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Crafting your Own Mountain Bike Adventure in Jackson Hole

Pedaling away from home after work ride, I bust through a quick mental checklist. Helmet, shoes, gloves: on. Water, tools, snacks: yes. GoPro: check. Bear spray: affirmative. Wait, what? GoPro? Why bother carrying that around on a quick evening ride? Why, simply to share and relive the awesome moments! From my own fun and frequent outings last summer, I present a montage from some of the trails around Jackson Hole. Let it prompt you to enjoy your own adventures, and make the trip to Jackson and ride these trails yourself!

To help facilitate your explorations, I’d like to present a brief introduction of some of the “go to” trails that are seen in the video. I include a reference time for when specific trails are seen in the video.  While I touch on the more popular trails, I recommend studying some maps and exploring all your options (1:43). Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Grand Targhee both offer lift-serviced mountain biking as well.

Note: It’s important to stress that despite close proximity to town, you should be well-prepared to deal with a variety of situations that could rapidly alter your ride. Repair kit, map, extra clothing, food/water, headlamp, and bear spray are all key to making sure you can shrug off an inconvenience rather than getting lost in the dark while the animals mock you. Be prepared and you’ll to have an awesome time.

Mountain biking in Jackson starts with two popular trail centers that present easy access and a diversity of trails: The Greater Snow King Area and Teton Pass.

Greater Snow King Area

Starting with a hiking trail built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936, the “Town Hill” was the first ski area in Wyoming. Today it tends to be overshadowed by nearby Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, but Snow King’s approximately 1,600 vertical feet pack a serious punch. If you like to scoff at numbers, feel free to climb the steep fire road climb to the summit, but know that there are more pleasant options that exist. The Cache Creek Trailhead is a more appropriate starting point, located about one mile to the east. Pedal or drive to Cache Creek Drive and the parking lot at the trailhead.

The Cache Creek trail is a straightforward, six-mile dirt doubletrack that provides multiple access points to the Sidewalk, Putt Putt, Hagen, and Game Creek trails. All of these trails are multi-use, so expect to encounter dog walkers, runners, cyclists, and equestrian users; please ride and yield appropriately.

Putt Putt is an aerobically challenging but not overly technical singetrack that runs through stands of aspen and sagebrush meadows. Putt Putt is located on the eastern side of Cache Creek trail, with several entrance points found along the climber’s left. If you’re descending Putt Putt towards town, it is possible to continue beyond the Cache Creek parking area and finish on Nelson Drive. Providing awesome views of the Teton Range, this exit from the trails could allow your momentum to carry you into town towards beers crafted at Thai Me Up or the Snake River Brew Pub… a benefit of not driving to the trailhead.

Back in Cache Creek, the Hagen (2:16) trail mirrors Putt Putt in the forested slopes to the west of the main doubletrack and creek. Hagen provides slightly more technical challenge than Putt Putt, but intermediate riders will appreciate the variety and flow found in this part of the forest. It is important to note there is a 50-meter portion of Hagen that is very steep, with old log stairs and rocks providing a technical challenge. If you’re descending Hagen, it is worth hiking down into this portion of trail to scout it out and see if anyone is hiking up. Likewise, if you’re ascending, keep your eyes and ears peeled for anyone that could drop in above you. Offshoots include Hagen River trail (not well suited for bikes), while Upper Hagen branches off to the west, climbing to the base of Ferrin’s. The Hagen trail eventually reconnects with Cache Creek just north of the main parking lot.

Near Hagen’s northern terminus, (close to the parking lot), you can climb west on Hagen Highway away from Cache Creek and towards Snow King’s ski slopes.  After a few false summits, you will be presented with singletrack options branching off to either side of the trail.

Sink or Swim (2:23) exits to the downhill (north) side of Hagen Highway and provides a very popular route to traverse face of Snow King, eventually descending past Shade Monkey, KC (0:19, 2:27), and Linda’s Trails, which all exit to either Snow King Ave or to the bike path following Flat Creek. At this point you’re relatively close to Pica’s, so you could reward yourself with a margarita and fish tacos.

