Biking · Great Scenic Locations · National Parks

Biking in the Tetons

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The Tetons reflected in the Snake River at Dawn

One of my favorite places to bike is Teton National Park in Wyoming.  This is partly because the Tetons have always been one of my favorite places in the world.  And this is probably because I grew up in Casper, Wyoming not too far from the Tetons and as a kid I always spent at least two or three weeks there every summer with my family.

There are lots of ways to bike in the Tetons, from dirt back-roads, to paved bike trails, to graveled bike trails to a busy highways with shoulders.

You should pick up the official  Teton Park map which you can get free at any of the park entry stations.  This will make a lot of my biking descriptions easier to follow.  The map is also online as a PDF. 

One thing this post does not cover is mountain biking in the Tetons.  There is a whole lot of hard core mountain biking in Jackson Hole but that just isn’t my thing.  The young guys screaming down the almost vertical trails on the east side of Teton pass are pretty impressive though, I have to say .

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The Tetons at the Oxbow on the Snake River.  This spot is not on any of the bike trails discussed in this article.

Probably my favorite bike trip in the Tetons is from the town of Jackson, which is just south of the Park, to Jenny lake .  This is 20 miles one way.  This beautiful trail parallels Highway 191 as it travels through the east side of the park.  Once in a while it is right along side the highway but usually it meanders thru the sagebrush flats and aspen meadows and lodgepole forests a good way from the road.  As you get close to Jenny Lake, the trail runs right at the base of the Tetons.  Below are some pictures taken along this trail.

About half way from Jackson to Jenny Lake the main bike trail turns left, West, at what is called Moose Junction and leaves Highway 191 to loosely follow the inner park road right as the base of the Teton range.  This inner road is called the Teton Park Road.  The Teton Park Road is  narrow, has tons of traffic, and mostly has no shoulder.   There is a very narrow shoulder in some places, but in my opinion,  this is a dangerous road to bike on and I don’t recommend it.  Especially since the bike trail goes all the way to Jenny Lake.  It’s tempting to ride the Teton Park Road beyond Jenny Lake to String Lake and beyond to Jackson Lake and the northern areas of the Park.  I’ve ridden some of this part of the Teton Park Road but I thought it was pretty scary.  Too narrow, way too much traffic and no real bike lane or shoulder.  I’ve decided no more of this road for me.

So, to return to Moose Junction back on highway 191.  At Moose Junction, instead of turning west on the main trail,  you can also go straight head on a branch of the bike trail  that continues straight north a mile or so further along highway 191.  The trail goes as far as Antelope Flats Road and ends there.

Let me deal with this straight ahead branch and the Antelope Flats Road first, before describing the Jenny Lake Branch.

If you want to head further north along Highway 191, beyond the end of the trail, it’s do-able but this is an extremely busy highway filled with drivers looking off at the the Teton Range to the west and not for bikers on the road.  There is a fairly good shoulder on the highway here though.  I’ve done it but I don’t really recommend it.

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This picture was taken from the Blacktail Ponds Overlook which is just a little North of where the bike trail ends at the Antelope Flats Road.  Be careful riding on the highway here.  There is a shoulder, but also a lot of fast, distracted traffic on this highway.  This is a really nice turnout though.

 

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Another picture from Blacktail Ponds overlook.  This is one of my favorite pictures of the Tetons.  Its not a flashy picture, but it somehow reminds me of my youth in the Tetons.

 

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This picture was taken near the Triangle X Ranch which is quite a bit further north of Moose Junction on US 191.  The bike trail does not go this far, you have to ride on Highway 191, but there is a shoulder on most parts of this highway.  Watch out for those distracted tourists driving huge RVs though.

