Hiking and Backpacking the Idaho Falls Region

A few of our hiking and riding trails
hikers Alaska Basin Grand Teton Mountain Range Teton Crest Trail Jedidiah Smith Wilderness
Sunrise Lake is nestled in the north end of Alaska Basin on the Teton Crest Trail, the tip of the Grand Teton can be seen just over the ridge.

The horseback riding and hiking in our very special neck of the woods here in the Yellowstone Grand Teton region is a very special experience. Few places have our diversity of trail choices. Yellowstone provides many otherworld hiking and riding opportunities, the Grand Teton’s canyon trails beneath its towering granite monoliths provide scenery you can read about but can’t believe until you experience it. The remoteness of the Gros Ventre, Wind, Big Hole, Wyoming, Centennial, and Snake River mountain Ranges are treasures in their own right. If you horseback ride or hike to get to where the remote fishing is good, you have chosen the perfect destination.

In the Greater Yellowstone Region, anything can happen horseback riding or hiking. Wildlife sightings are the norm, moose, elk, deer, and bison are a daily occurrence if you are lucky you might see a wolf, mountain sheep, or bear. Extreme weather can be expected any time. A clear sunny day can quickly become stormy, bringing lightning, hail and sometimes snow. Hypothermia can befall you any time of the year if your are unprepared. Daytime summer temperatures range between 70 to 90 degrees. June can be cool and rainy, and high water during spring runoff can become hazards in stream crossings. The peak hiking and horseback riding summer months, July and August tend to be drier and better choices for the fair weather horseback rider or hiker.

Hiking and horseback riding in the Greater Yellowstone Region offers such a great array of trails choices are difficult, but it’s tough to go wrong. Mountaineering stores and saddle shops provide information, maps and books to help you stay informed. Consult authorities for current conditions and wildlife sightings before venturing into the backcountry. The more informed you are, the more comfortable your trip into the mountains will be.

Packstring horseback rider Heart Lake Yellowstone
A pack string heading out of Heart Lake Basin, you can see Heart Lake and the Absoraka Mountains off in the distance
Goodwin Lake Trail • (Jackson Hole) • The Goodwin Lake Trail is one of those cheater hike/rides that start by driving your car to about the 8,000-foot elevation effortlessly expediting your buns to the high country (my favorite kind). This trip is popular for its proximity to the town of Jackson and Grand Teton National Park; it’s relatively short length and ample sensory rewards.

Heart Lake Trail • (Yellowstone Park) •Tucked away on the east side of Mount Sheridan in southern Yellowstone, just over the continental divide from Yellowstone Lake is one of the most pristine areas of Yellowstone National Park, the Heart Lake drainage. In this region only a network of trails, primitive campgrounds and a picturesque log cabin ranger station are the only sign left by man, a remarkable fete in this day and age when you consider that the Heart Lake is one of more popular hikes for day hikers and backpackers; 40% of all of Yellowstone’s backcountry overnight trips are to Heart Lake.

Cascade Canyon  Hurricane Pass Jedidiah Smith Wilderness Grand Teton National Park
Looking down into Cascade Creek Drainage and Grand Teton National Park from Hurricane Pass on the Teton Crest Trail

Teton Crest Trail • Grand Teton National Park) The Teton Crest Trail can be done many different ways; the full route is 39 miles, from Teton Pass on Highway 22 to String Lake in Grand Teton National Park, just north of Jenny Lake. Backpacking the Teton Crest Trail takes about three days but this hike is no place to rush if you can budget the time. Ambitious backpackers or horseback riders can extend the trip to seventy-five mile trek along the entire crest of the Teton Mountains with some creative trail daisy chaining. Much of the Teton Crest Trail cuts a serpentine path through Grand Teton National Park and the adjacent Jedediah Smith Wilderness, rarely dipping below 8,000 feet. This rugged mountain environment’s jagged spires, alpine meadows, glaciers, lakes and vistas provide a challenging trip with limitless and rewarding sections for off trail exploration.

Lake Solitude Jackson Hole Wyoming Grand Teton National Park
Lake Solitude and the Grand Teton from 10 miles up Cascade Creek Trail in Grand Teton National Park.

Cascade and Paintbrush Canyon Loop Trail • Grand Teton National Park) •The Paintbrush Divide trail makes up the first part of a great loop hike that carries you across the Divide (10,720 feet), passing Lake Solitude as it winds back down to the Cascade Canyon. It's best to go up the Paintbrush Canyon first because it allows for turning around quicker if ice/snow at the divide is a problem. Also, its steeper which is more pleasant to go up than down, and gets the hard part over with while you are still fresh. A snowfield makes the trail a bit tricky as you cross the divide until early August. After August is easily traversed without the need of an ice axe, trekking poles are always useful on extreme day hikes and make the small snow excursions even easier.

Palisades Creek Canyon • (Swan Valley Idaho) • Palisades Creek Trail is located about 50 miles southeast of Idaho Falls and about 60 miles west of Jackson Hole WY in Swan Valley Idaho, The four mile hike up to lower Palisades Lake or the 6.2 mile hike to Upper Palisades Lake provide some of the best mountain views in the Swan Valley region. Palisades Creek Trail is well maintained and can be used only by hikers, backpackers or horses. If you choose to hike up to Upper Palisades Lake, 2 miles above Lower Palisades Lake you have to leave Palisades Creek trail and turn up Waterfall Canyon and it is just a short distance up Waterfall Canyon.

