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Top 15 Trails In The West

Published in the November 2009 Issue Published online: Nov 08, 2009 Feature
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We sent out the call (well, actually a survey) and once again SnoWest Magazine readers responded in a big way.

We once again asked our readers to tell us where they like to snowmobile. And once again, Wyoming's Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail was the overall favorite, followed closely by West Yellowstone, MT.

Some readers ask why SnoWest's editors don't just name the top riding areas in the West from our own personal riding experience. Honestly, our readers read enough about what we do and don't like in all the other issues of SnoWest that come out during the season. We like the idea of our readers sharing what they like when it comes to snowmobiling areas in the West.

Once all the surveys come in, we tally them up and release those results in the form of the Top 15 Trails in the West.

Many, if not all, of the areas listed in this year's Top 15 are familiar to anyone who sleds the West. All have appeared in the Top 15 before, many areas multiple times.

As mentioned, the CDST once again finds itself in the No. 1 spot, now its third in a row.

One riding area, Colorado's Grand Mesa, dropped out of the Top 15 this year after placing No. 13 last year. There were no newcomers to the Top 15 this year, either. The rest of the list shows some movement within the ranks-some places moved up, some fell-but there was no major shakeup on this year's list compared to past years.

The state of Wyoming leads the way in the number of snowmobile areas that are found in the Top 15 with four: No. 1 CDST, No. 4 Snow Range, No. 5 Alpine, and No. 7 Big Horns. So not only does Wyoming have four in the Top 15, they're all in the top 10. Idaho has three in the Top 15: No. 3 Island Park; No. 13 Stanley; and No. 14 McCall. Oregon, Colorado and Montana each have two.

The only states with substantial groomed snowmobile trail systems not represented in the Top 15 are Washington and California. Washington's Lake Chelan was close to cracking the Top 15 again this year and has been represented in the prestigious list in previous years but didn't quite make it. The California area closest to making this year's Top 15 was Mammoth Lakes, which also has appeared on the Top 15 in years past.

1. Continental Divide

With 608 miles of groomed trails and hundreds more ungroomed, the Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail is the granddaddy of systems in the West and includes such famous riding spots as Togwotee, Dubois and Pinedale.

2. West Yellowstone, Montana

The self-described Snowmobile Capital of the World, West Yellowstone has the goods to back up its claim. West Yellowstone had been No. 1 in the Top 15 until a couple of years ago and still has more No. 1 titles than any other western riding area.

3. Island Park, Idaho

You want trails? Five hundred miles of groomed and likely double that of unmarked should do the trick. You like powder? It's easy to find that up-to-your-armpits fluff from December through March. Looking for terrain? You can find everything from flat to vertical-with or without trees.

4. Snowy Range, Wyoming

The Snowy Range-or Snowies for short-is just what you get when you ride this corner of southeast Wyoming. Riding in the Snowies-a perennial top five-finisher-begins 7,000 feet and climbs to 11,000 feet.

5. Alpine, Wyoming

This small western Wyoming town is virtually surrounded by mountains that just about shoot straight up from the valley floor. One of the best parts of riding this area is that you're in the backcountry within minutes of sledding from town.

6. Cooke City, Montana

Cooke City, located on the Montana/Wyoming border adjacent to Yellowstone National Park, is wedged between two mountain ranges and Wilderness areas-the Absaroka and Beartooth. It sits at 7,560 feet with the surrounding mountains climbing up to well over 10,000 feet . well, make that about 10,017 feet during the winter when you account for all the snow.

7. Big Horns, Wyoming

Wyoming's Big Horn Mountains rise dramatically from the surrounding high desert to elevations of up to 13,175 feet. The Big Horns stretch about 100 miles north to south and are about 60-70 miles wide.

8. Rabbit Ears, Colorado

Named for the distinctive Rabbit Ears Peak (10,654 feet), which is north of U.S. Highway 40, this riding area is on Rabbit Ears Pass, which straddles the Continental Divide between Steamboat Springs and where Colorado Highway 14 from Walden dumps into U.S. Highway 40.

9. Black Hills, South Dakota

For anyone coming from the Midwest, the Black Hills represent the front line of mountains as they head west. It's a popular winter destination among sledders from North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota.

10. Grand Lake, Colorado

This snowmobiler-friendly town is tucked away deep in the mountains of northcentral Colorado just south of the Continental Divide. Normal snowfall totals push past 200 or so inches every winter in the surrounding mountains with nearly 144 inches falling in town.

11. Cache Valley, Utah

This popular riding area covers the northern reaches of Utah between U.S. Highway 91 and Bear Lake. The riding is along the Wasatch Range, just one of the major mountain ranges in Utah, which is rugged up in these parts, softened somewhat by the nearly 400 inches of snow that falls.

12. Baker/Union Counties, Oregon

This is a two-for-one snowmobiling deal in the Blue Mountains of northeast Oregon, courtesy of a massive-nearly 700 miles in all-groomed trail system spread across the two counties. Riding goes up to about 8,000 feet.

13. Stanley, Idaho

If you're up for a drive and don't mind a few cold temps, then Stanley is the ticket. Located in the heart of central Idaho at the base of the rugged Sawtooth Mountains, Stanley offers picture postcard scenery and more than 200 plus inches of snow each winter.

14. McCall, Idaho

The small town of McCall is nestled next to some of the West's premier snowmobiling opportunities. With about 500 miles of groomed trails, and the opportunity to jump off the trail about anywhere along the way, there is unlimited riding potential in this area.

15. Diamond Lake, Oregon

Diamond Lake is easily one of the most popular snowmobiling spots in Oregon and a big reason for that is it gets a lot of snow, which makes for a long season. There are also 300 miles of well-groomed trails and magnificent scenery, including nearby Crater Lake National Park.