Big Sky Montana Mountain biking

Mountain Biking, Rainey Creek, Swan Valley Idaho
Mountain Biking Rainey Creek Idaho

One of the most innovative and fresh multi-disciplined sports is mountain biking. For the athletic, adventurous or those who would like to become so and you are brave enough to challenge difficult terrains and rocky mountainsides, then mountain biking would be a great sport for you, and there is no better place to do I than right here in the mountains, plains and deserts of the Greater Yellowstone Region.

Mountain biking is a sport where people ride their mountain bikes down rocky mountainsides and along dirt trails. Mountain bikes are very powerful bicycles and built to be able to absorb a lot of abuse. They have unique features that allow the cyclist to balance even on the most rocky, off-road terrains. Mountain biking can best be characterized into three different styles – downhill, free riding, and cross country. Even though the different styles are similar in some ways, they still require different skills. The style that you pick will determine the type of bike you get.

The grind to the top of a trial will tax you physically but as you glide down the trail, around challenging obstacles and over the jumps you are in ecstasy as your adrenaline levels rush over the top. That said there are plenty of places a casual rider can find easy terrain on flat and scenic off-road terrain.

Mountain Biking yellowstone region
Mountain Biking Pallisades Creek, Swan Valley Idaho.

The National Forests of the Greater Yellowstone region provide a plethora of mountain biking opportunities and the Bureau of Land Management has even more in the deserts that surround our mountains.

Our regions ski resorts now offer ski lift assisted mountain biking opportunities for those who prefer only the downhill rush side of the mountain bike equation and they have gone to much trail work to provide optimum trail challenges, fun and safety.

Mountain Bike clubs and Bike shops have teamed together to develop and optimize mountain bike trails in our national forests building jumps and challenging obstacles and these optimized trails have proven to be quite popular with local mountain bikers and a fabulous treat for tourist mountain bikers who come here from all over the world to bike the trails of the Greater Yellowstone area.

Of course, becoming an excellent mountain biker requires hard work to hone skills. A lot of mountain bikers participate in mountain biking races that include amateur cyclists who just join for the experience. Bike challenges offered are of a daredevil level. Risks, stunts and courses that challenge the cycle and rider make for a rare breed of athlete.

Downhill Mountain biking. This includes huge jumps that span up to 40 feet and drops down of 10 feet. The terrain is expected to be steep and rough. It is definitely one of the unsafe and it requires a lot of physical work when compared to the other categories.

Free riding. This is the most spontaneous of all. There is no need to restrict you to any particular style. A rider is given a choice to perform any combination or series of downhill courses, a few drops and jumps probably. Stunts are more important than skills in this category.

Cross-country. This is the most common category. It is probably the most popular too. It includes a bike trail of around 30 miles in a loop or in terrain full of jumps and descents. It is great for amateurs, especially if a rider is planning to move to more dangerous types.

Dirt jumping. The events for this category are just about showcasing the boldest and scariest, most insane stunt or trick where you can see bikers playing in the air.

Regional Mountain Bike Trails

mountain bikers, wyoming rangeBlack Canyon • (Wilson WY) - The climb up old pass road is mostly on old, rotting pavement with a few switchbacks but not that steep. The climb up to the top of Mount Ellie is a bit more difficult but absolutly beautiful. However, keep your eye on the trail b/c there are a few rocks that can knock you down if you aren't paying attention. There is one steep section that is ridable for the advanced riders. The singletrack down is fast and furious but watch out b/c it can get rutted towards the end of the summer. It can also be loose in spots, especially around the switchbacks. Towards the bottom of the canyon there are a few stream crossings but last time I was up there the trail crews were working on taking them out. This trail is a blast and I highly recommend it for any type of rider. The singletrack down can get pretty gnarly at the bottom with roots and rocks and the chance to topple over in a stream. Just remember towards the bottom when you get the horse trails to bare left otherwise you will end up at a horse barn. Have fun

Cache Creek Loop • (Jackson Hole WY) - Frickin' wicked decent smooth, winding singletrack through meadows and forest along Cache creek. Quite undulating. High altitude lungs helpful. Loop can be ridden in either direction, but is described here in my preferred clockwise direction. The above mentioned trailhead takes you on a gentle climb in a grassy, sage brush meadow and winds up and down in the floor of the valley on the north side of cache creek. Once this trail merges back with the road, continue to ride east on the road up the valley for another half mile or so. Another trailhead leaves the road to the right into the forest, crosses cache creek, and brings you back, eventually, to the lower ski slopes of Snow King Resort. Along this section of the trail in the woods, forks in the singletrack present several options. Keep left at each fork to prolong the ride and go right to bail out. For the best, longest ride, keep left at each fork until you intersect a switchbacking snow cat road on Snow King Mountain. Ride up this road until you reach the top of the chairlift (where the alpine slide starts), ride the trail from the top of the lift traversing the wider ski runs and keep left at the main fork (this is roughly the 10 mile mark). Eventually, you will enter the woods on the west side of Snow King where the trail traverses the mountain in the woods for untold miles, south to Hoback Jct. Winds up and down as far as you can imagine with ample opportunity to bail out into the town of Jackson. For more info, contact Hoback Sports in Jackson.

