by Heather Mundt
The morning’s bike ride had been an easy one along rail-to-trail abandoned railroad tracks repurposed as multi-use recreation trails through green meadows where cows grazed lazily as our group of riders pedaled past. As we continued along the Warm River Trail near the Idaho-Wyoming border, we finally caught a glimpse of the mountain range where our adventure would end: Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming.
It was day two of a five-day family biking trip with Western Spirit Cycling, a tour company in Moab, Utah, specializing in backcountry road and mountain-bike trips throughout the Western U.S. Offering biking trips around and through public lands, this kid-friendly itinerary had begun just west of the Park in Idaho’s Island Park, leading us east until we reached renowned Jenny Lake.
I love the western mountains, says Diana Terrell, a Delaware-based psychologist, who, along with husband Allan, traveled with two granddaughters. And I just wanted to share with my grandkids what it’s like to experience the wilderness.
For my husband and me, we wanted to share the specialness of Grand Teton, the site of our first trip as a couple in 1996. And since our first Western Spirit experience in 2003 the popular Backcountry Hot Springs Tour in Idaho’s Sawtooth Wilderness Area, where we rode difficult, non-technical mountain-bike routes toward a new hot-springs camp each night we’d dreamed of completing another one with our future children.
In essence, this was the culmination of nearly 20 years history, and it was everything we’d hoped it would be: an adventurous, muddy, unplugged introduction to mountain biking and backcountry camping. And lots of fun.
Each morning, after selecting from an impressive campfire breakfast spread pancakes, bacon, eggs, fresh fruit, oatmeal, coffee and more our group of five adults and six kids (ages 7 to 12) set out on moderate, 10-mile rides along rails-to-trails, backcountry roads and pavement until lunchtime. At any time, riders could ride with the guide in the support truck, which also carried our gear and food.
After a fresh meal of sandwiches and salads, we could opt for approximately 10 more miles, or hop in the support truck with one of the guides and ride toward the night’s campsite. Once we set up camp, the guides prepared gourmet feasts like fajitas, pastas and fish, and delectable desserts like s’mores and peach cobbler.
Post-dinner shenanigans included swimming holes, tubing, campfire stories and, most popular, mountain-biking tutorials by the group’s biggest kid, guide Wes Shirey. Laying a pathway of logs through our campsite, he’d instruct his biking minions.
Leverage and momentum is your friend, he coached the kids as they biked over obstacles. Gearing is also your friend. Keep pedaling through it.
The idea, says Western Spirit guide Kara Sephel, is to get kids to appreciate the importance of outdoor experiences, in addition to cultivating an appreciation for health and fitness.
Not only is (biking) a healthy lifestyle, but these trips spread kids boundaries, Sephel says. I think that’s a good thing.
Western Spirit Cycling offers family trips from late spring through August in several other areas such as the Black Hills, Bryce to Zion and Grand Canyon. Click here for more information on family-friend itineraries.
More on Grand Teton NP
Did you know?
French fur trappers are credited with naming the three iconic peaks of Grand Teton National Park: South, Middle and Grand Teton describing them as The Three Breasts or Les Trois Tetons. Grand Teton is about 31 miles west of Yellowstone National Park.
The area’s designation as a National Park was due in large part to conservation efforts of oil heir and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who fell in love with the area after visiting in 1926. Throughout two decades, he amassed 35,000 acres of private land throughout the valley, which he donated in 1949 to the federal government to become part of Grand Teton National Park (added to the original park, created in 1929).
In 1972, Congress established the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, which connects Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, to honor his commitment to Grand Teton and the National Park System.
If you go:
Allow enough time to visit Jackson Hole, just 5 miles south of the park, at least long enough to walk around the famous Town Square Antler Arches, check out legendary watering hole Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, and eat pizza or sample delicious, local microbrews at Pinky G’s Pizzeria.
Once in the park, be sure to spend a day at Jenny Lake. Stop at the Jenny Lake Visitor’s Center for treats and souvenir shopping, then head to the Jenny Lake Loop Trail (about 6.5 miles round-trip). Or cut the hike roughly in half by taking the Jenny Lake Boat Shuttle, a fun, scenic ride the kids will love.
And while there are myriad places to stay both in and out of the park, our favorite is Jackson Lake Lodge. Not only is it a National Historic Landmark complete with 385 rooms and all the kid-friendly, on-site amenities like a pool and restaurants, it offers sweeping views of Jackson Lake and the Teton Range, my favorite photo op in the entire park.
Editorial Disclaimer: The Mundt family received a discounted media rate on the Western Spirit Cycling portion of this trip.
Heather Mundt is contributing editor for Outdoor Families Magazine and authors her blog, Momfari. She lives in Colorado.