Island Park Area
Looking for a snowmobiler’s paradise? Twenty-eight miles southwest of Yellowstone sits Island Park where more than 500 miles of snow-glistening, groomed trails await you. Suit up and rev your engines on your own snowmobile or go on a guided tour with High Mountain Adventures, a longtime outfit that rents stellar sleds and gear.
Then switch gears, literally, by trading your snowmobile for skis. Look for moose, bald eagles, porcupines and ermines on a solitude-fueled cross-country ski in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest to Mesa Falls, two waterfalls, stretching 110 feet and 65 feet, Just 12 miles from Ashton, the Bear Gulch-Mesa Falls trailhead offers a 3.8-mile loop, a 5.8-mile loop or a 9-mile excursion that includes both loops, plus a spur.
Then nestle in for a starry night in a Harriman State Park yurt that sleeps six and stays toasty with a woodstove fireplace. Outside your door, 25 miles of groomed ski trails beckon, offering you a rush of adrenaline and the opportunity to see coyotes and moose traipsing through the forest, as well as trumpeter swans floating in the Henrys Fork. Afterwards, drive to Lakeside Lodge through its festive light-covered ranch entrance and past its trees awash in twinkling lights to feast on rib-eye steak and other house specialties.
The best-kept secret of Grand Teton National Park is its towering granite peaks look even more gorgeous from the western side of the range. Get intimate views of the Grand Teton and its sister peaks when you downhill ski at Grand Targhee Ski Resort or hit the cross-country trails in Teton Canyon near Driggs. In Teton Canyon, every glide you take along this groomed, nearly flat 10-mile, out-and-back route gives you breathtaking views. Nearby, strap on your cross-country skis for an 8-mile, out-and-back, hilly route along the Darby Creek trail. It’s not groomed, making you feel as though you entered a private winter wonderland.
In the evening, swing by West Side Yard in Victor for a glass of one of its 60 beers and to throw an axe. Yes, you read that correctly. Patrons can throw axes — think darts but more lethal — at round, log-filled targets. For Kansas-style BBQ and live music, swing by the Knotty Pine Supper Club. But if you’re in the mood for drunken brie or a salmon salad, dine at Forage Bistro & Lounge. Don’t leave Driggs without taking a Grand Teton Distillery tour and purchasing a bottle of Grand Teton Huckleberry-flavored Vodka. Its award-winning potato vodka owes part of its success to a key ingredient: the 500-plus inches of pristine snow that falls on the Tetons and turns into snowmelt.
Idaho Falls Area
Immerse yourself into a winter wonderland in four really exhilarating ways. Just west of Idaho Falls sit two ranches and a ski area that offer everything from snow tubing to fat biking. Head to 7-N Ranch Resort to cross-country ski for free or rent a snow tube, ride a tow lift up a hill and coast down on your giant tube.
To downhill ski, snowshoe, cross-country ski or fat bike, head to Kelly Canyon Ski Resort. You can get a special $10 pass for Shred Trails, Kelly Canyon’s area for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and fat biking.
Break for lunch and warm up by the fire at Heise Pizza Parlour, known around the region for its quality. Afterwards, head down the street and hop in the 104-degree waters at Heise Hot Springs. If you’re with young kids, a second pool is shallower and cooler at 92 degrees.
In the evening, take a sleigh ride pulled by horses across snowy fields to a scrumptious dinner of prime rib or pork loin at Mountain River Ranch in Ririe, Idaho. After dessert, enjoy a lively musical variety show, a longtime favorite of locals and travelers alike. This family-owned ranch sits along the legendary Snake River and is just 18 miles from Idaho Falls. Make reservations in advance as this fun evening often sells out.
Learn more about eastern Idaho that includes towns like Island Park, Victor, Driggs, Heise and Idaho Falls at yellowstoneteton.org.