8,000 MILES OF DIRT: A Backroad Travel Guide to WyomingContinuing my Rockies trip after I had spent the night in Idaho on FR 111, I continued north on Highway 89. It’s a very pretty and pastoral drive. As you enter Wyoming you enter the Star Valley which is wider and greener than it was in Idaho (which was mostly sagebrush) and the mountains on both sides get bigger. As you know I really like to study Guide Books of areas I’m traveling to because learning about the state from somebody who has spent a lot of time there is far better than wandering around blindly hoping you can find the best places. The book I’ve been using for Wyoming is “8000 Miles of Dirt: A Backroad Travel Guide to Wyoming.” Like every other guide book I have it fails totally because it doesn’t rate the trips. A boring road is given exactly the same time and attention as a great drive and refuses to tell you which is better than the other. Granted, they’re all full of facts and information, but they leave out the one thing I need to know most “Should I use my limited time in Wyoming on this drive?” But at least I know something about them. You can get it from Amazon here:
One of the trips it talks about is the Smiths Fork/Greys River Back-Road which is a dirt road that’s kept in very good condition. It sounded good and was right along my way so I looked it up in my “Benchmark Road and Recreation Map”. It looked great because the road follows a river in a valley between two 10,000 foot mountain ranges that should be very pretty so I decided to go that way. It turns East off Highway 89 about 6 miles south of the little town of Smoots, WY. There is a very pretty overlook at about 7 miles south of Smoots and I pulled over to take some pictures and I noticed a dirt road cutting off 89 below me. As soon as I saw it I was certain that was the road I wanted so as I pulled out of the overlook and drove north I kept my eye on it. Sure enough, it was clearly marked as the Smith Fork Road. Get the Benchmark Wyoming Atlas from Amazon here: Benchmark Wyoming Road & Recreation Atlas
I knew instantly that this was a good idea because it was a very pretty drive. The forest foliage was very lush and green because of the recent spring snow-melt and there were many wildflowers in bloom. In the distance were many mountain peaks and I knew that when I turned north on the Greys River Road I would be following a valley right into the heart of those mountains.
The road meanders around up and down hills and follows some very pretty creeks and rivers; it was gorgeous. However, I ran into a problem when the road kept climbing higher into the forest: snow! First I came to some snow berms that other people had busted through so I kept going. That was worrisome but even worse was the mud which started to get deeper as there was more snow melting on the side of the road. Finally I came to a snow berm that wasn’t a berm, it was an endless field of snow. Someone had tried to bust through it and failed; I could see where they had got stuck and fought their way out of the snow. I had no choice but turn around and go back to 89 and follow it up to Jackson.
It was such a pretty drive I enjoyed it as much coming out as I had going in. As I drove north on 89 I came to a Bridger Teton NF Ranger Station in the little town of Afton, so I stopped in to get a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) and ask when the road would be clear. The Ranger said that snow was some of the latest to melt in the state and it might not melt before July. I thanked her and made a note to myself to be sure and make that drive sometime this summer; I’m really looking forward to it! As I’m writing this, the road opened up and I’ve already driven it and loved it! I’ll do a post on it soon.
The drive north through the Star Valley is designated as a Wyoming Scenic Byway, and while it’s very pretty, it’s not anything special. Like most rural areas, there were tiny little towns every 5-10 miles and every one of them had a 25 MPH speed limit. I’m very careful to follow those speed limits so after awhile it gets old constantly speeding up and slowing down every ten minutes.
Once you hit the little town of Alpine, WY everything changes because from there north you are following the Snake River which is just gorgeous! It’s surrounded by tall mountains and there are numerous overlooks that let you see the river. Most of it is wide and easy-going but at times it has wild rapids which you know are leaving the many rafters you see on the river soaking wet! It gets so wild at times it’s officially called the “Grand Canyon of the Snake River.” If you are a rafter or kayaker, there are numerous pull-ins along the drive where you can put your boat into the river.
Very shortly you reach Jackson, WY which has dozens of River Rafting companies that will either take you on a float trip down the river or rent you the boat to take yourself. They also offer shuttles to drop you off at the beginning of the river and pick you up at prearranged spots at the end.
I don’t like to stop on major roads for lunch because Cody needs to get out of the van to run around freely and burn up some energy. Near a main road he couldn’t so that. Se we headed up Fall Creek RD and found a nice spot with shade to stop and eat lunch. I ate while Cody ran around and hunted for lunch! After lunch we got back on 89 and drive the rest of the way to Jackson, did our shopping and headed up to the Grand Tetons where we camped.
I’ll end this post here and pick up next time at Jackson, WY.
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