Ah, Wyoming. Or is it Idaho? Maybe I just figured out why they call it “Wydaho.”
The Idaho/Wyoming border is a jagged affair, drawn along the deep canyons and craggy peaks of the Rocky Mountains, resulting in multiple cross-border excursions during even the shortest of drives (or rides). Grand Targhee Resort, named for its perch inside the Targhee National Forest, is a quaint little gem of a place an hour-and-a-half from Jackson Hole, and yet half a lifetime away from the summer-time traffic and Gucci-snooty malaise that is increasingly creeping across some of the best mountain towns in the West.
Grand Targhee is one of the few ski resorts that is still family-owned after 50 years of operation. An early adopter, the resort started summertime lift service for hikers and sightseers in 1988 during the first annual Bluegrass Festival, and for bikes in 1994. Like most, Grand Targhee began its foray into bikerly pursuits by offering up its service roads for downhill use. Its steep, wide, loose, dusty service roads.
That began to change in the fall of 2006 when trailbuilder Andy Williams and company got busy building mountain bike trails for mountain bike folks. Today, the resort has two lifts open for summer operation that serve fifteen miles of downhill trails of various flavors. An additional 55 miles stretch out and around the resort, little tendrils of trail happiness.
Grand Traverse, a blue square intermediate trail, should probably be labeled double black due solely to the substantial view hazard. Railing around a corner to have the Grand Teton rise up in front of you is an exercise in humility and awe. It’s also an exercise in keeping-your-shit-together, wheels-on-trail, pull-over-lest-you-cause a multi-bike pile-up behind you.
Dustin Fletcher is Grand Targhee’s Marketing Manager, and his love for these trails shows as a twinkle in his eye, the humble pride that leaks out when he speaks of them. “Our trails are built by and for bikers and are maintained in a way that offers a consistent, high-quality, rider experience… you’ll see Grand Targhee employees return to the area on their days off or out after work enjoying the trail system. The culture and passion for mountain biking here is uniquely ‘Targhee’ and we love sharing it with our guests.”
With a top elevation of 10,121 feet, the resort is located amongst real mountains. And real mountains come with real weather. Our chairlifting day started cloudy, showed some blue promise, then bear-hugged us with a soupy gray embrace for the rest of the morning. The smattering of rain, however, created hero dirt on the sinewy bermed turns and jumps (neatly avoided by yours truly) that my rented Rocky Mountain Pipeline with plus-size tires gobbled up with a grin. Just be sure to pack clothes and gear to cover a wide variety of conditions to be prepared.
For a relatively small resort with a relatively small bike shop, Grand Targhee hits all the right notes. It’s homey without being hokey, and the bike shop is low-key and friendly, yet still offers top-of-the line bikes, gear, and expertise. Rentals run $89 to $99 per day and a wide variety of great bikes are on offer.
And while I loathe the trite declaration that such-and-such place has “something for everyone,” it is nonetheless true. Mom, dad, and junior, all clad in Keds, shared lifts with tattooed, big-bike boys, chatting until they parted ways at the top, the former toodling down Jolly Green Giants or off for a hike and a picnic, the latter getting airborne on Buffalo Drop.
Targhee’s master trail builder likes to name trails after the songs he’s listening to while digging, shaping, and crafting. Thus I had Joe Walsh’s Rocky Mountain Way stuck in my head for most of our second, glorious day of XC riding through the aspens and the profusion of wildflowers whose peak I’m told we’d actually missed by 5 days. Riding uphill isn’t usually my thing, but in defiance of cosmic laws, these trails actually flow up as well as down. The only impediment to my climbing were the intermittent bursts of butterflies roused by my front wheel. Sheesh. Butterflies. Maybe they can do something about that.
Where to eat
The resort’s small coziness means there are limited dining options on premises. There is a small café for coffee, breakfast, light lunch, and snacks. A larger bar upstairs features more offerings, and there’s a great dinner place called The Branding Iron at the bottom of the lifts.
Nearby Driggs, Idaho might not strike one as a foodie hub at first blush, but the small, humble Forage Bistro & Lounge belongs on any “Best of The West” list. We ambled in just off the trail, sweaty, and dusty, and sat down to an exceptionally tasty lunch. To his chagrin, I really enjoyed my boyfriend’s lunch too. To say it was a “steak sandwich on homemade ciabatta bread with grilled onions and a chipotle aioli” would be to dismiss the culinary joy this thing imparted. I wanted to go do hill repeats until I was hungry again so I could start all over.
Grand Teton Brewing Company is located in nearby Victor, ID, and their welcoming expanse of sunny grass dotted with Adirondack chairs, stellar beer, cornhole, and a food truck called “Taste Buds” that serves a dreamy deep-fried sweet potato puff with a dill ranch dipping sauce offers a delicious capstone to a glorious weekend. And much more that would have required additional hill repeats.
Grand Targhee hosts numerous mountain bike events and gatherings each summer, any of which makes a good excuse to plan a trip. My weekend happened to coincide with Lindsey Richter’s Ladies All Ride camp, and it was an unusual delight to have the bros outnumbered by the bras, the lift lines alight with colorful Shredly shorts and Liv’s trademark purple bikes and gear.
More bike trails
During our trip we also rode a nice loop just outside the town of Victor, Idaho. The Nemo and Grumpy Old Man trails form a snazzy 6-mile loop of swoop through the forest, with a clear-running stream at the trailhead to splash away the outermost layer of well-earned sweat and dust.
Other stuff to do
Though we only stopped for a few minutes, Driggs hosts the top-notch Teton Geotourism Center. I’m not one for static displays and eager volunteers regaling me with town founder stories, and none were in evidence. My quick tour revealed a compact space with fascinating murals, stunning photos, maps and graphics, and even a climbing gym under the same roof.
Where to stay in the Grand Targhee area
The Grand Targhee Resort offers summer lodging packages starting at $137.50 per night.
Several camping options are available nearby. Reunion Flat and Teton Canyon Campground are both close, and the Teton Teepee Lodge offers glamping.
How to get to Grand Targhee
Driving: The Grand Targhee resort is just over 12 miles from Driggs, Idaho and about 1.5 hours from Jackson Hole, Wyoming (45 miles). Salt Lake City is approximately five hours (287 miles) away.
Flying there: The nearest airports to Grand Targhee are Jackson Hole and Idaho Falls, and the resort has shuttle service to both. Grand Targhee is roughly 90 minutes by car from Idaho Falls.
Adult lift tickets to Grand Targhee bike park are $39 per day.