Table Mountain Grand Teton Mountains Jedidiah Smith Wilderness
The Grand Teton peaks of Table Mountain east of Driggs Idaho.

Table Mountain Trail • (Teton Valley Idaho - Driggs) • Table Mountain is a must do hike not to be missed in the Tetons. The top of Table Mountain offers the best vantage point in the Tetons for close-up views of the massive west face of the Grand, upper reaches of Cascade Canyon, and the U-shaped glacial valleys and canyons on the west side of the Tetons. This hike is widely regarded as one of the most outstanding in the entire region and it bears the signature of the essence of the Grand Tetons.

Big Elk Creek Trail • (Swan Valley Idaho) • Big Elk Creek is a gorgeous stream that flows down a big pristine canyon that is free of motor vehicles and livestock grazing. The canyon includes many avalanche chutes and rugged mountains. It has an easy trail leading up a broad, open, and scenic canyon. The Trail from campground goes north along Big Elk Creek, and heads for miles into the heart of the Snake River mountain range. The high alpine meadows have exceptional flower displays during the summer months. Excellent views are everywhere you look throughout the Big Elk Creek backcountry. Black bear are relatively common, elk and moose are abundant, there is a population of mountain goats that cling to the many cliffs of the Big Elk Creek drainage. The peregrine falcon has been restored to the cliffs of the Snake River Range also.

Swift Creek Trail • (Jackson Hole - Bonduraunt) • I found nothing swift about Swift Creek trail Oh! except the creek, the trail starts out in Granite Creek Valley beneath the grandeur of this special mountain valley's towering sentinels. You climb imperceptibly through sagebrush and wildflower meadows interspersed with groves of conifers and aspen. When you draw up close to the creek you start ascending through forest and small meadows and for a while lose the views of the mountains. Here the terrain flattens out for a bit and you cross the creek, the trail breaks north to reveal the mountains once again, North Cliff Wall on the left and Corner Peak to the right. A trail through the meadow to the right provides trail access to MacLeod Lake high up on Corner Peak. Then up a little farther you see it, God accidentally misplaced one of Yosemite’s water falls halfway up this canyon. What a pleasant surprise.

Little Greys River Trail Alpine Wyoming
Little Greys River Trail access Greyback Ridge, Pickle Pass, Roosevelt Meadows Cliff Creek and the Upper Hoback River Drainage.

Little Greys River Trail • (Star Valley Wyoming - Alpine) The trail begins near the end of Little Greys River Road #10047. The trailhead’s beginning elevation is 6,950 feet and is at the edge of a giant meadow valley and the river has already radically changed character it is now in a spring rush down a steep canyon. This trail accesses the scenic Wyoming Range and it connects to the Wyoming Range National Recreation Trail #048 and the Cliff Creek Trail #137. It has an elevation gain of 2,310 feet. The trail climbs steadily through forest interspersed with meadow with regular jogs over to the mountain edge for views of the Little Greys River hundreds of feet below.

Bear Creek Trail • (Swan Valley Idaho) • Bear Creek is an idyllic mountain stream that meanders through an equally serene alpine valley on the southwest side of Palisades Reservoir in Swan Valley Idaho. The trail is an easy one even for novice hikers and the danger spots for horses are few. Unlike the creeks on the Snake River Range side of Palisades Reservoir the creeks of the Caribou Range seem more open not that they are but the southern slopes of the mountains are largely open meadow and lends itself to a more open feeling.

Shoal Falls Trail • (Jackson Hole) • The Shoal Falls trail begins in the scenic alpine wonderland of Granite Creek a good home base to explore this amazing area. From the Swift Creek/Shoal Falls trailhead hike or ride up the sagebrush and wildflower meadow until the trail splits, look for a wooden sign that says "Shoal Falls". Follow an old two–track road for the first 1⁄2 mile. The trail then turns to the south and angles up a forested hillside and you climb a series of switchbacks that periodically reveal views of Granite Creek Valley below and the grandeur of Open Door Mountain.

Alaska Basin of the Teton Crest Trail
Alaska Basin of the Teton Crest Trail. South Teton Canyon Trail is a tough one to beat.

South Teton Canyon Trail • (Teton Valley - Driggs) • From the trailhead at South Teton Creek you enter the trail in a forested area right by the creek by you soon break out into open meadow terrain that compliments the surroundings groves of conifer and aspen all dwarfed by the cliff bands and peaks of this gorgeous glacial valley. The hiking is easy and in spring and early summer there are numerous waterfalls. South Teton Creek Trail is in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness and so all access is by foot or by horseback.

Darby Creek  Waterfall just below  were it comes out of Darby Wind Cave
The South Darby Wind Cave is full of beautiful surprises.

South Darby Creek - Wind Cave Trail • (Teton Valley - Driggs) • Darby Canyon Trail is one of several access points for the Teton Crest Trail but it is better known for The Darby Wind Cave which is the major draw to this popular Teton Valley hike that takes you into the heart of the Jedidiah Smith Wilderness.

The Trailhead for south Fork of Darby Canyon is at 7,069 feet, the first few miles of the climb up Darby Canyon winds steeply through meadows and forest as it quickly gains elevation. Intermittent waterfalls splash down the canyon rim in early summer add to the hiking experience. After about 2.5 miles the trail for the Darby Wind Cave forks off to the right.