 

OK, back to a discussion to the Antelope Flats road which is at the end of the bike trail if you head north from Moose Junction.  The Antelope Flats Road is a pretty good place for biking.  It is a relatively lightly traveled dirt road that heads off to the East from highway 191 and  connects to a whole network of other dirt roads that are generally good biking.  There is traffic on these roads though, so watch for it.  And like all traffic in National Parks, drivers here are very distracted and looking for buffalo, and bears and majestic mountains.  The last thing they are looking for is bikers, so watch out for these idiots.

You can make a big loop on Antelope Road, heading east and then back south and finally meeting up with the Jackson-Jenny-Lake bike trail on 191 back at Gross Ventre Junction.  Or you can head East off of the Antelope Road loop and bike toward lower Slide Lake and the Gross Ventre mountains.  This road turns into a great wilderness dirt road that goes God only knows how far out into the Wyoming Wilderness.   There are three very nice Forest Service campgrounds about five to ten miles up this road.  I stayed for a week at one of them once, a long time ago.  It’s a great place to camp.  I haven’t explored this road much beyond these campgrounds though.  If you’ve been  further out this way let me know what it’s like.

The big-time Park Service campground, Gross Ventre Campground, is on the southern side of the Antelope Flats loop not far from Gross Ventre Junction.  The Road from Gross Ventre Junction the Gross Ventre Campground is paved and it is not nearly so car-free as the rest of the roads in the Antelope Flats loop.  This piece is busy and full of tourists watching the Buffalo and Moose that are offer here, not the bikers.  Be extra careful here.

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One of the old barns on Morman Row, which is a side road off Antelope Flats Road, not far from highway 191.

 

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This picture was taken at the Gross Ventre Campground which is located on the southern part of what I’m calling the Antelope Flats loop road.  The best way to get to the campground is to head west, off the bike trail, at Gross Ventre Junction.  You don’t need to go all the way up to the Antelope Flats Road.  It’s about a mile from the highway to the campground.  There is a lot of traffic on this short piece of road though, so be extra careful here.  Gross Ventre Campground is our favorite campground in Jackson Hole.  We often car camp here.  I’m sure bike camping would work equally well.  This is often our headquarters for a Teton Park Biking trip.  It’s not that far from Jackson or anything else in Jackson Hole.

 

OK, done with Antelope Flats and back to Moose Junction and continuing west with the main branch of the Jackson to Jenny Lake bike trail.

Just after you turn left at Moose Junction on the main bike trail, look for Dornan’s off to your right.  Dornan’s bar and restaurant are not to be missed.  There is also a bike shop that rents bikes in this complex.  At least the bike store was still there in the summer of 2016.   The business looked a little on the fragile side though.

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Just after the bike trail turns left at Moose Junction there is a little cluster of outdoor business at  Dornan’s.   Find a place to park and walk to Dornan’s Bar which across from the gas pumps.  Dornan’ is also a grocery and deli with great sandwiches.  But the highlight here is is the bar itself and the rooftop restaurant.   I never pass this place without stopping for lunch or dinner.  The pasta is great and not very expensive and the views are unbelievable.  Actually this is my very favorite restaurant in all of Jackson Hole.  It’s simple and plain but good.

 

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Here is the bar part of Dornan’s.  Not to be missed.  Those picture windows behind the bar are world famous.  My wife and I were married in Jackson Hole in a small rustic church that you can kind of see in the distance of this picture.  I remember well, sitting at this bar on our wedding day, fifty years ago, looking out at the Tetons and thinking the world was good.

 

Heading back to the main Jackson-Jenny-Lake bike trail.  You soon cross the Snake River and then come to the main Teton Park visitor center.  This is always worth a stop.  Shortly after this there is a side road to the rustic little church where Joan and I were married.  It’s nothing all that special but its interesting and there are great views of the Tetons framed in the large window at the west end of the church.

The rest of the trail to Jenny Lake is pretty much biking in paradise.  As is Jenny lake itself.  There are some great trials that begin here: the trail around the lake, the trail that heads up to Cascade canyon and the small, hard to find trail up to Snowflake lake.

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On the Jackson-Jenny-Lake bike trail North of Moose, heading to Jenny Lake.

