In the furthest eastern reaches in the state of Idaho, just west across the mountains from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, sits an unpretentious valley just waiting for exploration. Nestled between in the shadows cast as the sun rises to the east of the Teton mountains, this gem-of-a-valley embraces three distinctive small towns: Driggs, Victor, and Tetonia.
For the second summer in a row, we’ve rented a cabin that could be no more quintessentially west. With views of the Wyoming/Idaho border just 50 yards away from the front porch, thundering hooves of neighboring horse ranches, and the majestic Tetons pitching upwards just beyond, it’s about as close to paradise as a person could want to be. Couple that with outstanding food, fishing, hiking and biking, and (if you’re like me) you’ll wonder why you look for anything more elsewhere!
Yup – I’m officially hooked on fly-fishing. I dabbled in slinging dry flies on whispy lines over the last decade, but it wasn’t until I brought myself to this place — with these pristine waters and abundant fish — that the years of practice all finally came together. The Teton River twists and turns its way through this pastural valley with plenty of access points for fishing (or rafting/tubing, if you’re into that kind of thing). An hour’s drive north takes you to the Henry’s Fork (another mecca for fly fishers), or to the magical Gros Ventre to the east — just outside of Jackson.
Y’all know I love to eat, right? Well, to my surprise this valley holds so many culinary treasures I couldn’t sort through them even within the full week that I was there! Badger Creek Cafe in Tetonia is high on my list — and not just because they’ve got a stellar eggs Benedict program (smoked trout, people!!). Their service is spot-on, food is fresh and local, and they have fabulous grab-and-go baked items ready to slip into your pocket on the way out the door for an adventure. Citizen 33 was a gem I found the previous year, but was sure to visit again. Their local brews give plenty of options for beer drinkers, but their dining menu will likely surprise you. Like Badger Creek, they’re conscientious about keeping ingredients local, fresh and interesting. I’m a sucker for a fried chicken sammy, and theirs held muster to the best I’ve had!
Looking for something schmancier? Forage Bistro offered one of the coziest dining experiences I can recall — topped off with a summer breeze and a bottle of wine (clearly I chose alfresco dining). Admittedly, their charcuterie was nearly enough for a meal, it didn’t stop me from enjoying their steak and avocado salad with plantains. I’m thankful for the recommendation made by our bartender at Citizen 33 to try them! Then, there’s Warbirds Cafe, inconspicuously located just off the runway at Victoria’s tiny airport, was my biggest surprise. With a stellar cocktail program, and locally-purveyed ingredients, perfectly-attentive waitstaff and a chef who clearly knows his way around a menu. Tatanka Tavern, while more casual, was a pleaser, too. I’m a sucker for creamy burrata, and they certainly did not disappoint. Coupled with ham-wrapped asparagus and a gooey wood-oven pizza, it made for a delicious rooftop stop on my last night in town.
My biggest surprise was a spot we found on a whim: Three Peaks Restaurant. They’re kitty-corner from our favorite rooftop spot (Tatanka Tavern) and were a perfect respite during a massive storm that blew in the night we chose to have dinner there. It’s unusual to find a restaurant that fires on all cylinders, but Three Peaks really brought their A-game. Our waitress was born in the valley (and had some fun stories from her past). She made spot-on suggestions for dinner, and was one of a few different ingredients that made the evening memorable. We stepped in right when they opened, so their live music didn’t begin until we were nearly through our entrees. How fun to watch multiple generations of a family join together to bring a little honky-tonk into the building — and their singer, a young man no more than 12 or 13, could seriously have been a reincarnation of Hank Williams. With just the right amount of country twang, he kept us through a second bottle of wine and dessert!
And, of course, I’d be remiss not to mention my hour-plus drive north to the Arctic Circle to get a sweet dose of home with their juicy burgers and special fry sauce.
Take in the Views
I’m a Washingtonian through and through, yet despite being nestled in the Cascade mountains most of my life I’m still finding places that bring me to my knees. Being able to wake up, step out the front door (or the deck off my bedroom) and take in the views of some of the most iconic peaks in the nation? Priceless! Bonus points for the morning I walked out the door on my way to breakfast to find a huge moose standing just off the lawn munching sage while illuminated by the morning’s first light. I later went on a ‘moose hunt’ to see if I could figure out how he’d gotten through the fencing around the property, and literally came nearly nose-to-nose with him and his beautiful bae. Yes, I’ll take in these views a little longer, thanks!
Where to Stay
This wasn’t my first time in the Teton Valley. In fact, just the year before we’d bumbled into it as we headed south then west out of Yellowstone towards Sun Valley. AirBnB has never let me down, and it was through their listings I found our Northern Nook just outside of Tetonia. They’re hosted by Teton Homestead, who I found to be incredibly responsive – both in assisting our reservation, and for any needs we had while staying in the area.
It’s always nice to come back home and settle in, but my heart may still be in Wydaho.