Idaho: The Quieter Side of the Tetons
Teton Valley: Victor, Idaho. The western slope of the Tetons — including the little towns of Victor and Driggs — is known as the quieter side of the Tetons. Old-timey saloons, t-shirt shops and candy stores you will NOT find on the Idaho side of the Tetons. Jackson, a mere 35 mile drive from the little town of Victor, takes the brunt of the commodification of the “Old West.”
What you can experience in the Teton Valley is a plethora of outdoor activities: from fly fishing to mountain biking to hiking, ballooning and elk bugling — and don’t forget snowmobiling and lots of winter sports. There are no crowds, even in high season. And yet, there are a surprising number of good restaurants for such a small population, dare I say, more per capita than Boise.
Adjacent to the Teton Valley are two of the most beautiful national parks, Grand Teton National Park as well as Yellowstone National Park. While it’s not possible to see everything, Victor is a great jumping off point to visit the parks. Still, you don’t need to drive anywhere to experience awesome views that make you sound like a broken record: “Look at that! So beautiful!”
1) Get It At The Source
On the southern end of Victor is the low-key and delightful Grand Teton Brewing Company. Get a tour of the brewery (9am to 5pm weekdays, free) and afterwards, take a tour of the tasting room (open until 8pm on Fridays). Free tastes and delicious, reasonably-priced (read: cheap) beer on tap. You can order as small as a half pint. For your kids, there are kettle-brewed sodas and even a root-beer float. Grab some on-the-house popcorn and sit outside on the porch in mis-matched plastic and folding chairs to watch the sky turn from blue to orange to pink. Your kids can play horseshoes on the field in front of you while you watch the mountains.
2) Scratch It Out
Continue your in-house prepared theme with dinner at Scratch, as in “everything made from.” This is a tiny restaurant in a little red house as you enter Victor from the west. The outdoor patio doubles the seating in nice weather. Hand-cut fries, elk burgers and even falaffel hits the spot: fresh, clean, non-fussy food in a no-frills environment. No frills, a Victor theme?
If for no other reason than to say that you’ve been there, check out the Spud Drive-In. Yes, there is the largest potato that you’ve ever seen on the highway side of the screen. A little more than half-way to Driggs, Idaho, the Spud Drive-In plays first run(ish), family-friendly movies and is even open for dinner with the kids (no admission necessary) starting at 6pm. (Can’t vouch for the food.)
4) Give It To Me Straight
An uncomplicated breakfast at the Headwaters Grille in the Teton Springs Lodge & Spa starts your day off right: pancakes, bacon, oatmeal, eggs, waffles (no frills?) — this is a straightforward, reasonably priced breakfast in comfortable chairs and with great service. Nice restrooms.
5) Who’s Been Hiking on My Trail?
For a stunning, (especially as the leaves are turning), moderate hike, try the Jedediah Smith Wilderness Area starting at the Coal Creek input near Wilson, Wyoming (on the road to Jackson from Victor, just over the state line and past the weigh station on the left [north] side of the road there is a parking lot). You might not make it all the way up with little kids, but it is still worth the effort. There is one part where you have to walk across a pair of logs that cross six feet over a creek, but children five and over should be able to do it themselves.
6) We Ate Lunch in a Fever
Famished after our hike, we drove to Jackson, since we were more than half way there. The pass between Victor and Jackson is highly dramatic, especially as you peak. Them some real big mountains! We checked out the reviews on Yelp.com and found our way to Sweetwater Restaurant in the middle of town. Great menu! Had the Turkey 6 and the super-delicious trout salad — a daily special. (I always forget to take the photo before I eat it. This time, I remembered after one bite.) Walked around town afterward: lots of touristy places. Itching to get back to quiet Victor…
7) Right there… oooh, right there!
Since Teton Springs Lodge and Spa has the only spa — Stillwaters Spa & Salon — on that side of the Tetons, they are able to attract and hold onto serious talent. Get a Swedish/Deep Tissue massage from either Jennifer or Debbie — both were great. You can go for a jacuzzi or steam before and/or after the massage. There is also a full-service salon for hair, nails and skin.
8) Teton Thai?
I was skeptical as well: a Thai place in a remote mountain town, Driggs, 8 miles from Victor? Teton Thai delivered — try the Yum Woon Sen Salad or the Tom Yum Gai soup. The four senses of Thai food, hot, sour, sweet and salty were all there in balance. Not only that, it’s one of the more beautiful (if noisy) Thai restaurants I’ve been to.
9) Get Your Body Moving
Adjacent to the Headwaters Grille at Teton Springs is the Fitness Center with the cleanest weight and cardio machines I have ever seen. Before I knew what was happening, Lisa Batchen, the world class endurance athlete and ultra marathon runner (!) talked me into taking her core and cardio class. It sounded hard. It was! The only non-local in the class of ten, I had more fun than I expected. Lisa swears that she has never taught the same class twice – too boring. Lisa is the antithesis of boring. Take her class!
10) Nine is Better Than None
No time for eighteen holes on the stunning, Byron Nelson-designed Headwaters Golf Course? Try the 9-hole Nelson Short Course. Rolling fairways, same dramatic mountain backdrops and half the duration so that you can roll out of Victor in a timely manner. Got the time? Do 18.
Note: We received complimentary lodging and massages at Teton Springs Lodge & Spa.