Contributor: Cody Feuz
Riders: Cody Feuz, Phil Clemens
Activity Type: Mountain Biking Level of Difficulty: Advanced – Trail is 24+ miles, many stream crossings, and multiple technical rock/tree sections.
Mountain Range or Region: Bridger-Teton National Forest State: WY Country: USA
I’ve wanted to do this ride for several years, but I needed to do some research first. I wasn’t sure about the upper end of the trail, and where the Gros Ventre Wilderness boundary was. Earlier this summer we hiked into Shoal Lake from Riling Draw. I was able to scout out the upper valley and we found the wilderness border. The trail looked fun with some technical sections.
Phil and I rode this as the 2nd day of our Wyoming trip, (we did Wyoming Peak the day before). The trailhead is in Hoback canyon, just down river, (1/3 mile), from the “Kozy” campground. The primary users of this trail are cattle, with horses, hikers, hunters and wild game also contributing. For the most part, the trail is in great condition for mountain biking. However it is definitely a primitive trail. The trail is narrow, has small stream/bog crossings, has rocks and downed trees, and crosses Shoal Creek 7 times. There are a couple of places of less than 200 yards where the trail hits a grassy area and disappears, (I have marked this with way points in the GPS data). All of the technical sections and the stream crossings can be easily negotiated by dismounting your bike.
The scenery is fantastic. You have great views of Shoal creek on the entire trip, and some of the Gros Ventre peaks dominate the landscape on the upper portion of the trail. If you were there in the morning/evening, wild game sightings would be likely. The ride is also in bear country, so take necessary precautions.
I have divided the trail into 5 areas. The video below was shot on the downhill and so it starts at the upper end of the ride and works back to the trailhead.
Entry/Exit – This section, about a mile in length is mainly rolling foothills.
Lower Canyon – The lower canyon is the longer of the two canyons, and contains two stream crossings with some technical and exposed sections of trail.
Lower Valley – This section of the trail is the easiest of the entire ride. There are 3 stream crossings, and a few bogs/springs, but for the most part it is fairly tame.
Upper Canyon – This section of the trail runs roughly between the Shoal Creek hunting camp and Riling Draw. It has lots of rock obstacles and one KEY fork that on the climb is easy to miss! I have marked the way point in the GPS data.
Upper Valley – The upper valley is the most scenic, with the views of the Gros Ventre peaks, meadows and beaver dams. Most of the trail is also fairly tame, but there are several rocky sections that will challenge your technical skills. Do NOT ride past the Wilderness Boundary sign. Most of you reading this already know, but Wilderness areas are off limits to mountain bikes. On the ride in I met a nervous Forest Service employee who wasn’t sure I knew where the boundary was. But when I told her exactly how far from it we were by pointing to my GPS, and she confirmed it on her topo, she then “high-fived” me and told us to have a great time!
I would highly recommend this ride for skilled, fit riders who are looking for something challenging and “off the beaten path”. August and September are the best months because weather, stream flows and trail conditions are all at their optimum levels. Oh, and you saw in the videos – cow pies are an additional obstacle. If Jackson or Pinedale area riders are looking to add a trail that is ready to be ridden, then this one is a good candidate. Although it was hunting season, we only saw two hunters at the trailhead, and we didn’t run into any other humans on the entire ride, other than the Forest Service employee. (I did see a hiker ahead of us on the way to Shoal Falls in the wilderness area).
This ride took us 6 hours round trip, but now that I am familiar with the trail it could be cut down to 5 hours. Riders with advanced technical skills and fitness could cut it down even further.
Let’s get more bike tracks on Shoal Creek!
Here is the downloadable GPS data for the Shoal Creek MTBR: