The hard packed snow crunches as the blue Chevy Duramax and enclosed trailer come to a stop in the freshly plowed high mountain parking lot. As four people exit the vehicle excitement fills the cool crisp air. The sounds of zippers and Velcro mix with laughter and conversation but soon are overpowered by the sharp pattering of two-stroke engines. The warm exhaust rises like morning fog while snowmobiles are unloaded from the trailer and are left to warm up. Final preparations are made; backpacks are filled and double-checked. One rider takes a final tug on his helmet’s chinstrap, another kicks the excess snow off her boots. A clump of snow falls from a distant tree branch as the engines rev up and, like a row of marching ants, they disappear into a winter wonderland.
More than 7,200 miles of groomed trails spread out over Idaho – that’s more groomed trails than any other western state, and with southern Idaho surrounded by the Sawtooth National Forest, it becomes the perfect place to ride, with many options of where to go.
With only about 3,500 snowmobiles registered in southern Idaho each year – in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of acres to play in – there’s rarely a crowd. It’s easy to find fresh, untouched powder to explore. At most locations a beginner can take it slow on groomed trails and enjoy the amazing scenery while the more advanced riders can blaze their own trails through thousands of acres of untouched terrain.
As with any outdoor adventure, especially in winter, always be prepared! Dress accordingly and in layers. Always pack plenty of food and water. Basic emergency items would deem valuable if needed. Always check weather and road conditions. Get educated! If you’re new to the sport, there is a lot to learn about safety – especially avalanche safety. Never go alone, stay with your group and as most experienced riders will tell you, snowmobiling is a team sport, so be prepared to help someone in your group.
Your winter adventure is just a short drive from anywhere in southern Idaho. In as little as 45 minutes one of southern Idaho’s popular snowmobiling locations awaits.
Twin Falls Area
In the South Hills of Twin Falls, not far from the Magic Mountain Ski Resort, is the Diamondfield Jack Snowplay Area. Two hundred miles of groomed and marked trails are located within 200-square miles of Sawtooth National Forest and BLM land. There is a plowed and well-maintained 85-vehicle parking lot with heated restrooms available and a warming hut that is maintained by the U.S. Forest Service.
Take highway 30 to Hansen. Go south on Rock Creek Road, the parking lot is just a mile past Magic Mountain Ski Resort.
Fairfield is centrally located near four snowmobiling parking and trail access areas. There’s also the wide-open Camas Prairie, where even the fence posts are under the snow. The Bennett Mountains to the south offer more great riding opportunities and the Sawtooth National Forest to the north reveals beautiful vistas and nearly 200 miles of groomed trails. There’s excellent backcountry with endless off-trail opportunities to explore.
* Malcolmson Snow Park and Warming Hut, Highway 20 between Pine Exit and Hill City.
* Couch Summit Parking lot located north of Fairfield, access off of Soldier Road.
* Wells Summit Parking lot located north of Fairfield, access off of Soldier Road.
* Chimney Creek Parking Lot, 10 miles west of Faifield at the end of Vodemere Road.
The Gooding County Snow Park is located at the Gooding-Camas County line just 20 miles north of Gooding. It includes 150-square miles of both BLM and private land. The terrain is mostly simple rolling hills but can be a lot of fun in deep new powder. There is also a popular sleigh riding hill next to the parking lot.
Sublett has an extensive 120-mile groomed trail system. The main access for the trail system is in North Heglar Canyon. This area is prefect for all ages and skill levels. About 10 miles in from the parking lot is the old Sublett Guard Station maintained by the U.S. Forest Service. Picnic tables, maps and wood burning stove are a welcome resting place for snowmobilers. Several marked trails branch off the main road that take you to the mountain top where you can take in the endless scenery.
Take Interstate-84 to Yale Road exit. Go east on Yale Road about 10 miles. Go right on North Heglar Canyon Road. The parking lot is located about 10 miles up the canyon.
At Howell Canyon, located just below Pomerelle Ski Resort, an 85-car parking lot gives you access to a vast winter playground on Mount Harrison. The area receives some of the highest snowfalls in south central Idaho. Although relatively a small area, the views overlooking the Burley, Albion, Elba and the Oakley valleys are stunning. Be sure to visit the frozen Lake Cleveland. While there are many roads and trials in the area, none are groomed regularly.
Take Interstate-84 to the Declo exit (216). Head south on Highway-77 into Albion. About seven miles southeast of Albion, turn right on Howell Canyon Road. Watch for signs directing you to the snowmobile parking lot.
Hailey – Ketchum
Although Sun Valley is well-known for skiing, the area also offers top-notch snowmobiling. There are over 120 miles of groomed trails in the Baker Creek Area located 10 miles north of Ketchum and the Wood River Recreation Area just three miles west of Hailey. Both areas permit off-trail riding and beautiful scenery.
Just over the Galena Summit in the Smiley Creek area, 170 miles of groomed trails await for off-trail riding, guided trips and non-guided trips.
Local Snowmobile Clubs
Joining a snowmobile club or organization is a great way to meet new people as well as learn about new places to ride. Many fun activities are available, such as trail maintenance days, group rides and educational classes. Here’s a list of clubs in southern Idaho.
Magic Valley Snowmobile Club
Peggy Stanley – President
Northside Snow Riders
Thomas Powell – President
(208) 539-9182 cell
Sawtooth Snowmobile Club
Chad Sluder – President
Vintage Snowmobiles of Idaho
Perry Hesteness – President
Mount Harrison Snowmobile Club
Kevin Childers– President
Take a free online snowmobile safety course at: snowmobilecourse.com