The Mountain Goat Gallery

The Cache Creek / Game Creek Loop

Posted by Jim Steele on June 6th, 2009 filed in Gros Ventres, Mountain Biking

            I spend most of my summer outdoors time hiking, but I’m no one-trick pony. I’ve also been known to mountain bike. One of my favorite trails is the Cache Creek / Game Creek loop southeast of Jackson.

            But before I write another word, a major caveat. I really don’t know what I’m doing on a mountain bike. Any attempt on my part to do “technical” biking would lead to a painful death, possibly due to being impaled by handlebars. So if you’re looking for tips on a death-defying Gary Fisher-esque ride, you should probably find another Web site.

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            By mountain biking standards, The Cache / Game route is not exceptionally difficult – you gain about 1,000 feet climbing from the Cache Creek trailhead to the top of a divide above the Game Creek drainage. From there, it’s all downhill until you meet the highway five miles south of Jackson. If you ride the bike path back into town, completing the full loop, it’s about 20 miles. If you leave one car at the Cache Creek trailhead and the other at the Game Creek trailhead, it’s half that.

            This loop has two things to offer. First, the scenery is outstanding. You follow Cache Creek for about four miles through a canyon, and this makes for a scenic trip. As you get closer to a bridge over Cache Creek, you’ll see a great view of Cache Peak. At the top of the Cache / Game divide, you’ll get a great view of an unnamed peak and could take in an impressive wildflower display. The sweeping views coming down Game Creek are also outstanding. And along some of the ridges above Game Creek, you’ll see some interesting rock formations. You’ll ride above some marshy areas along Game Creek where you have a decent chance to see ungulates.

            Second, the ride down Game Creek is exhilarating. It’s downhill the entire way, so you’ll get a chance to rest after the gradual climb up Cache Creek. It’s not a technical ride, but you do have to watch for roots, rocks and other obstacles. Don’t get going faster than you’re comfortable with – there are plenty of switchbacks, blind corners, and other trail users. I have chest-planted twice on this trail after not heeding the above advice.

            You can do Cache / Game in either direction. It’s more fun to ride down Game, so I’ll describe the trail going clockwise. To start, make your way to the Cache Creek trailhead, which is in the southeast corner of Jackson and offers a large parking area. Pick your favorite east-west street (Broadway or Hansen Avenue are good candidates), follow it to Redmond Street on the east end of town, and then follow Redmond south to Cache Creek Road. Turn left and follow Cache Creek Road as it eventually turns into a dirt road and climbs modestly en route to the trailhead.

            At the trailhead, you have a couple of options. You can ride up the two-track main trail known as the “Sidewalk,” which can sometimes be heavily congested, or take the single-track Putt-Putt trail, which runs parallel to the north for a while before rejoining the two-track. The two-track begins at a gate just east of the parking area.

            As you follow Cache Creek for about four miles, you’ll climb gradually. After a few minutes, you’ll pass the area where the Bar T-5 hosts its covered wagon cookout. Next you pass Salt Lick Draw and Gin Pole Draw. This is a popular multi-use trail, so watch for walkers, dogs and horses – always yield to horseback riders. Also, bears are not uncommon. You’re riding through a canyon under the Gros Ventres the whole way, and as you get closer to the junction, the views of Cache Peak will start to open up.

            After almost four miles and roughly 800 feet of elevation gain, you’ll come to a bridge over Cache Creek. The Cache Creek trail continues on, passing the former Noker Mine and eventually leading to Granite Hot Springs (note that a portion of that trail passes through a wilderness area where bicycling is not permitted). After you cross the bridge, you’ll begin the toughest climb on a single-track, quickly gaining about 250 feet to the Game Creek / Cache Creek divide. I always have to walk my bike up part of this section.

            From the top, you’ll start to enjoy some sweeping views of Game Creek. The trail will be a single-track for several miles and there is some switchbacking as you begin your descent. Control your speed and enjoy the ride! You’ll pass a junction with the West Game Creek Trail over a small bridge heading north. As you get closer to the trailhead, the trail becomes a double-track again. Watch for other trail users, including horseback riders and walkers. This is the area where Paul DeBoer, who used to live above Game Creek, got into various tiffs with trail users. While DeBoer’s vigilante patrols are over, this remains a heavily used area. At the Game Creek trailhead, you join the paved Game Creek Road at a big bend; follow Game Creek Road downward for a mile to U.S. Highway 191/89/26.

            A paved, separate bike trail parallels the highway to the west; you’re about five miles south of High School Road and will climb up and down a few modest hills as you return to town, gaining a modest amount of elevation. You’ll pass a Phillips 66 station that offers your first chance to buy a snack or a beverage since you left town. Once you get back into town, follow city streets to wherever you left your car. All told, it’s about a 20-mile loop.

            This loop seems to offer it all: a decent workout, great views, wildflowers, wildlife, proximity to town, and an exhilarating descent. And, of course, there is no reason that all or parts of this loop couldn’t be enjoyed as a hike. Enjoy!

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