Granite Highline Trail • (Jackson Hol) • The Granite Highline Trail is often overlooked due to Jackson Hole’s embarrassment of nature’s riches. It is a beautiful high elevation trek up through the boreal forest of Cache Creek and across the sub-alpine regions of the Horse Creek Drainage and Granite Creek Drainage. A rugged, variable-length day hike, or a 2-day hike featuring access to several high peaks the trail is about 15 miles long. After the initial climb on either side the trail remains remarkably level for most of its length. Much of this trail is in open meadow with groves of aspen and conifer here and there and much of the trail is in the shadow of the Granite peaks above.

Island Park Trail Targhee Peak Targhee Creek Trail
Targhee Creek Trail provides access to the mountains north of Island Park Idaho that stradle the Idaho Montana border.

Targhee Creek Trail (Island Park) Targhee Creek Trail I must say was a pleasant surprise, I have driven by the mouth of the canyon hundreds of times and never gave it a thought, I suppose because I was always in a hurry to get to Yellowstone, as it is unimpressive from the driver’s seat at fifty-five miles per hour on Highway 20. The Targhee Creek Trail starts in a mixture of meadow and conifer and aspen forest at about 7,000-foot elevation but you soon leave the aspens behind and the first three miles are an easy meander along a pretty canyon bottom of open meadow and conifer woods. Targhee Creek in August doesn’t have much volume to it but I would bet that it hosts some fishy surprises in it for the angler wishing to fish a tributary to legendary angler’s nirvana Henrys Lake.

Turquoise Lake Gros Ventre Wilderness Jackson Hole WY
Turquoise Lake is a remote getaway deep into the Gros Ventre Wilderness.

Turquoise Lake • (Jackson Hole) Turquoise Lake is an alpine gem in the middle of the Gros Ventre Wilderness and there are many ways to get there but the most expeditious one is via the Goodwin Lake Trail. This access facilitates a 2,000-foot elevation head start over most others by virtue of its 8,000-foot trailhead. This trip reveals the heart of the Gros Venture Wilderness, the peaks of West Crystal to the east, the peaks of Packsaddle Pass and Antoinette Peak can be seen far to the southeast, to the south is Gros Peak and to the south of it you see Pinnacle Peak. There is an impressive escarpment going off the north side of Gros Peak that seems to speak of millions of years of geological history.

Moose Lake (Teton Valley - Victor) • Moose Creek Trail starts just east of Victor Idaho, it is one of the starting points for the Teton Crest Trail that leads into the heart of the Grand Teton Mountain Range. The Grand Teton’s, Moose Creek Trail, is entirely within the Jedediah Smith Wilderness in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest................... Above Moose Falls you enter some wide open terrain that treats you to the glacial nature of Moose Creek Canyon, and here the trail splits, here you can continue to the right along the Teton Crest Trail to Grand Teton National Park, a short distance away or turn to the left to continue to Moose Lake.

Cliff Creek Falls
Cliff Creek Falls cascades down a red rock cliff of the Wyoming Range.

Phillips Pass Trail• (Jackson Hole - Wilson) Phillips Pass Trail is one of those cheater trails I like so well. It starts about three quarters of the way to the top of Teton Pass west of Wilson Wyoming, so the trail starts at about 8,000 feet elevation. Starting at 8,000 feet you are already into the beauty of the high country so not only do you get t skip the climb, you also skip the pretty, but vista challenged, boreal forest canyon bottoms most mountain trails start at. Phillips Pass Trail is one of the access points and is actually part of the Teton Crest Trail

Cliff Creek Falls - (Bonduant WY) • After a few miles the canyon starts to narrow and the mostly non descript slopes start sporting crowns of beautiful red ochre cliff faces that wouldn’t be out of place in southern Utah, but are a pleasant surprise here in the Teton Region of Wyoming......................The first waterfall you see is a lesser one on a fork of Cliff Creek but when you see it look to the left, and the larger Cliff Creek Falls is on the larger fork of the Creek. The trail splits here, and trail #3137 goes to the left taking you a short distance to the falls and beyond. Upon reaching Cliff Falls (base elevation 8,000 feet) you are treated to a cascading waterfall that tumbles 68 feet down into a red rock basin. A spot right at the bottom is perfect for a morning shower for those who camp here.

A peak in the North Willow Creek Drainage
A peak in the North Willow Creek Drainage

North Willow Creek Trail (Star Valley) • The first couple of miles there are several creek crossings but as you climb the trail veers away from the creek. There are parts of the trail that is really rocky and parts that are steep stretches of clay that could easily turn to a dangerous slime, on horseback, in a rainstorm. ATVer’s use the lower section but there was no evidence of them in the higher elevations. About halfway you get into the sub alpine terrain which provides better views of the surrounding peaks and the canyon below.

When you think that you have reached McDougal Pass, you haven’t, the first saddle drops you into the head of Strawberry Creek where Strawberry Creek Trail merges with North Willow Creek Trail for the final couple of hundred yards to McDougal Pass. It is about a half mile from the Strawberry/N. Willow divide to the Pass.

From the top of McDougal Pass, you look down Bear Creek into the Greys River Drainage--------------------------> More

McDougal Pass
A peak in the North Willow Creek Drainage

Strawberry Creek Trail (Star Valley) • Strawberry Creek Trail is one of the more accessible trails into the rugged and scenic Salt River Range from Star Valley WY. The trail starts at 7200 feet and follows a gorgeous valley 7.5 miles to McDougal Pass where Bear Creek trail begins for a drop into the Greys River Valley. Hikers can take the road to the end but if you are pulling a horse trailer find a turnout before you get into as situation you wished you were not in.