Back on Hagen Highway, across from the top of Sink or Swim is access to Ferrin’s Trail. Ferrin’s is a good route to the summit of Snow King (1:06), as well as providing access to descents in West Game Creek or Wilson Canyon. Ferrin’s has a consistent grade with switchbacks through dense conifers before culminating in an open meadow with views north to the high peaks of the Teton Range. To access Snow King’s summit, continue climbing to the right, gaining a few more hundred vertical feet before traversing on doubletrack to the summit house and chairlift.  Josie’s Ridge (1:09) continues west from the summit, descending a series of steep, loose switchbacks that are more popular with hikers, placing you on final portion of Sink or Swim.

Back at the top of Ferrin’s Saddle, rather than climbing to Snow King, you could descend Ferrin’s or hit West Game Creek or Wilson Canyon, both of which deposit you along the highway south of Jackson and return via the bike path on the west side of the highway. Wilson Canyon starts by contouring  above willows before plummeting down scree- and boulder-strewn singletrack. This route requires advanced bike-handling skills and could warrant body armor. Alternatively, West Game Creek climbs and descends through a highly scenic and fun burn zone before meeting Game Creek Trail. Take a  left to climb up Game Creek and descend Cache Creek or go right to descend Game Creek and exit to the highway and bike path back to town.

Teton Pass

The town of Wilson rests at the base of Teton Pass, 5.5 Miles west of Jackson on WY 22. The Stagecoach Bar has some parking (along the hillside if available) and is an excellent spot to refuel and rehydrate between laps on the pass. “The Coach” also the most convenient place to grab a lift back to one of the higher trailheads if you need to retrieve a vehicle.

Ascending the pass from The Coach (0.0mi), Trail Creek Road (1.0mi) branches off to the left and continues about a mile before ending at the Trail Creek Trailhead. Old Pass Road is paved but closed to motorized vehicles, and is the easiest way to ride to the top of the pass … but you’re generally looking at more than an hour of climbing, depending on how often you stop to smell the pine trees. You could also climb to other trailheads rather than going directly to the top.

If you prefer to shuttle the downhill-specific trails, Phillip’s Trailhead (4.0mi) is the jump-off point to link up Jimmy’s Mom, Candyland, and Parallel trails. Alternatively, drive further up (5.2mi) for the drop in for Fuzzy Bunny (0:44) and link to Powerline Jumps and Parallel Trail…or drive to the very top of the pass (5.5mi) then climb for 2 miles to reach the top of Mt. Elly, and drop into Lithium (1:18). All of these trails mentioned are for downhill mountain biking only. While ride-around lines do exist, high-speed gap jumps and steep drops require advanced bike skills and intimate knowledge of the trail. Safely scout jumps and features before rolling into them, and with each subsequent lap you can dial the trails in better.

Outside of the DH-only bike trails, there are a number of awesome multi-use trails on the pass. Obviously, ride cautiously and yield as necessary! From the summit of Mt. Elly, (near Lithium), the Black Canyon trail descends for about 4.5 miles before ending at the base of Old Pass Road. At Phillip’s Trailhead, pedal uphill to the north side of WY22 to access the Arrow Trail which can be used to connect to Phillip’s Canyon, Phillip’s Ridge, and Snotel. Phillip’s Canyon is a classic technical descent with a rock and root waiting behind every corner. Phillip’s Ridge can be a long, fun descent, or an equally long but far more exhausting climb. You can exit at the base of Phillip’s Canyon to Fish Creek Road, and pedal back to downtown Wilson.  An awesome loop exists by climbing the Ridge  then riding Snotel to Arrow then down the Canyon. It’s easy to make a very full weekend out of these trails on Teton pass.

A little over ten miles south of Teton Pass on Fall Creek Road is the trailhead for Munger Mountain. The past several years have seen reroutes and trail improvements for the benefit of XC mountain bikers. Multiple loop options exist, with a highlight being a descent on Wally’s World (0:26). Poison Creek, Squaw Creek, Cosmic Carol’s and Tusky Ridge are all fun to explore. When planning routes, note that Big Munger is not often ridden and involves lots of hike-a-bike.

Trails certainly don’t make and maintain themselves, and Jackson’s trails has benefited from thousands of volunteer hours over the years. Thanks to cooperation between user groups and their respective organizations, the trails around Jackson and the surrounding region continue to improve and expand. They’re also increasingly well documented thanks to resources like Trail Maps+. Increasing visitor numbers and money spent at local businesses help create a positive feedback loop for the region’s trails as they continue to prove their economic and social benefits.  Enjoy your time riding and exploring this special place!

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