Idaho December 22, 2016
10 Picturesque Trails In Idaho That Are Perfect For Winter Hiking
There’s nothing the average Idahoan loves more than getting out of the house to enjoy the beautiful destinations and plentiful nature that abounds in the Gem State. But if you’re not an avid skier, snowboarder, or powder enthusiast, Idaho’s long winters can feel like a time-warp of grey skies and frigid temps–especially after the magic of Christmas is over. But there’s no need to hibernate all season, just because you’re not into winter Olympics-style activities! All you need to get back out there to enjoy the fresh snowfall is a few extra layers, some sturdy boots, and an adventurous spirit.
Idaho’s magnificent parks and winding, scenic trail systems make our state perfect for winter strolls and hikes no matter your activity or winter enthusiasm level. Here are some of our favorite places to get out, enjoy those big white flakes floating gently by, and feel the crunch of fresh-fallen snow beneath your feet.
1. Big Springs Trail, Island Park
Island Park Chamber of Commerce
Delightfully picturesque as it meanders around Big Springs and the renowned Johnny Sack Cabin--delightfully covered with mountains of snow, this easy path is an absolute must-do. Resident waterfowl will add a charming touch to your stroll.
2. Bethine Church River Trail, Boise
The Boise Greenbelt is a 25-mile paved stretch of waterfront trail beloved by Boiseans for good reason, but it is also uniquely beautiful in winter--and delightfully free of crowds. What few people know is that portions of the Greenbelt are actually named and dedicated to many of the capital's most powerful women, meandering through some of Boise's most treasured parks, known as the "Ribbon of Jewels."
The Bethine Church River Trail is one such section, beautifully located near the Cottonwood Apartments off of Parkcenter. Tucked away in a 24-acre natural area, which includes unexpected wildlife nesting spots, small streams inhabited by fish, and a quaint bridge or two, you can overlook the icy water in utter solitude and enjoy the snow-dusted foothills in the distance.
3. Boise Greenbelt, Boise
We can't mention the Bethine Church River Trail without noting how lovely the entire Greenbelt is in winter! Boise Parks & Rec regularly clears this paved trail of accumulated snow, which allows for optimal viewing of the river's natural beauty without sloshing through slush and ice. For the best experience, avoid the downtown stretch from Franklin to Parkcenter--this a popular, heavily-trafficked area.
4. Wind River Trail, Riggins
Leading into the outskirts of the Gospel Hump Wilderness, this trail is accessed from the Wind River Pack Bridge, about 25 miles up from Riggins. Neatly leading along the Little Salmon River, you'll find plenty of wildlife to enjoy on your walk, while still being near enough to Brundage that you can enjoy some more intense recreation afterwards.
5. Moscow Mountain, Moscow
Winter in Moscow can often hit like a barreling train, unlike the gentle changing of seasons seen in Idaho's southern region. But the city's harsh winters also creates some unmistakable beauty--especially when the rolling Palouse and distant Seven Devils are viewed from the summit of East Moscow Mountain. Towering just outside the city, closer to troy, dozens of MAMBA trails--including the treasure Moscow Mountain Majesty Trail--wind and meander to some spectacular snowy overlooks, or through through the trees for a perfect wonderland experience. While you're at it, check out Paradise Ridge!
6. Ridge to Rivers Trails, Boise
Dozens of well-maintained paths interweave through the Boise foothills, offering unrivaled urban hiking and recreation opportunities for every skill level. Fresh fallen snow gives southern Idaho's iconic desert steppe landscape a fresh makeover, however, and presents trail-goers with new chances to see Boise's Christmas lights in the distance.
7. Palisades Creek Trail, Swan Valley
Already a spectacular hike in the summer, the trail up to the Palisades Lakes is one of the most popular trails in eastern Idaho because of the gorgeous mountain scenery and excellent wildlife viewing possibilities. When a light snow covers the landscape, it is also a great place for a brisk hike overlooking the water, and leading up to the lakes (if you're up for a challenge). Quaint, snowy bridge are perfect for photo ops as well. But once the snow hits completely, cross-country skis are the best way to navigate this path.
8. Wahlstrom Hollow Trail, Hansen
The South Hills are a true southern Idaho gem that--much like the Boise foothills in our capital city--are close to town and easy to navigate. But the vista rewards are worth it. A quick climb gets hikers’ hearts pounding and opens up incredible views of snowy foothills and expansive farmscapes. One fantastic trail is the Wahlstrom Hollow Trail, a quick and easy hike that starts at the Third Fork Trailhead.
9. Scotchman Peak, Clark Fork
North Idaho's tallest mountain is worth a climb in any season, but winter offers more breathtaking views than you'll know what to do with. The 6.2 mile trail offers views of the Cabinet Mountains and into both Montana and Canada, but is still relatively easy enough for intermediate hikers--even without the aid of snowshoes.
10. Tubbs Hill, Coeur d'Alene
Tubbs Hill is a classic North Idaho hike, with opportunities to view one of Idaho's most treasured lakes and the stunning waterfront city of CDA in all of its beachy glory. But come winter, with the snow-dusted trees, frosty ground, and distant mountains, there's absolutely no better way to enjoy a chilly winter's day--and warm up en route to this scenic overlook!
These are some of Idaho’s most prominent winter hikes, but there are hundreds of less-traveled gems for you to explore this season. For an extended hike that leads to some of Idaho’s best winter hot springs, check out this
hot springs trail. Now, pick a hike, bundle up, and get out there!