Guests in my boat would often ask me, “What do you do in the winter?” At the time, I was working in Jackson Hole during the winter and living in Teton Valley. They would then ask, “Why don’t you live in Swan Valley?” It was an easy answer back then: there wasn’t much to do in Swan Valley in the winter, no grocery store, no jobs, etc. Times are changing, and more and more people are visiting Swan Valley during the winter months. Nowadays, there is certainly a lot to do. Here are some ideas for winter visits.
Nestled in the heart of Eastern Idaho, Swan Valley transforms into a winter wonderland, offering a myriad of activities for outdoor enthusiasts. From thrilling winter sports to serene fly fishing spots, the region boasts a unique charm during the colder months. Here’s a guide to the top 10 things to do in Swan Valley, Idaho, ensuring an unforgettable winter adventure.
- Cross-Country Skiing at Palisades Dam: Embrace the tranquility of Swan Valley’s winter landscape by embarking on a cross-country skiing adventure. You can find groomed trails by driving towards Palisades Dam and crossing the bridge just below the dam. Just past the bridge, there’s a large parking area across the street from the groomed trails.
- Snowshoeing in Caribou-Targhee National Forest: Explore the pristine wilderness of Caribou-Targhee National Forest on snowshoes. The Palisades Creek Trail is a great place to start. It winds through pristine forests, providing breathtaking views of snow-covered mountains and frozen waterways. Determined snowshoers can make it to Palisades Lake, a 4-mile one-way trip.
- Downhill Skiing at Grand Targhee Resort, Jackson Hole, or Kelly Canyon: For those seeking more adrenaline, there are great opportunities for downhill skiing nearby. Grand Targhee Resort is a local powder favorite boasting over 500″ of snow every winter and about an hour’s drive from Swan Valley. Jackson Hole is just a bit more than an hour’s drive away, famous for its tram and steep skiing; it’s arguably one of the best ski resorts in the nation. If you’re looking for something closer and a bit more mellow, check out Kelly Canyon Ski Resort. This small ski resort will warm your heart with its quaint lodge, mellow atmosphere, and old-school charm.
- Hot Springs: Nothing beats soaking in a natural hot spring after skiing. If you decide to ski Jackson Hole or Kelly Canyon, you’ll drive right by two great hot springs on your return trip to Swan Valley. Astoria Hot Springs is just a short drive south of Jackson Hole and features six different man-made soaking pools filled with natural thermal waters. Astoria even has a cold plunge pool for the truly tough. Just down the road from Kelly Canyon is Heise Resort and Hot Springs, a great place to grab a post-ski pizza, beer, and a soak. You’ll share the hot pools with some of the same folks you saw in the lift lines!
- Fly Fishing in Winter: The South Fork of the Snake River remains open for anglers throughout the winter, providing a serene setting to cast your line and potentially catch some trophy-sized trout. We offer guided day trips with expert guides who live and fish in Swan Valley year-round. If you’d prefer to go it alone, shoot for a “warmish” day above 32 degrees so your line doesn’t freeze. There are excellent walk and wade opportunities anywhere you can access the river. The Dam, Spring Creek Bridge, Conant, and Heise Bridge are the most popular winter access points.
- Visit Fall Creek Falls: Witness the frozen beauty of Fall Creek Falls during winter. The cascading water freezes into stunning ice formations, creating a magical winter spectacle. A short walk to the falls for a close-up view of nature’s frosty masterpiece.
- Backcountry Skiing: The Caribou, Big Hole, Palisades, and Snake River Ranges provide countless acres of public lands for backcountry skiing. If you choose to adventure in these areas, the approaches are longer and more difficult than the famous Tetons, but you’ll be rewarded with solitude and endless powder. Do keep in mind there is no formal avalanche forecasting for these zones, so as they say, “If you don’t know, Don’t go!”
- Places to Eat: After a fun-filled day of skiing, soaking, or sightseeing, you’ll be starving. Head over to the Road House or the Little Moose Restaurant. The Road House was recently remodeled and features a full western menu, a full bar, and enough country charm to fill a cowboy hat. The Little Moose was started by the owners of the Bull Moose Saloon just up the road in Alpine, Wyoming. All the greatness of the Bull Moose is packed into this family-friendly restaurant located smack dab in the middle of the Valley.
- Stop by the Fly Shop: Our Swan Valley fly shop is open Wednesday through Sunday all winter long to serve local anglers, visiting anglers, and savvy shoppers. Come in and say “Hi!”
Swan Valley, Idaho, emerges as a winter paradise, inviting adventurers to explore its snowy landscapes and partake in a variety of activities. Whether you’re a fan of winter sports, angling, or simply immersing yourself in the serene beauty of the surroundings, Swan Valley has something to offer for every winter enthusiast. So, bundle up and embark on a winter journey to discover the magic of this hidden gem in Eastern Idaho.