Just about smack dab in the middle of the Big Hole Mountains west of Teton Valley Garns Mountain is hardly noticeable. Yet such is the view, the USFS built a fire lookout on the summit in 1920. My grandfather, Frank Moss and another ranger used horses to pack the boards, windows and other materials up Mahogany Canyon. Two carpenters from Victor, Idaho helped hammer it together. Only a few broken boards and pieces of glass remain, but the 360 degree panorama of the Big Holes is as good as ever. Perhaps the only drawback to hiking in the Big Holes is the dirt bikes. Luckily it’s a big area and only now and then does one have to step aside and let the obnoxious bastards buzz past.
Here are two ways. I hiked the first and mountain biked the second. Carry water. Cattle graze all over the range.
1) From Highway 33 between Rexburg and Driggs just east of the new Canyon Creek Bridge watch for the turn-off to Green Canyon Hot Springs. Follow Canyon Creek Road past the hot springs resort about a half mile and watch for FS road 219 branching left to Relay Ridge. It’s well signed. This road will take you up onto Relay Ridge to road’s end at Ryan Peak bristling with radio towers. It can be driven in a high clearance vehicle, but I wouldn’t try it in a Corvette. Parking at road’s end start hiking south on trail #062. There’s a few ups and downs as the trail works around the headwaters of Canyon Creek, meets the coming out of the North Fork of Canyon Creek, and then joins the Mahogany Canyon Trail. A short climb up to beautiful Elk Flat and then trail #066 to the top of Garns. I guess it’s a good three miles each way.
2) From Driggs, head due west at the only stoplight in town on Bates Road and follow it as it swings south onto 500 west until you spot FS Road 236 into Mahogany Canyon. There’s a little dinky sign so keep and eye peeled or you’ll miss it. About a mile off Bates Road the road ends and you start hiking up Mahogany Canyon on trail #057. After a couple of miles in the canyon, the trail climbs fairly steep to the South Fork Horseshoe Creek Divide. On the divide you join trail #056 for a short jot over to trail #062 and the climb up to Elk Flat. From Elk Flat it’s another mile to the summit.
A glance at a map will show there are three or four other ways to Garn’s summit. Take your pick.
No red tape. I guess if you plan on building a fire you'd need a USFS fire permit. But if you are still building fires in the mountains maybe you don't belong there.
On the Relay Ridge Road, there are several campsites, especially in Packsaddle Basin. Elk Flat offer outstanding campsites with water and views.
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