November 10, 2007

Idaho



Polished, refined, ready for riders

Idaho is no diamond in the rough—at least when it comes to snowmobiling. The Gem State is polished, refined and ready for those who like to explore via snowmobile.

And there’s plenty to explore.

Idaho has nearly a thousand more miles of groomed trails (7,200) than the next closest state in the West (Oregon is next with 6,410, followed by Montana with 3,500 miles). During a decent winter with even average snowfall, you can snowmobile just about anywhere in the state, including in every corner from the top to the bottom and from east to west. There are at least 28 separate and distinct riding areas with groomed trails. There are even more that don’t have groomed trails but that are open to sledding.

All this is despite that fact that Idaho ranks third from the bottom in square miles of all western states where you can ride a sled.

Snowmobilers can find their own gem of a riding area just about anywhere there is snow in Idaho.

Many of the places are legendary in snowmobile circles, too. Places such as Island Park and Two Top, Mt. Jefferson and Mesa Falls, McCall, Priest Lake, Stanley and the Sawtooths, Salmon and the Lewis and Clark Trail, Bear Lake, Bone and the Big Holes are just a few of the notables, but there are many more.

Chances are a snowmobiler’s biggest dilemma will be trying to decide which place to ride.

You might pick one spot and then realize there’s a lesser known area right next door that’s been overlooked but offers up just as great of riding.

Take a look at the state map and you can see there are trail systems blanketing the state. It’s not just the mileage of all those groomed trails that are so appealing, but it’s the variety of riding conditions and terrain that have some many sledders dreaming of the Gem State. The riding elevations range between 1,000-10,000 feet. The lower elevations are mostly in northern Idaho with the taller ranges farther south and along the Continental Divide that marks the boundary between Idaho and Montana. Don’t let the 1,000-5,000 foot numbers scare you away or lead you to believe that the riding is mostly just among little hills. The climbing and backcountry riding is every bit as challenging up north as it is anywhere in the state. You may still have 3-5,000-foot elevation gains, it’s just that you’re starting at a lower elevation than say, Island Park, where the riding begins at 6,600 feet.

Most of the mountainous regions of Idaho get at least 75 inches of snow each winter but the powder can pile up to 500 inches.

And riding covers the whole gamut from dense forests to wide-open meadows to killer mountains to long trails to short trails to isolated areas to areas close to Idaho’s major cities to rolling hills. Many—sometimes all—of those riding conditions can exist in one area while other areas are known for hillclimbing and boondocking.

We’ve detailed just about every developed and defined riding area below but we’ve added some information about some other riding areas we’ve come across that deserve a attention.

One of those areas is the Owyhee Mountains in southwest Idaho. If you don’t need a groomed path to lead you around, then this boondocker’s haven is for you. When the snows are right there is lots of excellent backcountry riding. And you can get a good look at Silver City, one of Idaho’s most famous mining towns. Contact the BLM (208-384-3300) for more information.

In the southcentral part of the state are the Mount Bennett Hills, north of Gooding roughly following the Gooding-Camas county border. This riding area is about 20 miles north of Gooding off State Highway 46.

Another spot not usually found on the snowmobiling map is Swan Valley, which is east of Idaho Falls and kind of north of Palisades Reservoir. Technically this area is in Bonneville County but it really is its own little area. Extreme riding rules here. Sheep Creek is a local favorite among the big horsepower crowds.

On the other side of the state, west of Council and hugging Hells Canyon is the Seven Devils, another extreme riding area that might just be one of the best in the state. There are some dedicated followers who love this area for its hillclimbing and challenging boondocking.

Another option is a couple of state parks where snowmobiling is allowed, including Priest Lake and Bear Lake. Sledders might not travel to Idaho just to ride one of these state parks, but if you’re sledding in a nearby area, you should check them out. For more information go to the Idaho Parks and Recreation website www.idahoparks.org.

One more riding area worth mentioning is the City of Rocks National Reserve, in southcentral Idaho. Snowmobiles are allowed on the unplowed roads during the winter and you can see some great rock formations in this reserve. For more detailed information, check out the listing below.

Idaho has a decent website dedicated to snowmobiling. Check out www.idahowinter.org.        

 

Guide

Idaho Travel Council www.visitid.org

Road Conditions 888-IDA-ROAD

Idaho State Snowmobile Association www.idahosnowbiz.com

Groomed Trails 7,200 miles

Number of Registered Snowmobiles 51,000

Highest Point Borah Peak (12,662 ft)

Greatest Average Annual Snowfall Mullan Pass 283.5 in.

Record Winter Snowfall Roland West Portal 441.8 in.

