Finding the Horseshoe Loop
The girl at Fitzgerald’s Bike Shop talked me into doing the Horseshoe Loop. My local advisor, Jeff, had recommended I ride at the Targhee Ski Resort but the young lady in Victor (Idaho) said the Horseshoe Loop would have better views. “You start out climbing almost five hundred feet at the start, but when you get to the top of the ridge … boy what a view!”
If these photos are distorted, please click Horseshoe Loop to view the actual page rather than this email version.
I had planned on doing a ride out of Wilson Wyoming today but when we pulled out of the campground we could barely see the Tetons. A large fire had erupted just a few miles south of town and the smoke had traveled north. Since Wilson sits only about seven miles to the northwest of Jackson I decided to head into Idaho to ride.
Riding the Horseshoe Loop was not the only thing she talked me into. She suggested I buy a spiral notebook describing the rides in the area. As it turned out, I would have been lost without the guide.
“Just head toward Driggs on this highway out front (33). When you get to the only traffic light turn left onto Bates Road. A right would take you to the Targhee Ski Resort,” she instructed.
I did exactly as she told me, turning left onto Bates Road. As I was cruising down Bates I began to wonder if the Horseshoe Loop was on Bates Road … or if I was going to have to make any turns. Maybe there would be signs.
As I passed a guy unloading a paddle board off his car I decided to grab my spiral notebook and check for directions. I didn’t see any written instructions but found a crude, hand drawn map.
The map showed Bates running perfectly straight. At some point I would make a right turn onto an unlisted road, then turn onto Horseshoe Canyon Road.
I continued on another mile or so at which time the Bates Road took a big, sweeping left turn and began to head south. I drove on for a minute or so before I decided something was wrong.
After making a U-turn I drove back and asked the guy pulling the paddle board off his roof (yes he was still trying to get it off). Of course, he had no idea since he, too was just visiting the area. Next I tried Googling Horseshoe Road but only got one in California. When I typed in, “Horseshoe Idaho,” Google could find no such place. Finally I tried the IMBA Project app and was shocked when they had a file listing the Horseshoe Loop … with directions!
Well, I soon found out how I had screwed up. As the road makes that sweeping left turn the name seemed to have changed … and Bates Road kept going straight … the surface changing to a beat up asphalt of a different color. Therefore, I made my corrections to the map (posted above).
After a little more exploring I found the trail, a stroke of luck since I saw no trace of a sign anywhere.
Just as I figured my Tundra was the only vehicle in the parking lot. I did find a post with “Bovine,” alongside a kiosk, both buried under some low hanging Aspens.
Riding the Horseshoe Loop
After studying the kiosk I jumped on my bike and began to pedal. But before I could even get two revolutions of my cranks I had to jump off my bike into the bushes to avoid getting hit by a mountain biker coming at me. Little did I know this would be the only human I would see for the remainder of the ride!
Just as the girl had predicted, Bovine took me straight up the sage covered mountain, gaining almost 500 feet in 1.1 miles.
But the effort was not wasted, for just as promised, the view of the Tetons was stunning.
Bovine led to Shark’s Belly … a wonderful rambling path under pines and tall bushes. Bridges spanned any type of moisture. One must have been over fifty feet long! (Where did they come up with these names … Bovine, Shark’s Belly?)
Shark’s Belly dumped me out under a grove of pines, with trails leading every which way, like spokes on my bike. My spiral notebook called this intersection the “the fiveway.” Shark’s Belly passed on through toward the northeast (2 spokes), Probation and Burgh both headed northwest (2 more spokes), and Bumper was supposed to go to the southeast.
I took Probation, as recommended in my spiral. This trail passed through terrain very much like Shark’s Belly but had a few man-made ramps and jumps. The majority of Probation was downhill. As far as riding fun? I think I liked Probation the most.
At the conclusion of Probation I was free I came out onto a dirt road intersecting another dirt road, both cut by a creek. This busy juncture was the only time I could not find a trail on the entire Horseshoe Loop ride.
I eventually found a Carsonite post part way up the road heading south with the trail number of 250 (the same as Probation). The post showed no trail name but I figured I had found the beginning of the Burgh Trail.
Riding the Burgh Trail was not a totally joyous affair as the trail basically took me uphill back to the “the fiveway.”
I chose to eat my apple and Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Nut bar under the trees at the “the fiveway.” I thought I might need a nap as the soft breeze caressed my worn out body and I began to get woozy. The light breeze felt invigorating as I chomped on my groceries mixed in with swigs of Scratch. I found myself thinking of how glad I was to be riding at Horseshoe instead of on the trails of some ski resort.
Bumper didn’t have a sign but by the process of elimination I knew where it had to be. Four of the other paths of the “the fiveway” had been “spoken” for, only Bumper remained.
I am not sure Bumper was more than a hundred feet long. Maybe it was a mile long and I didn’t realize the actual length because of my excessive speed. Bumper led directly into Cody’s (finally a proper trail name). Cody’s was very similar to Shark’s Belly … a wonderful track undulating over pine a needle turf in the shade of conifers. Thank you Cody!
After passing over “Dude Wash” this rider came upon the next leg of the ride … the Sodbuster Trail.
Now Sodbuster was a little different than Shark’s Belly and Cody’s, for not only did it pass under some pines it also crossed some wide open mountain meadows, places where a settler might have wanted to turn into farm land. Speeds were up due to long and flowing trail turns and smooth tread.
I had a real problem when Sodbuster met the Southbound. By looking at the map (from my spiral notebook) I could tell the Southbound was in the shape of a giant “U” stuck below Sodbuster. If I turned onto Southbound right away I would miss out on riding the part of Sodbuster that would span the top of the “U.” If I continued on Sodbuster, and then took the Southbound I would have to ride the Sodbuster segment spanning the top of the “U” twice. I sat and contemplated … just couldn’t make up my mind.
While just sitting there paralyzed by indecision, an idea popped into my head … and I knew exactly which way to go. I had said the following words to myself, “Southbound … Southbound … Southbound means to go south!” If I turned left I would be headed south. If I continued on Sodbuster I would be going in a westerly direction. Surely I had to turn left and go south!
The Southbound quickly took me up onto those same barren, low brush covered hills as had Bovine in the beginning. But in contrast to the way Bovine proceeded straight up the hills the Southbound turned so much I was sure I would soon be riding back onto a segment I had just finished. I think the trail designer must have tried to fit as much trail on those hills as he/she possibly could.
Eventually I was supposed to hit Channel Lock which would take me down to Horseshoe Canyon Road. But I never saw a sign for Channel Lock yet I did pop out onto the paved road.
I quickly reached the truck after pedaling easily up the asphalt road.
Horseshoe Loop? Difficult to Locate. But, the views were fantastic and the trails were fun to ride … definitely better than biking down trails under a ski lift.
During most visits I take many more photos than I can possibly place on a page. To view every image I captured … 65 photos in all, please visit my Photo Gallery Site.