We enjoy cross country skiing and we recently loaded our skis into the car and headed for the snow. So far this winter we have had extremely little snow in the Upper Snake River Valley so we drove up Highway 20 toward Island Park's Harriman State Park.
Harriman State Park is a gem that is usually overshadowed by it's much more famous sisters - Yellowstone and Teton National Parks. But Harriman State Park is a great destination for hikers and mountain bikers in the summer and for snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and skate skiing in the winter. Park personnel do their best to keep trails groomed and well marked, and it's a great place to go.
For your information, there is a fee to access the trails at Harriman, but it's not bad. It cost the two of us a total of $13 to park and ski for the day.
Here is a map of winter trails of Harriman State Park. You can pick up one of these pamphlets when you go to the Visitor's Center (which is also where you pay).
We decided to do the Silver Lake Loop. This trail includes the Silver Lake West Trail, the southern part of the Thurmon Creek Loop, and the west part of the Ranch Loop trail. That makes a total of about 5 miles, maybe a little more, but that's a good length for an outing.
We had an absolutely beautiful day. It was sunny, relatively calm, and temps were in the upper 20s - low 30s. You just couldn't ask for a nicer day! We went on 12/29 - our anniversary :-) and since this was between Christmas and New Years there were very few people there. I think we saw about a dozen other people the whole time we were there.
The scenery is beautiful. This shot is of Silver Lake looking from the trail to the NE.
The trail we took winds through the woods along the edge of the lake. Though it is rated as intermediate to advanced, it isn't that hard. There is not much up and down, and the trail is well marked. There are also lots of picturesque spots along the way.
One extremely cool thing about Harriman State Park is that there is a resident population of Trumpeter Swans. They are big birds! We heard them honking and they were out on the ice as well feeding in open water at the inflow where Thurmon Creek enters Silver Lake.
Here's a shot from the Thurmon Creek Bridge of Swan footprints in slush.
Here is Kat crossing the Thurmon Creek Bridge.
Kat and I saw three swans landing. Two of them landed gracefully in a patch of open water, but the third overshot and came down on ice and slush. That bird was running for all it was worth, whoa, whoa, Whoa, Whoa, WHOA, WHOA!!!! and it stopped just before it piled into another patch of open water. It was hilarious!
What a fantastic day, place, and outing. It's a great place for skiers of all abilities.
(Originally posted 1-2-2012)