 

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This picture was taken from the Jackson-Jenny-Lake bike trail as it approaches Jenny Lake

 

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Another shot from the Jackson-Jenny-Lake trail near Jenny Lake.
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Jenny Lake, at the northern end of the Jackson-Jenny Lake bike trail.  This is truly a gorgeous spot with a lot of great hiking trails that begin here.

 

OK, done with the Jackson-Jenny-Lake bike trail.

There is another great paved bike-trail-system which heads West along highway 22 out of  the town of Jackson toward the Little town of Wilson and then up over Teton Pass and beyond to the Teton Valley in Idaho.  There is also another connecting paved bike trail system that heads south out of Jackson toward Pinedale near US 191.  This trail system, based in and around the town of Jackson is collectively called the Jackson Hole Community Pathway System.

Last summer, 2016, the the Wilson-Jackson Bike Trail hadn’t quite quite connected to Jackson along highway 22 yet, but I’ll bet it is now very, very close and most probably finished.  If you don’t see the trail, drive west out of Jackson on highway 22 toward Wilson and you will soon see it.  The Wilson-Jackson trail connects with the South-of-Jackson trail a few miles outside Jackson, and there is a link from this system back to the town of Jackson.

You can find the Jackson connection to the west and south bike trails on Elk Run Lane near downtown Jackson.   Look at the Google Map of Jackson, Wyoming and click the Bicycling button to make all the bike trails show up as green and you can see the whole Jackson Hole Community Pathway System very clearly.  There is a lot of it.

Actually, when I want to bike this Jackson-Wilson-South 191 Trail complex I usually start in Wilson, which is about five miles west of Jackson.  This is a good central location for this trail.  I usually park in the parking area directly West of the Stage Coach Bar at the west end of Wilson, just before the highway heads up to Teton Pass.   There is always parking here in my experience.  Be sure not to interfere with the bar parking or the lumber yard parking which is next door.

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A small pond with swans south of the town of Jackson.  This spot is not on any of the bike trails discussed in this article.  But it’s very close to the the network of Trails south of Jackson.

You can go several directions from here.  Directly across highway 22 is the bike trail that leads to the top of Wilson Pass.  This is the old Wilson Pass Road and it is very narrow, at least by road standards, and I’m afraid to say it’s also very steep.  It does get you to the top of Wilson Pass though.  I’ve only been as far as the top of the pass and I don’t know what the bike trail does from there.  I suspect it ends at the top of the pass.  A lot of people bike over Teton Pass from Wilson, Wyoming to Victor, Idaho.  I guess they do it by riding the highway.  I really don’t have any experience with this though.  This is something I need to look into.  Let me know if you have any info on this.

OK, back at the parking spot behind the Stagecoach Bar.

You can find the bike trail that heads back toward Jackson by heading north on the road by the Stage Coach Bar and navigating north and east until you find the bike trail behind the Wilson Elementary School.  It isn’t hard. Wilson is a tiny little town.

On the way you may see a street sign that says Fish Creek road.  This is a very lonesome, little traveled road that heads North for six or eight or more miles.  This is a great ride. When we did it we saw only one or two cars.

OK back to the bike trail, heading east toward Jackson that you pick up at the Wilson Elementary School.  This is very pleasant riding through the cottonwoods and mountain grasses and suburban homes.

After a couple of miles, you come to the Moose-Wilson road which is also known as the Teton Village road.  There is a wonderful bike trail on the west side of this road which takes you all the way to Teton Village five or six or seven miles away.  There are signs warning you to watch out for moose, but the real danger here, I my opinion,  is the side roads which cross the bike trail with little visibility for either cars or bikers.  Watch out for this.  Its still a wonderful ride with interesting stores and restaurants to visit.

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Schwabackers landing in an early fall snowstorm.   This spot cannot be accessed from any of the bike trails described in this post.

