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Don’t miss these local attractions this winter


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Top: The trees in Teton Canyon. Bottom: One of the many panoramic views of Harriman State Park. Inset: Snowshoeing is a popular activity in the park.

Ski hills and winter resorts abound in Idaho, but you would rather stray off the beaten path, the local backcountry offers opportunities for snowshoeing, cross country skiing and even soaking in natural hot springs. Here are a few places you could go.

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Harriman State Park, south of Island Park in Fremont County, offers more than 25 miles of hiking and exploring for visitors to enjoy year-round. In the winter, 24 miles of trails are groomed for cross country skiing, fat-tire biking, snowshoeing and skate skiing. With all of the trails being non-motorized access only, Harriman provides a quiet escape in a historic setting.

“Harriman is just a unique place,” said Mark Eliot, a Harriman Park employee. “The Harriman family donated the park to the state of Idaho in 1977, and that was the foundation of the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.”

For a more mountainous romp, Teton County boasts a variety of paths, both groomed and ungroomed, for all kinds of outdoor fun.

Teton Canyon

Teton Canyon.

Only 11 miles from Driggs, Teton Canyon Campground, near Grand Targhee Ski Resort, acts as a doorway to fat-biking, snow shoeing, and cross country skiing. Visitors can stay on groomed trails or discover new paths that wind through Caribou-Targhee National Forest and along tributaries of the Teton River.

After a long day of trekking through snow, not much feels better than relaxing in one of Idaho’s many natural hot springs. Heise Hot Springs, in Jefferson County, and Lava Hot Springs, south of Pocatello in Bannock County, are both available year-round for guests to soak in pools filled with thermal water.

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The Lava Hot Springs swimming complex has an outdoor Olympic-sized pool, an indoor acquatic center and the Portneuf Kiddie Cove. | Nate Eaton, file photo

Those looking for water and wilderness may find the perfect combination at Goldbug Hot Spring south of Salmon. Only accessible by a dirt road followed by a 2-mile hike, the increasingly popular destination consists of six separate pools, all naturally heated, and a panoramic view of Salmon National Forest.

Brett Pickett, an Idaho native and wilderness enthusiast, described Goldbug’s growing popularity.

“Goldbug’s for sure way more traveled today than it was in the ’80s and ’90s,” Pickett said. “More college-age kids seem to be showing up and enjoying the water and the hike. It’s the kind of place that once you go there, you always want to go back.”

Less well known than Goldbug, but easier to access, is Panther Creek. Down the river from Salmon, the hot spring is 500 yards from the road, and it is accessible year-round.

Whether adventure-seekers are looking for alpine vistas, groomed tracks, or just a warm soak in a natural setting, the region’s backcountry fields and mountains offer it all. With so many options to explore, Idaho’s long winter months can be filled with discovery and exploration.