Fat Biking: Local Groomed Trails this Winter

Spokane, Wash.

Each year we’re seeing more fat bikes plowing through the snow on trails here in the Inland Northwest, a trend that has also led to more trail grooming throughout the region. From Spokane to Sandpoint, there will be miles of packed trails to roll your over-sized, under-inflated bike tires on this winter if Mother Nature cooperates as expected. Here’s the latest fat bike trail grooming forecast for the winter.

Spokane

If you plan to ride any of the growing miles of groomed fat bike trails in the Spokane area this winter, thank Evergreen East volunteer Frank Benish, who owns his own groomer and spends countless hours advocating for and creating miles of groomed riding for fat bikers. To get it all done, Evergreen leases a groomer from Wheel Sport and Benish also owns his own Snowdog grooming machine that’s super speedy and creates groomed singletrack trails.

Riverside State Park was one of the first trail systems in the region to see trails specifically groomed for fat bikers, says Benish. “It’s been a real good partnership at Riverside and we’re looking to carry that on again this year.” Two winters ago, the park’s partnership with Evergreen turned into 11 miles of groomed fat bike trails, with an expansion to 20 miles last season. Benish says this year could be even better if we get good snow and stable cold temps. “We have permission to groom a larger area at Riverside, and if the forecast cooperates, we will expand beyond 20 miles of groomed trails this year.”

Benish also highlighted some new fat bike trails that are in the works for Mount Spokane State Park. “We got permission to clean up and groom some trails off of lower Kit Karson that make up the Hay Ridge Loop. It’s going to be kind of an advanced thing since it’s really steep going up and down.” Benish says the groomed loop will be around 6 miles roundtrip, with longer, more challenging rides possible by linking up to un-groomed trails. The route will be accessed from the parking area at the hairpin lot, also known as the lower Mount Kit Carson loop road trailhead. 

The 49 Degrees North Nordic Area will also feature fat biking on some excellent groomed trails this winter. Under certain conditions when the snow is firm enough to avoid tires damaging the smooth, groomed trails, says Benish, they also allow fat bikes on the Nordic trails. There are 4-5 miles of trails that make for a more intermediate-to-advanced loop.

Fat biking at Mt. Spokane State Park. // Photos: Frank Benish

North Idaho

In the greater Sandpoint area, there is an ever-expanding network of fat bike trails both groomed and user-packed to explore says owner Brian Anderson. Close to town, the Pend Oreille Pedalers will use their groomer once again to pack down trails for fat bikes in the Pine Street Woods, a fantastic public playground and natural area on the edge of Sandpoint that’s been preserved thanks to the Kaniksu Land Trust. Groomed fat bike trails here, with free access, will expand this year, weather cooperating, to include a few loops totaling around five miles.

Close to Sandpoint, the Western Pleasure Guest Ranch grooms approximately four miles of trails for xc and skate skiing as well as for fat bikes. A pass procured from the lodge is required. Farragut State Park south of Sandpoint grooms two loops with around 10 miles of fat bike riding. A state park pass is required.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort grooms approximately 32K of trails for cross-country, skate skiing, and fat biking. A pass is required, as is brushing up on the resort’s rules and responsibilities to keep bikes from damaging the groomed trails.

To the north, the Boundary County Bike and Pedestrian Trail Committee, known as “9B Trails,” has been preserving and developing a non-motorized trail system around Bonners Ferry that includes several trails that make for great winter riding. The non-profit group has recently gotten their hands on a groomer and, according to Anderson, plan to groom around 6-miles of the Section 16 Trails near Bonners Ferry.

The Priest Lake area will once again have miles of groomed trails open to fat bike riders thanks to Priest Lake Nordic. The non-profit group grooms several trail networks around the lake, including Hanna Flats, the Priest Lake Golf Course, Chipmunk Rapids, Rocky Point, Coolin Mountain, and Priest Lake State Park/Indian Creek. A park and ski permit is required and can be purchased at Hill’s Resort, The Tamrak (market/hardware store), or the Priest Lake State Park. More info at Idpr.idaho.gov.

Coeur d’Alene

Coeur d’Alene fatty riders also have some quality groomed options according to Trail Maniacs founder and avid rider Dave Dutro. “The Trail Maniacs Foundation will groom seven plus miles of trails on Canfield Mountain this year,” says Dutro. “These are what we call winter enduro trails,” he says, warning off those who may show up unprepared for the challenge. According to Dutro, that means these trails come with a difficult climb up (approximately four miles with 1,200 of elevation gain) followed by flowy single track down.

The prized route Dutro recommends starts at the road from Nettleton Gulch then on to the towers, down Trail D and eventually on to Trail 7 and Trail A, finishing down Cave Trail for a total of 8 miles. When you can get after these trails is a question for mother nature, says Dutro. “We start grooming once we have significant coverage at the bottom, in the 4-6” range.”

Palouse (Pullman/Moscow)

Down in the Palouse, MAMBA (Moscow Area Mountain Bike Association) has a groomer and should be doing some fat bike trail grooming on Moscow Mountain again this year. Keep tabs on their good deeds at Bikemoscow.org.

Fat Biking Resources

Looking to connect with other fat bike aficionados in the Spokane area? Reach out to SOFA, Spokane’s Original Fatbike Association on Facebook; It’s a private group that you need to request to be a part of before gaining access to trail and grooming reports, group ride announcements, and other regional fat biking news.

Originally published as “Fat Bike Fandom Spurs Growth in Trail Grooming” in the Nov.-Dec. 2020 double issue.

Trail grooming equipment. // Photos: Frank Benish

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