Melynda Harrison worked in partnership with Visit Idaho to create this Travel Tip.
The Idaho side of the Grand Teton Range is spectacular and the Teton Scenic Byway may be one of the best ways to explore this part of the state. Craggy peaks give way to forested mountainsides dotted with alpine lakes, and then to sagebrush steppe. From there, the landscape rolls out into undulating hills. From Island Park to Rexburg and beyond, the Tetons provide a distinctive backdrop.
The Teton Scenic Byway runs parallel to the iconic range and keeps the mountains within sight for almost its entirety. Along the byway are recreational opportunities galore.
My family and I spent a couple of days pedaling and paddling beneath the peaks. We discovered that while the view is breathtaking, the Teton and Upper Snake Valleys have so much to offer in their own right.
Paddle the Teton River
On a warm summer day, we opted to rent inflatable kayaks from Teton River Supply. They fit us in lifejackets and then shuttled us and our rented gear to Bates Bridge. After a short lesson, we were floating down the Teton River, a 64-mile-long tributary of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River.
Normally we would expect to see anglers casting a fly into this Blue Ribbon fishery, but a bit of wind kept them away. It kept the mosquitoes away too. Friends and families were out on paddle boards, rafts and inner tubes, all enjoying a lazy, beginner-friendly float.
Not far from Bates Bridge, we passed four river otters—an adult and three youngsters. They hissed at us, urging us to move on, but we were thrilled to see them all the same. Not long after that, we saw a moose and her calf drinking from the river. And then another moose, likely a young male. Birds soared overhead. We couldn’t believe our luck.
As we paddled and snacked, the Tetons would come into view whenever we wound around a corner and floated west. I told my kids about the time I climbed the Middle Teton decades ago and answered questions about how long it took, what the route was like and whether we could hike up there soon.
It turned out that the inflatable kayaks were the perfect vehicles for teens to play bumper boats. The boys would charge each other at a comically slow speed and push off the other’s boat with their paddles. Mom and dad may or may not have gotten in on the game too.
When we pulled the kayaks out at Packsaddle boat ramp after about 2.5 hours, we called the folks at Teton River Supply, and they picked us up and returned us to Driggs. As if strategically planned, the boat rental shop is across the street from Citizen 33 Brewery, where we had dinner and a drink in the shade on the front patio.
Pedal the Ashton to Tetonia Trail
The next day we rode bikes parallel to the Tetons along the Ashton to Tetonia Trail. As the name implies, the trail runs 29.6 miles from Ashton to Tetonia and is the work of the Rails to Trails Conservancy. The Oregon Short Line Railroad, a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad, once connected the communities now strung along and near the Teton Scenic Byway.
We picked up rental bikes at Peaked Sports, loaded them on our bike rack, and drove to one of several access points. While we saw a couple of groups that seemed to be riding the whole trail, we planned a leisurely pedal through a shorter section.
We parked at the Grainville trailhead and rode south. The trail winds through farmland, small riparian zones, aspen trees and past grain mills. It crosses creeks in three places on historic train trestles. And, of course, there are incomparable views of the Tetons. It’s mostly easy riding as the trail was originally built for train traffic.
The highlight of the tour was the Conant Creek Trestle. The historic bridge is 672 feet long and around 120 feet above Conant Creek. We rode back and forth over it several times.
The trail isn’t just for bikes, people walk and ride horses there too. In winter, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling are popular.
The trail is packed with gravel and dirt, so mountain bikes or hybrids are recommended. Road bikes are not appropriate. Be sure to bring water, food, sunscreen and a bike repair kit as there aren’t any facilities along the trail.
After returning our bikes to Peaked Sports and driving back to our hotel in Victor, we walked across the street to the Knotty Pine Supper Club. When I lived in Victor 20 years ago, I was a regular at the Knotty Pine. I was happy to see not much had changed in two decades—neither the supper club nor the view of the west side of the Tetons.
Paddling and pedaling along the Teton Scenic Byway isn’t the only way to recreate beneath the giants. Horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, hot air ballooning, and UTV riding are all possible in the Teton Valley and Upper Snake River Valley. We are saving some of those for next time.
Feature image credited to Melynda Harrison.
Melynda Harrison writes about travel and outdoor family adventure at TravelingMel.com, YellowstoneTrips.com, and many local and regional publications. When she’s not behind a laptop, you can find her cross-country skiing, hiking, or floating a river.
Updated on September 27, 2022
Published on June 7, 2022