Fall Colors · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Parts of the Kelly Canyon area are not open until late May. Check with the Targhee National Forest service for more info.
Kelly Canyon Ski Resort currently allows the general public free non-motorized access to their ski hill once the snow is gone and through the late fall. They currently allow runners, mountain bikers and hikers on the paths/trails for the sections of the Forest Service land they lease. Please be respectful of the structures, equipment and cattle that graze in the area.
This race is a special treat as you'll have immense views of the Snake River Plains, thick forests of quaking aspens, pine trees, and incredible sunrises/sunsets. The steep climbs are worth the effort and are met with gentle, rolling trails to help provide a reprieve. Most of the running surface is ATV trail with about 1/3 on dirt roads. There is one short section of singletrack on the Buckskin Morgan Trail. This singletrack also provides for the most technical downhill portion as well.
Every single season of the year provides its own beauty, as does the time of the day. This offers a variety of experiences, as do the dozens of other trails/paths you can take that connect to this route.
This is the 25K loop for the Gnarly Bear Race (loop it twice for the 50K) held annually in October that is put on by Bill's Bike and Run. They are based out of Idaho Falls and located in Snake River Landing. The race director is Gray Augustus.
Need to Know
Unless it is race day or another event is going on, you'll not be able to park in the parking lot. There is parking across the street from the lodge on the side of the road.
Follow the map closely or use the Hiking Project mobile app
if you are unfamiliar with the race route. There are some out and backs along with some discrete turns.
Beware of cows during the summer months. In late summer, this is a popular place for huckleberry pickers and in the fall there are a lot of hunters.
This course begins in front of the Kelly Canyon Ski Resort lodge on the flat grass area between the lodge and the ski hill. There is a short out and back that runs parallel with the paved road on the grass at the foot of the ski hill and then comes back to the trail that begins across the lodge (by the side road parking area).
Crossing the road from the lodge, you go up the 4-wheeler trail that has many sections that are NOT runable. YOU WILL BE WALKING on the 35% grade section that is covered in loose debris. In under a mile, the trail flattens for a short section; don't forget to turn around and take in an impressive view out onto the Snake River Valley. At the intersection, turn right (east) onto a dirt road that will then connect with the "Rollie Pollie" trail section.
Once again take a right (east) onto Rollie Pollie. Just when you get in a downhill rhythm, if flattens out and then climbs again. Wash, rinse, repeat! Just past the 3.2-mile mark, the trail drops down onto a gravel road and then you'll take a right (south) onto it.
At about mile 4.25 (after 1 mile on the gravel road), there is a bend in the road. To the right there is a trail as you come around the bend. There is a sign posted on a tree up the trail that says "Buckskin Morgan". Continue west past the 4.7-mile mark.
The Buckskin Morgan section of the course is one of the more popular sections as it is all singletrack and has some swift downhill. There is a hidden left turn that takes you off of the Buckskin Morgan Trail just past mile 4.7. It heads in a southeasterly direction and opens up, dropping out of the trees until it shifts directly south. Here the views are incredible. Try to catch your breath before running down the steep face. Loose debris will try to trip you up. Continue down until you hit the Kelly Canyon Road.
Take a left and stay left on the road that takes you down to Table Rock Campground. This is an out and back section. Turn around before the campground and head back up to the parking lot. Go past the outhouse and hang a right through/around the gate. Head back to the bottom of the ski hill and take a left up the ski hill until you hit the radio towers. Prepare for a long, steep climb. Follow the road around the towers and then continue straight until you hit another out and back section at mile 12. When you return to that spot, take a left at mile 14.6 and follow the steep downhill to the bottom of the ski hill. Take a right off of that service road just after mile 16 and it will take you back to the start.
If you are doing the 50k then go hit it again!
Flora & Fauna
Pine trees and quaky aspens line most of the trails. Huckleberry bushes dot the area as does sagebrush. Wildflowers of multiple varieties are prominent as well.
This is a national forest area so don't be surprised if you see deer, elk, moose, owls and other critters. Typically, you are guaranteed to see cows.
History & Background
Kelly Canyon is a ski resort in the Targhee National Forest. Located northeast of Idaho Falls, it sits on the borders of Jefferson and Madison Counties. The ski area opened in 1957, founded by E. Bud Johnson.
This area has been primarily a winter sports area with summer camping, ATV riding, and fall hunting. There is a push to develop the summer sports of mountain biking and trail running by the Kelly Canyon Resort, Bill's Bike & Run, local mountain bike clubs and the Idaho Falls Trail Runners club.
Shared By: Jeff Fullmer