Kelly Canyon can be a snowshoer's delight

A snow-plastered snowshoe trail marker keeps snowshoers headed in the right direction near Buckskin-Morgan Ridge in the Kelly Canyon area.

Support Local Journalism

Last week while I skied up the road at Kelly Canyon I counted two snowshoers to every cross-country skier.

I was on my way to ski the River View Trail which turned out to be gorgeous, but windy.

I thought it was awesome to see so many people out enjoying the outdoors, but I noticed that few of the snowshoe trails were actually being used. Which is a shame because there are several miles of trails specifically marked for snowshoeing with a hand-sized, round sign with two crossed snowshoes on it.

These trails crisscross the hills and woods throughout this area.

I’ve been on several of these trails, although I cheated using my cross-country skis with climbing skins on them.

Many of these snowshoe trails I would call adventure trails and they give users a sense of exploring the backwoods.

One of my favorites is the Big Slot snowshoe trail that starts maybe half a mile up the road from the ski resort and climbs up a side canyon/gully on the left side of the road (as you are going uphill). This trail climbs up to the top of the main canyon rim and connects into the Buckskin-Morgan Ridge Loop trails. When you reach the junction, the trail hooks right and takes you down to Morgan Summit where the Idaho Falls Ski Club has a warming hut.

Another fun trail, called Glenn’s Grunt, leads down a gully from the Morgan Summit warming hut and connects into the Tyro Loop and Tyro Vista trails. I have skied this trail down, but only when the snow is deep and powdery because it is clogged with downfall.

If you’re serious about getting into snowshoeing, all these trails in the Kelly Canyon area are a must do.

The guidebook “Eastern Idaho Sweet Spots” has maps and directions for most of these snowshoe and ski trails and others. Another good place to find maps is on the Idaho Falls Ski Club’s webpage. Go to the Resources pull-down menu and select the Kelly Canyon — Caribou Targhee National Forest tab.

If you don’t have snowshoes or cross-country skis and just want to hike around, please stay on the roads. I’ve recently been on ski trails in three different areas this winter and found wrecked ski trails from hikers just post-holing for miles on once-groomed trails. Not only is it irritating to skiers, but someone wrecked the efforts of track setters which amounts to a fair bit of time and money to accomplish each week. Don’t be that guy (or girl).

Another good place for snowshoers is Harriman State Park. The park grooms trails for a variety of activities — skiing, skate skiing, fat biking and snowshoeing.

Snowshoes can be rented at Idaho Mountain Trading in Idaho Falls, Peaked Sports and Yostmark in Driggs and Free Heel and Wheel in West Yellowstone.