Note from the author: These are strange and tenuous times we find ourselves in, and putting together a travel guide when so much of the planet is (rightfully) dealing with various travel restrictions due to the global pandemic is a strange and tenuous task. The truth is that these trails will be waiting for you whenever the time is right for you to explore them safely. For now, enjoy the images and inspiration, and stay safe my friends.
THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO RIDING IN
Words, photos, & video by Brice ShirbachPresented by Visit Idaho
Here's the deal: I spent 5 days riding my bike in the Pocatello area and in the Teton Valley, and I'd say I barely scratched the surface. I know we call these "The Complete Guide to Riding In (insert location here)", but this is decidedly incomplete. In fact I'd say that most of these are, and that's a good thing too, as there should always be more to explore, and I can confirm that Eastern Idaho has quite a lot more to explore than I was able to. In 5 days, each of which saw me spend no less than 8 hours on my bike, I am not especially confident in saying that I saw even 5% of what this region has to offer. That's rad, and that's what has me itching for a return.
I had been meaning to check this region off of the ol' bucket list for some time. Of course I have seen jaw-dropping imagery from the Teton Range for 38 years (at least 4 of which I can remember), and as is the case with anyone who has a pulse, my interest was instantly piqued upon the first glance of these legendary mountains in whatever magazine happened to expose me to them for the first time. It would take a few days before I would actually see the Tetons with the naked eye however, as the devastating wildfires that had been ravaging the American West for much of the summer created a massive cloud of smoke that had been pushed east due to prevailing winds, effectively blanketing much of the region as such. Still, the scale of the terrain here is plain to see even if the mountains are somewhat obscured, almost as if nature has placed an Instagram filter over them. The landscape here is punctuated by extremes, whether it's the sharp and precipitous channel left behind by the Snake River carving through the Earth, or the towering juts of the Rocky Mountains that dominate the skyline regardless of the haze. This land is an icon of adventure for so many, and while I had a bit of ground to cover between Pocatello and the Victor/Driggs area, you can bet that I was more than happy to oblige.
// Local FlavoursAge:
Wilmington, DE, USAIndustry affiliations:
Pivot Cycles, Maxxis Tires, Pearl Izumi, 9point8, Julbo, Deity Components, Shimano, Dialed Health, Stan's No TubesInstagram: @bricyclesFavorite Ride in Eastern Idaho:
Down the ChimneyRiding Style:
A Bit About the Region
Long before Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark crossed through Idaho on the way to the Oregon coastline, this land was inhabited by the Shoshone-Bannock people for centuries. The tribes generally lived as hunters and gatherers, traveling during the warmer months gathering food for sustenance during the harsh winters of the region. Their connection to the land they called home was profound. They hunted wild game, fished the region's abundant and bountiful streams and rivers, and collected native plants and roots. However as railway development allowed for increased westward expansion for American immigrants, the Shoshone-Bannock tribes would find that their traditional way of life was infringed upon severely. Currently the Shoshone-Bannock people are based at the Fort Hall reservation about 20 minutes north of Pocatello, and is one of five federally recognized tribes in the state.
Today, Eastern Idaho is held in high regard as an outdoor paradise. Fly fishing on the Snake River and its various tributaries and feeder systems, hunting down hot springs both on and off the map, and of course exploring some of North America's most revered mountains are all significant draws for visitors and residents in the area. Idaho is famous for its potato production, and the majority of that occurs in this portion of the state as well. Agriculture is a major driver for the region's economy as evidenced by the seemingly endless stretches of barley, wheat, and cattle farms and fields that fill in the gaps between the mountains.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the largest religion in the region, and much of the culture here is anchored to the church and its sensibilities. The Idaho Falls Idaho Temple dominates the city skyline and was the LDS Church's first temple built in Idaho, and the first built with a modern single-spire design. Pocatello is home to Idaho State University, a public university with close to 13,000 undergrad and graduate students, and is highly regarded for its psychology programs as well as its nuclear education and training programs.
COVID-19 updates: Some counties and communities across the state of Idaho are requiring residents and visitors to maintain physical distance and wear face coverings in public places and outside where physical distancing is not possible. Check out Visit Idaho's
COVID-19 travel information page to stay up to date on any restrictions that may impact your travel plans.
