Island Park — an Idaho ATV adventure

Lynn Blamires
ATV Adventures
LYNN BLAMIRES courtesy photo
Riders cross the Madison on a bridge on the way to West Yellowstone.
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With so many places to ride in Utah, I don’t usually look for places to ride outside of the state. However, Island Park near West Yellowstone seems to be a popular place among Utah residents. I have friends who have been trying to talk me into riding these trails for years and last summer seemed to be the right time to go.

Why am I not writing about a more recent ATV adventure? I am looking out my February window at two feet of snow. I have written several articles dealing with cold ATV adventures. I have decided to leave the cold weather to the snowmobilers and skiers and look forward to warmer weather.

Being used to Utah climates and elevations, the first thing I noticed as we approached the Mack’s Inn area of Island Park, is cooler temperatures at lower elevations. We were only at about 6,000 feet, but the climate felt like 10,000 feet in Utah. I realized that being a few hundred miles north made a big difference.

This was a ride organized by the club so I was not leading this adventure. I was, however, the last one to leave our accommodations. Everyone assumed I knew where I was going so no one worried that I hadn’t shown up at the meeting point. Someone was sent to find me and no amount of explaining on my part seemed to make me look better, so they stuck me in the middle of the line and we were off.

Our destination was West Yellowstone and we were traveling in the Gallatin National Forest. We rode on a rail bed that was used in olden days to bring vacationers from points south to Yellowstone National Park.

Our route took us northeast through Reas Pass and along the South Fork of the Madison River. Wooden ATV bridges took us over this meandering, clear river several times along the way and it was easy to see why anglers love the Madison.

We passed Mosquito Gulch and, finding no reason to stop, kept moving. Continuing to follow the rail bed, we came into West Yellowstone from the west.

We enjoyed a stop in this ATV-friendly town for lunch and took a look at what it had to offer. After a stroll down the boardwalk while enjoying an ice cream cone, we mounted up and headed west. I could say that we rode off into the sunset, but the sun was still high in the sky and we were not ready to ride into it. We were headed for Two Top Mountain.

I have ridden through and over a lot of mountains and wondered about some of their names and how they got them. In this case it made perfect sense to call this Two Top Mountain because, in fact, it has two peaks about the same height. We could see one peak from the other but traveling to the other one did not make sense. We figured that we would only be able to see where we were from there so we did all our looking from the one we were on and left happy. Speaking of names, on the way to Two Top, we did pass over the West Fork of Cream Creek and I did wonder about that name, because the creek was clear.

Coming back down from Two Top, we completed a loop joining the rail bed between Reas Pass and the Madison River. We went through the pass on the way back to Mack’s Inn and passed a wye. In the early steam engine days without a roundhouse with its massive turntable, it was not possible to turn an engine around so a wye was built into the track. It looks like a “Y” with the two legs being perpendicular to the track. It was made so an engine could turn off the main track to the point of the wye and then back up to head the opposite direction like a car making a three-point turn. Should you decide to go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber-side down, and blow your whistle when you ride the rail bed.

You may contact Lynn Blamires at quadmanone@gmail.com.

Lynn Blamires

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