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.