If you love our photos and want to enjoy them during your 2018 year then this calendar is for you! We are currently selling one that is full of some of our favorite photos from some of our best rides. Enjoy this sneak peak of some of the photos you will find in our Wilderness Horseback Journey”s 2018 calendar. If you are intested in purchasing, click our paypal link. We will be selling these through the month of December.
Are you planning a horseback riding trip out West? Looking for a place to camp with your horses during the summer months? Check out our TOP FIVE PRIMITIVE camping spots
Directions: From the traffic light in downtown Driggs travel north on Idaho Hwy, 33. At 5.7 miles you will cross a bridge that brings you over South Leigh Creek. You will see a sign that will point you to the national forest access. If you were to continue on the highway it would take you into Tetonia. As you leave the highway and take the road to the right that heads into the national forest, you will come to a stop sign. Turn right at the stop sign and drive east towards the Tetons. Turn left at 2.6 miles onto signed North Leigh Canyon Road. You will drive approximately 6 more miles on this road until you come to a large open meadow with a turnaround for trailers. This is where we park. This road can be washboard and rough but they do keep it up pretty well.
Amenities: Fire pit, large meadow, nearby creek, no elecitic hookups, no bathrooms, first come first serve, free, no limit to how long you stay
Access to these nearby trails: Green Lakes/Granite Basin; Tin Cup; South Lee; Badger Creek
2. Teton Canyon
Directions: At the stoplight in downtown Driggs, turn east off Idaho Hwy 33 onto Ski Hill Road toward Grand Targhee Ski Resort. Follow Ski Hill Road for about 6.5 miles where you will come to a sign that points to Teton Canyon on the right. Continue down Teton Canyon road for about 4.miles until you come to the camping facility on the left hand side of the road. there will be an in and out road that leads the the camping area.
Amenitites: large parking area, secluded camping, large meadow, corrals, no electric hookups, no bathrooms, limited camping spots at this area, first come first serve, free, no limit on how long you stay
Access to these nearby trails: Alaska Basin, Buck Mountain, Table Mountain, Beard’s Wheatfield, Hurricane Pass, Mount Meek Pass, Devil’s Staircase (horses not allowed),
3. South Boone Creek
Directions:From Idaho Falls, ID: Head down HWY 20 towards Ashton, ID. Just before coming into Ashton you will see a blue sign for Squirrel Creek. You will turn right onto 1200N. At about a mile you will come to a stop sign, continue straight through it. You will get a nice view of the Tetons on this road. At about 13 miles into this road, it turns to gravel. It is a pretty wide gravel road and in good shape with few potholes. At about 21 miles into this road there will be a little lookout point to the left. It looks out onto a pond with pretty lily pads and yellow flowers. We have stopped here before and taken some pictures. It’s particularly pretty at sunset. At 23.5 miles you will pass a bridge over South Boone Creek. Shortly after the bridge you will come to a sign that points to Jackass Meadows. Turn right here and follow the narrow dirt road. Follow this road for about 3 miles and you will come to the trailhead sign on the right. Pull into the road at your first left and you will park in a big camp spot.
Amenities: large parking area/meadow, fire ring, creek access, no electric hookups, no bathrooms, first come first serve, free, no limit on how long you can stay.
Access to these nearby trails: South Boone Creek, Berry Creek, Conant Basin, Hominy Peak, Union Falls (short driving distance)
4. Coyote Meadows
Directions:From Idaho Falls, ID: Follow US 20 for about 30 miles to exit 339 toward ID-33 E/Driggs/Jackson. Continue on Idaho 33 towards Driggs for 31 miles. You will see a sign pointing to Idaho 32 that heads towards Ashton, turn left on this road. You will drive on this road for approximately 12 miles. Then turn right onto the road marked N 4700 E. Drive for one mile on this road with the Tetons in view and then turn right onto 700 North. 700 N turns into a gravel road. You will travel on 700 N for about three miles and you will cross a cattle guard and come to a sign that says you are entering the Targhee National Forest. You will then turn right onto Forest Road 265 and follow this all the way to the end where you will see the big turn around called Coyote Meadows. You will be on 265 for about 8 miles.
Amenities: large parking area, several camp spots, small corral, tie racks, several fire rings, on site porto potty, creek access, limit to 3 day camping, free, first come first serve, no electric hookups
Access to these nearby trails: Hidden Lake, Hidden Corral, Conant Basin, Bitch Creek, Camp Lake
5. Indian Creek
Directions:From Idaho Falls, ID: Follow US 26 towards Swan Valley. You will follow US 26 for about 58 miles going through Palisades. Just across from the Palisades Resevoir you will find Indian Creek Road NF #281. You will travel on this road for about two miles. Once you start seeing signs for the camping permitted area you may pull over and choose anyone along side the road. There are several camping spots along this road so choose your best one! If you follow this road to the end you will find the South Indian Creek trailhead with tie racks and a bathroom.
Amenities: several camping areas, creek access, fire rings, free, first come first serve, no electric hookups, bathroom at trailhead, tie racks at trailhead.
Access to these nearby trails: South Indian Creek and North Indian Creek
Trails within a short driving distance: Palisades Creek, Rainy Creek, Big Elk Creek, Bear Creek, Sheep Creek, Fall Creek
South Boone Creek is one of those must do rides. This ride is located just across the border for us in the fabulous state of Wyoming. The South Boone Creek trail is a 15.5 mile loop. It is a very scenic trail that offers views of the Grand Tetons, pretty rocky cliff areas, and green grassy meadows with wildflowers at the right time of the year. You will also spend a lot of time in the forest on this trail and since we visited this a little earlier in the year, not many people had been on the trail yet and there was quite a bit of downed timber. We were lucky and most of it was in spots that made it easy to find an alternate route. However, there were a few spots that we had to take out the saw and cut our way through it. We also saw a little bit of snow on the trail but it wasn’t bad at all.
