Diamonds in the Dirt: Pocatello, Idaho

Lydia Tanner’s Ramblings From the Road

Lydia Tanner is a dirt connoisseur who lives in her car. She spent her fall drinking gallons of coffee and riding lesser-known trails all over the Northwest. These are her stories.

Bilbo Baggins emerges from Pocatello's City Creek trail.
Bilbo Baggins emerges from Pocatello’s City Creek trail.

Words & Photos by Lydia Tanner

Dawn comes slowly when you’re huddled in a sopping tent. Fat raindrops splattered the fly with mud as I checked, again, under my sleeping pad for water. In the grey light I could just make out my car standing guard nearby. Just 600 miles into this adventure and it was already sporting the spare red doughnut; 55 mph, max. We were in Pocatello. On my 25th birthday.

Pocatello, Idaho, is on the way to everything, but for most (including many of its residents) it’s not a place to stay. I’d heard tales of trails, but was skeptical. The online beta wasn’t encouraging–one review mentioned “seventeen bridge crossings” among a trail’s attributes. The storm intensified as we stalled over coffee, so we got in the car, not so much to go find the trail as to get out of the rain.

Coffee and donuts, the story of Lydia's travels.
Coffee and doughnuts, the story of Lydia’s travels.

City Creek wasn’t hard to find. The signs, like breadcrumbs, began just past the train depot and led us to a very legitimate-looking trailhead, despite it being sandwiched between outcroppings of suburban sprawl. Out of excuses and full of dread, we donned helmets and gloves. That’s when the rain stopped.

People have worked the dirt around Pocatello for decades, creating a trail system that a local bike shop owner described as self-regulating. Basically, if your trail doesn’t drain well or isn’t fun to ride, you’ll hear about it–and the community’s dedication shows. We wound our way up a Hobbit-like, leaf-littered climb, sampled a few of the acclaimed bridges, then popped out on the plains above town for some sweeping, high-speed turns. From there it just got better.

Muddy in the fall.
Muddy in the fall.

I guess it’s not cool to use the word flow anymore, but every inch of the City Creek trail system seemed carefully crafted to help me forget about the sopping tent, my limping car or even being in Pocatello. Our shop guru assured us that we could escape the city for as many miles as we had the legs–or daylight.

Pocatello is known for a law passed in 1948 that made it illegal not to smile; an attempt at boosting everyone’s morale during a particularly harsh winter. It’s not hard to see the same resiliency reflected in these trails. Pocatello’s had hard times, but it also has a core community who cares a lot about their dirt. So next time you’re passing through, consider pausing for a ride. It’s worth it.

A trail like this is definitely worth stopping for on the way through town.
Law or no law, the City Creek trail makes riders smile big.

411: Great camping can be found up Scout Mountain. You can link trails from there to the ones at City Creek, but if you’re looking to keep it sub-six-hours, just park at the trailhead in town. If your steed needs love, Element Outfitters are your guys, and if your car has a flat, there are countless tire places to take care of you.

You can follow road warrior Lydia Tanner on Instagram @lydlovesmud or Twitter @lydlovesmud7.