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Top 5 Winter Day-Trips Near Idaho Falls

Everyone knows there are all kinds of fun things to do in eastern Idaho in the summer, especially outdoors. But did you know that the winter is just as exciting? In fact, people come from all over the world to experience Idaho’s winter activities!

Many outdoor tourist attractions that are popular in the summer can still be explored during the winter via snowmobiles, cross-country skiing, or whatever else you enjoy.

There are many things to do and see, for singles, couples, friends, and families alike! Keep reading for five of the best winter day-trip ideas that are less than a two-hour drive from Idaho Falls! 

1. Go Snowmobiling in Island Park

Island Park is a beautiful area less than an hour and a half away from Idaho Falls. There are a few ways to experience Island Park in the winter. You can use trail maps to find your own way, hire a guide to take you through the area, or use the GPS-guided snowmobile service provided by Island Park Cabins and Lodges, which leads you around some of the top sites to see. 

One notable location is Big Springs, which is the beginning of the Snake River. Next to the beautiful lake, you can view the Johnny Sack Cabin. This historical cabin, complete with an iconic water wheel house used to provide it with electricity, is one of the area’s coolest man-made attractions. It was handcrafted by German immigrant Johnny Sack in the 1930’s.

It’s not uncommon to see moose, muskrats, eagles, or other wildlife nearby! There are also HUGE fish in the lake that you can feed via a nearby vending machine.

After you’ve had your fill of this scenic lake and cabin, you can then ride about 40 minutes over to Mesa Falls to see the majestic 85- and 110-foot-tall waterfalls as well as the surrounding landscape and wildlife.

With over 24 miles of groomed trails leading to both the Upper and Lower Mesa Falls, this area is not only perfect for snowmobiling, but also for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and fat biking. If you need to rent a snowmobile, check out Island Park Rentals.

2. Enjoy the Lava Hot Springs and Sunken Gardens

Only an hour and 17-minute drive from Idaho Falls, you can go for a relaxing swim or a soak at Lava Hot Springs. The mineral-rich water comes from natural underground hot springs.

A heated deck surrounds the pool and melts any snow right when it lands. Some areas of the springs include canopies overhead to protect you from rain, snow, and sun, so you can enjoy the water year-round. In addition to the large hot pools, the facilities also include indoor swimming pools. 

At some point, you may want to take a break from the water to explore the nearby Sunken Gardens. To get to them, just follow the charming little trails up above the hot springs, where you’ll find a small park (which is about one square acre).

Due to the unique environment of being near a hot spring, uncommon plants are able to grow here, and there is even a small cave to explore. Although the plants may not be there when there’s snow on the ground, the Sunken Gardens are still beautiful and a fun addition to the hot springs themselves, no matter the time of year. 

3. Visit the Kelly Canyon Ski Resort

A hidden gem only around 40 minutes away from Idaho Falls, the Kelly Canyon Ski Resort is perfect for those who want to go skiing on a budget and avoid the big crowds of Jackson Hole’s resorts. You can go during the day, or at night if you want a discount.

They’re a smaller resort, but that doesn’t mean that they lack quality. In fact, that just means that you’ll have more snowy slopes to yourself! 

Bring your own equipment or rent it there. Explore the numerous trails or take skiing and snowboarding lessons. Mosey on down to the lodge for some lunch and hot chocolate before hopping back on your skis.

Once you’ve had enough exercise for the day, consider grabbing a hot slice of pizza at the nearby Heise Pizza Parlor. Afterwards, you can go right down the road to the Heise Hot Springs to thaw out and relax those sore muscles. 

4. Ride a Sleigh Through the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole

A two-hour drive from Idaho Falls, Jackson Hole provides a huge variety of things to do. One unique experience is going on a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge.

Snuggled up in the sleigh with a blanket and hot chocolate, you can get up close and personal with a wild herd of elk, and may also see other wildlife such as wolves, bison, eagles, and foxes. 

Overlooking the reserve is the National Museum of Wildlife Art, where you can stop by to see art in various mediums of all kinds of creatures from around the world. The building itself is very unique, inspired by the ruins of Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

As it is partially embedded into the hill it sits on, the building literally blends into the natural landscape. The museum also includes the Palate Restaurant, where you can eat amazing food while looking out over the Elk Refuge.

If you have enough energy, consider ending the night with ice skating. The Winter Wonderland outdoor skating rink on Town Square has skate rentals and free hot chocolate available at the Stage Stop Building between 4:30 pm and 9 pm.

Alternatively, you can do your ice skating at the Village Rink on the Commons in Teton Village, where you can also explore castles made out of snow and see snow sculptures.

5. Tour the Grand Teton National Forest on Snowshoes

If you’re interested in guided tours, look into Snowshoe with a Ranger. This is a guided snowshoe hike through the gorgeous Grand Teton National Forest, which is about 2 hours and 20 minutes away from Idaho Falls, with a real forest ranger!

You’ll see beautiful landmarks and plenty of wildlife. Your guide can cover many topics, which may include park history, winter wildlife adaptations, animal tracks, and more, depending on what you prefer to talk about. Make sure to ask questions and be ready to learn! 

To add to the experience, participants are provided with historic snowshoes and poles, although modern snowshoes are available as well (or you can bring your own).

Call (307) 739-3399 to get more information or set up reservations. Similar tours of the Grand Tetons are also available through Eco Tour Adventures and others.

Plan Your Trip To Idaho Falls

There’s always something to do in the winter near Idaho Falls! Consider Idaho Falls Luxury RV Park for your stay!

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