This ride is a day ride for us and we are fortunate that it is only about an hour and a half from our home. However, if you are not that lucky there is camping available at the trailhead. The trailhead is located in Jackass Meadows and there is a big camping area available complete with bear box, fire pit, and a creek nearby for your horses.
Finding the South Boone Creek Trailhead
From Idaho Falls, ID: Head down HWY 20 towards Ashton, ID. Just before coming into Ashton you will see a blue sign for squirrel Creek. You will turn right onto 1200N. At about a mile you will come to a stop sign, continue straight through it. You will get a nice view of the Tetons on this road. At about 13 miles into this road, it turns to gravel. It is a pretty wide gravel road and in good shape with few potholes. At about 21 miles into this road there will be a little lookout point to the left. It looks out onto a pond with pretty lily pads and yellow flowers. We have stopped here before and taken some pictures. It’s particularly pretty at sunset. At 23.5 miles you will pass a bridge over South Boone Creek. Shortly after the bridge you will come to a sign that points to Jackass Meadows. Turn right here and follow the narrow dirt road. Follow this road for about 3 miles and you will come to the trailhead sign on the right. Pull into the road at your first left and you will park in a big camp spot.
South Boone Creek Trail Description
Once you are saddled and ready to go, head down the road that you drove in on for about 1.3 miles. We actually start the trail down the road and then come out at the trailhead sign that is across from where we parked. As you head down the road you will see a forest service road maker 264. The trail starts right at this sign. The trail takes you through the forest where you will steadily gain elevation. Like we mentioned above there is a lot of down timber at this point.
In 4 miles the view will open up and you will get a pretty overlook with snow-capped mountains. You will also notice the Grand Teton making its appearance. This is perfect spot to pull over and get some awesome shots. We took ours with the Olympus Tough Camera.
The trail will continue on this hillside for a bit with your views continuing. At about 5 miles that trail will go downhill for a bit before it climbs back up. The trail goes down through a little drainage where you will see a sign and we took the small trail to the left.
At 6.2 miles you will come to a sign, head left on the Teton Crest Trail 008. This trail takes you to South Boone Creek and Jackass Road. Jackass road is the road we drove in on. Shortly after turning onto this trail you will come to an amazing cliff view where you are riding on the edge. Yes sounds scary but it is actually a really wide path. This has an amazing over view of rolling mountains and is the perfect spot to stop for lunch. We tie our horses up to one of the many trees and grab a seat on the cliff edge to enjoy our lunch. Here you are about 8400 feet in elevation.
After lunch continue on down the trail. Shortly it will take you into a green grassy meadow where you will be for about 2 miles. At 8.3 miles you will come to a sign. We veered of trail at this point to the left. If you follow the rocky, boulders that line a creek bed you will come to another amazing overview. There was actually water in this creek bed which is a rarity. We usually do this trail much later in the season when the water is all dried up. Water in this area just added to the beauty and it looked like a totally different area this trip. We tied the horses up in some trees as we got off and explored the rocky cliff ban and off course got some of those cool shots.
Once you are ready and back on your horse follow the rock bed back to where you saw that trail sign and continue on towards Jackass Road. The trail will take you back into the forest and in about a mile you will come to a lake. The trail will then go up a short hill where you will get a nice overview of a second lake. At this point the trail kind of fades for a second but just head up to the left towards the lake. You will see a sign in a minute that will point you in the right direction.
At 10 miles into your journey, the trail will start to descend through some thick Aspen trees. This is where we pulled out the saw and cut our way through. The trail will also be taking you through a thick rooted forest area and you will be climbing over some big roots in the trail. This trail used to have a bit of a tough spot on it where there was a tree root and a big rock that was somewhat of a challenge to ride up or down. We have ridden this trail many times and have had to do this. Well to our delight, someone fixed that spot! Whomever this great group or person was, a big thank you to you!
At 11 miles you will come to a creek crossing. We stopped here to let the horses get a drink. You are going to follow down the creek to the right for a second before you see the trail reconnecting on the other side. The trail continues through the forest and South Boone Creek will be running on your left all the way through to the end of the trail. When you come out at the end of the trail cross the road and you will find your vehicle in the big camp spot.
Hidden Lake is located within Coyote Meadows which is found between Ashton and Tetonia Idaho. There are several trails located within this trailhead and they all lead to some pretty amazing views. A person could spend weeks at Coyote Meadows and see a new view each time. We frequent this area quite often. We have camped at the trailhead before which is a big turnaround that has several camp spots with fire pits and tie racks. There is even a small corral located on site and there is also a bathroom. There is a limit to 3 day camping at the trailhead. We have also done some pack trips into this area. This ride that we did though was only a day ride for us. The Hidden Lake to Conant Basin trail is about a 15 mile loop that can be done in either direction. We prefer to go to the lake first to eat lunch. The lake can be a popular spot so you often end up sharing it with other folks. It is also a popular fishing spot, so if that is your thing bring your fishing pole. Besides seeing a beautiful lake on this view you also get the pleasure of getting up high and reaching an elevation of about 8,100 feet with some spectacular views.
Finding Coyote Meadows
From Idaho Falls, ID: Follow US 20 for about 30 miles to exit 339 toward ID-33 E/Driggs/Jackson. Continue on Idaho 33 towards Driggs for 31 miles. You will see a sign pointing to Idaho 32 that heads towards Ashton, turn left on this road. You will drive on this road for approximately 12 miles. Then turn right onto the road marked N 4700 E. Drive
for one mile on this road with the Tetons in view and then turn right onto 700 North.
700 N turns into a gravel road. You will travel on 700 N for about three miles and you will cross a cattle guard and come to a sign that says you are entering the Targhee National Forest. You will then turn right onto Forest Road 265 and follow this all the way to the end where you will see the big turn around called Coyote Meadows. You will be on 265 for about 8 miles.
Hidden Lake to Conant Basin Trail Description
Once you are saddled and ready to go head towards the trailhead sign for Coyote Meadows.
Just in case you didn’t see it as you drove in it is to the right of the bathroom. The trail is mostly a hard dirt packed trail. With our horses being barefoot they are able to do this trail without putting boots on. The trail starts in the forest but brings you out into a meadow for a short bit and at .12 miles you will see a sign for Bitch Creek. Continue straight on the trail. There are plenty of opportunities for your horses to get drinks on this trip including the first one as you cross Bitch Creek. From here Hidden Lake is 4.1 miles. Some people just make a ride out of going to the lake and back which we have done before. However, the loop around into Conant Basin is definitely worth it if you have the time. When you are about a third of the way into the trail you will come to an intersection. This is where we will be starting our loop. We headed to the left first so we can reach Hidden Lake and then we will be coming back on the trail to the right as we finish our loop. Hidden Lake is 4.1 miles from here.
The trail continues to meander through the forest all the way to the lake. At 2.4 miles you will come to a big mud hole that you have to cross. It seems like this mud hole is always here no matter how dry it gets. Gracie stops to get a drink here.
Shortly after this mud hole you will come to a sign that says you are in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness-Caribou/Targhee National Forest sign.
At 4 miles you are nearly to the lake and have gained some elevation. The view opens up a bit to your right and if you pull of the trail you can get a good lookout. We have also stopped here to get some shots with the Olympus Tough Camera.
Shortly after this you will begin to catch your first glimpse of Hidden Lake through the trees. It is a pretty blueish green color. Here is will begin your decent as the trail starts to switch back down into the lake. Hidden Lake is a good spot to stop for lunch. The calm and serenity of the lake is amazing. Like we mentioned at the beginning the lake is often a popular spot. We spent our lunch watching a couple of guys fish off the back of their horses and another couple having lunch with their dogs.
Hidden Lake can also be a fun spot to go for a swim on a nice warm day.
Make sure you bring lots of bug spray both for yourself and the horses, because the bugs can be quite grueling at all times of the year.
When you are finished with lunch head back up to the trail and continue to the right around the lake. The trail will continue through some thick forest. Make sure you have your bear spray, this is bear country and we have seen some black bears on this trail before. At 4.8 miles the trail will split and go through a camping spot. We stayed on the trail that goes to the left and goes around the camp. In about two miles from here the trail will open up to a grassy meadow with footbridges that will take you over some boggy areas.
At 6.4 miles you will come to another split in the trail. This time there is a sign on the trail that goes to the left, but we are going to head up the trail to the right to continue our loop. Shortly after getting on this trail you will come to a little pond on your left. We saw a few ducks swimming in it. There is also a camp spot by this pond with a bear box. Perfect place to camp with horses. After this camp spot the trail started to get a little muddy.
As you continue on you will be doing some switchbacks up the mountain and will gain a pretty view of some mountains to you right you will also be getting a pretty view behind you. There is still some climb after this as the trail continues to switch back up an open hillside. At 7.6 miles you will finish your climb up to the top where you get a pretty overlook. The higher elevation mountains are still filled with snow, which adds to the beauty of this scenic overlook. This is a perfect spot to stop, let your horses catch their breath while you get some of those pretty pictures.
The trail will continue on for a little while and at about 8 miles you will come to a junction in the trail. At this junction you will be just coming off the Conant Basin Trail and there will be a sign here telling you which direction to go. We are going to head to the right and the sign states that it is about 5.4 miles back to Coyote Meadows from this point. In about a mile you will be climbing through some Aspen trees with an amazing view to your left. Some time after this point the trail will start to descend through the forest. As you get down towards the end of your decent you will be coming off of a y-intersection. Continue straight the other trail will lead you back into Hidden Corral. Shortly after this point you will be completing your loop and coming to the sign you saw earlier in your trek that led you up to the lake. From here you have less than a mile back to the truck.
Rash Canyon is out of the Fall Creek area just before Swan Valley, Idaho. There are numerous trail heads out of this area and some trails are better than others. This trail which starts out at Rash Canyon and loops around into South Fork Fall Creek, isn’t one of our most favorite rides because you are basically stuck on a two-track dirt road the entire way and also stuck in a canyon so you don’t get much of that high view overlook. We did still manage to get some good photos with the Olympus Tough.
It is a good trail however for getting your horses in shape and conditioned. The whole area of Fall Creek is very populated mostly by motorized vehicles. We definitely don’t recommend coming here on a weekend, as you will run into more motorized vehicles than you wish. There is also a lot of opportunity to camp along the way. There are several spots just off the dirt road where you can pull over and camp. There are also a few spots off by some of the trailheads if you want more of a secluded camping experience. We also ran into a few camping spots along the trail so if you want to pack in and camp that is also a possibility.
Finding the Rash Canyon Trailhead
From Idaho Falls, ID: Follow US 26 towards Swan Valley for about 30 miles. Just before you cross the bridge over the Snake River, you will see a road to the right titled NF-058 this is a paved road for about a mile and will take you past a boat ramp. This part of the road is relatively wide, but be careful as you will most likely encounter a few big rigs on this road. In a little over a mile you will come to a fork in the road, continue right onto Fall Creek road. This turns into a narrow dirt road with some turn outs along the way in case you run into a larger vehicle. Sometimes cattle semis are seen on this road. Follow this dirt road for about 5-6 miles until you come to a sign on your left that says Rash Canyon.