The trail starts in creek bottom boreal forest and a short way up the trail, another trail cuts off to the left, this trail is the Covey Cutoff Trail which is a shorter way to get to the Greys River Drainage. This is not marked so keep right if McDougal Pass is your destination.

From bottom to top there are plenty of open areas to view the surrounding peaks of the Salt River Range. About halfway up you enter the sub-alpine terrain and the forest opens up creating greater viewing opportunities--------------------------> More

Willow Creek Trail (Jackson Hole • Willow Creek is a major drainage system for the Wyoming Range, the scenery is fantastic and provides prodigious, geographic, flora and fauna viewing and there are many trails you could get lost on. Take a map. The trail is popular with horseback riders, mountain bikers, hikers hunters, and fisherman. Willow Creek's headwaters begin high in the Wyoming Range on the south end of Jackson Hole. Fisherman may with to trying to outwit the feisty native Cutthroat that make Willow Creek their home. These fish are native, not stocked, so they offer a challenge for the most experienced fly fisherman and an opportunity to advance the skills of the novice. Catch and release only, please. The Jackson Hole One Fly Foundation - National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Conservation Partnership Program is funded a project to improve a degraded area along Willow Creek. --------------------------------------> More

Trout Lake, Yellowstone National Park
Hikers, Trout Lake, Yellowstone National Park
Trout Lake • (Yellowstone) • This serene and beautiful lake is accessible via a short hike through the forest. It is a steep 1/2-mile trail through a Douglas fir forest leads to the lake. Trout lake sits in a depression on a high bench above the Soda Butte Creek Canyon south of Cooke City. Formerly known as Fish Lake and Soda Butte Lake this 12-acre gem is a popular backcountry lake for hikers and anglers. --------------> more

Some of Greater Yellowstone's mountain ranges
The Gros Ventre Mountains • The Gros Ventre Mountains of western Wyoming is another fine example of western Wyoming’s embarrassment of riches in the natural wonders department. The range is composed of high craggy peaks, glacier scoured valleys, and rolling sagebrush foothills. The Gros Ventre Mountains receives much less visitation than the more well known Grand Teton Range which you can see from much of the Gros Ventre’s northern and western flanks. Views from the high country also include views of the Absaroka Mountains, Wind River Mountains, the Snake River Range and the Wyoming Range. The name Gros Ventre is from the French word for "big belly", and originated from Indian sign language meant to convey the idea of "always hungry". .................. more about
Ranch, Gros Ventre River Range, Winter, Bondurant, wyoming
A cattle ranch of the Gros Ventre Mountains in Bondurant, Wyoming
rafting the Greys River in the Wyoming Range near Alpine Wyoming
Rafters enjoy a float down the Greys River that drains the Wyoming Range
The Wyoming Range • The Wyoming Range runs for about eighty miles in a north-south direction in western Wyoming. These mountains are a mixture of rolling open slopes dotted with sagebrush and aspen groves and forested hills with pines, spruce, and fir trees. Waterfalls plunging over high cliffs are tucked in the remote rugged mountain peaks. Many of the peaks in the range rise to over 10,000 feet the highest is Wyoming Peak at 11,363 feet. These magnificent mountains remain in relative obscurity due to their proximity to the more famous Wind River Mountains and the Grand Tetons; this makes solitude more achievable here. The Wyoming Range is not as rugged or remote as the nearby Wind River Range or Gros Ventre Mountains................... more about
The Snake River Range • The Snake River Range starts at the southern end of the Grand Teton Mountain Range between Jackson Hole Wyoming and Teton Valley Idaho and is part of the Targhee National Forest. The range extends northwest to Victor Idaho, west to Swan Valley Idaho and south to Alpine Wyoming. The Snake River is the eastern boundary back up to the Tetons. This is rugged country, and has plenty of water; glaciers and running water shaped the numerous deep canyons. The lush vegetation will impress the visitor, the land is dynamic and unstable, rockslides and earth flows are common, landslides created both Upper Palisades and Lower Palisades Lakes a couple of jewels of the range. Mount Baird, at 10,042 feet, is the highest point in the Snake River Range. ................... more about
Horseback riding high in the Snake River Range near Swan Valley Idaho
Mountain Goats of the Snake River Range
The Grand Teton at sunset, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Grand Teton sunset
The Grand Tetons • One of the things that sets the eastern view of the Grand Tetons apart from other ranges is there are not any foothills to obstruct the view. The actions of nature’s elements have sculpted a monolith of sharply notched peaks accented by deep U shaped glaciated canyons that are truly a sight to behold. If you think the Grand Tetons is awe inspiring from the valley floor a trip into the center of them will set new benchmarks for beauty for the hard drive in your skull. .................. more about

The Wind River Range • A mountain is the best medicine for a troubled mind. Seldom does man ponder his own insignificance. He thinks he is master of all things. He thinks the world is his without bonds. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Only when he tramps the mountains alone, communing with nature, observing other insignificant creatures about him, to come and go, as he will, does he awaken to his own short-lived presence on earth. — Finis Mitchell, "Wind River Trails" The Wind River Range is a remote hundred plus mile range, stretching through Wyoming along the crest of the Continental Divide. Among the Winds unrelenting height, contain seven of the ten largest glaciers in the Rocky Mountains, as well as more than 2.25 million acres of public land. They are in the southeast section of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the largest environmentally intact temperate-zone ecosystem in the lower 48 states. .................. more about

Flat Top Peak, Wind River Range
Flat Top Peak, Wind River Range
Hiker, upper Jade Lake, Absoraka mountains, Breccia cliffs, Dubois Wyoming
Upper Jade Lake hiker, Absaroka Range
The Absaroka Mountain Range • The Absaroka Mountain Range is a sub-range on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains stretching for about 150 miles across the Montana-Wyoming border. A complex range, it takes significant effort to learn all the various groups, sections, and drainages. More specifically a member of the Central Rocky Mountain Chain stretching from Livingston (Montana) to a point east of Dubois Wyoming, it forms the core of the Yellowstone region of the Central Rockies. Some 165 miles in length and 75 miles wide at its widest. It is, depending on how one measures, the largest individual range in the 1200-mile-long Rocky Mountain Chain. The Continental Divide passes through the southwestern corner of the range but not near the crest. The range wraps around the eastern and northern boundary of Yellowstone National Park. The high alpine meadows have prolific wild flower displays in the summer months starting with the balsamroot in early June. Tall perennials such as cow parsnip, penstemon, lupine, monkshood, and western coneflower. These plants grow so tall that they obscure lightly used trails by midsummer. Black bears are relatively common, elk and moose are abundant; there is a population of mountain goats in the much of the middle of the range. It is the home to many trophy mule deer. Grizzly bears, which move in winter from Yellowstone National Park to the nearby lower elevations of the Absaroka Range Wolves, are seen regularly. There are many grizzlies here so use all due caution................... more about

The Gallatin Range rises in as a mass of sharp peaks, craggy ridges, and expansive alpine plateaus, split by steep canyons, accented with snowdrifts, draped with verdant evergreen forests, and rich with creeks, and waterfalls. Douglas fir and aspen grace the lower elevations, along with scattered juniper and limber pine. In the higher elevations lodgepole pine, englemann spruce, and subalpine fir mix with rich mountain meadows. Near treelike, whitebark pines dominate the hillsides above 9,500 feet in the subalpine region you find alpine tundra and scattered groves of Subalpine Fir and Engelmann Spruce.  Because of the Gallatin’s embarrassment of riches it is a major playground of Bozeman Montana’s 12,000 students of Montana State University as well as most of the residents there not to mention all who live and play in Paradise Valley, Big Sky, and West Yellowstone. Oh yeah, and the tens of thousands that come to play here from elsewhere. The range itself has outstanding hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, camping and mountaineering. All the streams have stellar native trout fishing, and the Yellowstone and Gallatin Rivers are destination fly-fisheries and whitewater destinations............ More About


The Galatin Range, Hylite Reservior, Bozeman Montana
The Galatin Range, Hylite Reservior, Bozeman Montana

Grand Teton Landscape Collection by Daryl L. Hunter
Grand Teton Landscape Collection

Greater Yellowstone Mountaineering

Woman Mountain Climber negotatiing tough section of rock wall
Woman Mountain Climber negotatiing tough section of rock wall

Mountaineering is the sport of walking, hiking, backpacking, skiing and climbing mountains and it is a great way to see the mountains of the Greater Yellowstone Region if you are fit and adventurous enough to do so. Greater Yellowstone’s Grand Teton Mountain Range has been a world-renowned mountaineering destination for mountaineers for a century.

While mountaineering began as attempts to reach the highest point of unclimbed mountains, it has branched into specializations that address different aspects of the mountain and consists of three areas: rock-craft, snow-craft and skiing, depending on whether the route chosen is over rock, snow or ice. All require experience, athletic ability, and technical knowledge to maintain safety.

Rock climbing another part of mountaineering is a sport in which climbers climb up or across natural rock formations. The goal is to reach the summit of a formation or the endpoint of a pre-defined route. Rock climbing is a physically and mentally demanding sport, one that often tests a climber's strength, endurance, agility, and balance along with his or her mental control. It can be a dangerous sport and knowledge of proper climbing techniques and usage of specialized climbing equipment is crucial for the safe completion of routes. Because of the wide range and variety of rock formations around the world rock climbing has been separated into several different styles and sub-disciplines that are described below. Climbing communities have developed rating systems for routes. Ratings (or "grades") record and communicate consensus appraisals of difficulty. The ratings take into account multiple factors affecting a route, such as the slope of the ascent, the quantity and quality of available handholds, the distance between holds, and whether advanced technical maneuvers are required.

Woman rock Climber

Compacted snow conditions allow mountaineers to progress on foot. Frequently crampons are required to travel efficiently over snow and ice. They are used on hard snow and ice to provide additional traction and allow very steep ascents and descents. Snowshoes can be used to walk through deep snow. Skis can be used everywhere snowshoes can and also in steeper, more alpine landscapes, although it takes considerable practice to develop strong skills for difficult terrain.

Ascending and descending a snow slope safely requires the use of an ice axe and many different footwork techniques that have been developed over the past century.

Combining the techniques of alpine skiing and mountaineering to ascend and descend a mountain is a form of the sport by itself, called Ski Mountaineering which has seen amazing popularity with our adrenalin junkies of Bozeman MT, Jackson Hole, Cody and Lander WY and Teton Valley Idaho. Ski mountaineering is a sport that combines the techniques of skiing (often ski touring) with those of mountaineering. The goal of the ski mountaineer may be to climb a beautiful mountain by a worthy route and then ski the mountain down an elegant line, preferably from the summit. But ski mountaineering is really distinguished from ski touring by a willingness and desire to travel over any part of the mountain, not just those areas with sheltered powder snowfields or other nice descending conditions. This may include significant rock, ice or broken glacier sections, as well as traverses and enchainements rather than just single peak ascents.

