creek! The cool water felt good on our feet as we tromped through it. Making it across, a trailhead for the Horseshoe Canyon area was ahead.
Three Forks In The Road, And We Chose The Toughest
From there, we had three choices. The main trail known as “Burgh”, “Probation” and then something that looked like a road. We took the road. Initially, the climbing was easy, but just a short jaunt up the road it became steeper and steeper. It wasn’t until we summited that we realized it was a four-wheel drive route and not the mountain biking network.
Views Of The Tetons Were Worth It
Chewing on a bar to refuel, we gazed across the Teton Valley and the majestic Grand Tetons themselves. With us being the only ones in the area, the feeling was amazing. We knew the bike trails were below us but had no idea where exactly. Following the road down, we finally got to the nexus of the entire system. A sign pointed to each of the singletrack trails. We realized that if we would’ve taken Burgh OR Probation, it would’ve cut off the exhausting trudge up to the summit… but we wouldn’t have seen the views of the Tetons.
Local Freshies® Tip: Follow the trail system not the roads.
Shark’s Belly – Fun Of The Rain Forest
Out of our options, we picked Shark’s Belly. The first thing we noticed was how green everything is. The section we had rode earlier was featured above-treeline vegetation like granite and pine trees. Shark’s Belly, on the other hand, was bright neon green like a rainforest. The dirty was clay-like and pow-dirt. Tacky as can be. Smooth tight turns that flowed perfectly with only a few pedal strokes to keep you going. A massive grin began to form on my face. It was unbelievable! Like nothing I’d ever ridden before on a mountain biking adventure.
Bovine Bliss – Just Like It Sounds
Blasting out of the rainforest-like canopy, we come up to another road intersection. This time we keep going straight and get onto a trail called Bovine Bliss. Now this section was open and more high-desert like. The dirt is still tacky but the huge banked turns whip their way through the sagebrush region until we are dropped onto the main road we’d driven in on.
As we slowly pedal back to the car, we’re flabbergasted at our experience. I’d never ridden a bike through three such distinctly different climates. Sure, there’s alpine and high desert in places but a rain forest too?!? No matter how much people tell you it’s the same everywhere… it isn’t. The air smells different. The dirt composition is distinct. The environment is one-of-a kind. Absolutely enjoy your local trails, but don’t just ride there. Get out of your comfort zone and go for a REAL mountain biking adventure.
Mountain Biking Tour Details
While it isn’t a guided mountain bike tour, if you know how to use GPS and have a map printed, it’s pretty straight forward. The terrain itself will challenge a beginner but every experienced mountain biker will enjoy the flowy singletrack. Not a HUGE amount of climbing but with a base elevation of 6,300’, a decent fitness level is recommended.
Length: 12.3 miles (1736’ elevation gain) – can be shorter or longer.
From downtown Driggs, take Bates Road west for about 6 miles. You’ll be forced to turn right onto N 7000 W. At about a ½ mile, you’ll make a left onto W 1000 N which will then veer into Old Horseshoe Road. There’s a few spots to park but you literally can’t go too far since the asphalt ends at the final trailhead.
For more ideas on hidden destinations like this, how to get started on mountain biking, or get tips on gear, check out our comprehensive guide: