Leaving Tetonia, the route immediately follows rolling gravel roads paralleling open fields, then turning east and winding through the trees, briefly opening up to views of the Teton range and its pinnacles jetting into the sky.
The first big climb leaving Tetonia is Rammell Mountain Road (Forest Road 267) from the valley floor and advancing into the Teton Range. Glimpses of the peaks dance in and out of view as you climb up the treeline and onto the Jackpine-Pinochle rim, Forest Road 266. There is some relief in the gradual decline traversing the rim bordering the vast Jedediah Smith Wilderness. Take note of all the wildflowers blooming along the road and the peaks off in the distance while also being on alert for wildlife.
Rounding the corner and leaving the rim, the road merges into the northern portion of the loop, which descends toward the valley with a few punchy climbs thrown into the mix. This region would make for great dispersed camping if you started in the afternoon or the evening. I recommend a slight detour off route to McRenolds Reservoir, which is the only water on the rim. Expect bugs and mosquitos here in the summer months.
The next 13-mile stretch is a rewarding descent out of the Tetons that will fill you with a rush of adrenaline. Views of the valley below open up, offering glimpses of the Big Hole Mountains where the route is headed, but not before traversing the rolling agricultural land accompanied by rutted doubletrack roads.
These “roads,” which are seldom traveled by any sort of vehicle other than equipment and ATVs, pass through environmental easements and farmland, providing a unique perspective of the rural landscape and the rugged mountains encompassing it. One should take precautions on these unmaintained roads hammered by cattle, tractors, water, and wind erosion. Be prepared to dodge a stray barbed wire, jagged stone, or deep rut.
Around mile 41 is Harrops Bridge, where the route intersects the Teton River. This is the first reliable water source and is a great opportunity to take a refreshing dunk.
A three-mile paved climb on the highway connects to a mellow, unpaved gradient of the Big Hole Mountains’ sloping northern aspect. Traversing the Packsaddle Bench gives a vantage point to the east where you came from in the Teton Range and across the valley below. The rural landscape transitions into a thick forest of conifers and aspens, with short glimpses of prominent points like Ryan Peak and Mount Manning. Despite its close proximity to pavement flanking the canyon on either end, the Horseshoe-Packsaddle road shouldn’t be underestimated. Expect ruts, large embedded stones, steep descents, hairpin corners, loose rock and dirt, and an occasional downed tree or low-hanging branch. Packsaddle Canyon is a joy to travel through and is abundant with dispersed camping opportunities and water to filter from creeks flowing alongside and adjacent to the road.
Around mile 56, the reward of a second descent comes into view and continues after meeting pavement at the South Fork of Horseshoe Creek. Descending Horseshoe Canyon, there are two cattle guards to be on alert for. Once out of the canyon, the route heads south against the mountains, crossing between pavement and gravel the rest of the way.
Horseshoe Canyon Singletrack Option: If you’re up the challenge, divert across Packsaddle Creek to the Horseshoe Canyon Trail System for optional singletrack. After a steep, 0.6-mile climb out of the canyon up the Burg Trail, you’ll arrive at a five-way intersection. This trail system is signed, but many may prefer to use an app like TrailForks to navigate more easily. There is no right or wrong way to do this, but I would recommend Shark’s Belly to the doubletrack and out Channel Lock.
Back in the valley
Though the big climbs are behind you, prepare for short, punchy ones on these rolling roads at the base of the Big Holes as you head south toward Victor.
Making your way into town, you remain mostly on gravel roads, broken up by a stretch of quiet pavement where you can settle in and relax a bit. The valley backroads of S 4500 W and W 10000 S are highlights, winding in and out of trees, up punchy climbs, and into brief steep descents. Watch for the doubletrack paralleling the E 9500 S paved road for bonus gravel.
More Singletrack Options
Near the turn onto Baseline Rd is an opportunity to snag more singletrack in the Southern Valley Trail System. There are new underpasses at the Mike Harris Trailhead and Trail Creek Campground, as well as a new bikepath along the highway allowing for an easy merge if you so choose. Otherwise, continue on Baseline and through the narrow tunnel under the highway toward Victor.
Leaving Victor, the route makes its way on gravel and pavement, zig-zagging to the Idaho/Wyoming Stateline, heading north back toward Tetonia. It passes Darby Canyon, the closest off-route camping along the valley’s east end. There are few reliable water sources on this end due to irrigation, especially late in the year. Be sure to top off your water in Victor before heading north to the finish in Tetonia.
Rideability: All of the route is rideable except for a few sections or possible scenarios. The climb up Rammel Mountain Road has some steep pitches that may require walking. The creek crossing (dry by August) at route mile 29.5 has a brief hike-a-bike out of the creekbed. Agricultural doubletrack roads and Rammel Mountain are prone to mud during rainy weather and will require hike-a-bike.
Alternate starting points include the Packsaddle Parking Lot (route mile 51.6) and Sherman Park in Victor, both of which permit overnight parking – see route POIs.
Detouring onto the optional singletrack trail systems the route goes by in Horseshoe Canyon and Southern Valley is easily done.