It’s true what they say: if you can walk, you can snowshoe. Some of the most spectacular scenery in the western U.S. awaits you in Idaho and snowshoeing is the perfect way to explore Idaho’s 30 trail systems and back country opportunities. Today’s equipment
is hassle-free and enables everyone, old and young, to walk and climb with ease. Abundant groomed Nordic trails are available throughout the state, but the real fun comes when you get off the trail.
The thrill of snowshoeing down steep, wooded slopes where skiers can’t go and hikers wouldn’t venture in warmer seasons is what makes this sport so exciting. Quickly becoming one of the most popular winter sports in the country, snowshoeing is a great way to stay healthy. SnowSports Industries of America (SIA) says an average person burns between 400-500 calories per hour snowshoeing at moderate speeds.
Near the historic mining town of Idaho City, the Whoop-Um-Up Nordic Trail, part of Idaho State Parks’ Park N Ski program, offers excellent off-trail snowshoeing opportunities. The trailhead is located 17 miles north of Idaho City on Highway 21. Some of the newest trails in Idaho are located at Jug Mountain Ranch, just south of McCall, off the Payette Scenic Byway.
Harriman State Park lies in the heart of a 16,000-acre wildlife reserve in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, 20 miles north of Ashton in eastern Idaho. There are 22 miles of trails in the park with yurts and other lodging facilities available for rent. Harriman is also a wintering ground for the majestic trumpeter swan and many other water birds and animals.
The Selkirk Mountains surrounding Priest Lake in northern Idaho are a virtual paradise for winter-sports enthusiasts and include five areas around Priest Lake State Park. Trail systems have intriguing names like Reeder Indian Rock Translator Trail and Wood Rat Luby Trail. A variety of lodging options are available along Priest Lake’s 72 miles of shoreline in the shadow of the Selkirk Mountains.
Galena Lodge, northwest of Sun Valley, serves as base camp for the 120K North Valley Trails System. Join in a guided snowshoe walk with a Forest Service Ranger on Thursday mornings then enjoy hot cocoa and a freshly baked pastry at the Lodge. The Sun Valley Resort Nordic and Snowshoe Center trails meander through stunning terrain providing families a fun, unique and inexpensive winter sport experience. Rentals are available and at 6000 feet, the trail system maintains consistent conditions so breathing is easy!
Finally, you can snowshoe through the unique lava fields at Craters of the Moon National Monument near Arco. The rangers offer winter ecology workshops on Saturdays through February on the rugged landscape where deep snow covers the once fiery lava. The day begins with a 30 minute classroom session followed by several hours of moderately strenuous snowshoeing looking for tracks and climbing a volcano. Where else can you summit the top of a volcano in the winter?
Take a look at this mapquest travel blog to see these locations plotted on a map.
Jade Broadus offers some additional snowshoeing recommendations in this article about Idaho’s State Parks.