Getting to Eastern Idaho
I flew into the Boise Airport (BOI) and drove about 5 hours to Idaho Falls where I would spend the next 5 evenings exploring the Teton Valley and Pocatello. This airport is a small airport compared to most major international airports, but is large enough to offer low airfares and has all of the resources you need in terms of car rentals and ease of access. Salt Lake City is actually an hour closer to Eastern Idaho than Boise, and again, provides you with low cost options for flights as well as plenty of additional transportation resources. You can always opt to fly into Idaho Falls or Jackson, WY as well. Idaho Falls is squarely between Pocatello and the Teton Valley, and is serviced by Skywest/Delta Airlines, United Express, Allegiant Air, and Frontier Airlines. You can connect via non-stop flights to cities such as Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Minneapolis and others. Jackson Hole Airport is located within Grand Teton National Park boundaries, and is less than 45 minutes from Victor, ID. Flights here are notoriously hit or miss when it comes to their schedules, but it's a stunning place and easily the closest to Driggs and Victor. Jackson is serviced by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Skywest Airlines and United Airlines seasonally. These airlines provide direct service to Denver, Salt Lake City, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Minneapolis, Chicago, Newark, Atlanta, San Francisco, Houston, and Los Angeles.
You can also catch the bus out of Boise and Salt Lake via the Salt Lake City Express. They offer daily trips to southeast Idaho, and very palatable fares compared to train or flight options.
Of course I'm all about that road trip life, and this is one hell of a sweet place to see on your own schedule and at your own pace. Idaho's interstates generally see good traffic flow without much in the way of major population centers to slow things down, and gas prices in this part of the country are reasonable as well.
The Best Trails to Ride in Eastern Idaho
As vast as Eastern Idaho is, the trails are really kind of relegated to two main hubs: the Teton Valley and Pocatello. Fortunately, each of those present an almost absurd amount of world class trail and a look at Trailforks can present an overwhelming proposition. Both Pocatello and the Teton Valley have enough trails that are close to town to keep you happy for a week or more, but it's the backcountry access that really sets this region apart. Local riders are discovering new routes or opening up forgotten ones regularly, so the reality is that there's an almost endless amount of trail to explore and discover here. You can spend years here and still have more to explore. As a reminder, Eastern Idaho is grizzly bear country so make sure you’re bear aware and properly prepared. I had 5 days, so of course my experience was limited, but I'll do my very best to give you a sense of where to start.Teton Valley
I know that this is Eastern Idaho's Local Flavours, but I'd be remiss if I pretended as though their neighbor to the east, Wyoming, doesn't play a huge role in the mountain biking for locals on either side of the state line. In fact, many trails cross state lines, some more than once. The truth is that Mountain Bike the Tetons, the area's mountain bike advocacy group, works hard for trail access and development on both sides of the state line, and if you were to look at the map of area trails on their website, there is no state line drawn. The Teton Valley could keep you busy for the rest of your life, so to pretend as if I have a full sense of what this place offers is a silly proposition. I was stoked to have two days to take this place in, and will combine my limited experience with discussions and research to try and paint a fuller picture for you here.The Palisades: This zone is chock full of raw, backcountry riding at its best. The Palisades are a small chain of mountains separated from the larger Tetons to the northeast by a small valley where Victor and Driggs can be found. It's hard to find a "short loop" here, so plan for a big ride accordingly.
Key Ride - Mail Cabin to Mike Sell Canyon: You're on a shuttle mission with this one, but you should still expect to do quite a bit of climbing. The ride actually starts in Wyoming where you'll work your way up Mail Cabin for 4 miles climbing close to 2,000 feet. From there the ride picks up the Mike Sell trail, which undulates for 5 miles and takes riders for a roller coaster of fast and loose descents interrupted by chunky and technical climbs. Eventually you will connect to Mike Sell Canyon, which is an incredible 3 mile descent dropping riders 2,000 feet. It can be blisteringly fast, and much of it is loose and technical. Bring a friend or two, and some bear spray.
Southern Valley: These trails are close to Victor, so it's much easier to put together a quicker loop from town here. Most of the trails are geared toward more intermediate riders, but there are still a few opportunities to go fast and get loose if you fancy yourself something special on two wheels. Any ride in this part of the country requires some grizzly prep however. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security just because you're close to town. There are signs at every trailhead where grizzlies have been encountered, which happens to be every trailhead I saw.
Key Ride - South Grove Creek to Drake Creek: A 90 minute ride that begins and ends along the road just to the west of Victor, this will give you a taste of the mountains and terrain without having to fully commit to a pure backcountry adventure. The climb up South Grove Creek starts as double track before narrowing to a smooth and well kept singletrack ascent. At the top you'll turn left and hike a bike up the super steep and loose headwall that is the Big Hole Crest trail before turning left once more to descend Drake Creek. Drake is a lot of fun. It's really fast and raw, with several technical sections that can trip you up if you're not paying attention, and takes you through Aspen groves as well as some evergreen forest.