Shadow Mountain • (Jackson Hole WY) -  Follow the dirt road up Shadow Mtn. for about 3 miles. This is a mellow but steady climb. Once you appear to be on top of Shadow Mtn., look for a single track off to the left. This trail splits a couple of times, but all trails lead to the bottom. Stick to the leftmost trails for the best ride. Once at the bottom, take the fire road to the left to get back to the parking area.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort • (Jackson Hole) Teton Village's lift served mountain biking terrain is now even more accessible. The Teewinot Quad chairlift is open for biking from June 14th to September 1st. Teton Village, at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, offers experienced riders seven miles of technical singletrack. Mountain bikers are able to ride up to the summit of the Bridger Gondola via Solitude Road - this activity is for expert Mountain Biking in Teton Villagebikers only and DOWNHILL RIDING IS NOT PERMITTED above Amphitheater Bowl.

White Pine Ski Resort • (Pinedale Wyoming) Lift served mountain biking in Pinedale. Experience the thrill of riding down the mountain on a mountain bike, or just ride the lift to the top for the scenic view. Mountain bike rentals are available.

Young mountain biker
An ambitious youngster is already out seeing the wonders of the Greater Yellowstone Eco-system even before he gets his bike with gears :D

The Big Hole Challenge • (Victor/Driggs ID) - Ride west into Horseshoe canyon. The road will dogleg, first right, then left, then bear left up the canyon road. You will pass a few homes to the left, ride over two cattle guards, after that take the first dirt jeep road to the left. (it will be a little farther than you think.The trail to the right accesses some more difficult climbing and singletrack,this is called the expert loop.) The left hand trail from the road climbs up this doubletrack/wide single track, bear to the right at all turns. It will meander for a few miles, cross a creek, climb again, and at a trail crossing (the right trail brings you up Long Ridge, desscribed in the Mahogony Trail review), go left, and rip your way back down to the valley. At the first perpidicular intersection, 100 S., turn left and back to the car! Heinekin, perhaps?

Black Grove • (Victor/Driggs ID) - At the top of the pass, turn Left (south) on a fire road that leads to some undeveloped campsites. Ride approx 1.8 mi untill you see an old sheep herd/jeep trail that goes very steeply up to the left. after you all have CLEANED this mini hero hill, the ride turns into wide singletrack. Stay on the main trail, it will meander and climb, eventually a couple of switchbacks, always bear to the left. after the switchbacks you will probably rest in a stand of aspens. Ride approx 1/2 mile towards the east, the trail will take a sharp left north. Roll through a cool tall tree section, eventually follow a ridge to the west until the trail turns north.(this is your first right turn!) Follow unbelievable singletrack until the trail spits out onto a powerline road. Take a left here back to the car!

Thousand Springs • (Idaho Falls/Ririe ID) - A wide single track trail that has been completely redone by the FS (YOUR TAX $ AT WORK). This is an absolutely beautiful trail through evergreen forest to a wildflower infested alpine valley, Sound good; IT IS! It's an out and back ride. For a nice 11 mile total ride, I suggest you turnaround at Blacktail Pass which is beyond the valley (it's right after a moderate climb above Crystal Lake - a very small alpine lake). You must checkout the view from Blacktail Pass; the mountain to the east is Garns, the highest peak in the Big Holes. There is not much elevation gain on this ride; just a series of relatively short(1/2 mile or so) up and downs with flats in between. I rate it intermediate; but I would not take a novice on it. For you gonzos, you can keep going over Garns mountain and make a big loop back canyon creek trail or proceed on to Driggs.

Mill Creek • (Driggs ID) - Park and gear up in the large parking area on the right of Teton Canyon Rd. there is a amazing view of the Tetons hear… you can head back to the main road and make the climb to Targhee Ski Resort on the road. Or shuttle to the top if you have two cars... I personally recommend heading up the single track. The trail starts directly a-crossed the road from the parking area. Head up 1.3 miles and find a trail that heads west off to the left. This part of the trail is not maintained and you will have to explore and meander your way through a maze of unclear trails just keep heading west up the hill the trails get better until it terns into a jeep road that will take you to the main paved road. Take the road the rest of the way to Targhee. To the right of the main ski lifts is the dirt road stay to the right as you climb. After making it to the summit head down and make you’re first left. The dirt/gravel road soon narrows to the most amazing single track. Follow it down until you get to the car. And enjoy hitting this trail with speed, just watch out for hikers…

mountain bikers, snake river range, idaho
Mountain bikers find plenty of pretty scenery anywhere where mountain bikes are allowed around Yellowstone.

Wolverine Creek Loop • (Ririe ID)- Wolverine is a recently reconstructed FS trail that sees motercyle, horse and hiker use; it is not heavily used. The ST trail is a nice interesting cruise, a little rough at the end; (at the mouth of the canyon).

Pole Canyon • (Victor ID) - This trail is a 16 mile clockwise (or vice versa) loop. Ascend on great sigle/old doubletrack (no trucks have been allowed for decades), through four or five creek crossings, and up to some great switchback sections, Granny gears helpful,singlespeeders need not apply! switch up ad to the right till you reach a "summit", where you will see signs for Mike harris and Fourth of July trails that go off to the left. Do not take these. Really .bear right and rail through the back (south) side of the ridge. Eventually you will ride along the crest of the ridge, the views here are stunning. Now come one of the rippingest 1200ft downhills that you have ever been on. Hold on, this can be tricky at speed! The trail will spit out onto a powerline trail, take a right, an Jam back to the car! Beer time, amigos!

Buckskin Morgan to Hawley Gulch • (Ririe ID) - The first mile is rolling single track for 1.5 miles. At the fire road turn right and wind your way down the hill until you hit the main road. Pedal south approximately 400 feet to another unmarked trailhead on your left. This trail takes off up a short hill and then rolls you through a mile of superb trail. At the bottom bunny-hop the wooden bridge and proceed up a short hill and veer south. This is called Hawley Gulch. The trail starts above the drainage (the bottom is typically muddy until July) on a fireroad that gradually turns to a trail. This is a downhill run of almost 2 miles to Tablerock Campground. The main trail takes you directly to the campground or there are a couple of trails off to the right that will take you back to a road. (If you take these trails, turn right on the road and pedal uphill to the car.) From the campground turn right up the road until you get to the car. This trail is fairly popular and well used.

Fall Creek Area • (Swan Valley ID)- Everything you can imagine Try Echo Canyon, Rash Canyon, Blacktail Canyon, S. Fork Fall Creek, Pritchard Creek, 4TH of July Ridge, Red Ridge, Bear Creek, Elk mountain, etc, etc. These trails are as good as it gets. Mostly single track. Some jeep trails Many loops available, 10 miles to 30 miles Sorry there are no trail guides and you are really on your own. You will feel lonely out there. Although I list all levels, most are intermediate and advanced.

North West Trail • (Driggs ID)- This trail is not knowen by very many people. It is really fun. It has about 4 creeks that you go over. Watch out for Moose.

Grand Targhee Ski Resort • (Driggs ID/Alta WY) Lift served mountain biking is a great way to enjoy the beautiful outdoor setting of Grand Targhee. Bike trails around the resort are easy and fun for the novice and intermediate rider; mom, dad, and the kids love our base trails. Experts can take their downhill mountain bike up the chairlift for great views and a fun downhill ride, or head out on our network of trails. Starting right at the base, our bike trails offer double track and single track riding amidst the wildflowers and aspens.

mountain biker, gallatin range, montana
A mountain biker feels the need for a little walking on a steep section of Hyalite Canyon Trail in the Gallatin Mountains south of Bozeman

Lionhead Mountain Loop • (West Yellowstone) The trailhead is located 7 miles east of West Yellowstone off of Highway 20. Turn right onto Denny Creek Road and drive 1.5 miles to the trailhead. The trail begins as an ATV trail and it is a good stiff climb for about 3 miles along Trail #217 where there is a fantastic view down into Hegben Lake. Go past a gate in the road and then turn left onto another small two track past meadows of wildflowers and the face of Lionhead Mountain looming to the west. Another 2.5 miles of climbing will bring you up to 8750 feet and around the shoulder of Lionhead Mountain. You are near the Continental Divide and the Idaho border. Then it is a fast downhill on Trail #114 before a couple of lefts onto forest roads before coming out onto Highway 20 turn left (east) and back to Denny Creek Road.

