By Gary Chrisman – Along the border of Wyoming and Idaho is an area rich in beauty and outdoor recreation. What usually comes to mind for many people when traveling to this area in winter is skiing and snow machining; but now it has also become a haven for winter Fat Biking.
Fat Biking is a fast growing genre of cycling and for good reason. Riding over surfaces on tires ranging from 3.8 inches to 5 inches is a lot of fun and with incredible traction, stability and flotation it's hard not to get a big smile on your face while riding one of these ballooned tired bikes. Most of the larger bike manufacturers as well as a few of the smaller bike brands are making Fat Bikes which gives consumers numerous options to choose from when buying or renting. The larger tires combined with modern frame geometry makes them very capable four-season bikes. While the big tires do provide some flotation they won't carry riders over deep soft snow so it is necessary for riders to either ride on frozen firm snow or snow that has been groomed. Wydaho is fortunate to have approximately 1,400 miles of groomed track that Fat Bikers can choose from. Yes that's right, 1,400 miles!
Teton Valley Fat Biking
On the Idaho side of the Teton Mountain Range sits Teton Valley. The local non-profit grooming organization is (TVTAP) Teton Valley Trails and Pathways. TVTAP grooms and maintains about 96 miles of Nordic and Fat Bike tracks in the valley and gives locals and visitors alike many options for their fat bike outings. Opportunities range from wide nearly flat terrain in out of a Teton Canyon to wide twisty-turny rides with small ups and downs on some of the Nordic ski areas. TVTAP has also purchased a snowmobile that tows a 30 inch-wide turf roller that makes what locals call the fat bike singletrack.
Located to the north east of the town of Driggs is about 2 miles of this fat bike singletrack. Riders follow the trail over flat terrain with amazing views of the mountains to their east. Down in the south end of the valley TVTAP, in cooperation with volunteers from Fitzgerald's Bicycles, grooms about 5 miles of fat bike singletrack leaving right from the parking lot of the bike shop in Victor. The track follows some of the summer cyclo-cross course through Pioneer Park and offers riders flat track as well as some small hills and twisty-turny corners with berms. The track actually goes right through the front yard of Grand Teton Brewery (which is across the street from Pioneer Park) before it heads further south into the Teton Springs Golf Course Community. The track twists and turns its way through parts of the 18 hole golf course and follows the hills and contours offering riders a really fun experience. Riding out and back from Fitzgerald's provides riders with 10 miles of fat bike singletrack! The weekly night rides from the bike shop are a blast and typically make a stop at the brewery to enjoy great beer and company.
Grand Targhee Fat Biking
Grand Targhee Ski Resort is located just across the border in Alta Wyoming and is the first ski resort in the United States to allow fat bikes on their Nordic trails. With 9 miles of Nordic trails and 4 miles of fat bike singletrack to choose from Fat Bikers won't be disappointed with their riding options at Grand Targhee. The Jolly Green Giant Trail has to be ridden to be believed. Narrow and winding with banked turns, climbs and descents this trail is what all groomed fat bike singletrack trails should be like. It will leave riders grinning from ear to ear. The Rick's Basin Nordic Trail is wide and has numerous hill climbs and descents. A ticket for use of the Nordic trails must be purchased at the base area of the resort in the Activities Center. For trail information or lodging call 1-800-353-2300 or go to GrandTarghee.com
Fat Biking Trail Etiquette
It is important for Fat Bikers to use proper etiquette while riding these groomed trails, particularly when riding on trails used also by Nordic skiers. Yield to skiers as needed. Do not ride if conditions are to0 soft and you are leaving a rut. Make sure adjust tire pressure accordingly to reduce chances of leaving unnecessary ruts.
More Fat Biking in the Wydaho Region
Snow Machining is also a popular winter activity in this region and this works great for Fat Bikers because the Skyliners Motor Club grooms 200 miles of trails in the Big Hole Mountains to the west of the valley. The terrain in the Big Holes is steep and takes riders into remote settings. Fat Bikers will want to wait for snow conditions to be firm or the riding will be very difficult. From high a top these mountains the views looking back across the valley to the east provides unrivaled views of the Tetons.
About 20 minutes east of the town of Ashton, Idaho (about 45 minutes north of Driggs) is the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway. The road is not plowed in winter but is groomed for snow machines and allows fat bikers quick access to views of both the lower and upper Mesa Falls. What can be a crowded place for summer tourists is sure to be almost a private experience for fat bikers wanting to ride the 4 miles up from the south end parking lot to the falls. Starting a few miles further south from the Warm River Campground and following the snow machine tracked old rail road grade along the Warm River provides riders with a scenic pedal for about 3 miles before turning left and joining the Mesa Falls Byway directly at the winter parking lot. This should definitely be on you're list if you are visiting the area.
Approximately one and a half hours to the north of Teton Valley lies Island Park and it's hundreds of miles of groomed snow mobile trails. This is the area that Salsa Cycles sponsored athlete Jay Petervary has chosen to put on his fat bike winter ultra-endurance race called the Fat Pursuit (see the Calendar of Events for Details). This should tell you something about how great the riding in this area is. Jay has competed numerous times in both the Iditarod 350 and 1,000 mile in Alaska and the Arrowhead 135 in Minnesota. He has finished first in these events on more than one occasion. If he thinks that the riding in Island Park is good enough for him then it should be good enough for the rest of us. The scenery in this area is spectacular! Be sure to stop into the Ponds Lodge for a drink and meal while visiting this area. Cabin rentals are also available. Call 1-208-558-7221 or go online to The Ponds Lodge in Island Park.
