If you’re just getting into cross-country skiing or new to the area, here are my recommendations on great Nordic areas within 2 hours of Idaho Falls. These are areas that groom or “set track,” which includes classic (diagonal stride) and often skate track!
Here are my picks going from nearest to farthest (from Idaho Falls):
Freeman Park and Tautphaus Park in Idaho Falls – The folks at Idaho Falls Parks and Recreation have been doing a great job setting track with a ginzu groomer in these parks for years when there is decent snow. If there is decent snow in town and you’ve only got a couple hours to get out, check them out! Free.
Teton Lakes Golf Course, Rexburg – 30 minutes north of Idaho Falls, Teton Lakes provides both skate and classic loops that are fun, well groomed, and conveniently located. Doug and Randy keep the place buffed-out, and the snow there is often good when Idaho Falls is in the slop. Plus they now have very cheap ski/boot rentals in the clubhouse. Check it out! Free!
Kelly Canyon, Caribou Targhee National Forest – there is great skiing/snowshoeing on your public lands up Forest Road 218 beyond the resort. The U.S. Forest Service and the Idaho Falls Ski Club collaborate on weekly grooming on several roads and trails that take you into very cool non-motorized pristine backcountry. The ski club also operates two warming huts up these roads at Morgan Summit and Kelly Mountain. Free skiing on your public lands compliments of USFS Palisades Ranger District and free hut use compliments of the IFSC. Kelly Resort charges a $10 per person fee to park on their private lot.
Pocatello (East Fork Mink Creek Nordic Center) – Located about 7 miles from Pocatello, the East Fork Mink Creek Nordic Center is operated by the city of Pocatello along with the Caribou-Targhee National Forest and volunteers from the Pocatello Cross-Country Ski Foundation. It has 20k of groomed skate and classic ski trails, as well as separate snowshoe trails and a sledding hill. These guys groom like crazy, run ski classes, races, pot-lucks, you name it. $4-$9/day depending on age.
Teton Valley (Victor-Driggs area) – This is one of my favorite places to go. The Teton Valley Trails and Pathways (TVTAP) organization and the USFS Teton Basin Ranger District have gone nuts over the last 10 years developing a truly world-class Nordic ski region – a stellar example of community/public lands collaboration. They groom eight separate areas sometimes up to four times per week! Free, but support the cause with a $10/day or $50/season TVTAP donation!
Harriman State Park – Harriman has historically been one of the most beautiful areas in the West to cross-country ski, especially if you like swans. 25 miles of groomed trails in a truly beautiful area, all for just a $5 winter access fee (plus $5 parking fee or Idaho State Parks sticker).
Caribou-Targhee National Forest, Ashton Island Park Ranger District – Our great public land managers at the U.S. Forest Service groom several beautiful areas throughout the Ashton, Island Park area. My favorites are Fall River Ridge and Mesa Falls (Lower and Upper). You’ll need a Park N’ Ski permit ($25 annual) to park at the plowed trailheads. Free skiing on your public lands.
Craters of the Moon National Monument – This area provides a very unique Nordic skiing experience and is well groomed by the NPS. There is no place quite like it, especially in late season when the sun is out and nobody is around – magical! No entrance fees in the winter!!
Rick’s Basin, Grand Targhee Resort — This trail system offers 15 kilometers of groomed classic and skate track winding through wooded glades, aspen groves, and scenic meadows. Hills at 8,000 feet of elevation give a great workout. $6-15 per day depending on age.
West Yellowstone, Rendezvous Ski Trails and USFS Boundary Trail – The Rendezvous Ski Trails system in West Yellowstone is still the Cadillac of Nordic ski areas in the region. With 22 miles of immaculately groomed trails in beautiful rolling forested terrain, this is the place to go if you really want to get serious. But be prepared to have Olympic skiers/biathletes leave you in the dust! Support West Yellowstone Ski Education Foundation (WYSEF). $8 daily pass (Free Heel and Wheel). Also, if you want to bring your dog, check out the USFS-groomed Boundary Trail.