By Kristen Pope Explorebigsky.com Contributor

Whether you’re looking for a teeth-rattling downhill ride or a tranquil family outing, the Jackson Hole Valley has something for every biker.

Families and beginners can enjoy paved paths and simple cross-country rides, while more adventurous riders can find thrills on downhill and backcountry routes.

T.J. Sullivan, Bike Manager at Jackson Hole Sports, recommends Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s trails as a place for beginners and intermediates to hone their skills and gain confidence for downhill riding before venturing to Teton Pass’s more challenging trails.

“Take a lesson at [the resort] first,” Sullivan says. “Work your way up the trails to the bigger jumps. Once you’re feeling comfortable in the air and descending at a faster pace, [head] to Teton Pass and preferably go with someone who knows the trails.”

For advanced riders wanting to head straight to the goods, Teton Freedom Riders President Kevin Kavanagh suggests the downhill-only Lithium Trail off the pass, or the 19-mile Cache-Game-West Game-Ferrins loop for a cross-country challenge.

“Biking in Jackson is unbelievable, because we have one of the best, most diversified trail systems in the country,” Kavanagh said. “Trails are an integral part of a sustainable community.”

With the area’s abundant wildlife, many bikers choose to carry bear spray, something Gregg Losinski, Regional Conservation Educator for Idaho Fish and Game, recommends.

“If you need bear spray, you’re probably going to need it quickly,” Losinski said, suggesting keeping it somewhere accessible. “We also recommend making noise. The bottom line is that you don’t want to surprise a bear. They could be feeding, sleeping or walking down the trail. If you’re coming down that trail at 20 miles per hour, you can literally crash into a bear.”

Bear spray canisters – available at nearly any outdoor shop – can be mounted in a carrier on a bike frame. Bikes and other equipment can also be rented at a number of local shops.

Maps and more information on paths and trails are available at friendsofpathways.org/resources.

Suggested rides

Paved paths
A combination of pathways and roads connect Jackson, Wilson and Teton Village, and more are in the works, including a bridge over the Snake River set to be finished by December. Grand Teton National Park offers a popular family-friendly path from Moose to Jenny Lake, and riders of all ages and abilities will enjoy the views from the ride alongside the National Elk Refuge.

Cross-country mountain biking

Both Teton Pass and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort trails saw major upgrades in recent years, including the connector trail at JHMR that links the resort’s two cross country trails making an approximately five-mile loop. JHMR beginners can enjoy the Saratoga Trail, while advanced riders will find technical challenges and jumps on True Grit. On Teton Pass, the recently constructed Phillips Ridge and Arrow Trails are popular options.

Downhill and lift-accessed riding
JHMR offers lessons for beginners and intermediates on both cross-country and lift-accessed downhill trails. For advanced riders, there is plenty of adrenaline to be found here, or on Teton Pass with trails such as Lithium, Fuzzy Bunny and Jimmy’s Mom, which offer technical terrain, big jumps and gaps.

Backcountry riding
Just outside of town, the Cache Creek area has backcountry riding for all abilities. The Cache Creek Sidewalk Trail to the Putt Putt Trail is perfect for beginners, while intermediate riders can link Putt Putt to the Hagen Trail. Looking for a longer ride? Head up the Cache Creek Sidewalk Trail to the Cache Creek Trail, and then around the backside of Snow King to Game Creek, coming out south of town on Highway 89. Be aware that the Cache Creek Trail enters the Gros Ventre Wilderness at mile six, and bikes are not allowed beyond that point.