Big Holes: The Big Holes region of trails is full of amazing views, ridgeline riding, and massive descents. It's definitely a go-to for locals, and it's very easy to string together a number of trail combinations to create whatever kind of ride you're looking for.
Key Ride - Horseshoe up to North Mahogany down: This is a Victor classic. The climb up South Horseshoe is 6 miles in length, and will carry you 2,500 feet up. There will be plenty of amazing views but be sure to keep your eyes peeled for riders headed in the opposite direction, as well as moto users. You'll cut the final mile out of the ride by turning left onto Mahogany for a 5 mile descent dropping 1,900 feet to the valley below.Pocatello
The mountains that surround Pocatello might not be on quite the same scale as those found north of town throughout the Teton Valley, but they're still large and Caribou National Forest provides a truly beautiful backdrop for the trails in this region. Looking at Pocatello on Trailforks belies the true quantity of trail available, and much of that is owed to the fact that there isn't really an advocacy group to speak of here. Instead, it seems that many of the legal trails throughout the area have been grandfathered into networks in and around town, and as more pop up, it just takes some time for this nebulous arrangement to work itself out. All of that aside, the riding here is much better than I expected it to be. While many in the Teton Valley look at this area as more of a shoulder season spot to ride while they either wait for their trails to thaw or escape early onset of winter, the truth is that Pocatello can very much stand on its own two feet compared to the Teton Valley. The sense of backcountry is especially strong only 15 minutes from downtown, and the variety of riding opportunities is huge. Your best bet would be to pop into a shop like East Fork Bikes to get a lay of the land and some trail info.City Creek: These trails are the closest to town, and are managed primarily by The City of Pocatello. There's also some connectivity to BLM and National Forest land, and rides that start here can easily carry through to the other area trail networks. It's a mostly high desert style of riding, with plenty of shuttleable trails and a massive spaghetti bowl network of trails to keep things interesting for several days.
Key Ride - Ritalin to 911: A fun and easy ride that can be lapped via a 15 minute climb up the City Creek trail, this ride features great flow, corners, and small to medium sized features from top to bottom throughout both trails.
Gibson Jack: This area is the connective tissue between the City Creek Trails to the north, and the Scout Mountain Trails to the south. It's full of beautiful views, and the terrain is a bit more varied than the mostly high desert stuff found closer to town. The vast majority of the trails are National Forest property, and many of the trails are multi-use which includes motorized modes. The backcountry vibes are strong here, and some of my favorite trails from this whole trip can be found in the Gibson Jack area, so don't sleep on them.
Key Ride - Corral Creek to Down the Chimney: Corral Creek is multidirectional, but as a climb it's not bad at all. From the trailhead you'll work your way up the wide corridor for 3 miles and climb close to 1,300 feet before cutting onto Down the Chimney at the top. Corral Creek is popular for motos and side-by-sides, so be aware of the potential of encountering motorized traffic. Once you start on Down the Chimney, it's pure mayhem and fun. It features several very steep, fall line sections with nary a straightforward camber to be found. It will occasionally present a quick punch of a climb, but those are always short lived and the descent is properly gnarly.
Scout Mountain: This area is furthest from Pocatello, and as such is certainly the most backcountry centric. The views here are stunning, and the trails are largely suited for intermediate riders and up. Trailforks will help you navigate the trails well enough, but don't be shy about stopping by a shop in town to get a more detailed breakdown of what to ride and how to get around.
Key Ride - Scout Mountain to Crestline: A ride that will take you from the actual 8,700 foot summit of Scout Mountain down close to 3,000 vertical feet over the course of about 5 miles, this is as good as just about anything you'll find in all of Idaho. The views will stop you in your tracks, and the trails themselves are brilliant. Because it's at a higher elevation than most of the trails in the region, it tends to open up a bit later than most others, but it's as much of a "must ride" as any from Eastern Idaho.
Eastern Idaho's riding season varies depending on which area you are considering. Pocatello trails typically open up earlier than those in the Teton Valley, with favorable riding conditions starting in April and going through October. The Teton Valley is known for being a world class winter destination due to the ample amount of cold and dry snow that blankets the mountains every winter, so the bike season in this part of Eastern Idaho is considerably shorter than Pocatello's, usually kicking off in mid to late May and ending in early October, or whenever the snow starts to fly.
