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The “Teton Valley” is known as the Idaho side of the Tetons and often referred to as the “quiet side of the Grand Tetons” because it is just that–a lot less busy than the Wyoming side! Not only can you enjoy incredible views of the Tetons here, but you have an amazing area to explore that includes Swan Valley, Mesa Falls, Palisades Lake, the Teton River and more.
If you are planning a visit to the Grand Teton National Park during peak season (summer), chances are you will be among the hundreds of thousands of tourists all doing the same. Fortunately, you can escape the crowds and head to the Teton Valley (just a short drive from the national park), and enjoy the beauty of this majestic mountain range in total serenity. There’s no shortage of scenic views and things to do in the Teton Valley!
1. Go Horseback Riding
There’s nothing better than being outdoors in a peaceful mountain setting, so why not take in some spectacular views of the Teton Valley on horseback? There are endless trails to ride here and chances are, you will have them all to yourself. We thoroughly enjoyed our day horseback riding through the most stunning aspen groves and fields of wildflowers with the experienced guides at Linn Canyon Ranch, just outside of Victor. Our guide was helpful, patient and knowledgeable about this area and trails, but also made it fun and educational for the kids. We knew it was a great day when the kids asked when we could come back and do it again!
You can also stay at Linn Canyon Ranch, which has more of that bed and breakfast feel, quietly tucked against the mountains. In addition to a ranch with horses and lots of trails to explore, Linn Canyon also hosts weddings and special events!
Check out more horseback riding adventures and outfitters in the Teton Valley.
2. Go For A Scenic Drive
The Teton Valley includes the towns of Tetonia, Driggs, and Victor. The Teton Scenic Byway is a 70-mile breathtaking trip that runs along the western slopes of the Teton Range. It includes scenic vistas, rivers, bike trails and historical sites. It is beautiful any time of year, but fall and summer are particularly spectacular.
3. Hit The Trails
If you love hiking or mountain biking, then the Teton Valley is your place. Here you can hit the trails in near solitude, all the while viewing wildlife such as moose, bald eagles, bears and elk. Some of the trails in the Teton Valley to consider hiking are Big Elk Creek Trail, Bear Creek Trail, and the Palisades Creek Trail. We loved the Palisades Creek Trail because it wasn’t too long (about 4 miles up to Lower Palisades Lake or 6.2 miles up Upper Palisades Lake) and it offered some of the best mountain views in the Swan Valley region.
Mountain biking is also popular in the Teton Valley. The trails here include lift access, downhill, freeride, cross country, and enduro. One of the best places to mountain bike is the Grand Targhee Bike Park at Grand Targhee Resort. Here they have trails for all levels and abilities, plus you have the convenience of lift access (little to no uphill!). The Snake River Range and the Big Hole Mountains offer some great bike trails as well.
4. Go Fly Fishing
If there is only one thing you do in the Teton Valley, consider fly fishing. The Teton Valley has long been a premier location in Idaho for world-class fly fishing with plentiful rivers, streams, creeks and lakes harboring trophy-sized trout (Rainbow, Cutthroat, and Brook). There are so many opportunities to catch fish here and some of the best places include the South Fork of the Snake River, The Teton River, and Henry’s Fork of the Snake River.
Find a local outfitter or guide to lead you or stop by one of the several local shops to rent gear or pick up your fishing license.
5. Float The Teton River
This is a great summer activity when it’s hot outside and great fun for the whole family! The Teton River flows south to north with several access points along the river to put-in and take-out. It is not uncommon to see lots of wildlife on this river, such as moose and different species of birds. You can rent inflatable kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards or even tubes and enjoy a lazy float down the river, stopping to swim along the way. Rental equipment is available at Peaked Sports in Driggs with directions to access points along the Teton River.
Don’t forget to bring on the river:
- Personal flotation devices (They are required by law for children age 14 and younger and are provided with equipment rentals. )
- Sunscreen and bug spray
- Drinking water
- Oars or paddles
6. Chase Waterfalls
Mesa Falls is widely known in the Teton Valley as one of the most beautiful and powerful waterfalls in the Western U.S. Just north of Ashton in the Targhee National Forest on the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway are Upper and Lower Mesa Falls. These two spectacular waterfalls are found on the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River. Explore paved trails and boardwalks to access the viewing platforms at Upper Mesa Falls. Lower Mesa Falls can be seen from the Grandview Campground and Overlook.
Lesser known, but just as beautiful as Mesa Falls is Fall Creek Falls, which is located in Swan Valley, off the South Fork of the Snake River. You can view the falls from a short trail just off the dirt road, or if you’re more adventurous, you can hike/climb down by crossing the marshy stream at the top of the falls. Make your way to the far side of the falls, where you can hike down what looks like a “staircase” of rocks We wouldn’t recommend taking young children down these falls, nor would we recommend climbing down them if the water is fast or high. Use your best judgment.
7. Go Boating on Palisades Reservoir
Palisades Reservoir is just southeast of Swan Valley. It’s a stunning spot, great for fishing and boating and offers several hiking and biking trails as well. Stay the night at one of the several campgrounds around the area. This is a great location for boating in the summer if you want to waterski, wakeboard, tube or wake surf. If you don’t have your own boat, you can rent a boat nearby.
8. Visit Darby Wind Cave
The Darby Wind Cave Trail is a unique trail in the heart of the Jedidiah Smith Wilderness, located about 20 minutes outside of Driggs, Idaho. Boasting pristine forests, meadows, and a waterfall descending from a cave you can climb into, this is definitely a highlight in the Teton Valley. The entire hike is about 5 miles from the trailhead (and access for the Teton Crest Trail), and climbs about 1,800 feet in elevation.
The Wind Cave snakes its way through the Darby Formation, a thick layer of 350 million-year-old dolomite. Make sure to bring flashlights because once you reach the cave, you could spend hours crawling and exploring through this wind cave. It’s quite the adventure!
The Teton Valley in Idaho should not be missed. Here you can enjoy the nature, wildlife and scenery of the Tetons without the crowds. So much pristine wilderness waiting to be explored!
All photos, including feature image, are credited to Christina McEvoy.