While using skiing techniques for much of the time, ski mountaineers climb otherwise inaccessible or dangerous slopes on foot using a range of mountaineering equipment - typically crampons, ice axes and ropes - while skis are carried strapped to their backpack. This either permits access to extreme slopes, or more often allows transit through otherwise impassable terrain in order to continue beyond on skis, where normal ski touring equipment such as skins and harscheisen (ski crampons - also called couteau or cortelli) are used.

Ice climbers  Cody WY.
Ice climbers test their skiils on the ice in the South Fork of the Shoshone Valley outside Cody WY.

Ice climbing, as the term indicates, is the activity of ascending inclined ice formations. Usually, ice climbing refers to roped and protected climbing of features such as icefalls, frozen waterfalls, and cliffs and rock slabs covered with ice refrozen from flows of water.

For the purposes of climbing, ice can be broadly divided into two spheres, alpine ice and water ice. Alpine ice is found in a mountain environment, usually requires an approach to reach, and is often climbed in an attempt to summit a mountain. Water ice is usually found on a cliff or other outcropping beneath water flows. Alpine ice is frozen precipitation whereas water ice is a frozen liquid flow of water. Most alpine ice is generally component of longer routes and often less technical, have more in common with standard glacier travel, while water ice is selected largely for its technical challenge.

Ice is weird stuff, though climbing it might just be weirder. Ice-climbing is also potentially painful: half the equipment has sharp metal points (like tools, crampons, and ice-screws) that mix well with neither the other half of the equipment (like clothes, pack, and rope), nor with the soft flesh of a climber. And then there’s the objective danger. Ice-climbs are temporary features of winter, and are in a perpetual state of falling down during their short life-spans. That’s the part of ice-climbing that’s potentially lethal. The paradox of ice-climbs is that they can provide the easiest and safest means of ascent of a cliff, or a mountain. The trick is to determine when an ice-climb is safe, and to do that requires knowing all about ice.

Some important techniques and practices common in rock climbing that are employed in ice climbing include knowledge of rope systems, tying in, belaying, leading, abseiling, and lowering. Beginners should learn these techniques before attempting to ice climb. It is highly recommended that one acquire knowledge from experts and experienced ice climbers.

The Greater Yellowstone Region being the ice box it is in winter provides many frozen waterfalls in winter that provide great Ice climbing but two places have ice climbing destinations, Cody Wyoming’s South Fork of the Shoshone River Valley in the Absaroka Mountains and Bozeman Montana’s Hyalite Canyon in the Gallatin Range. Both areas have Ice Climbing Festivals, the Bozeman Ice Festival and the Water Fall Ice Festival in Cody.

Mountaineering & Ski Guides
Rock Climber, Blacktail Butte, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Rock Climber, Blacktail Butte, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Rendezvous Ski and Snowboard Tours • (Teton Valley) Established in 1986, Rendezvous Ski and Snowboard Tours operates three backcountry ski yurts high on the western slope of the Tetons near Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee Ski Resort. Our huts provide access to the Jedediah Smith Wilderness Area and Grand Teton National Park, where over 500 inches of legendary light, dry powder snow falls each winter. A variety of terrain from high mountain ridges and broad, low-angled powder bowls, to the steep and deep combine to make some of the best backcountry ski terrain in the lower 48.

Exum Mountain Guides • (Jackson Hole) Exum offers group and private avalanche training, alpine and nordic ski tours, and ski and snowboard descents of the remarkable mountains of the Teton area. You will gain basic avalanche awareness, improve your skiing and snowboarding technique, and practice the use of avalanche rescue transceivers. Technical skills, such as steep skiing, rock and ice climbing, and rappelling are practiced during ski and snowboard mountaineering trips.

Yellowstone Expedetion • (Yellowstone) Let us show you the finest way to experience a true Yellowstone winter, at a cross-country skier's pace from the Yellowstone Yurt Camp. Join our certified backcountry ski guides to explore the Yellowstone backcountry. Our multiday cross-country skiing excursions are based from the comfortable Canyon Skier's "Yurt Camp" located only one half mile from the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Montana Alpine Guides • (Bozeman Montana) Montana Alpine Guides is Montana's premier rock climbing and mountaineering guide service. Montana Alpine Guides has been serving Bozeman, Big Sky, Yellowstone National Park, and southwest Montana for over ten years. Montana Alpine Guides offers personalized professional instruction in the arts of rock climbing ice climbing, mountaineering, hiking and backpacking. Specializing in guiding novice and intermediate climbers Montana Alpine Guides promotes climbing as a safe and exciting activity that can be enjoyed by the entire family. Our instructors are highly skilled professional guides who are dedicated to teaching the art of climbing and who provide the skills and confidence necessary for you to safely enjoy your alpine adventures.

Mountaineering & XC-Ski Stores
Rock Climber Bian, The Shield in Hoback Canyon
Rock Climber Bian, The Shield in Hoback Canyon

Skinny Skis • (Jackson Hole) Finding the right gear and clothing for cross country skiing begins with a visit to Skinny Skis. Since 1974 Skinny Skis has been Jackson Hole's leading shop. In addition to featuring the finest line-up of cross country ski equipment, Skinny Skis carries summer and winter outdoor gear and clothing from many of the world's leading manufacturers: Patagonia, Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, Arcteryx, Salomon, Cloudveil, Rossignol, Fischer and Black Diamond, to name but a few.