Teton Village, near the end of the bike trail, is the base area for the huge Teton Ski Area.  There is a Aerial tramway here that will take you to the top of ski area and also access to a lot of great trails at the top of the southern Teton Range.  It’s a great ride to the top of the world.  There are also a lot of good restaurants in Teton Village and on the Wilson-Moose Road.  More than in the town of Jackson I think.  Pretty expensive restaurants though.

The bike trail ends a short distance beyond  Teton Village, but the Moose-Wilson road continues on to Moose.  This can be biked but I think its a pretty bad idea.  The road is very rough and bumpy and often muddy.  Even worse it is very narrow and jammed with tourists looking for wildlife.  There are regular traffic jams which never seem to really clear up in the high season.

I never ride this road and have never seen other bikers on it.  It looks like a really dangerous, un-fun place to bike to me.  It’s too bad the bike trail doesn’t continue on to Moose as it would be a great connection to the Jackson-Jenny-Lake Trail and a thus make a great loop ride from Jackson.  Personally though, I’m not going to ride this part of the Moose-Wilson road until a bike trail is built here.

OK, back to the main Wilson-Jackson trail.  We are still heading back toward Jackson.  Shortly after crossing the Moose-Wilson Road, the bike trail crosses the Snake River on a dedicated, multimillion dollar bike bridge and then continues on its way alongside highway 22 back toward Jackson.  Soon the bike trail splits.  The right branch of the trail crosses under highway 22 and heads south to the southern part of the Commmunity Trail System.  This trail runs for 8 or 10 miles further south and ends on highway 191.  There is also a branch which takes you back to Jackson and which ends up at the Elk Run Lane end of the Trail which I mentioned earlier.

OK back to the left hand Wilson-Jackson trail branch, back on highway 22.  This branch  takes you back to Jackson along  the side of highway 22.  As far as I know this section of the trail is still not quite finished.

If you put all these trails together, there are a lot of miles of paved, dedicated bike trail in Jackson hole.

Below are some pictures of biking on the community trail biking system and the Wilson-Jackson Trail.  All the trails are paved and super well maintained.

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On the Eastern Edge of Wilson, Heading West.

 

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Near Wilson, heading East toward Jackson.

 

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East of Wilson, heading east toward Jackson.

 

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Near Wilson looking west toward Teton Pass

 

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On the bike trail about five miles south of Jackson, looking north toward Teton Pass.

 

Another great place to bike is Teton Valley.  Get to this beautiful valley by driving west,  toward Wilson from the town of Jackson and keep going over Teton Pass to Victor which is in Idaho, just west of the Teton Range.  Victor is the first of a series of nice little Idaho towns you come to if you head north along the east side of the Teton Range.  This road is very scenic route to Yellowstone National Park.

 

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White Columbines on top of Teton Pass.

 

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The Bike Trail in Teton Valley, just north of  Victor.  This trail runs along highway 33 From Victor to Driggs and maybe beyond.

 

 

In Teton Valley, North of Victor, in the village of Tetonia, another wonderful trail begins. This is the Ashton-Tetonia Trail.  This trail runs 30 miles between Ashton and Tetonia in Idaho.  This is a beautiful trail that I rode last September,  with my long-time friends Bob and Alice who live in Victor.  It was a cool almost cold, kind of drizzly day in the fall, with the aspens in full leaf.  It was a wonderful day riding thru brilliant red and yellow and gold aspen groves and deep green pine forest, across 200 foot deep canyons that the trail crosses on old rebuilt railroad bridges.  This trail is part of the rails-to-trails system that is coordinated by the Rails to Trails Conservancy.  Here is  the Rails to Trails write up of the Ashton-Tetonia trail.

The Rails to Trails Conservancy has the best directions and trail lists and maps of US biking trails anywhere.   They are a wonderful group that fight to get more rails to trails built, raises money to do this and maintain the best system of online maps to all kinds of biking trails all over the country.  Here is their home page.  Membership with them is, in my opinion, a must for every serious biker.  Here is a place to start looking at their trail maps. 

