Although Eastern Idaho is known for some outstanding snowmobiling opportunities, when the snow melts in the Palisades Ranger District of the Targhee National Forest the terrain opens up to some great OHV recreation.
There are trails for hikers, bikers, ATVs and UTVs. Many trails are multiple use, some trails are for specific use. You have jeep roads, forest service roads and county roads; single track and double track trails. You have high elevation, low elevation and everything in between.
The editors of Dirt Toys Magazine enjoy this area because it offers a unique variety of terrain that allows us to test product in various conditions. It’s close enough to our office that we can slip out at any time during the day and still be home for dinner.
One of our favorite rides starts out along the Fall Creek Road corridor just west of Swan Valley. The Fall Creek Road offers multiple parking areas and trail heads. One such is the South Fork of Fall Creek.
The South Fork trail starts about 5 to 6 miles up from Fall Creek Road, which is a little over a mile from Highway 26 at the bridge over the Snake River three miles west of Swan Valley. Elevation at the trail head is 5573 feet, right at Fall Creek (which offers some pretty good fishing … but that’s for another story).
The South Fork trail is a 50-inch width restricted trail, so it scrapes off a majority of the four-wheel traffic. (But don’t worry; there are still plenty of roads that access most of the same terrain for side-by-sides.) The trail heads east up a canyon, paralleling the small mountain stream. The terrain is rugged and lined with wild flowers and pine trees.
About six miles up the trail you leave the creek, winding back to the west and cresting out near the top of Rash Canyon (another great trail that will return you to the Fall Creek Road). The elevation here is 6972 feet.
Here you have some options. You can head west down Rash, or you can head south toward Willow Springs, or east toward 4th of July Ridge. Our choice is always to head east and climb in elevation.
You experience a mix of tree riding and open ridges with spectacular vistas. Although the trails are challenging, there are none too technical that should scare you away. You climb from just under 7,000 feet to nearly 8,000 feet in less than three miles.
The descent on the south end of the ridge is just as quick.
Once off of 4th of July Ridge, you again find yourself with options. You have Commissary Ridge that can take you back to Willow Springs, or you have Skyline Ridge that will wind its way back to the south end of the Fall Creek Road.
The more familiar you get with the area, the more side routes you can find.
We started at the trailhead of the South Fork of Fall Creek just off the Fall Creek Road at trail #085 and headed east 3.7 miles to where it splits into two trails: a motorcycle trail #030 and an ATV trail #261.
Head south on #261 for 2.4 miles along the south fork of Fall Creek to where the trail splits again to trails #302 and #262. (If you continued west down Rash Canyon on trail #302 for four miles you would come out at the Fall Creek Road.)
Head south on #262 for about a quarter mile and turn east. (If you were to continue south about two miles on trail #306 you would come out at Willow Springs at the bottom of Commissary Ridge.)
Trail #262 works its way up the ridge for five miles where it connects with the Bear Creek motorcycle trail #260. At this point #260 turns into an ATV trail and winds its way down of 4th of July Ridge for 2.6 miles until it connects with trail #017 on Commissary Ridge.
Turn north on #017 that takes Commissary Ridge down to Willow Springs. (If you were to continue south on #017 you would end up at Skyline Ridge trail #075 which is a Forest Service road.)
At Willow Springs, you can either head east on #306 about two miles back to the South Fork of Fall Creek trail #261 or west about two miles to the June Creek trail #376 which will take you back out to the Fall Creek Road. We went out on trail #306 and then backtracked down the South Fork of Fall Creek on trail #085.
Our total route was just over 30 miles. All trails can be seen on the Idaho Trails map at http://idaho.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=2252207eb95b49f99b2c05228831dfbb.
Note: This is a seasonal use trail. Although it may officially open on April 15 and close on Dec. 14, Mother Nature may open or close the trail in the spring or fall depending on the snow, particularly in the higher elevations.