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Riding The Tetons: Grand Targhee Resort - Wyoming

Words // Alex Willie || Photos // Alex Willie & Sarah Lukas

Riding The Tetons: Grand Targhee Resort - Wyoming

A few weeks ago, I thought of Grand Targhee as the stepchild to the extravagant Jackson Hole just on the other side of the Tetons. Driving through Jackson you feel the hustle and bustle of a crazy resort town, full of tourists from all over the world checking out the mountains. Just on the other side of Teton pass, however, lays a hidden gem – I almost feel bad for exposing this well-kept secret. A valley full of amazing views, incredible fishing, and most importantly unrivaled singletrack. Grand Targhee Resort has been capitalizing on their remarkable terrain with a quickly growing bike park complete with high alpine trail riding, fresh cut downhill tracks, top to bottom flow trails, and, of course, a jump line. When I received an invite to check this all out first hand, I don’t think I could have said yes more quickly.

No matter how many times you see this view, it is always breathtaking.

When I arrived, I was met by Grand Targhee’s Marketing Manager, Dustin Fletcher. Dustin is a guy who was so full of stoke it seemed like he was about to burst; the type of guy I could immediately tell I was going to have fun riding with while I was out there. We started talking about the trail systems they have in the valley and at the resort, and I could tell he was proud of what they have built. 

Accompanied by a group of friends, some new and some old, we couldn’t be more excited to check out what Grand Targhee was all about. We have all heard great things, but could it stack up to the other mountain bike destinations around the country? Only one way to find out…let’s ride!

My first day at Grand Targhee was all about exploring the bike park. Cheap ticket prices and no lift lines? I could get used to this. A majority of people were riding trail bikes, while a few others were riding full on downhill rigs. I was eager to check out what the riding would be like.

The wildflowers were popping and we were loving it. Endless colors all throughout the mountain.

With two chairlifts running during the summer, a group of us started on the smaller of the two, named Shoshone, which serviced greens and blues. We figured it would be a good place to warm up and allow everyone to get used to their rental bikes provided by the local bike shop, Habitat, which has a store a few miles away in the nearest town of Driggs, as well as one at the base of the mountain.

Dropping in to these green flow trails instantly brought a smile to my face. Big sweeping berms with rollers on the straights you could manual through or crank to pop a double. Incredibly buff and playful trail got the entire group smiling and wanting more. We busted out lap after lap after lap, completely forgetting that this was just the “warm up” zone. With the six trails off of Shoshone, we ended up riding that zone until it was lunch time. We headed to the Trap Bar at the base of the resort to get some beers and food as we formulated a plan for the rest of the day. As we sat down, we watched this mountain of nachos being delivered to a table near us. It was huge. It looked as big as the Grand Teton! Lesson learned – they don’t mess around with their portions at this place. Maybe I should get a salad? Nah, a beer and a chicken wrap were just what the doctor ordered.

Solid pour thanks to the man, Dustin Fletcher.

After a refreshing pitcher of the local Melvin Brewing’s Heyzeus, we were ready to tackle some more riding. This time, we were headed up the main lift, Dreamcatcher. The top of the lift provided a breathtaking 360-degree view. Looking west was an incredible view of the valley and the town of Driggs, ID. Looking east, however, revealed the jaw dropping Teton Range. It felt like I was looking up at the Alps in Switzerland with steep, jagged peaks shooting straight up into the air. While dropping into the trail Grand Traverse, the Grand Teton made it difficult to pay attention to the trail. I kept finding myself checking out the views around me and then looking down to realize I was nearly riding off of the trail! This almost ended poorly a few times… Dustin gave us a tour of a beautiful basin we soon found ourselves in, covered with wildflowers and tall pine trees. Throughout the day we explored buff, high alpine singletrack, steep fresh cut downhill trail, jumps, and trail that was a top to bottom rock garden. It was impossible to pick my favorite, as each trail was so perfectly built, but not overly manicured. I was in heaven.

See what I mean? It is genuinely hard to not look up at this view while riding down Grand Traverse.

After a long day of riding, we all washed up and met back for dinner at the Branding Iron at the base of the lift. Starting off with a killer plate of wings, I went big for the bison burger – it was the right call. We were all able to discuss our plan for the next day: a shuttle ride from the base of the resort down the famous Mill Creek trail, which puts us into Teton Canyon where our shuttle driver will meet us to then take us to Forage, which is the “best restaurant in Idaho” according to Yelp. Followed by another ride just outside of Victor, ID at the base of Teton Pass. I don’t understand how they expected me to sleep after hearing all of this. To say I was excited would be a massive understatement.

