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The other side of the mountainsThe other side of the mountains

Teton County, Idaho, and Grand Targhee, WyomingTeton County, Idaho, and Grand Targhee, Wyoming

America is blessed with many gorgeous mountain ranges, but the Tetons may be the most picturesque of all. The iconic view you most often see of the Tetons is from the east, the Jackson Hole side, home of movie stars and some very expensive real estate. What’s on the other side?

  • Cradled in the western slope of the Teton Mountains, the Grand Targhee Resort is accessed via Driggs, in the Teton Valley, Idaho. The resort offers three mountain peaks and over 2,500 acres of skiable terrain. Photo courtesy Grand Targhee Resort.
  • A right crosswind departure from Runway 21 at Driggs. This photo is shot from inside a glider, while being towed up and then toward the Tetons. Teton Aviation Center offers glider rides and lessons. Photo by Crista Worthy.
  • Aerial view of the Tetons, which are some of America’s youngest mountains. Grand Teton tops out at 13,770 feet.The glider's canopy offers amazing views from all sides and above. Photo by Crista Worthy.
  • Doing steep turns over the Teton Valley. The red string is used to determine if the aircraft is yawing. Given prevailing winds, Driggs is usually on the upwind side of the Tetons, which makes maneuvering over the wide Teton Valley easier for powered aircraft, while also providing updrafts for gliders. Photo by Crista Worthy.
  • Crista Worthy gives a big thumbs-up to the fun of flying in a sailplane; instructor Sam Lea sits in back. Photo by Fred Worthy.
  • In summer, it’s best to be on the ground before afternoon thunderstorms begin to build. Here a towering cumulus cloud dwarfs 13,770-foot Grand Teton. Photo by Crista Worthy.
  • With an average of 500 inches of snow per year, Grand Targhee Resort offers some of America’s finest deep powder skiing and consistently superb conditions. This man is skiing through waist-deep powder. Photo by Robert Tadlock via Flickr.
  • From the South Teton Creek Trailhead, you can hike into the Jedidiah Smith Wilderness. The trail initially alternates between deep, primeval, pine-scented conifer forest, electric-green meadows, and aspen groves, all dwarfed by the cliff bands and peaks of Teton Canyon. There must be a million birds in this glacial valley, singing a hundred different songs. Spring and early summer bring numerous waterfalls. On the way, the South Teton Creek flows down beside you. After 2.7 miles, you can choose a loop hike on the Devil's Stairs trail, or climb more steeply another five miles to the 9,500-feet-elevation Alaska Basin. Photo by Crista Worthy.
  • Entering the Alaska Basin, at 9,500 feet, in the third week of June means you will probably still find snow on the ground, which can obliterate parts of the trail. Photo by Fred Worthy.
  • From the Alaska Basin you will have incredible views of Buck, Jedidiah Smith, and South Teton mountains (this is 11,938-foot Buck Mountain). From here, you can ascend toward 10,400-foot Hurricane Pass, where you can look down into the Jackson Hole valley. The Alaska Basin is a lovely place to camp. Photo by Crista Worthy.
  • Along the way, you’ll make a few water crossings via logs. Be aware that by afternoon, as snowmelt increases, a formerly tame creek may become a raging torrent in the span of a few hours. Photo by Fred Worthy.
  • In Driggs, Peaked Sports can rent you summer or winter recreational equipment. They’ll also recommend fun places for mountain biking, such as Rick’s Basin at Grand Targhee, Aspen Trail near Teton Canyon, or many single-track trails in the Big Hole Mountains. Photo by Crista Worthy.
  • If golf is your game, Targhee Village has a beautiful nine-hole course frequented by moose, alongside the forested foothills just five miles east of Driggs. Photo courtesy Targhee Village.
  • If you love fly fishing, stay at Teton Valley Lodge, which offers free airport pickup and all-inclusive fishing vacations—just bring your rod and they’ll take care of the rest. Photo courtesy Teton Valley Lodge.
  • Teton Valley Cabins rents cozy, convenient, and affordable log cabins nestled in a cottonwood forest. The cabins are set up like duplexes with a shared porch, but have private entrances, baths, and kitchenettes. Photo courtesy Teton Valley Cabins.