As you pull onto this short road be careful it is steep, rutty, and rocky. We went over the cattle guard and parked in the grassy area on the right. If you would prefer, you can find a place to park off the road on the other side, but you will have to ride across the road and then open a gate.
Rash Canyon Trail Description
Follow the two-track dirt trail. In about 3 miles into the trail you will come to a junction with a possibility of continuing straight or going to the right or to the left. If you continue straight you will be on the road that will loop you into South Fork Fall Creek.
We decided to take a little back country way because that is the way that Amy programmed it on the Suunto Ambit 2 Watch. So we headed to the right up trail 262 even though there is a sign in a tree once you turn onto this trail pointing the way to South Fork Fall Creek. In less than a mile you will come to another junction and turn on the road to the left. Shortly you will see an unmarked trail to your right that doesn’t look very well-kept, you need to take this trail. We ended up missing this and taking a trail just down the road that had a marker on it that says no motorized vehicles. This trail is a dead-end and we advise you not to take it. If you take the correct trail, you will immediately find a little cow trail to the right. Take this and you will intersect with the South Fork Trail. Take a right once the trail intersects. We saw deer on this trail.
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Once you are on the South Fork trail, you will hear and see the creek to your right. There were some mallard ducks resting in this creek and also some big fish swimming past.
As you continue on this trail, you will see a sign that points to Lightning Ridge. It was pretty fitting at this time as we started to hear thunder at this moment. Luckily we didn’t get rained on. Keep on the road, and soon you will come to a junction where the South Fork trail splits. Turn left and you will be on your final leg back to the truck. We crossed the creek several times here and there were many opportunities for the horses to get drinks.
When you reach the end of the South Fork trail you will come to a giant turn around parking area. You will be coming out on trail marker 30. The truck is not parked here so follow your way out on the road and turn left on the gravel road you drove in from. Follow the gravel road for about 1.5 miles until you see that sign again for Rash Canyon. The down fall here is, this road can be busy with traffic so be careful .
Once you turn down the road to Rash Canyon you will come to that cattle guard you drove over. There is very tight barbed wire gate around the fence corner to the right, but we decided to just go grab the truck and drive it over the cattle guard and unsaddled there. It was a lot easier than messing with that gate.
**Reminder: If you have the Suunto Ambit watch you can import all of the maps we provide of our journeys onto the watch and have your own personal guide telling you where to head on the trail 🙂
One day and counting until our school year ends and we are officially out on the trail for the summer. We have a lot of fun planned for this summer and thought with it being such a beautiful day today that we would take the horses out for a ride. We went to Stinking Springs, which is a trail not far from where we live in Idaho. It is a great trail to get the horses muscled up for the long hard rides we will soon be doing. The elevation on this ride is also lower putting us at about 6,800 feet when we reach the top, which means we won’t run into any snow packs. Right now that is the one thing keeping us from those high mountain rides. The snow in the higher elevations won’t melt until mid to late June. This restricts our riding a bit, however we won’t let it stop us.
The Stinking Springs trail is located on the way to Kelly Canyon Ski Resort near Ririe, Idaho. We went on an 8 mile ride today, however the trail offers options to make this a shorter or longer ride depending on your needs. This trail is heavily populated by motorbikes and four wheelers. Since it was Memorial Day weekend there were a lot of these motorized vehicles out and about which can get in the way of riding especially when you are having to pull off the trail every so often to let them by.
The parking lot for Stinking Springs is a nice size, that makes it easy for parking a trailer. From the parking lot, cross the road where you will find a cattle guard and gate. Once through the gate there is one main trail that takes you to the top, or you can take a trail to the right. We will do a write-up on that trail on another post. There are also several cow trails, since cattle often roam the area. Sometimes we go off and explore these trails, however today we stuck to the main one. The main trail we took this day is a two-track trail all the way. It is basically a steady incline to the top getting steeper the higher you go. Also towards the top you will find a lot of rocky switchbacks. There were also spots where the trail was rutty and washed away. We have seen, snakes here a few times including Rattle Snakes, so if you ride this trail, just beware.
Once at the top of the switch backs, you get a pretty good view of the town of Ririe Idaho, beautiful farm land and the Snake River. You can see quite a ways off into the distance. The weather at the top can also change fairly quickly. It was warm and tank top weather on the journey up, then once we reached the top the wind kicked in and we threw on some coats. The weather in this area in general can change in an instance. We have done this trail numerous times and have started out with perfect weather only for it to change in an instant. We have gotten caught in some pretty bad rainstorms here.
After you take the time to enjoy the view here, there is still some more climb up on a very rocky trail.
Once at the top of this trail, carry on for a moment and you will come to an intersection with basically two different options. You can either go to the left or the right. There is a trail in the middle but it joins up with the trail to the right in a short while. Here is a chance for you to have some fun and explore. You can’t go wrong either way!
We chose the trail to the right. It takes you through a forest, Aspen filled area. Eventually you will come to a barbwire gate. This gate was tight and was quite difficult to get closed. However we persevered and between the two of us got it closed. There are cattle up there and so it is very important to get those gates closed. Once through the gate the trail splits again and we ventured to the right for a bit before turning around and making our way back down.
How to Get to Stinking Springs
From Idaho Falls, ID: Head east on US-26 for 19 miles. Then turn left onto N 160 E. You should see signs on the highway pointing you to Kelly Canyon Ski resort. Follow this road for about 1.3 miles then turn right onto E 100 N/Heise Rd. Then take slight left onto N 5050 E and then turn right onto E. Heise Road. Continue driving on this road for about 2.3 miles. You will see a split in the road and you will want to veer to the right to continue onto E. Heise Road. Follow this for about 2 miles where you will come to a parking lot on the right with a big red ramp. This is where we park.
The weather throughout our whole summer in Idaho and Wyoming can often be very unpredictable. We can start out a riding day being very sunny with blue skies and in a flash the weather can change to a downpour thunderstorm. We have been caught in many rainstorms, but we don’t let them keep us from riding. Rain or shine, we are out on the trail searching for those amazing views.
We’ve even been known to saddle up right in the middle of big rainstorms.
One of our most memorable downpours was a ride through Yellowstone Park. We were taking an out-of-town friend on a tour of our trails when the storm hit. As we were sitting having our lunch, we had a flash flood actually carry our food away. The storm hit so hard and fast we didn’t have time to take cover or grab our things. We got pelted with hail and some serious downpour all the way back to the truck for 9 miles.
With our friend Jimmy
Soggy food alright.
Smiling through the HAIL.
So how do we keep dry during these downpours? One of the major lifesavers is our Outback Rain Slickers. This is a full length waterproof, unisex duster. It has a detachable cape, rear saddle gusset, adjustable leg straps, dual snap closure, and an adjustable drawstring waistband. Because of these features it keeps us and our saddle dry. The only downside to this coat is that it is a larger coat and can take up room in your saddlebag. Even on the bluest of days we always pack this coat along for the ride. The Outback Rain Slicker has the slick oil exterior and after going through many downpours this tends to wear off. You can buy a Duck Back Dressing through Outback and follow the instructions to help keep your rain slicker waterproof.
If you are looking for more of a lightweight portable duster, we also pack the Outback Park-A-Roo Duster. It is a very convenient duster that has the ability to roll into its own built-in pack. This coat will protect you from the cooler temperatures, wind, and light rain showers. They come in short and long and a variety of colors.
There are also a few other items you may want to consider packing along for the ride in case you get caught in a storm. These are a hat cover, cowboy hats can often get ruined in the rain or lose their shape, waterproof pants, or rain ponchos. No matter what the weather is like, Maggie is always taking pictures. The Olympus Tough Camera is waterproof and has gone through many of our torrential downpours and is still taking its amazing photos. This camera really does stand up to its “Tough” name. In some of our rain pictures, you will see water spots from the rain, which would ruin most cameras. The Tough camera keeps on kicking and after drying out it’s like brand new.
The Buffalo Horn trail was supposed to be an easy ride into Ramshorn Lake. We planned to eat lunch at the lake, then explore a bit beyond there, and then turn around and take the same trail back out. Sounds easy right? This was one of our first attempts at exploring a brand new trail in an area we weren’t completely familiar with and the first trail we tried using the Suunto Watch. Let’s just say things didn’t go as according to plan on this journey. It all started with finding the trailhead. This was probably our first clue that we were in for an adventure. The Buffalo Horn Trailhead is located within the Montana 320 Guest Ranch. When looking at the map and planning this ride, we didn’t realize we had to drive all the way through the guest ranch before accessing the trail. As we were traveling down the Gallatin Gateway, we saw a sign pointing to Buffalo Horn trail and it was pointing into the guest ranch. We argued for a moment, one of us certain that the trailhead couldn’t be within the ranch. We pulled in, looked around, and there were no signs pointing to the trailhead. We turned around, went back to the main highway and searched around a little more. After aimlessly driving around we decided to give the guest ranch one more shot before giving up all together and picking some other trailhead along the highway. This time we pulled into the Guest Ranch and parked. We went to the front desk for help in locating the Buffalo Horn Trail. The kind lady at the front desk pulled out a map and circled the trailhead. Apparently they get many people coming through getting lost and asking the same question. You’d think they would put up a sign poining you in the right direction.
Once we finally found the trailhead and tacked up, we were off to a late start. This ride does offer some amazing views as you meander through meadows and forests. Once you reach Ramshorn Lake, the view is stunning and a great spot for lunch. Remember to always stick to your plan 🙂 After lunch we explored a bit but heard from some people we met on the trail that there was a loop option. Don’t deviate from your plan! We did and we didn’t end up getting off this trail until midnight. This was also a 2 1/2 hour drive from home, so we didn’t get home until around 3 o’clock in the morning. Yikes! It was a beautiful ride though and after getting home we realized our mistake and would do this trail again.
Finding the Buffalo Horn Trailhead
From West Yellowstone: Take Hwy 191/87 north out of West Yellowstone. Stay on 191 as it winds through the corner of Yellowstone Park. You will be on this road for about 36 miles before you see signs for the 320 Ranch on your right and the Buffalo Horn Trailhead. Turn into the 320 Guest Ranch, drive left past the dining facilities and continue left and up the drainage. You will pass several guest cabins and eventually park at a loop in the road at the Upper Buffalo Horn Trailhead at about 6650 feet. If you click the park map above it will take you to the 320 Guest Ranch page. You will see that the Buffalo Horn Trailhead is all the way at the top of the map.
Buffalo Horn Trailhead Description
The Buffalo Horn Trail to Ramshorn Lake and a little beyond is about an 18 mile in and out trail. From the start, the trail has several splits, some are signed and some are not. Make sure you use some sort of GPS on this trail or download the map we provided at the bottom of this post. The trail that takes you in to the lake is a relatively easy trail that meanders through the forest and meadows with the Buffalo Horn Creek to your right. As you go along on your ride you will see Ramshorn Peak in the distance. There are some bridges that bring you across the creek and also some big mud holes that we went though. The elevation gain is steady all the way to the lake. Make sure you look back as you climb up higher, you will get a good view of the Gallatin Range.
Keep a look out for signs on this trail. There were two posted to the trees pointing you to Ramshorn Lake. When we hit the sign that said we were about 4 1/2 miles from the lake that is when we ran into these dirt bikers that mentioned there was a possible loop in the trail that would lead you back out to Buffalo Horn. Of course they weren’t all that detailed, just said follow the trail to Porcupine Creek after you hit Ramshorn Lake. We gave this some thought because doing a loop is so much more fun than going out the same way we came in.
After chatting with the bikers, we made the final trek to the lake where we ran into some other horseback riders. They asked if we had been here before and when we answered no, they told us that we were in for a special treat, because the view at the lake is amazing. They were right! Ramshorn Lake is pretty. The lake is that greenish turquoise color surrounded by a rugged, jagged mountain. The lake was jumping with fish, and there was a couple large camping spots at the lake. At the time we talked about how it would be neat to pack in and stay at the lake in a future visit, little did we know that we were almost going to spend the night here. Later as you follow the trail to the left you will see large corrals for horses.
When we were finished with lunch we jumped back on our horses and continued on the trail to the left that heads up the mountain. The trail follows along Fortress Mountain. It is a neat jagged mountain and there were lots of loose rock and boulders lying on the ground that we posed by. After this section the trail starts to gain some elevation and does some steap climbs up the mountain. However the views are amazing as you get a complete overlook of the range. We stopped when we came to a view and explored a bit before deciding that we better turn around before it gets dark, as we still have about 9 miles until we return to the trailhead.
We were about a mile from Ramshorn Lake when we noticed a sign lying in the grass that poined to a trail to the right that said Porcupine Creek. This is the trail the dirtbike guys said we should take to make a loop. So we decided why not, let’s give it try. Afterall how lost can we get right?
As we turned onto the Porcupine trail, it went into a forest where we lost some elevation with switchbacks. It was also quite muddy through the forest and we went through quite a few deep mudholes. The trail was easy to follow, however there weren’t many signs. I think we came across one that pointed to Eagle Mountain which we knew was in the opposite direction we wanted to head. We started keeping track on the Suunto Watch with how many miles we were traveling while on this section of trail. We also marked the trailhead as our starting point, so the watch did have an arrow that told us which direction we were parked at and how many miles we were from the truck. The sun started to set and the watch kept telling us we were getting further and further from the truck. We understood that in a loop you must first get farther away from your starting point before the trail starts to turn back and go in the right direction. However we were basically traveling this trail blind. At about 5 miles into Porcupine trail, we still hadn’t seen a sign that told us we were on the right track. So we made the decision to turn around and retrace our steps. At the time this was the better decision for us, however when we got home and looked on the map we realized that had we continued on this trail it would have looped back into our starting trail in just a few more miles.
Taking this diversion caused us to put an extra 10 miles on our poor horses. We contemplated spending the night at the lake even though we weren’t competely prepared for that. However, we do carry fire starter in our packs as well as a thin emergency blanket and we always have extra layers so we probably would have made it just fine. Instead we decided to gear up with our headlamps and hoof it back to the truck. We turned an 18 mile ride into a 30 mile plus ride and returned to the truck at midnight. With the drive, we got home at around three in the morning. None the less, it was a wilderness adventure and the trail did offer some amazing views.
We now have the loop properly mapped out and would love to go back and do it again some day. Maybe this time in reverse so that we are traveling the part of the trail we didn’t finish during the early hours.
Where to Camp?
There is camping available at the trailhead. We also found a helpful article through Trail Rider Magazine. It describes a few other horse camping locations along the Gallatin Gateway. There is also the option of staying at the 320 Guest Ranch if you are coming from a distance and don’t want to haul your own horses. They offer trailrides and other activities.
The map you see below includes the loop option that we did not get to finish.
We did the Alaska Basin to Buck Mt. Pass in early October last year, because of it’s high elevation it is recommended that you don’t attempt this trail until July. The day we did this trail, was extremely windy and cold. It often can be when you reach the pass so make sure you pack yourself some extra layers. We always go prepared because we never know how the weather may change. Almost everytime we have gone to Alaska Basin we have experienced weather of some sort. Once you reach Buck Mt. Pass you will be at an elevation of about 10,500 feet. The route we took was an in and out, 21 mile ride. This is a very impressive ride with views of Battleship Mtn, Buck Mtn, limestone cliffs, giant colorful slabs of granite that were smoothed by the glaciers, and high moutain lakes. All of this makes this an amazing pick for our fourth favorite ride of the 2015 season. At the end of this post you will find a map that was created by the Suunto Ambit2 watch. We have some amazing photos of this ride that really capture the beauty of Buck Mtn and the beautiful granite slabs that you find as you enter into Alaska Basin. Remember all these photos are taken with Maggie’s “Tough” camera. We have ridden Alaska Basin several times, but this was our first time visiting Buck Mtn Pass.
Finding the Alaska Basin Trailhead
At the stoplight in downtown Driggs, turn east off Idaho Hwy 33 onto Ski Hill Road toward Grand Targhee Ski Resort. Follow Ski Hill Road for about 6.5 miles where you will come to a sign that points to Teton Canyon on the right. Continue down Teton Canyon road for about 4.5 miles until you come to a giant turn around where you will find the Teton Canyon Campground and the N. Teton Creek Trail that services Table Mtn and Beard’s Wheatfield. We park our truck and trailer here even though the S. Teton Creek trail that services Alaska Basin and Buck Mtn Pass is about .1 miles down the road. The parking lot by the Alaska Basin trailhead isn’t the best for trailers and most of the hikers park here.
Alaska Basin-Buck Mtn Pass Trailhead Description
The Alaska Basin trail is a starting point that will lead you to many different trail options such as Hurricane Pass, Buck Mtn Pass, or Mount Meek Pass. All three options will bring you to the Grand Teton National Park Boundary where riders can descend through the park to reach the valley floor of Jackson Hole. In this post we will be taking you to Buck Mtn pass, however if you are new to this area we highly recommend also trying to take a trip up Hurricane Pass as it will give you an amazing view of the Grand, Middle, and South Teton.
Once you are geared up, ride on down the road about .1 miles where you will cross a bridge and find the trailhead sign for South Teton Trail (027). This is a tough and rugged, rocky ride. The trail however is well marked and easy to follow. It starts out as a wider trail that takes you through a forested area, crossing creeks before the terrain opens up to reveal the canyon floor, wildflowers in July, and the amazing limestone cliff bands. In about 2.7 miles you will come to a sign that points to Devil’s Staircase to the right. This trail is not recommended for horses and there is actually a sign at the start of that trail stating not for stock use. Continue straight to reach Alaska Basin.
The next five miles takes you through some amazing territory as you approach Alaska Basin. You will be going through some forested terrain and crossing the creek. You will see tributarties cutting through the forest and some small waterfalls. The trail will start to gain elevation as you do a series of rocky stair stepper switch backs. As you get closer to Alaska Basin you will come to the large marbled granite slabs. The colors in this rock are absolutely gorgeous and we have taken many amazing photos here. We ride our horses barefoot, so if your horse is shod be careful as this rock can often be slippery. When you reach the granite slabs the trail can become a little more difficult as you are climbing over and up the rock slabs to reach the trail on the other side. Shortly after you will find yourself at Alaska Basin where the view opens up. You will be able to see Buck Mtn in the distance and there will be many boulders and tributaries from Sunset Lake.
The trail will come to a junction that will leave you with a few options. One of the trails takes you to the Teton Crest Trail to the right that will bring you to Mount Meek Pass. There is also the Alaska Basin Trail to the left that will take you to Hurricane Pass. From this point there are two ways that you can get to Buck Mtn. Pass. One would be heading towards Hurricane Pass. On that trail their will be a cutoff sign that will point you to a trail that will take you to Buck Mtn. The second way would be the way we went which is heading on the Alaska Basin trail to the right that will take you past Mirror Lakes.
On your way to Mirror Lakes you will pass many small lakes before coming to the big Mirror Lake. Here your view is amazing as the trail winds around Mirror Lake with Buck Mtn revealing itself in the background. The trail starts to gain elevation as it climbs up around Mirror Lake. There will be a few creek crossings as the trail makes its way to the base of the pass. Just before the pass the trail will level out with a cliff band to your right and small boulders surrounding the trail. You will start to see the final rocky switch back that will take you to top where you will get an incredible view. The final climb is a hard one on the horses as you are making the final push that will bring you to about 10,500 feet in elevation. The trail is composed of tight gravel switchbacks and you will be crossing over small loose boulders.
When you reach the top you will have an amazing view. Here you will be at the border of Grand Teton National Park. You will see Buck Mountain straight in front of you. You be looking down on some high mountain lakes as you look down into Death Canyon. We explored a little past here beause the view is breathtaking and unlike any other. It is definately worth the climb. Take your time, breathe in the beauty, and take your fair share of photographs before you turn around and begin your journey home.
Where to Camp?
Before you reach the main parking lot there will be a horse camp on the left side of Teton Canyon Road with horse corrals and a place to park your trailer. There are only a couple camp sites at this location. There are also places to camp along the trail with your horses. You don’t need a permit for this area. This is a highly populated trail and you will encounter many hikers so the campsites are first come first serve.
We have traveled and seen some amazing places from the back of our horses. This last summer we did a lot of new rides and we shared two of them with you as our top two picks for the 2015 season. We thought for our third pick, we would choose an oldie but goodie. The Green Lakes-Granite Basin ride is one that we try to do at least once a year if not more. This is a trail that is close to home and although we see so many different places this ranks high up on our list of favorite places to ride. This is about a 17 mile loop that you can do in either direction. When we do the loop we usually head toward Green Lakes first and then ride over into Granite Basin. There is a hairy spot in this loop and we prefer to make the climb up it as opposed to going down it. You will get to see why as we take you through this trail.
This ride has many amazing features to it including, high mountain lakes, high canyon views, creek crossings, rock formations, and of course an amazing view of the Tetons. The wild flowers are spectacular in July but you can still have snow then too. The view of the Tetons on this ride is incredible and we will show you the best place to get that iconic cover shot. It also features two mountains that are named after Maggie’s family, Beard’s Wheatfield and Beard’s Mountain. This ride is near and dear to Maggie’s heart. Her grandparents and father were raised near here and her family still lives here. The Beard’s have a rich heritage in this area and Maggie takes great pride in that. Beard Mountain and Beard’s Wheatfield; were named after the family because they moved up there in 1906 and camped and ran the Sawmill at its base.
Finding the Green Lakes-Granite Basin Trailhead
From the traffic light in downtown Driggs travel north on Idaho Hwy, 33. At 5.7 miles you will cross a bridge that brings you over South Leigh Creek. You will see a sign that will point you to the national forest access. If you were to continue on the highway it would take you into Tetonia. As you leave the highway and take the road to the right that heads into the national forest, you will come to a stop sign. Turn right at the stop sign and drive east towards the Tetons. Turn left at 2.6 miles onto signed North Leigh Canyon Road. You will drive approximately 6 more miles on this road until you come to a large open meadow with a turnaround for trailers. This is where we park. This road can be washboard and rough but they do keep it up pretty well.
Green Lakes-Granite Basin Trail Descrition
As you get yourself ready to hit the trail, keep in mind that this is a 17 mile loop where you will be hitting an elevation high of 10,000 feet and you will be coming across some very rocky terrain. Sometimes we add a few miles to this ride when we go off trail and visit our “secret” spots.
