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Mike Spencer Canyon

Days are becoming shorter and we are trading in our tennis shoes for snow boots as we make way for winter recreation opportunities on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. In response to seasonal changes, and to protect winter range, some roads and areas on the Targhee Forest will begin to close between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15.

“The forest has numerous seasonal wildlife closures areas,” said Kaye Orme, Forest Recreation Program Manager. “While each district is slightly different, the purposes are to protect winter range, wildlife and other natural resources.”

Lower elevations tend to be used heavily by wintering wildlife and protecting this habitat is essential to the survival of wildlife. “When people enter closed winter range, animals are forced to move to new locations,” said Nate Yorgason, Wildlife Program Manager. “Moving away from people requires animals, such as deer, elk and moose, to use energy they cannot spare, leading to a weakened condition, which can have a direct effect on the animals’ ability to fend off disease or predators.”

In addition to wildlife and resources, winter travel restrictions also prevent conflicts with competing recreation uses. Traveling over snow creates a couple of hazards prior to Nov. 27 as a mix of wheeled and track vehicles use the same roads and backcountry hunters are in areas that illegal snow machine use may scare off animals.

Please be responsible when using the great outdoors. Snowmobiling is not allowed in designated wildlife winter ranges or Wilderness Areas. Snowmobilers need to be careful to not damage vegetation by riding only where there is adequate snow cover. Hikers and other motorized users should be aware that some trails and areas are closing, even though they may still be passable due to the lack of snow.

Maps are available at any of the Forest Service offices of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. Winter recreationists are urged to obtain a current map before traveling in the Forest. You can also find maps and other useful information available for free online at https://go.usa.gov/x7yjg.

The Forest Service will continue to provide winter patrol presence on the Forest. “We encourage visitors to review the current maps and check the avalanche forecast to help them make better decisions when using the National Forest,” said Palisades District Ranger, Tracy Hollingshead. “Also, let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Be prepared for changing weather conditions. Most importantly, enjoy your time on the National Forest!”

Specific Ranger District Information


Winter closures in the Teton Basin Ranger District are shown in brown. The Horseshoe Canyon area, the slopes on the western side of the Tetons, and the slopes on the northwest side of the Big Holes will reopen on May 1. The designated winter travel routes through those closures are open.

Teton Basin (208-354-2312)- Beginning Nov. 27 the majority of south-facing slopes on the Teton Mountain Range will be restricted. The gate to Teton Canyon closed on Nov. 20. As a gentle reminder, dogs must be on a leash at all trailheads and they are not allowed on the Southern Valley trail system from Dec. 1 through April 1.

Palisades (208-523-1412) – Dec. 15 marks the start of winter travel restrictions. Rainey Creek, areas in the Fall Creek drainage, and National Forest slopes above the South Fork of the Snake River near Heise are examples of areas where no human presence is allowed to protect wintering wildlife. Other portions of the District are closed to all motorized use from December 15 – April 15.

Ashton-Island Park (208-652-7442) – Beginning Nov. 27, the Ashton-Island Park area will enter their winter travel restrictions. The closure on the Big Bend Ridge is currently in effect until Jan 1 to avoid disturbing migrating wildlife. The majority of south-facing slopes along the Teton Mountain Range area are also restricted. As long as snowpack continues, the Ashton/Island Park Ranger district anticipates grooming to start mid-December. Groomed cross country ski trails are closed to snowmobiles, dogs and snowshoers. Rental cabins are available for winter occupancy.

Dubois (208-374-5422) –Dubois Ranger District implements their seasonal closures when winter conditions merit. A news release will be issued before restrictions begin. 

The Caribou-Targhee National Forest wishes you a happy holiday season!