Teton Mountaineering • (Jackson Hole) Teton Mountaineering is the oldest outdoor specialty shop in the United States. This year we are celebrating our twenty-ninth anniversary, and actually, our business dates back even farther, having originated as the "Outhaus" in the nineteen-fifties. Our commitment to both excellence in retailing and to our unique mountain heritage remains strong.

Yöstmark Mountain Equipment • (Teton Valley) Yöstmark Mountain Equipment is a backcountry skiing and outdoor equipment shop located in Driggs, Idaho.  We are avid outdoors men and women who are out "testing" the equipment whenever we can and we'll be happy to share with you how it works for us.

Wild Iris Mountain Sports • (Lander WY) At the base of the Wind River Mountains. Wild Iris Mountain Sports the climbing store for information on climbing and back packing the Wind River range, as well as rock climbing in Sinks Canyon, Wild Iris, Sweetwater Rocks, Baldwin Creek. Our helpful staff can answer any of your questions about the Cirque of the Towers, Gannett Peak, Dickinson Park, Stough Creek Basin, Popo Agie Falls and more Wind River Mountains destinations. We carry many climbing books and guide books, as well as outdoor gear brands like Mountain Hardware, Patagonia, Marmot and Prana.

Core Mountain Sports • (Cody Wyoming) Welcome to the new Core Mountain Sports! The new CMS will serve as your one stop shop for Wyoming adventure, by combining Rock, Ice, Water and a helpful community you will feel right at home knowing your passion is ours!

Barrel Mountaineering: • (Bozeman Montana) A full-service outdoor store specializing in functional outdoor apparel, back- packing, climbing equipment, backcountry ski gear, maps and books.We pride ourselves in providing the best outdoor gear complete with honest, knowledgeable customer service.

The Grand Tetons

The Grand Tetons at Jackson Lake
The Grand Tetons at Jackson Lake

The Grand Tetons are a magnet for mountaineers from all over the world. The jagged snow-crusted peaks epitomize the ruggedness of the West, All the elements of alpine climbing, rock, ice, snow, and altitude, are represented in the Tetons. Glaciers, striking arêtes, fist-size cracks, steep rocky ridges and ice couloirs abound providing climbers a true alpine experience. This variety makes them especially appealing to experienced mountaineers who use the Tetons to apply their technical rock climbing skills in alpine settings and to train for Alaskan or Himalayan expeditions.

Grand Teton Lake SolitudeAt first glance the Tetons are daunting to novice, the massifs known as Grand Teton, Middle Teton, South Teton, Moran and Teewinot are surprisingly accessible once you’ve mastered a few essential moves, learn how to read rock, how to knot a rope, how to belay a companion, and to leverage your arm and leg muscles and you’ll be capable of climbing the Tetons.

Grand Teton From Huricane PassAscents of Grand Teton typically involve two days. The first day climbers leave Lupine Meadows Trailhead by 10 a.m., and hike up hike up Garnet Canyon trail, the main approach to the Grand. Along the way you are treated to views of stunning alpine terrain. To the north, periodic clearings of the conifer forest reveal Mt.Teewinot, Middle Teton and the Grand, that appear as distinct razor edges and chiseled stone. Your arrive at the Lower Saddle between the Grand and Middle Teton by late afternoon where you camp for the night. After a night spent at the 11,650-foot saddle you push on in the early morning darkness for the summit. The main approach to the summit is the Owen-Spaulding route, graded 5.4, a relatively easy technical climb even for the novice.

The accessibility and comparatively modest heights of the Tetons lead some to underestimate their dangers. Altitude sickness, avalanche and wildlife, all pose hazards, lightning is a serious threat and it can snow any month of the year and does.

Mountain guides are available for hire, two well-regarded companies offer a variety of classes and private mountain guide services depending on skill level and experience: Jackson Hole Mountain Guides (www.jhmg.com; 800-239-7642) and Exum Mountain Guides (www.exumguides.com; 307-733-2297). offer classes and guided trips throughout the year to introduce climbers of all skills and ages to the Tetons.

There are many worthy peaks in the range offering a spectrum of climbing opportunities, Guide's Wall on Storm Point, is a moderate climb (5.7 to 5.9) on quality, or solid, golden rock is one of the more popular one-day routes in the range. Other interesting day climbs include Baxter's Pinnacle, the southwest ridge of Symmetry Spire and the of Mount Owen’s steep couloirs.

Local Guide Books
Teton Skiing: A History and Guide to the Teton Range, Wyoming
by Thomas Turiano
Teton Skiing is a phenomenal book written eloquently and comically from the perspective of a mountaineer (Tom Turiano) who has climbed and skiied nearly every peak in the range. The book is perfect for someone thinking about a trip to the Tetons in order to gain more insight into the history that made it the touring site it is today, as well as, a guide to help in planning your trip. It is also a great book for anyone interested in history and/or the outdoors in general. Although it is partly a guidebook, it was more intersting to me for its well researched and colorful history of this mythical wonder called the Tetons. If you haven't been to Wyoming's Tetons, this book will make you want to go. If you have been, it will drive you to return and discover things unseen. A book I treasure!
Climbing in the Wind River Range
  Wind River Mounains

A mountaineer's introduction to the Wind River Range is usually a trip to climb the Cirque of Towers or a peak-bagging attempt of Gannett or Fremont. One trip to these common areas usually leads to a second and third trips to the Winds. This is because it takes one trip to realize the general quality of climbing in the range as a whole and to fully ascertain the vastness of the multitude of cirques, basins and valleys. While Gannett and "the Cirque" are certainly worthy goals, the rest of the Wind Rivers is equally spectacular and nearly empty of mountaineers. There are entire valleys that see only a few parties per year.In the Northern part of the Wind River Range, the glaciers and high peaks and 27 of Wyoming's 32 thirteeners are in this section. Crowned by Wyoming’s tallest, Gannett and Fremont Peaks. Plan two-day approaches to these alpine, ice, rock and scrambling routes.

