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Pedaling the Peaks

6 popular local mountain biking destinations

Published in the June 2022 Issue Published online: Jul 08, 2022 Discover Idaho Falls: Parks and Recreation, East Idaho Outdoors, Outdoors Ryan Harris
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LOAD UP, HEAD OUT.

Within minutes of any town in East Idaho, you can find yourself alone and free in some of the most intriguing terrain in the Western United States. Here’s a short list of our favorite area trails to hit from the saddle of a mountain bike. We recommend using the Trail Forks app to check out trails and plan your adventure. 

TETON PASS
There are nearly a dozen prime trails stemming from the top of Teton Pass (elevation 8,432 feet). You’ll need to either park a second vehicle in Wilson, Wyo., or hitch a ride back to the top of the pass.

From the top, two of the longest singletrack trails on the south side are Black Canyon and Lithium. Black Canyon is a moderately difficult ride, beginning with 1.3 miles of climbing south from the parking area to the top of Mount Elly. From there, it’s a long cruise down the south ridge and through the canyon. There are a few switchbacks up high and a couple small creek crossings low in the canyon. Flow is a big part of the reason Teton Pass trails have gained so much fame, and Black Canyon is a fine example. A few of the switchbacks right off the top are sharp, but not awkward. The canyon section is the kind of ride that makes you smile—which at 30-plus mph, leads to bugs and dirt in your teeth. So there’s that to consider.

Lithium is a trail that lives up to its double black diamond tag. It drops off the east ridge of Mount Elly and follows the spine of the rocky ridge down—and we mean down—until you hit the thick woods. From there, the trail is groomed, bermed and full of flow. It’s also full of kickers and jumps. Side note: wear protective gear if you plan on bombing this trail. 

More jump trails are available via Jimmy’s Mom, Powerline Jumps and Parallel trails. These three trails head from the small turnout about a quarter-mile east of the top of Teton Pass.

Parking at Phillips Canyon a little further down the pass gives you access to Arrow Trail, Snotel, Phillips Canyon and Phillips Ridge trails. Phillips Ridge is a fantastic 10-mile cross-country ride that rewards the rider who climbs the initial 1,400 feet with about eight miles of downhill through some spectacular scenic area. At one point, you’re riding the ridge right above Fish Creek Road looking out across Jackson Hole. We recommend this trail to anyone who wants to get a taste of Teton Pass mountain biking (Philips Canyon trail is slightly less difficult).

GRAND TARGHEE RESORT: DOWNHILL
Grand Targhee’s recent efforts to become the area’s prominent downhill mountain bike park have fostered into a playground for lift riders.

The Dreamcatcher lift carries riders and bikes (separately) to the top of Fred’s Mountain (elevation 9,862 feet). After taking in spectacular views of the Tetons, riders hop on Grand Traverse trail which takes them to the main jump-off point for downhill runs including: Ron Garden and Blondie to the north and Nice Marmot, Sidewinder, Sticks n Stones, Buffalo Drop and Bullwinkle to the south.

Most runs off of Dreamcatcher converge about two-thirds of the way down and offer access to a couple other fun trails: Astro, Otter Slide and Chutes and Ladders.

The resort’s Shoshone lift also operates in the summer for downhill mountain biking. This lift offers a shorter ride to the mid-mountain DH trails as well as Bring it on Home and Shake ‘em Down.

There’s also a skills park to hone your balance and technical fundamentals. 

GRAND TARGHEE: CROSS-COUNTRY
If getting there is as much fun as getting back, then you need to ride Rick’s Basin to the north of Grand Targhee Resort. Or park a truck in Teton Canyon, shuttle up to the resort and ride south out Andy’s Trail (where you can access a handful of other XC trails) and out Mill Creek to Teton Canyon.

HORSESHOE CANYON
If you think you might enjoy riding some well-designed XC-trails while looking across Teton Valley at the most majestic view in East Idaho, give Horseshoe Canyon a try. Located west of Driggs off of Bates Road, Horseshoe has great terrain, good climbs, fun downhills and nice flow. Stop into Habitat Bike Shop on the corner of Bates and Main to get some pointers on trails and parking.

HEISE

Idaho Falls’ backyard to the east is home to recreation enthusiasts looking for a place to hike, fish, float, horseback, dirt bike, camp and yes– ride mountain bikes and eMTBs.

Trails for the latter are littered all over the southwest end of the Big Holes, beginning with Sidewinder. This switchback trail leaves from the Stinking Springs parking area on Heise Road and climbs up the south face of Kelly Mountain. Once the trail merges with the motorized trail, you can climb all the way to the top of the ridge and even continue down the other side onto Kelly Canyon Road.

Several trails are accessed from Kelly Canyon Road and Buckskin Morgan Road. A popular mountain bike trail takes off on Hawley Gulch trail near Table Rock Campground and goes up the gulch to the north.

The area surrounding is sprawling with trails, and the best resource to learn these trails is through Snake River Mountain Bike Club (www.snakerivermountainbikeclub. com). The club has trail maps for trails such as Waterfall Loop, Cow Path Loop, Wolverine Creek and more.

The terrain here varies greatly from relatively flat trails to steep, technical trails that make for either good climbs or fun downhill sections. The scenery in the area is beautiful.

KELLY CANYON
If you haven’t seen the Canyon lately, you’re in for a big surprise.

Kelly Canyon, under new ownership and management for the past few years, has been going through the biggest transformation and upgrade the resort has ever seen. New lifts, remodeled lodge, on-site bike rentals and over 25 new, lift-service MTB trails.

And there is more to come with future plans.

Being the closest lift-service downhill mountain bike park to Idaho Falls, Kelly Canyon is the perfect afternoon getaway. It’s just 25 miles from Idaho Falls. Head east on U.S. Highway 26, turn north on N 160 E and continue past Heise Hot Springs another 3.5 miles

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