A Mountain Biker’s Guide to Fall in the Teton Valley
By Katie Cooney
Katie Cooney worked in partnership with Visit Idaho to create this Travel Tip.
The Teton Valley is nestled beneath the western slopes of the Teton Range. With the Tetons to the east, the Snake River Range to the south and the Big Hole Mountains to the west, the Teton Valley is a mountain biker’s paradise.
A few years ago, my primary activities during the warm months were road biking, hiking, and backpacking—until I was introduced to the thrills of mountain biking. I fell in love with the way that my bike dances through the landscape, carrying me through stands of aspens, past countless wildflowers and fragrant sagebrush, taking me high into the mountains that I call home.
For a few blissful weeks each year, the aspen and cottonwood trees in the Tetons don their best golden dresses and light up the hillsides. The days grow shorter, evenings grow cooler and mountain bikers hit the trails to soak up the last few warm evenings of the year.
If you have a weekend in the Teton Valley with your mountain bike, read on to discover my local perspective on how to make the most of it and catch the best of our fall colors while you’re at it.
Riding the Teton Valley
There are a few things you should know before hitting the trails in the Teton Valley:
Be prepared for a visit from one of the “locals.” The Teton Valley lies within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and is home to big game like elk, moose, bears and more. Be sure to have a canister of bear spray and know how to use it. A bear bell doesn’t hurt, either.
It’s worth noting that all trails in the Teton Valley are multi-use. While the network of bike-friendly trails is substantial, not all trails are bike-friendly, so be sure to double-check what’s allowed before pedaling out. Remember that mountain bikes yield to horses and hikers, and please be courteous to other trail users.
The weather can change quickly in the Tetons during the fall months, so be sure to pack an extra layer and check the weather forecast before you head out.
Now, onto the fun stuff—where to find the best fall colors and pedal-powered thrills!
Where to Ride
Many of Teton Valley’s trail networks feature both blue and green trails, providing ample opportunity to challenge yourself if the day calls for it. A favorite option for riders of all ability levels is the Southern Valley/Mike Harris Trail Network, located just south of Victor.
The Mike Harris Trail Network is home to Teton Valley’s newest trail, Hillbender. Completed in June 2020, Hillbender features a mellow climb and a fun, flowy, bermed downhill with few rocks and roots to trip you up. As you wind in and out of the forest’s fall foliage, be sure to stop and take in the views of Teton Pass and Mount Oliver.
Other options: Horseshoe Canyon (see below) or Grand Targhee Resort, which offers mountain biking lessons and is home to a winding network of trails with everything from greens to lift-accessed black diamonds.
Located on the Northwest end of the valley, the Horseshoe Canyon Trail Network is an early and late-season favorite. Horseshoe Canyon features a variety of connected green and blue trails, nearly all of which offer wide-open views of the valley and the Tetons. You’ll find yourself riding through stands of aspens, sagebrush, and even a bit of pine forest. Check out Channel Lock for moderate riding and excellent leaf-peeping.
Just steps over the Idaho/Wyoming state line, the Aspen Trail is an autumn delight. Most of the trail is covered by a thick canopy of aspen trees that put on one of the most spectacular fall shows in the valley. The Aspen Trail features a bit of everything: short, steep climbs, technical rock gardens, creek crossings and a few smooth, flowy sections. Climb out of the valley from the trail’s southern trailhead in Darby Canyon and ride north or ride south to north for a bit more downhill. If you’re feeling adventurous, ride the trail as an out and back and take in the valley views in both directions.
Ready to get after it and get your blood flowing? For the thrill-seeking leaf peepers, set a shuttle in Teton Canyon and head up to Grand Targhee to check out Mill Creek. Mill Creek is a high-speed, flowy trail with stunning Teton views and ample fall colors. From Targhee’s base area, ride out to Andy’s Trail to meet up with Colter’s Escape, where you’ll continue on to over 1000 feet of downhill fun. If you don’t have an extra car, Mill Creek can also be ridden uphill from the lower trailhead in Teton Canyon. Fear not, uphill riders—you’ll still get plenty of views and flowy downhill fun.
Bonus Riding: Looking for a more relaxing ride? Don’t miss the scenic Ashton-Tetonia trail, which follows the former Teton Valley branch of the Union Pacific Railroad from Ashton to Tetonia. The 29.6-mile out-and-back gravel trail winds through small riparian areas, stands of aspen trees, over three historic trestle bridges, and offers nearly uninterrupted views of the Teton Range.
Looking for more information on the trails in the Tetons? Mountain Bike the Tetons is an excellent resource for more in-depth information about our local trails.
Where to Eat & Pick Up Supplies
Breakfast: If you’re hitting the trails early, a strong cup of coffee and a yummy breakfast are a must. Favorite on-the-go spots include Rise Coffee House in Driggs for a delicious latte and pastry, and local roaster Alpine Air Coffee’s drive-thru coffee hut in Victor.
Lunch: For a delicious on-the-go trail lunch, check out Victor Valley Market’s deli sandwiches. Be sure to pick up one of their giant cookies or rice krispy treats for an extra boost.
Dinner: When dinner rolls around, don’t miss Big Hole BBQ for a delicious barbeque and bowl of mac n cheese. For a local brew, check out Citizen 33 in Driggs, which offers microbrews and elevated pub food, or Grand Teton Brewing in Victor, which has seasonal food trucks and ample outdoor space if your pups are along for the ride.
Gear & More: Downtown Driggs is home to three excellent outdoor shops to fill any of your last-minute gear or bicycle repair needs. Habitat and Peaked Sports are geared towards mountain bikers during the summer and fall, while Yöstmark fills in the gaps for hiking, camping and more.
Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned rider, fall in Teton Valley has something magical to offer everyone. And with that, you’re off!
Images credited to Katie Cooney
Katie is an outdoor adventure and lifestyle photographer and illustrator based in Driggs, Idaho. When she’s not behind a camera or covered in paint, you can find Katie in her garden or recreating in the Tetons with her partner, Nick, and their beloved mutts Newt and Georgie. To see more of her work and follow along on her adventures, visit www.ktcooney.com or follow her on Instagram.