Day 2 started off well with a solid breakfast burrito at Snorkel’s, the café at the base of the resort. We met up afterwards ready to roll for our ride down Mill Creek trail. After teasing us by talking about how awesome the downhill was going to be, Dustin wanted to climb up a couple thousand feet in elevation to get us to a viewpoint. I will always work hard to get to a view, so I wasn’t complaining at all. Honestly, the climbing seemed fairly effortless. Andy Williams, head trail builder for Grand Targhee and the extending valley, knows how to build trail and, more specifically, switchbacks.

The climb was well worth the view looking back at the Grand and Table Mountain, both of which are just out of view in this picture.

Once we were at the top of the accurately named trail Peaked, we dropped into 38 Special and within 100 feet of the trail, we all slammed on our brakes to look at the view. The Grand felt so close I thought I could reach out and touch it. It had a thin layer of clouds just grazing the tip of the peak which made it feel even more majestic. Seriously breathtaking. I’m sorry, but my iPhone photos just don’t do it justice. It really is something you need to see for yourself.

If you want to perfect your switchback riding, 38 Special is the trail for you.

As we dropped into 38 Special I heard the crew yipping and hollering behind me as we ripped down the trail. I should have counted, and I will next time I ride it, but there must have been over 100 perfectly crafted switchbacks. I am not exaggerating. The descent went on forever, in and out of towering pine trees, loam, dust, rocks, buff - this trail had it all. If you want to work on your cornering, this is the trail to do it. We dropped out by a little white hut that is used as a warming hut/pick up point during their winter cat skiing operations. I don’t have time to talk about that, but let’s just say I will 100% be back in the winter to check that out. Just a little more trail and a slight left later we were on Mill Creek proper. An old cattle trail that locals turned into a staple mountain biking trail, and now it is one of my favorite trails. The switchbacks of 38 Special were fun, but man was it nice to let off the brakes and rip – and this trail let you do that. Features built off the sides of the trail, in and out of pine trees and aspen groves, and the occasional cow running across the trail to keep you on your toes… It was like a dream.

My Intense Carbine was the perfect bike for the valley. It crushed the climbs and let me rip back down the descents.

Next on the itinerary was lunch at Forage. The burger was to die for. If you are ever in Driggs, or on a trip to Grand Targhee, Forage is a MUST. You’ll be missing out if you don’t. I kept telling myself not to stuff myself too full because we still have another ride after lunch, but it was too good I couldn’t let any go to waste.

After doing my best not to fall asleep due to a food coma on the short 15-minute drive from Driggs to Victor, we arrived at the afternoon ride trailhead. At the base of Teton pass, Mike Harris campground hosts a few trails coming in and out of it. We did the lollipop loop of Nemo to Gumpy’s Loop. It felt like I just drove across the border up north and found myself in British Columbia. Completely different style of trail with roots crawling across the trail, deep loam from the towering pine trees, a few wooden features on the side of the trail, all topped off with a couple of trees freshly scarred from bear claws to send chills down your spine. Another amazing find thanks to our guide Dustin.

Teton River providing the goods with a nice Cutthroat.

After doing this short hour and 15-minute ride, we drove to the Grand Teton Brewery in Victor that was just a mile or two down the road. Some post-ride refreshments accompanied by local food truck eats while playing an overly competitive game of cornhole was the perfect cap to an awesome day.

Staying in the Grand Targhee area that following week, I was able to get a true feel for what the valley had to offer. Riding on the other side of the valley I was able to check out the Horseshoe trail network with wildflowers so tall, every time I would stop to have some water, I noticed that my brake lever had a full bouquet of flowers in it. I was able to ride some of the trails off of Teton Pass, and I could write a whole article on that separately. Something you need to go out and see for yourself to believe what is going on. Full-featured downhill tracks all supported by the Forest Service – pretty cool if you ask me. And of course, being near Driggs it is a must that you have to go fishing. Since I drove up from Colorado, I towed up my drift boat and was able to get 3 days on the Teton River, a small slow flowing river with stunning views of the Tetons, plenty of young hungry moose hanging out on the banks, and fish that will eat PMD’s all day long. Mostly small Cutthroats and Brook Trout, but every once in a while, I was able to pull out a decent sized fish.

Turns out, Grand Targhee isn’t the stepchild to Jackson Hole at all, it is completely in a family of its own, and I have a feeling I have barely even scratched the surface of what this place has to offer.

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