Mountaineering Destinations

McCarthy, AlaskaSt. Elias Alpine Guides • Explore Alaska's largest national park with the local experts, based in Wrangell-St. Elias since 1978. Half and full-day glacier hikes, ice-climbing, trekking, backpacking, rafting, skiing and mountaineering courses & expeditions. Our professional, personable guides love to share their in-depth knowledge of this magnificent wilderness!

Copper Oar • Copper Oar offers wilderness rafting and multi-sport adventures in Alaska’s largest national park, Wrangell-St. Elias, and throughout the state. Their adventures are 1-15 days in length and suitable for everyone from children and novice adventurers to veteran river travelers looking for the next great journey. Copper Oar specializes in professional, personable guides, an in-depth knowledge of the local human and natural history, great food, and creating adventures of a lifetime!

SWS Mountain Guides * Welcome to SWS Mountain Guides courses and climbs are conducted year around whether a first time backpackers or a skilled mountaineer, we have a course to get you started or improve your techniques. We have been teaching & guiding, mountaineering, backpacking, winter mountaineering, rock & ice climbing for over 29 years on the best mountains in California. As well as conducting small personalized expeditions, treks & adventure travel throughout the world for over 20 years. We have an excellent safety record and our climbs and courses are kept small for maximum safety and the best experience! So whether you want to backpack in Yosemite or Climb some of the worlds biggest mountains, come explore our website and "EXPERIENCE THE ADVENTURE" with SWS Mountain Guides. We look forward to having you join us in 2010!

Mountaineering Products

Life-Link • (Jackson Hole) When you live in Jackson Hole as we do you have the Tetons as your backyard. Our backyard provides some of the best skiing and boarding on the planet. This is where the inspiration for many of our products comes from. These ideas don’t just come from us they come from our pro staff, our friends, local guides, patrollers and even folks who are just passing through but have a passion for the backcountry and want the very best equipment they can find.

R.U. Outside - (Teton Valley) Outdoor clothing and gear for snowmobiling, skiing, horseback riding, atv riding, hiking and water sports, including neoprene supports, EC2 boxer briefs, merino wool socks, winter boots, gloves, shorts, altimeter watches, hydration packs, fleecewear and raingear.

Ice climbing

10 Essentials for Multi-Day Backpacking
Hikers, Alaska BasinBy Kevin Jackson • I have been involved in several backpacking trips all over the world and the one constant is the importance of adequate gear for the environment — regardless if we are leading a group through the Wind River Range in Wyoming or hiking the Overland Track in Tasmania, Australia..........................................For example, I recently led a five-day adventure through the Maroon Bells, and Snowmass Wilderness outside Aspen, Colorado, and we experienced conditions that were both unexpected and hazardous. It was our essential gear that enabled us to enjoy the trip and cope with the freezing weather and heavy snowfall. ..............................As a rule of thumb, you want to pack lightly and take only what you need. However, when confronted with a difficult situation there are certain items that should always be carried on any multi-day backpacking trip. Here is my list of the 10 essentials. (Of course, if you take regular backpacking trips, you should make your own list and share it with the rest of your party. A little planning means less worries and a better overall experience for everyone.)----------------> More

Ice Climbing the walls in Teton Valley • by Mike Polhamus
A local mountain guide is gearing up this week for ice climbing this winter, but his preparations are much more extensive than most climbing expeditions require. That’s because Christian Santelices, owner of Aerial Boundaries in Victor, is actually installing the ice climbs themselves, up on the Parking Lot Cliffs area of Grand Targhee...........................The climbs will consist of 35 to 40 foot sections of vertical climbing, with another approximately 60 feet of lower-angle, broken terrain below that..........................................All 100 feet or so of the route will be covered in thick ice, provided by a system of low-flow shower heads installed above the cliffs and a 3,000-gallon water truck parked above the cliffs on cold nights.----------------------------> More


Annual Events
Carbiner Climbing Rope
Carbiner Climbing Rope

Cody WYAnnual Water Fall Ice Festival - Presidents Weekend. The South Fork ice climbing is like NO other ice in the Northern Rockies. The Valley has literally hundreds of frozen waterfalls each year. Many climbers visit the Valley season after season and still haven't climbed many of the waterfalls here.

Lander WYThe International Climbers’ Festival - The International Climbers’ Festival is an annual event with the mission of promoting and celebrating the sport of rock climbing. The festival runs in conjunction with three local Lander scholarships and programs, the Jim Ratz Memorial Scholarship, the Todd Skinner Foundation and BARF, the local Bolt and Anchor Replacement Fund. Proceeds from the festival support some of these programs. - First or second weeking in July - check first

City of Rocks • Idaho Mountain Festival • the Idaho Mountain Festival, a four-day outdoor event at City of Rock National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Park in Idaho held the last weekent of . These two parks are home of some of the best granite domes for sport, trad, and bouldering. At the festival, outdoor enthusiasts will have the chance to enjoy the classic granite rock climbing and peaceful trail runs while socializing with new and old friends................. check website for dates


Wildlife Photography By Daryl L. Hunter
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