Coldest Recorded Temperature Island Park minus-60 degrees F

 

Diamondfield

Elevation 7,000-7,800

Snowfall 90-100 inches

Groomed Trails 200 miles

Full-Service Town Twin Falls

Nearest Airport Twin Falls (35 miles)

Information South Central Idaho Travel 800-255-8946

 

Howell Canyon

Elevation 6,000-10,000

Snowfall Up to 500 inches

Groomed Trails 120 miles

Full-Service Town Burley

Nearest Airport Twin Falls (65 miles)

Information South Central Idaho Travel 800-255-8946

 

Sublette Range

Elevation 5,300-7,300

Snowfall 90-100 inches

Groomed Trails 250 miles

Full-Service Town American Falls, Burley

Nearest Airport Pocatello (52 miles)

Information Southeast Idaho Travel 888-201-1063

 

City of Rocks National Reserve

Elevation 5,500-8,867

Snowfall 75-100 inches

Groomed Trails None

Full-Service Town Burley, Albion

Nearest Airport Twin Falls (84 miles)

Information City of Rocks National Reserve 208-824-5519

 

Malad/Oneida County

Elevation 4,500-8,000

Snowfall 75-100 inches

Groomed Trails 20-25 miles

Full-Service Town Malad

Nearest Airport Pocatello (60 miles)

Information Southeast Idaho Travel 888-201-1063

 

Bear Lake

Elevation 6,000-8,700

Snowfall 100 inches

Groomed Trails 350 miles

Full-Service Town Montpelier, Preston, Soda Springs, Paris, Fish Haven, St. Charles

Nearest Airport Pocatello (89 miles)

Information Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau 800-448-BEAR

 

Bannock County

Elevation 5,000-8,000 feet

Snowfall 75-100 inches

Groomed Trails 250 miles

Full-Service Town Pocatello, Lava Hot Springs

Nearest Airport Pocatello (20 miles)

Information Pocatello Convention and Visitors Bureau 877-922-7659, Southeast Idaho Travel 888-201-1063

 

Bone/Bonneville County

Elevation 5,000-9,000

Snowfall 100-150 inches

Groomed Trails 400 miles

Full-Service Town Idaho Falls

Nearest Airport Idaho Falls (30 miles)

Information Yellowstone/Teton Territory 800-634-3246

 

Big Holes

Elevation 4,000-9,000

Snowfall 100 inches

Groomed Trails 280 miles

Full-Service Town Rexburg, Driggs

Nearest Airport Idaho Falls (25 miles)

Information Yellowstone/Teton Territory 800-634-3246

 

Island Park

Elevation 6,600-9,000

Snowfall 229 inches

Groomed Trails 500 miles

Full-Service Town Island Park

Nearest Airport Idaho Falls (75 miles)

Information Yellowstone/Teton Territory 800-634-3246

 

Salmon

Elevation 5,000-10,000

Snowfall 150-200 inches

Groomed Trails 225 miles

Full-Service Town Salmon

Nearest Airport Salmon

Information Salmon Valley Chamber of Commerce 800-727-2540

 

Blaine County

Elevation 5,000-10,000

Snowfall 150-225 inches

Groomed Trails 120 miles

Full-Service Town Hailey, Ketchum, Sun Valley

Nearest Airport Hailey (10 miles)

Information Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau 866-305-0408

 

Stanley

Elevation 6,260-10,000

Snowfall 200-220 inches

Groomed Trails 165 miles

Full-Service Town Stanley

Nearest Airport Hailey (73 miles)

Information Stanley-Sawtooth Chamber of Commerce 800-878-7950

 

Fairfield

Elevation 5,000-9,000

Snowfall 150 inches

Groomed Trails 220 miles

Full-Service Town Fairfield

Nearest Airport Hailey (40 miles)

Information Camas County Civic Organization 208-764-2230

 

Trinity Mountains

Elevation 4,500-9,500

Snowfall 100 inches

Groomed Trails 380 miles

Full-Service Town Pine, Featherville

Nearest Airport Boise (87 miles)

Information Southwest Idaho Travel 800-635-5240

 

Idaho City

Elevation 3,500-8,200

Snowfall 100-200 inches

Groomed Trails 260 miles

Full-Service Town Idaho City

Nearest Airport Boise (45 miles)

Information Idaho City Chamber of Commerce 208-392-4159

 

Garden Valley

Elevation 3,000-8,000

Snowfall 100-200 inches

Groomed Trails 137 miles

Full-Service Town Banks, Garden Valley

Nearest Airport Boise (55 miles)

Information Garden Valley Chamber of Commerce 208-462-5003

 

Cascade/Smith’s Ferry

Elevation 4,800-8,000

Snowfall 140-200 inches

Groomed Trails 300 miles

Full-Service Town Cascade, Smith’s Ferry

Nearest Airport Boise (76 miles)

Information Cascade Chamber of Commerce 208-382-3833

 

McCall

Elevation 5,000-8,000

Snowfall 140-250 inches

Groomed Trails 500 miles

Full-Service Town McCall

Nearest Airport Boise (107 miles)

Information McCall Area Chamber of Commerce 800-260-5130

 

Grangeville

Elevation 5,000-8,000

Snowfall 120 inches

Groomed Trails 150 miles

Full-Service Town Grangeville

Nearest Airport Lewiston (72 miles)

Information Grangeville Chamber of Commerce 208-983-0460

 

Elk City/Dixie

Elevation 3,000-7,000

Snowfall 120-150 inches

Groomed Trails 350 miles

Full-Service Town Elk City, Dixie

Nearest Airport Lewiston





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