Explore: Targhee Cross-Country Riding

Flowy, Fun and Free

The system of cross-country mountain biking trails at Grand Targhee is free to ride and also priceless.

//By Molly Absolon
Photo by Mark Fisher

It’s hard to reach consensus when you ask bikers to identify their favorite cross-country mountain bike trail at Grand Targhee Resort in Alta, Wyoming. With roughly 30 miles of rolling intermediate trails from which to choose, what’s best depends largely on what you want. 

Scenic vistas? Buffalo Soldier takes you to an overlook with unparalleled views of Teton Canyon and the Grand. Wildflowers? They’re everywhere at Targhee, but some of the best trails for riding through fields of flowers include Action Jackson or the Rick’s Basin trails. 

Kid-friendly? Roundabout or the pump track near the base of the Dreamcatcher lift are perfect for little ones. Big climbs? Tall Cool One gains roughly 1,700 feet in just under seven miles as it ascends in a series of switchbacks from the base of the Blackfoot lift to the top of Dreamcatcher. The only cross-country trail that reaches the summit of Fred’s Mountain, Tall Cool One’s main challenge is the relentless zig-zagging climb, but you are rewarded for the effort with your choice of downhill trails to descend. 

Targhee’s cross-country trails are free, well-signed, and not super technical. (If you want a techy ride, spring for a lift ticket—$45/day for ages 6 through 12, and $60 for ages 13 and up—to ride the 13 miles of lift-accessed downhill trails.) The system of cross-country trails is known for its flow and moderate grades, which make the trails ridable by all levels of mountain bikers. And because loops intersect at various points throughout the resort, you can ride for just a few miles or for up to 30 with minimal backtracking. Another benefit of riding at Targhee? The base area is at 8,000 feet, which means that in the heat of the summer, these trails offer a cool respite from the valley heat. 

Finally, perhaps the best thing about mountain biking at Targhee is post-ride relaxing with a cold beer and a heaping plate of nachos at the Trap Bar. Or pick up an ice cream at Snorkels and kick back in an Adirondack chair on Targhee’s main plaza for the mountain bike version of après. 

You can rent bikes at the base area or at one of the bike shops in nearby Driggs or Victor, Idaho. If you want some instruction, Targhee offers lessons and hosts a number of clinics throughout the summer for you to refine and develop your skills. 

Local-Favorite Targhee Trails
Photo by Bradly J. Boner

Action Jackson–Buffalo Soldier–Andy’s Loop
Seven miles with 440 feet of elevation gain and loss, moderate physical rating, advanced beginner/intermediate trail, 1–1.5 hours
This loop links three trails and can be ridden in either direction; after a few visits, you’ll figure out your personal preference. Action Jackson is Targhee’s sentimental favorite because it is named after Victor single-speed mountain bike racer and all-around good guy AJ Linnell, who died in a plane crash in 2015. That legacy aside, the Action Jackson–Buffalo Soldier–Andy’s Loop is worthy of its place on everyone’s list of Targhee’s best because of the fun riding it offers. The trail rolls up and down through pine forest, across meadows of flowers, into the speckled light of aspen glades and around a small knoll from which you look out across Teton Canyon toward the Grand and its majestic neighbors. 

Pika–More Cowbell–Perma-Grin–The Other One–Yogi 
Approximately six miles and 800 feet of elevation gain, moderate physical rating, advanced beginner/intermediate, 1–1.5 hours
This series of trails takes you from the Targhee base over to Rick’s Basin, an area known for its spectacular displays of wildflowers. Depending on the month, you’ll ride through yellow mule’s ears, purple larkspur, red Indian paintbrush, golden arrowleaf balsamroot, pink geranium, magenta fireweed, and pale green false hellebore. Most riders recommend riding this loop counterclockwise to get the most bang out of Perma-Grin—a flowing downhill section that winds through aspen forests with long stretches where you can open up and enjoy the kind of speed that will put an eponymous grin onto your face. Perma-Grin was one of Targhee’s former trail designer Andy Williams’s favorite trails. Riders with dogs can find water for thirsty pooches until late in the summer on The Other One. 

Andy’s–Yada, Yada–Peaked–Ain’t Life Grand–38 Special–Colter’s–Andy’s 
Eleven miles and approximately 1,500 feet of elevation gain, physically demanding, intermediate, 2–3 hours
While this loop can be ridden in both directions, most people prefer to ride it clockwise and avoid the climb up 38 Special, which has more than 40 switchbacks to navigate as you ascend out of Mill Creek. Clockwise, you’ll gain elevation on Peaked and Ain’t Life Grand’s longer traverses. So, unless you want to work on your uphill switchback turns, start by heading up Peaked. This loop ups the challenge for riders because of its long continuous climbs, but the trails are rideable for most skill levels if you have enough stamina and lung capacity, plus there are plenty of scenic spots to stop and take a break with big views of the Tetons and out across Teton Valley to the Big Hole Range. 

Grand Targhee’s Epic Ride or Pierre’s Hole Mountain Bike Race Loop
About 29 miles with approximately 3,400 feet of elevation gain, physically demanding, intermediate riding, 4–6 hours 
Grand Targhee’s International Mountain Bike Association’s (IMBA) Epic loop (designated in 2014) combines all of the resort’s cross-country trails into one epic ride. The Pierre’s Hole Race route is similar, although there are some differences in the specific routing. Regardless, you get 28.7 miles of varied, flowy singletrack that are rideable by all skill levels (with the necessary fitness). It’s a great way to get in lots of miles—whether for training or to challenge yourself on a long ride on singletrack with amazing views and varied terrain. The classic route goes out Andy’s to Yada, up Peaked and Ain’t Life Grand, down 38 Special, up Colter’s Escape, over to Buffalo Soldier, back along Action Jackson to Planet Clare, across the road to Greenhorn, up Pika and More Cowbell, down Perma-Grin and The Other One, over to North Woods, Quakie’s Ridge, and Snowdrift, and then back Pika and Yogi to the base. (The route is not marked as the Epic or Pierre’s, so you do need to know the names of the component trails and follow signs for each of them. Don’t worry if you miss a trail though, any variation of these is fun.)

Targhee Bike Patrol

Like a winter ski patrol, Grand Targhee’s bike patrol consists of medically trained patrollers who are on call to help guests throughout the summer. Call boxes are mounted along bike trails in case riders need assistance. Plus, the patrollers ride the trails to check for downed trees or other maintenance issues, which means Targhee’s trails are always in prime condition. JH

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