trestle

Anica Schmidt of Rexburg pauses in the middle of one of the tall trestle bridges along the Ashton to Tetonia Rail Trail to take photos May 29.

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Last weekend, at the end of our ride, we had loaded the bikes in the back of my small pickup at Ruby Carson Memorial Park in Tetonia and were slowly driving away when my friend rolled down her window and shouted to strangers hanging out in the park:

“HEY, I JUST RODE 30 MILES!”

The people returned blank stares.

For that novice bike rider, pedaling the Ashton to Tetonia Rail Trail was a big deal.

As I think back, it was a good time. The weather was perfect, the landscape was green and vibrant, and the trail was in good shape.

I’m not sure my companions knew what they were getting into when we started out riding from the Idaho State Park trailhead just east of the North Fremont High School in Ashton. It ended up being me and three women (the dudes all bailed with various excuses).

I like the north-to-south direction on this trail because you have that gorgeous view of the Teton Range in front of you the whole way. It also doesn’t hurt that most of the grade is slightly downhill in that direction.

The rail trail travels through flowing cropland with the occasional trestle bridge over some deep river and creek canyons. The views from the trestle bridges are a treat for the eyes.

Because the trail is an old railroad bed, the grade never gets steeper than 3% (trains don’t like hills). There is one spot where the route detours off the railroad route to go around one stubborn landowner who refused the state access for the trail. The route follows some up-and-down gravel farm roads and a short section along Highway 32, before reconnecting with the railroad trail. Generally, it’s hard to get lost — just keep heading in the direction of the Tetons.

Our group of four stopped at mile 15 for some snacks and one of our party was complaining about a sore bottom. The trail is a bit bumpy and best suited for mountain bikes or at the least, gravel bikes. A few miles later, the person with a tender tush dropped out and was rescued at a section where the rail trail has a connection with Highway 32 near the site called Lamont.

About a dozen miles into the route, we startled an elk that ran off to hide in a patch of aspens.

Other wildlife we saw included a family living off the grid in a converted school bus without electrical hookups. They were busy busting soil for a large garden.

We only passed a few small biking groups along the way, most were only doing sections of the trail, either starting at the beginning and turning back partway or starting near the middle and riding south to the southern trailhead in Tetonia.

Our group of four regrouped at the end at the Frostop in Ashton for burgers and shakes. I’ve noticed that they always taste amazing after a long outing.

If you plan to ride this trail, remember to bring plenty of water, snacks and a preconditioned bottom. Sunscreen is also useful. The ride south is generally downhill but often fights a headwind. We drove a shuttle to the end in Tetonia, then returned to Ashton to ride south. I’ve heard of groups splitting and riding from both directions and exchanging car keys when they meet in the middle.

Perhaps my next long trip could be a ride on the pathways in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

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The word is that most of the mountain bike trails in the Kelly Canyon area are now good to go with only a few patches of wet spots. The same is true for the trails in Teton Valley area, except for the highest elevation trails such as those around Grand Targhee Resort. The resort trails plan to open June 18.

Several of the Teton Pass trails (off the Old Teton Pass Highway) are now open. With the summer heat coming early this year, many trails are opening early. High trails and passes in Grand Teton National Park are still snow-covered.