Caribou-Targhee National Forest Overview

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Targhee National Forest in Winter
Caribou-Targhee National Forest in Winter (Idaho Department of Commerce)
Caribou-Targhee National Forest

Contact Details
Caribou-Targhee National Forest
1405 Hollipark Drive
Idaho Falls, ID 83401
Phone: 208-524-7500

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The Targhee is a national forest of contrasts. Its more than three million acres encompass semi-desert; sagebrush-dotted, arid land; and house timbered highlands and peaks rising over 10,000 feet. And don't forget the abundance of streams, lakes, waterfalls, rivers, and two wilderness areas. The forest is located mostly in Idaho, with a small portion in Wyoming, and it borders Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.

Caribou-Targhee lies almost entirely within "the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem," an area of 12 million acres and the largest remaining block of relatively undisturbed plant and animal habitat in the contiguous United States.

Topography ranges from rolling foothills to rugged, glaciated mountain peaks. Although most of the land is dry and semi-arid, the forest's approximately 190 stream headwaters provide varied vegetation to support a multitude of uses. The area has cold, moist winters and hot, dry summers. Wide temperature extremes exist, with summer temperatures at lower elevations exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit and winter temperatures at higher elevations dropping to 40 degrees below zero or colder.

Hike the Great Divide
The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail is the most rugged long-distance National Scenic Trail there is, and 98 of its more than 2,500 miles traverse Targhee National Forest, from the western boundary of Yellowstone Park to Beaverhead National Forest. Much of the trail passes through high alpine backcountry, and the eastern half of the trail runs through grizzly bear country.

Paddle Big Springs
Big Springs National Recreational Water Trail is a popular two- to four-hour float trip. Water flows gently between shores lined with trees and shrubs, past marshy islands. This is a good trip for sitting back and enjoying the scenery, lazily raising binoculars to your eyes for bird-watching and wildlife viewing. If you insist on being active, then drop a line overboard for rainbow trout.

Fish Henry's Fork
The Henry's fork of the Snake River is one of the most highly regarded trout streams in the nation. Idaho is the only inland state to have salmon and steelhead runs. Though silting, logging, cattle grazing, and the construction of dams has troubled this area in the past, Henry's Fork has shown an uncommon resilience. Henry's Fork is a great place to catch rainbow and cutthroat trout, as well as several species of salmon. How good? The river is labeled as a "blue ribbon fishery."

Ski Among Trumpeter Swans
Harriman State Park provides 20 miles of cross-country trails that range from easy to difficult. Glide through the sanctuary of the majestic wintering Trumpeter Swans. Trailheads are within the park.

Watch Dog Sled Races
Every February, the people of Ashton celebrate the arrival of the Dog Derby Sled Races. On the 22nd, over 90 teams of six to eight dogs race for two days on a 120-mile course. With entries from all over the nation competing in a variety of events, the Dog Derby is a popular event.

Visit Old Nicholia Mine
History buffs will find fascinating the Old Nicholia Mine in Smelter Canyon, northeast of State Highway 28. This attraction, along with the Birch Creek area charcoal kilns originally used to supply the mine, provide a glimpse into important local sources of income in 19th century Idaho.

Drive to Mesa Falls
Mesa Falls Scenic Byway will bring you to Upper and Lower Mesa Falls. Lower Mesa Falls is 65 feet high, while at Upper Mesa Falls water plummets 114 feet to the rocks below. This is one of the most beautiful sights in the area that you can get to by car. Mesa Falls Scenic Byway will also provide you with a view of the magnificent Teton Range, continuing along the Henry's Fork of the Snake River to Warm River Springs, and Robinson creek. Also check out an abandoned railroad tunnel visible above Bear Gulch.


Published: 22 Oct 2008 | Last Updated: 11 Oct 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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