Island Park

December 2007 Feature Viewed 720 time(s)

Steady as a rock-that's Island Park. Of course, when you're talking about Island Park, that rock is covered deep by the more than 200 inches of snow that falls each winter in eastern Idaho, home to this famous riding area.

We say steady as a rock because Island Park once again checks in at No. 3, the same place it has occupied in last year's Top 15 list and due to the fact it's a perennial top five favorite among SnoWest readers.

The reason Island Park is such a favorite among our readers is the area's broad appeal to riders of every kind of skill level and ability.

Snowmobiling here can be as easy as a rider needs it to be or as difficult as any horsepower junkie can handle. And everything in between. And we mean everything.

For starters there are about 500 miles of groomed trails and hundreds more ungroomed trails that criss cross just about all of Island Park. The trails-both groomed and ungroomed can be found at all elevations as well. In other words, not all trails are on the valley floor. Some reach nearly to the tops of the mountains in this area, including to the world renowned Mount Two Top (elevation 8,710 feet).

There are also ridgelines where you get a bird's eye view of the giant volcanic caldera (it blew about 1.3 million years ago) where Island Park is located. The caldera's south rim is just after you climb the hill out of Ashton and from there you're riding essentially in a giant bowl. The only other remnant of the caldera is the west rim, which is the ridgeline you see to the west as you drive north through the bowl. The caldera is about 18 miles long and 23 miles wide.

Still another reason Island Park is a perennial favorite among sledders is the very reason most travel to this corner of Idaho-mountains. Who hasn't heard of Mt. Jefferson (10,203 feet), where some of the best hillclimbing anywhere can be found, or Mt. Sawtelle (9,866 feet) and Reas Peak. We should also point out that Mount Two Top is actually in Idaho although most associate this famous viewpoint as being in the West Yellowstone trail system.

Mount Two Top is just west of the Idaho/Montana border, which means you can see forever in any direction on a clear day. To the west are Henry's Lake, Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Sawtelle. To the north is Targhee Peak (10,300 feet) while to the east is West Yellowstone, Hebgen Lake and Yellowstone National Park. Still looking east and then south are the Tetons. We couldn't even venture a guess as to how many photos have been shot from just Two Top alone. Thousands and thousands.   

Instead of thinking of Island Park and West Yellowstone as big competitors, look at them as sharing some of the best riding in the West. The Continental Divide separates the two areas but they still share many of the same trails and that only adds to the fun and the experience. All together that's about 900 miles of trails. And that rivals any system anywhere, regardless of whether it's in the West, Midwest or East.

There are places you're not going to want to miss when in the Island Park area. First, there's the aforementioned Mount Two Top, where you can see into three states-Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. There's also Big Springs, where you can feed the trout or catch a glimpse of a moose or other wildlife that frequent the headwaters of the Henry's Fork River. Or head to Mesa Falls, where you'll stand right at the edge of the river as it cascades over an 85-foot drop. You can ride to Cave Falls (east out of Ashton) inside Yellowstone National Park or head to Warm River Springs and see the river come out of the mountain.

Because Island Park is on the west side of the mountain dividing Idaho from Montana, it manages to get several more inches (up to 75 more) of snow than does West Yellowstone, thanks to the fact that the storm clouds get hung up on the mountains before slipping over into West Yellowstone. 

Parking lots can be found at various places along Highway 20, as can most of the eating and sleeping establishments. Island Park can get crowded on the weekends as sledders from all sorts of cities head to the hills, but hit the area during the week and you'll see fewer crowds.

  • Like what you read?

    Want to know when we have important news, updates or interviews?

  • Join our newsletter today!

    Sign Up
You Might Also Be Interested In...

Send to your friends!