Gardiner to Point of Rocks • (Gardiner MT) This fun, point-to-point (shuttle required) cruiser begins in the busy little tourist town of Gardiner, located a mile high and adjacent to the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Yankee Jim Canyon, which you ll traverse on the ride, is the namesake of Jim George, the man who hacked a wagon trail/toll road through the canyon in the 19th century. Yankee Jim earned his keep by charging Yellowstone-bound travelers a fee to pass through the canyon, as well as by providing overnight accommodations in a roadhouse he constructed. If you re feeling energetic, at the suggested ending point at 22.0 miles you can turn right onto U.S. Highway 89 and return to Gardiner on pavement, or link to the Paradise Valley/East River Road ride, also on this site.

Emerald Lake • (Bozeman MT) - Great 4.5 mile singletrack with a little over 2000 ft. elevation gain. Some great technical sections but the the trail can be conqered by most reasonably fit riders on a good mountain bike. I'd suggest riding around the lake for some really great views of box canyon and surrounding area. Travel past the lake another mile or so for some really technical singletrack to Heather lake.

Mountain Biking Idaho
The splash of a cool mountain stream will cool you down after a tough peddle.

North Fork Loop • (Big Sky MT) Disconnected single track, double track and a bit of pavement. Take Beehive Rd for another 1.5 miles, you will go down a steep hill. At the Bottom is the Beehive Basin trail head. Hang a left, cross the creek and climb. After a series of switch backs, there is a junction, turn right. Climb to where you hit pavement again and ride uphill. About 1/2 mile of pavement takes you to the North Fork trail head, turn left.

Now the fun begins. 4.5 miles of sinngle track, some very steep, some very fun, a bit of climbing too, but mostly DOWN! Eventually, you will cross the North Fork of the Gallatin. About 200 yds of gentle climb leads to another junction. Stay right and downhill. More awesome downhill from here. Eventually, about 2 miles and you will cross the North Fork again and up a short steep climb. From here, continue to descend/roll along on a double track that rips. You will come out on a paved road, stay right again. Climb up a hill to reach the lower N. Fk trailhead and a parking lot. Either you ran a shuttle or from here you pay back that vertical. If you are continuing to ride at the trail head, turn right on a double track and climb. Ignore the single tracks that branch off and stay on the double track/jeep road. The climb is pleasent enough and will be about 3.5 miles long. Eventually you will break out of the trees and on to an open ridge line with big peaks to your right and straight ahead.

You are still on a double track jeep road. As you re-enter the trees, on your right is another trail head. Turn right on the Ridge Trail. This is a steep loose and technical climb. One section is ridable only if the traction is very good so don''t feel bad if you don''t clean it. After about a 1/2 mile you will top out on a nice single track and roll along in the trees. You will pass through some private property that is marked and then climb a pair of switch backs and then another great downhill. After another mile you pop back out on the pavement, uphill and to the east from the North Fork trail head. Turn right and ride pavement back to where you started up the pavement before and re-trace your route into Beehive Basin and descend the single track to the Beehive trail head. When you reach that trail head, climb the steep road back to where you began. Just after an automatic gate for Summit View, look to the left and catch a single track that descends back to behind the Mountain Fire station. Time for a cold drink, you are done. CAUTION!!! This is Bear country, carry Bear spray. Watch for hikers and Horseback riders on most of this trail, make noise! Please avoid riding in the Lee Metcalfe Wilderness, all the boundaries are well marked.

Ross Pass • (Bozeman MT) The Lat/Long is for Bracket Creek road off of Mt 8 past Bridger Bowl. Easy to moderate double track with a short dificult climb onto Ross Pass. From here you can go north or south along the ridge. Very nice views east toward TheCrazy Mtns and west toward the airport at Belgrade. It's about 4.6 miles one way.

Big Sky Mountain Resort • (Big Sky MT) Lift served mountain biking in and around the Big Sky area means miles of back country scenery, wildflowers, wildlife, and few human encounters. Big Sky Resort offers the areas only lift accessible downhill trails from the Ramcharge lift right here in the Mountain Village. For those of you who enjoy the uphill burn or a nice comfortable pedal through the forest, you will be delighted to find that Big Sky Resort is surrounded by National Forest Service land that offers hundreds of miles of forest service roads and trails for mountain biking. On the Mountain at Big Sky Resort riders will find mostly advanced and expert downhill trails, but there are beginner and intermediate offerings as well.

Photography of Daryl L. Hunter, landscape, wildlife, travel, lifestyle
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