Temperatures during the summer months are generally warm, with temps rarely getting above 90 degrees F in Pocatello, and are cooler as you travel north through the Teton Valley. Wildfires have been a major part of the narrative for much of the American West in recent years, and Idaho has not been immune to them either. Keep your eyes on fire warnings and forecasts as you plan your trip, as it can certainly have an impact on travel.
Eastern Idaho has something for all bikes. Just across the state line from Driggs is Grand Targhee's bike park, which has some properly steep and rowdy terrain, as well as some sizable jump lines that your DH rig will eat up. Most of the riding warrants something within that long to mid travel trail bike range, as there's quite a lot of climbing required to access many of the area's best descents. Gravel/cross bikes see a lot of love here as well, with thousands of miles of dirt and gravel roads to explore between the national parks and forests throughout the region.
Local Clubs and Advocates:
Oddly enough, there are no actual advocacy groups on the ground in Pocatello. Area bike shops such as East Fork Bikes volunteer at local events and help to organize dig and trail days, but the waters are a bit murky when it comes to the relationship between riders and land managers here. It's not a bad relationship either, it's just not entirely clear how things are working. The trails are awesome, so I suppose somebody is doing something right.
The Teton Valley is a very different story in terms of advocacy efforts. Mountain Bike the Tetons
is an incredible group dedicated to enhancing lifestyles and livelihoods in both Eastern Idaho as well as Western Wyoming through the growth and development of a truly vast array of mountain bike trails. There are 7 full time staff members (4 trail crew, 2 youth program managers and an executive director) in addition to an 11 member board of directors. They are officially a member of IMBA, however they operate under their own 501(c)3 with a membership that totals roughly 600 individuals per year.
Accommodations and Food:
Given the importance of outdoor recreation and tourism for the region, there are numerous options for any budget and preference to stay and play in Eastern Idaho. Pocatello has numerous options, including several of the big name hotel franchises including Fairfield Inn, Towne Place Suites, Motel 6, Hampton Inn, etc. There are also a number of locally owned, smaller scale lodging options including an RV park and of course plenty of camping options throughout the Caribou National Forest land. An Airbnb search will yield nearly 200 options as well.
Between Victor and Driggs you'll find a handful of hotel and lodges that range from a Super 8 to a full service resort. Camping is a great choice here as well, just remember that you're in grizzly country and to prepare accordingly.
For a breakdown of places to stay, check out VisitIdaho.org
.Breakfast: Red Hot Roasters
serves up tasty baked treats and of course amazing coffee.Rise Coffee House
in Driggs has amazing coffee and espresso, with light breakfast and bakery options.Alpine Air Coffee Roasting
drive-thru in Victor is run by mountain bikers, and has amazing food and coffee served up all morning.Lunch:
Looking to keep it clean and free of gut bombs for the day? The Healthier Place to Eat
is a restaurant & gluten-free bakery with an organic juice bar and smoothies.
At Butter Cafe
in Victor you'll find real food that's really good.Dinner:Big Hole BBQ
in Victor will be one of the best decisions you'll make all day, every day.Provisions Local Kitchen
in Driggs serves breakfast all day, and has some killer burgers to boot!
A big day in the mountains means you need a big plate of food. Abracadabra's
has you covered in Pocatello.
Local Bike Shops:Pocatello
:East Fork Bikes
: The shop has been around since 2012, and it's full of super helpful and knowledgeable people who are happy to cover your mechanical needs as well as provide you with all of the local trail knowledge you could hope for.Oregon Trail Bikes
: Owned and operated by Adam Artner, he has over a decade of experience as a bike mechanic and is sharing good vibes throughout the Pocatello cycling scene.Barrie's Ski and Sport
: Large bike Trek and Specialized dealer offering rentals, service, and bike fit.Teton Valley
: These guys are a full service bike shop in downtown Victor, Idaho and offer pour over coffee and espresso.Habitat
: A really passionate collective when it comes to exploring and playing in the Tetons who have been operating since 2004. Peaked Sports
: They're in downtown Driggs and are the most conveniently located shop for access to Targhee's bike park.
1. Road Trip Stop: Snake River Canyon
. If you have the time and if it's along your route, you really should consider a stop somewhere along the Snake River Canyon. It runs for 50 miles, and has several different places to take it in. Shoshone Falls in particular is a great spot for this. It's just outside of the city of Twin Falls, and is 212 feet high and 1,000 feet wide.
2. Check out the Museum of Idaho
. Located in Idaho Falls, this recently renovated museum features traveling collections as well as exhibits on Idaho’s history. Interactive exhibits are also available by appointment.Pocatello mountain biking trailsTeton Valley mountain biking trails