Riders should be prepared when heading out into the woods in these areas. Bring extra clothing, food, water (or possibly a small stove for melting water) and a bike repair kit in case of a mechanical mishap or a sudden change in the weather. Winter in these areas can be hostile to the unprepared rider. Unlike the groomed trails around Teton Valley and Grand Targhee, riding in the Big Hole mountains or in the Island Park area takes riders into the wilderness very quickly. When riding on snow machine trails riders should have both front and rear blinking lights on their bikes and should have them on both day and night for safety. Stay to the far right when riding on snowmobile trails, avoid using head phones in both ears so you can hear approaching snow machines. Snow machines move much faster than bikes and may not see fat bikers until it is to late to avoid a collision. Wearing brightly colored clothing is also encouraged.
Fat Biking in Harriman State Park
Fat bikers wanting to avoid riding on snow machine trails should check out Harriman State Park located in Island Park. With 24 miles of groomed Nordic trails to ride on and no snow machines to worry about this State Park is a fat bikers playground. Situated along the Henry's Fork River Harriman is a serene and beautiful place to ride and visitors to the Park can expect to see numerous species of bird life and very likely North America’s largest antlered mammal — the Moose. In addition to the $5 fee for vehicle entry, riders are charged a $5 Winter Access fee which supports Harriman's trail grooming program.
Fat Biking in the Jackson Hole Valley
Heading over to the Wyoming side of the Teton Range into the Jackson Hole valley gives riders even more options to choose from. The singletrack trails in Cache Creek Canyon to the east of down town Jackson offer some of the most entertaining and challenging riding in the area. With so many people walking dogs, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and fat biking the trails in this canyon stay packed down almost all winter long. This is as close to true winter singletrack riding one will find in the region as the trails winter routes follow the same trails mountain bikers enjoy in summer. Be sure to wear your helmet while riding these trails. Fat Bikers looking for a mellower experience can choose to ride along the Snake River on the levy. With great views of the Tetons the levy trail is flat and easy to ride on and offers people the chance to see bird life and maybe a moose along its banks and gravel bars. Riders have the option of heading upstream or downstream.
Fat Biking at Togwotee Pass
Driving about an hour to the north of Jackson is Togwotee Pass (pronounced Toga-tee). The pass sits on the Continental Divide and has approximately 600 miles of groomed trails in the area. The “Togwotee Winter Classic” fat bike race is held here at the Togwotee Mountain Lodge. The riding in this area is extensive and challenging and offers amazing views of the Absaroka Mountains and the Teton Range to the west. Make sure to grab a map before heading out into this area as the trails are numerous and getting lost is a possibility. Only the most fit, experienced and prepared riders should attempt riding deep into this area. There are many hills, valleys and canyons to navigate and due to its higher elevation rapidly changing weather can be a threat. Beginner and intermediate riders should choose trails and loops that are closer to the lodge and highway. For lodging or trail information call 1-877-975-9094 or go online to Togwotee Mountain Lodge.
Fat Biking in Granite Canyon
About 45 minutes south of the town of Jackson is the entrance to Granite Canyon and at the end of this box canyon is Granite Hot Springs. In the summer months the 10 mile dirt road can be driven by car up to the hot springs but in the winter the road is groomed but not plowed and can only be accessed by over snow travel. To ride to the hot springs on a Fat Bike, soak and ride back out is not to be missed by any adventurous Fat Biker. The road in is a gradual uphill ride which means on the way out it is almost all downhill. Yeehaawww!!! Both snow machines and dog sled tours may be encountered while riding in and out of Granite Canyon. For information about Granite Hot Springs call 1-307-690-6323 or go online.
With all of these different fat bike riding options it easy to see why Wydaho has become the Fat Bike Fun Zone. The winters in the region are the real deal and snow conditions can vary from firm and easy to ride on to soft and very challenging. Groomed doesn't always mean firm and riders visiting this area should always look at the weather and the snow reports detailing recent snow accumulation. If it has snowed 3 feet in the past 3 days it may be better to break out your skis than your fat bike; but if the conditions are right and the snow is firm enough to ride on Wydaho is a fat bikers paradise!
The area is fortunate to have a couple of year round bike shops that specialize in Fat Bike sales, service, rentals and trail information. Fitzgerald's Bicycles is the areas premier Fat Bike shop and has locations both in Victor Idaho and a new location opening soon in Jackson Wyo. Call 208-787-2453 to chat with one of their friendly knowledgeable staff or go online to Fitzgeraldsbicycles.com
Also, Hub Bicycles in Jackson, WY can be reached by calling 307-200-6144.
Best Fat Bike Rides in Wydaho
With so many options to choose from it's a little easy to get over whelmed with where and what to ride. The top few rides to choose from in no specific order are:
- Grand Targhee
- The South Valley Victor Idaho trails with a stop at Grand Teton Brewing
- Harriman State Park
- Riding to Mesa Falls starting at the Warm River Campground
- Cache Creek Canyon east of Jackson
- Granite Canyon up to Granite Hot Springs south of Jackson