When you and your riding buddies take off, you will head on down the road a bit where you will come to another parking lot where the hikers usually park. Find and cross the creek and you will see a trail marker sign (FS 019).
As you connect with the trail, you will start an immediate climb up through the forest. You will continue to meander through the forest for about 1 mile until you come to a sign that will point you to the Green Mtn Trail or the Tin Cup Trail.
Here is where your loop begins and where you have to decide which direction to go. We always head up toward Green Mtn first, for two reasons. One being we like to eat lunch at the first and largest of the Green Lakes. The second being, if you head straight for Tin Cup trail now you will be going down a rocky step that is on a steep side hill. For us it seems a lot easier to go up that rocky step.
So if you decide to continue along with us, we will be headed to the left up towards Green Mtn. As you continue on this trail you will start to gain some elevation. You will hit an open hill side and if you come during early summer it will be full of beautiful wildflowers. The trail will begin to switch back up this hill side and as you look back you will begin to see an amazing view of the Teton range.
As you climb to the top of this hillside, you will round a corner and come to an amazing high canyon view. You will be looking out among the Crows Nest, Dry Ridge, and Green Lakes Mountain. We often stop here for pictures. It is a prime photo spot!
The trail levels out here for a moment before it turns a hard left and starts to switch back down. Here you will find large boulder slabs and some rocky terrain. We often take this opportunity to take some of those cool switch back photos. As you are coming down the switch backs the view of the mountain range really starts to open up.
As you hit the bottom of this decent you will be about 4.5 miles into your journey. You will also come to a pond that is nestled underneath Green Mountain. This is the mountain that eventually you will be making a loop around. We often stop at this pond to let our horses get a drink, especially after all the work they have been doing. Guys this ride is absolutely gorgeous in every direction! So also take this time to breathe in the beauty.
Once your horses have had a chance to catch their breath and hydrate, continue on down the trail and pull over onto the big boulders you will be passing.
You will love the shot of your horse with the mountains and lake in the background. In a bit you come to a junction in the trail. Here you will see a sign that will point to Granite Basin to the right and Green Lakes to the left. Eventually you will be heading to the right towards Granite Basin, however for now head towards the lakes and come back to catch this trail after lunch. You will climb through some wooded, rocky terrain as you go around this beautiful high mountain lake. We often pull over here, tie our horses to a tree and take a break for lunch. It really is a perfect, serene spot. Here you will often see fish jumping in the lake and we always tease how we should be bringing along a fishing pole so we can catch our lunch and live off the land 🙂
After lunch we back track the trail a little bit and cross a creek. From here we go off trail and cut up the hillside that is directly ahead, until we find the trail. However, if you feel more comfortable you may go back to that sign that pointed towards Granite Basin and follow the trail that way. There is also another way that you can hit Granite Basin from your lunch spot. You can do this by continuing on around the lakes until you hit a sign pointing you to Granite Basin. This way is a little more complicated as the trail does disappear some and turns into a little bit of rock climbing. It is beautiful that way though.
Once you are back on track, the trail takes you through some very rocky terrain. It is very cool though, as you climb through some rocky boulders. Before long you will come to a sign that will point you to Granite Basin in 1.4 mile to the right. You will also notice on this sign an arrow pointing to the left towards Green Lakes. This is where you would have connected to the trail had you gone around the lakes after lunch instead of back tracking onto the trail you are currently on.
Continuing on towards Granite Basin, the trail will be making its way around that Green Mountain that we talked about earlier. You will be seeing ponds left and right created by tributaries. The trail will lead you through Granite Basin, where the rocky terrain continues. You will also be going into a forested section and crossing a creek before the trail opens back up. As the trail opens, you will begin to see the side hill that we talked about at the beginning of this post. This side hill is part of the Andy Stone Trail. As you approach it, make sure you leave adequate space between you and your riding buddies. There is a rock step near the top of the Andy Stone Trail that our horses go over perfectly. However, we know sometimes horses can become spooked or not want to budge when going over this step. Leaving room between you and the rider in front of you will make it so you all arrive to the top safely.
Once at the top of Andy Stone, the trail turns slightly to the right. Stop here! Turn around! You will see the most amazing view of the Tetons.
This is where you will get the perfect covershot of you and your horse that will leave others jealous and envious of where you are. It is a spot that is hard to leave. If you are making good time on your trip you can afford to spend a little time here, as you will only have about 3 miles left to your ride. So really stop and enjoy, especially if you are from out of town because this is a sight unlike any other. You will feel like you are in a painting.
When you have gotten that perfect shot, continue up the trail and shortly you will come to a junction. The sign will point to a trail that goes to the left bringing you down into South Leigh. The sign will also point you straight to the Tin Cup Trail and North Leigh Road.
Continue straight and in about 3 miles you will be back to your truck. The trail from here on out is pretty easy. You will be losing some elevation as the trail brings you down into a forested area. The trail will also go through some open meadows. In about 2 miles you will come to a split in the trail. This is the split you saw at the beginning of your journey. Continue straight as you have just completed your loop and you are on your final trek back to the truck.
Where to camp?
Like we mentioned this is a day ride for us and it only takes us about an hour and a half to get to this trailhead. However if you wish to camp you may do so at your truck. The parking area for here is a big open meadow with lots of room for camping. There aren’t any hook ups or facilities so it will be a true camping experience.
Map of Green Lakes-Granite Basin Loop
Below is a map that we created on the Suunto Ambit2 watch. Unlike our previous two maps we posted, this map was done while we were riding. The watch has a tracking feature that will track your ride as you are going. Then when Amy gets home she pulls up the map on the computer and saves it for future rides. Since this is a true map it has every place our horses brought us that day, including our secret spot and an extra place we ventured. We tend to go off trail a lot as this map will show, so for your sake just follow the trail.