There are so many amazing things to do in the West Tetons. If you’re not familiar with Teton Valley in Idaho, you need to read on! While Grand Teton National Park is on the east side of the mountains, definitely make a trip over this way. Here is a top 5 roundup of the top things to do in the West Tetons for you so you can make sure to plan to hit all the best stops!
Each of the following 5 places also has it’s own blog post and most have a related video embedded there as well, if you’d like to watch the full story from which excerpts were included in the roundup video above. Each link is included in the sections below. Without further delay, from #5 to #1 on the list of things to do in the West Tetons, we have:
#5 – East Idaho Waterfalls
There are three East Idaho Waterfalls that we highly recommend you check out in the area. Fall Creek Falls, Lower Mesa Falls, and Upper Mesa Falls are each incredibly beautiful. They are also very different from one another so they are definitely each worth seeing.
Fall Creek Falls
Fall Creek Falls is about 60 feet tall. It is also really wide. From the viewing area on the side you really only see about half of it. The waterfall flows down in numerous streams, over terraces, and into the Snake River. We saw a boat float by the bottom of the falls as we were visiting, and they certainly had the best view. However, we believe we captured it pretty well for you in our video!
If you’re careful, and comfortable with the climb, there’s a section on the side of the waterfall where you can climb down to stand next to the waterfall and even inside a little alcove where are behind a portion of the falls. Be careful as it can be wet and slippery, and there is a steep drop off. There is a boat launch nearby, but you really can’t beat the ease of access right off of NF-058. This really makes for a perfect stop on your way east on Highway 26.
Lower Mesa Falls
Lower and Upper Mesa Falls are not far from one another. At 65 feet tall, Lower Mesa Falls is definitely the smaller of the two falls. However, what makes it so impressive is the shear amount of water flowing through it! From the Lower Mesa Falls Observation Site, you are still about a quarter of a mile away from the falls itself but you can hear the roar of the water from above.
There is a 2.5 mile round trip hike that takes you to the top of it if you’d like to get a closer view. From the observation site you’ll be able to see people in the distance at the trail overlooking the falls. The trail actually begins over by the parking area for Upper Mesa Falls. We had originally intended to do this hike, but our kids were both very tired at the end of the day and it had gotten too late. We would have otherwise done the hike, so check it out if you can!
Upper Mesa Falls
Though we recommend seeing all three, if you have to choose only one, this one would be it. Upper Mesa Falls is 114 feet tall and 201 feet wide. There are lots of boardwalks that take you down and along the river and waterfall. You can see it both from a bit of a distance and right above where it plunges into the river below. Because there is a sharp bend in the river right at the bottom of it, there is a cliff immediately opposite the falls that sends a plume of mist towering into the air. The plume is so tall that you can see it from miles away, rising out of the surrounding forest.
#4 – Float Down Teton River
The Teton River has multiple access points for putting your boat in the water and taking it out. Here is a link to an Upper Teton River Recreation Map. We did the Bates Bridge/Buxton River Park to Rainey “Big Eddy” section. We used our stand up paddleboard, but we saw many others on the river in kayaks, canoes, fishing boats, and various sizes of tubes. Since we only have one, we took turns on various days. The river is fairly slow moving and smooth so it was a very enjoyable paddle, though you’ll have to watch out for some shallower sections so you don’t run aground.
This area seemed to be full of moose! All in all we had 7 moose sightings, though several were probably the same moose. While paddling the river, both of us actually saw a mama moose and her baby. They had just come out of the trees and seemed to be about to enter the water but quickly ran off back into the brush. There was also a surprise ending to our full video about the Teton River float when we spotted a bull moose in the river and had to bail before arriving at the boat ramp! We highly recommend this fun and scenic river float. There are great views of the area and especially the Tetons. You don’t want to miss this!
#3 – Ashton To Tetonia Trail
The Ashton to Tetonia Trail was completed in 2010. Following an old Union Pacific rail route that was built in 1912, this trail is almost 30 miles long! As the name suggests, it goes from the town of Ashton, to the town of Tetonia, in Idaho. If you start from the northern end of the trail at Ashton and head south to Tetonia you’ll be heading south, with views of the Tetons as you ride. Though this is technically the uphill direction, because it’s an old rail line the grade is gradual.
Another bonus from starting on the north end is that two of the three historic train trestles are in the upper half of this trail. The longest one at Conant Creek is a whopping 672 feet long. Standing over 100 feet above the rivers below, riding over these rail bridges really adds to the experience.
If you don’t plan to do the entire trail, consider starting somewhere before the third bridge closer to Tetonia and then riding into town. The views just keep getting better and better as you get closer to the Tetons. We didn’t make it all the way to the third bridge because of a thunderstorm. So watch the weather forecast before you go, and catch the entire story of what happened on our bike ride in the full blog post and video.
#2 – Darby Wind Cave
This one ranks in our top 10 favorite hikes to date and so is naturally near the top of the things to do in the West Tetons! This 6.3 round trip hike also has 1800 feet of elevation gain and was quite steep in parts. However, we think it is totally worth it.
What starts as a flat walk by a a creek and through a meadow quickly turns into un uphill hike through the woods. As you climb the view of the surrounding canyon just gets better and better. From half way up you can already see the massive cave entrance in the distance! To top it off, a stream runs out of the cave to a beautiful waterfall.
Darby Wind Cave has the huge, iconic entrance. You can go inside by climbing up on the right side of the entrance. Be prepared with sturdy shoes, lights (as well as backup lights), and extra layers. Darby Wind Cave gets its name from a small blowing hole further in. Don’t continue any further than this if you are not a prepared and experienced caver.
The entrance really is spectacular, and from inside it looks like a keyhole with blue sky beyond. A bit further in the light from outside glows from around the corner as you stand in darkness. It really is a neat experience!
#1 – Grand Targhee Resort Scenic Chair Lift
Grand Targhee is a ski resort on the west side of the Tetons. The resort itself is just inside the Wyoming border. In summer it’s a popular mountain biking location. However, even if you are not a mountain biker, the scenic chair lift will take you to the top of this ski resort, at almost 10,000 feet, for some pretty amazing views without much effort! Though if you prefer an extra challenge you can hike to the top instead! It’s number 1 on our list of things to do in the West Tetons because of its amazing views, the ease of access, and fun for the whole family.
The chair lift takes you up 2,000 feet in about 10 minutes. There are beautiful views all around to enjoy on the way up. At the top there is a viewing area with amazing views of the valley. There are some picnic tables where you can sit and enjoy the sight. From here, take the short summit trail which will take you around the ridge for a full view of the Tetons. We felt this was the best view in the entire area of the mountains. Walk along the ridgeline and enjoy seeing the Tetons the entire way. When you’re done you can take the chairlift back down to the bottom and enjoy a meal at the resort. Here is the full video if you also want to see the Teton Scenic Byway and more of the resort.
We hope this gives you several ideas to add to your list of amazing things to do in the area. Check out one or all of them and you’re sure to have a great time. Let us know if there’s anything else you would add to your list of things to do in the West Tetons!
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