Sun Valley is America’s first ski resort and home to a variety of winter activities that range from heli-skiing to snowshoeing. If you’re not keen on hitting the slopes on skis, there are plenty of other outdoor activities you can do to enjoy the winter season. Snowshoeing has been gaining a lot of fans over the past several years since it’s an activity enjoyed by all age groups. Snowshoeing can be done solo or as a couple and is fun to do with friends and family. Similar to hiking, it provides an opportunity to experience nature in serene, beautiful surroundings.
Drive 25 miles North away from the energetic hum of Sun Valley (America’s Nordic Town) towards Galena summit in Ketchum and you will soon come across Galena Lodge – a cozy, quaint day lodge set amidst Idaho’s picturesque Sawtooth mountains. But first, continue past the lodge to Galena Summit and take in breathtaking views of Idaho’s backcountry framed by stunning mountains vistas. With long-range views and sunny cloudless skies, you might opt to hang out at the summit longer than planned. Then backtrack your way to Galena Lodge.
Galena Lodge is a community owned, seasonal day lodge that offers a range of winter activities from tubing and tobogganing to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The area around Galena is part of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and covers nearly 100 km of cross-country skiing and biking trails, as well as snowshoe trails. The lodge is a delightful place to indulge in a leisurely lunch before heading outdoors. Galena’s menu offers a variety of delicious dishes including sandwiches, wraps, burgers and more. Warm, cozy interiors, a children’s play area, a rustic, laid-back vibe and friendly service underscores why Galena Lodge is so popular with visitors in Ketchum.
As I approached the lodge, I noticed several happy groups milling about at the entrance. Kids were excitedly lugging along toboggans to the top of nearby hills. Parents were putting on snowshoe boots, some were carrying cross-country skis. The general mood was one of pure joy and relaxation. It was exactly the kind of vibe I was looking for.
I opted to rent a pair of snowshoes and explore nearby trails on my own. For those who prefer guided tours, the snowshoe rental outfit at Galena Lodge offers two-hour snowshoe tours with a guide for the entire group. It’s best to schedule these in advance though. The guy who helped me with the snowshoes gave me information on a great variety of trails around the lodge. He also mentioned that all trails were marked clearly with a yellow snowshoe sign.
After being refreshed with a cappuccino and warm oatmeal-raisin cookie, I set out with my snowshoes, eager to explore Idaho’s backcountry. I headed out first on “Cowboy Cabin” trail that goes beside a bubbling creek. The best part about snowshoeing is that trails are mostly flat and connect with a network of other loops and trails, so one can hike for as long as one wants to.
I spied the bubbling creek as soon as I got onto the snowshoe trail. There was nobody else in sight. Just me, the white ground covered in several feet of snow, blue skies and an inviting path ahead. I love hearing the crunch of fresh snow beneath my feet. As I started snowshoeing on the trail, the only other sound I heard was that of the bubbling brook that ran beside me. It was a perfect day to snowshoe, warm and sunny, crispness in the air.
Grand vistas of evergreen pine trees and snow-capped mountains were all around. At one point I stood still in the middle of the snow-covered meadow and turned 360 degrees to capture stunning panoramic views of Sawtooth National Recreation Area; imagine endless forests of pine trees framed against a backdrop of imposing snow-capped mountain ranges.
As I snowshoed further along “Cowboy Cabin” trail, I was struck by how serene and beautiful everything around me was. The backcountry near Galena is home to 100 km of Nordic, cross-country and snowshoe trails and I was pleasantly surprised that it was not as busy as the ski slopes in Sun Valley. I hadn’t spotted any other people snowshoeing yet, although I’d glimpsed a few Nordic skiers going by in a flash. But I wasn’t complaining about lack of company. It’s rare that you have popular trails all to yourself. I meant to savor every moment of this solitude.
Having done snowshoeing before, I knew from experience that spotting animal tracks and birding was an exciting part of snowshoeing. But the woods were strangely quiet as I passed silent trees and untouched snow. It’s possible the gurgling brook dampened other forest sounds, but I was hoping to at least glimpse a rabbit’s hopping path in the snow or hear a chickadee’s call, but perhaps wildlife had decided to refrain from coming out in the open meadow for that day. Sometimes all you have is solitude and silence and I was absolutely fine with that. After spending all afternoon exploring the backcountry, I was delighted at how energized and refreshed I felt. Snowshoeing does that to you. The activity puts you in a meditative mood while also doubling as an exhilarating workout.
Idaho offers many excellent opportunities for snowshoeing and this includes trails at Sun Valley ski resort and at Galena Lodge. Snowshoeing is the equivalent of summer hiking so nature lovers will be thrilled to discover they can still hike on their beloved trails even when covered underneath several feet of snow. If you haven’t already tried snowshoeing, now is the time. As a new snowshoer who’s recently discovered this wonderful winter activity, I highly recommend that you check out your nearest winter recreation area and rent a pair of snowshoes to get started.
Disclosure: Ski Idaho, Idaho Tourism and Sun Valley provided for my travel and accommodation in exchange for writing about my experience at Sun Valley ski resort. Regardless, everything I have said in this post reflects my honest observations and opinions.