On the “other” side of the Tetons, you will find Teton Valley, Idaho, with its trout-laden Teton River. The view of the Tetons from the west is less dramatic because there are foothills in front of the big peaks, whereas in Jackson Hole, the Tetons rise straight up from the valley floor. Life is more laid-back in Teton Valley than in Jackson Hole, and costs (including at the airport!) are generally lower. But the same summer and winter sports are available, and that includes great skiing. The Grand Targhee ski resort, although located within the state of Wyoming, is accessed from the Idaho side, so fly to Driggs and experience the other side of the Tetons.

Driggs-Reed Memorial Airport is 18 nautical miles northwest of Jackson Hole. The Teton Aviation Center has a huge facility that includes a warbird museum and the exceptionally good Warbirds Café. You also can get glider rides or lessons here; flying a glider over the Tetons with Sam Lea is one of my unforgettable flying moments.

Family-friendly Grand Targhee Resort also offers plenty of opportunities to find uncrowded bowls and create your own line. Photo courtesy Grand Targhee Resort.

For years now, Wyoming’s Teton-area resorts have been blessed with early and abundant fluffy white stuff. Pacific storms often stall over the Tetons and dump prodigious quantities of snow, especially on the west side. Grand Targhee Resort averages 500 inches a year, and it’s a powder hound’s dream. With 95 runs from beginner to expert on over 2,500 acres, a 2,270-foot vertical drop, a terrain park, and five lifts, you’ll be good to go all day. Other winter activities include fat tire biking, tubing, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and cat skiing. Slopeside amenities include restaurants, shopping, and lodging, both on the mountain or in the valley. In summer, the resort becomes a bike park or you can take a scenic chair lift ride and go hiking.

Some of the world’s finest hiking and backpacking is right here. The Table Mountain Trail will get you up close and personal with Grand Teton’s west face; the strenuous 11-mile-round-trip hike comes with a 4,000-foot elevation gain and takes all day. Numerous other great hikes can be accessed at the nearby South Teton Creek Trailhead (see photos and captions for descriptions). Stop by the Teton Basin Ranger Station for more info.

The Knotty Pine Supper Club in Victor, Idaho, is a popular local hangout that offers occasional live entertainment. They are best known for their local beers (try the Wild Bison dark ale) and BBQ items, such as turkey, ribs, sliced beef, and sausage. They also have burgers, salads, sides, desserts, and a kid’s menu. Photo by Crista Worthy.

There is trout fishing in the Teton River from Memorial Day to Nov. 30; its upper sections run through the flat valley floor north of Driggs. Bird watchers also flock here to see sandhill cranes and many other birds. Some fly fishermen favor a stretch called Bitch Creek, where fish average about 14 inches to 18 inches. Peaked Sports offers fishing, mountain biking, and hiking supplies and rentals, plus great advice on where to go. For golfers, Targhee Village has a beautiful nine-hole course frequented by moose, alongside the forested foothills five miles east of Driggs. The Links at Teton Peaks is a dog-friendly, 18-hole, 72-par course with mountain views. Or, get your Teton views from a nine-story hot air balloon. Teton Balloon Flights will fly you up, up, and away toward the Grand, with views of three states along the way.

If fishing is your bag, you’ll love the Teton Valley Lodge, because their mission is to help you land as many fish as possible. Accommodations range from single-room cabins to large homes with river and mountain views. Rates include excellent meals, lodging, guide service, flies, leaders, terminal tackle including custom fly patterns, free airport pickup, soft drinks, and beer. Bring your own rod, or rent from the tackle shop. Teton Valley Cabins rents cozy and affordable log cabins nestled in a cottonwood forest, set up like duplexes with a shared porch, but with private entrances, baths, and kitchenettes.

Watch the game at O'Rourkes Fine Food and Beer in Driggs, or head eight miles south to Victor, which offers several good restaurants including our favorite, the Knotty Pine Supper Club. For winter skiing or summer exploring, see how much the “other side of the Tetons” has to offer you!

View the Tetons from a 9-story hot air balloon. The flight covers 8 to 12 miles over the valley’s patchwork fields, and lasts between 45 minutes and 2 hours, depending on winds. Upon landing, the four to six guests celebrate with champagne. Photo courtesy Teton Balloon Flights.

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Crista Worthy

Crista V. Worthy

Crista V. Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association.
Topics: US Travel

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