You can also get a great Rails to Trails App for your phone called TrailLink, free at your app store.  With this app you get complete maps of all US biking trails, not just the  rails to trials variety, but all US bike trails.  The maps are superimposed on Google Maps with a blue dot indicating your present location and a lot more of the standard Google Map stuff.  This is a big help on a complicated bike trial like the Erie Canal Trail.

Below are some pictures of my day riding the Ashton-Tetonia Trail.

 

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My friend Bob and I riding the the Ashton-Tetonia Trail.  I’m on the right.  As you can see the trail is pretty rough for a groomed bike trail.  It is easy to ride though.  Narrow tire road bikes are not the best choice for this trail though.

 

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Bob and I one of the high bridges that span the canyons on the Ashton-Tetonia Trail.

 

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Here I am in the middle of the the Ashton-Tetonia Trail.

 

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Bob and I again on one of the high bridges on the Ashton-Tetonia Trail.

 

Another option for biking in the Teton area is Togwatee Pass.  This pass is between Dubois Wyoming and Teton National park and is 9658 feet in elevation at the top.  Be warned, from Jackson hole it is very close to 3000 vertical feet to the top of this pass.  It is a good hard crank but the shoulder, as you can see, is great.

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Near the top of Togwotee pass.  It is a long, hard ride to the top, especially for an overage biker like me.  But highway 287 has a great shoulder for most of the way, as you can see in this picture.

Another possibility for the not faint at heart is the Great Divide Trail which passes right thru Jackson hole on its way from Mexico to Banff, Canada.  The Great Divide Trail is mostly lonely, small, isolated back roads, dirt roads, hooked together in a grand 2768 mile epic bike ride.  Here is a link to the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route  on the Adventure Cycling Association Website.

The Great Divide Route comes down from Union Pass in the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming to hit highway 287 near Dubois Wyoming.  It then goes over Togwotee pass, down into Teton national park and north up highway 287 past Jackson Lake to Flagg Ranch a little south of Yellowstone.  From Flag Ranch the GDR heads west toward Idaho on the Grassy Lake Road (a small gravel road) over the low, north end of the Teton range to Ashton, Idaho.  If you remember, Ashton is where the Ashton-Tetonia trail that I described a few paragraphs back, ends.  Actually the GDR doesn’t go all the way to Ashley, but almost.  From here the GDR heads north through Idaho, through some very lonely country toward Montana.

So, if you are an experienced, tough rider, riding sections of the GDR trail in Jackson Hole and the Teton Valley is a real possibility.

If you are thinking of doing anything at all on the GDR, you need to be an experienced and serious biker that really knows what they are doing though.  This isn’t me for sure.  So don’t look to me for any advice here.  I can only  dream about the GDR and hope I can talk my son Mike, who is one of the toughest and most experienced bikers I know, into dragging me along on one of his GDR trips.   However, I fear I’m too old for the GDR, and its something like 20,000 feet of vertical elevation change.

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My son Mike on the GDR in Southern Colorado.  He rode  here from his house in Albuquerque in three or four days and over a lot of high passes.  As I  said, he’s a tough guy.

 

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Mike’s bike at a river crossing on the GDR in Northern NM.  He had to pack his bike over this fast section of the Conejos river.  It took him three waist deep trips to get his bike and gear across.
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One of the many obstacles Mike encountered on his June trip on the GDR high in the mountains of Southern Colorado.  The GDR is not a trip for the faint of heart or the inexperienced bike trekker.

 

OK, that’s it for Biking in the Tetons.  This post got a little more extensive than I intended when I began, but it was fun to write.

I’m think I’m off for some more biking in the Tetons in a month or so.  I hope to make it this year in June and also in September of 2017.

 

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Last picture of the Tetons, one of the last, best places in the world if you can beat the tourists and the traffic and the curio stands.  Just kidding, its easy to get away from all of this.

 

 

 

 

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