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10 Things to Do Before You Die

A Bucket List for the Mountain West

Amelia Nielson-Stowell | Photos by Kevin Kiernan Nov 16, 2018

The outdoor playgrounds of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming are home to some of America’s most beautiful and remarkable activities that need a spot on every local’s bucket list.

“When you live in a place, you get stuck doing the same old things. Making a list is a great way to discover and appreciate the place you live,” says Jeremy Pugh, author of the book “100 Things to Do in Salt Lake City Before You Die.” “We need to be curious about where we live.”

Creating and accomplishing a bucket list gives people a more fulfilling life, helps keeps them grounded and feel more optimistic amid the drudgery of day-to-day obligations, say some psychologists.

Diane Norton, tourism manager for Idaho Tourism, agrees. Idaho Travel Council visitor surveys show people are surprised at the plethora of outdoor adventures in Idaho, from leisurely paced activities to extreme sports.

“That’s why Idaho is such a perfect place for whatever’s on your bucket list,” Norton says.

Here are 10 bucket list adventures in Utah, Idaho and Wyoming.

bull moose lying down in the wildflowers
Hidden Peak hike
purple wildflowers in the sunlight
Hidden Peak hike
Purple and yellow wildflower
Hidden Peak hike
view of roof dome and bed inside of a yurt
Yurt camping

Utah

Hike to Hidden Peak 
Summiting any of Utah’s incredible mountains is a huge feat, but the Hidden Peak hike from Snowbird resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon offers a sweet reward at the end: During summers, hikers get free rides back down on Snowbird’s aerial tram or Peruvian ski lift. Both the Peruvian Gulch and Gad Valley trails are 4 miles to the top, lined with wildflowers and home to moose and deer. Cost: Free

Camp in a Winter Yurt
Yurts give campers the excitement of an escapade in the great outdoors without the inconvenience of hauling in their own gear to sleep on the ground. Utah’s yurts are in gorgeous locations, many of which require skis or snowmobiles to reach in winter. Check out yurts in Vernal (Grizzly Ridge Yurt — 3 miles by skis in Ashley National Forest), Goblin Valley (Goblin Valley Yurts — two yurts stocked with amenities, like indoor heat and outdoor deck) and Beaver (Snorkeling Elk Yurt — one of the oldest yurts in the state, a guide is required on first visit). Cost: Grizzly Ridge: $50/night; Goblin Valley: $100/night; Snorkeling Elk: $140/night, plus $85 guide fee.

Soak in Fifth Water Hot Springs
At the end of the 2.2-mile Diamond Fork Canyon riverside hike near Spanish Fork is Fifth Water Hot Springs. The natural springs feature multiple pools of varying temperatures, some milky blue and others translucent green, and a 20-foot waterfall. Cost: Free

Drive the Shafer Trail in Canyonlands
For the safest adrenaline rush you can have, rent a jeep or drive your own high-clearance vehicle into Canyonlands National Park, stopping first at the Island in the Sky Visitors Center for a map. Then head to Shafer Trail, a narrow two-lane dirt road traveling deep into the canyon. Along the way, find the butte where Thelma and Louise drove off the cliff’s edge in the 1991 movie of the same name. The road follows sheer cliff walls with breathtaking scenery and hairpin curves, through riverbeds and washes. It’s safe and exhilarating — as long as you don’t have a fear of heights. Tourists will gaze down at you from viewpoints along the rim of Dead Horse Point State Park. The trail ends at Potash Road where you can drive alongside the Colorado River to Moab. Stop and hike to the beautiful Corona Arch. Back on the road, enjoy watching rappelers on the “Wall Street” rock climbing area. Cost: Price varies seasonally

Spend the Night in Torrey
The small Southern Utah town of Torrey is surrounded by rose-colored cliffs. It was Utah’s first International Dark Sky Community designation, meaning the city restricts light pollution, and the starry night sky views from Torrey are unreal. Just 8 miles away is Capitol Reef National Park, with desert terrain so rugged that it served as Butch Cassidy’s hideout. Cost: Hotel and camping reservations vary; Capitol Reef admission is $15 a vehicle

bridge stretching between trees in a forest
Route of the Hiawatha
elevated bridge curving through the trees
Route of the Hiawatha
person riding a bicycle through a tunnel
Route of the Hiawatha
multiple waterfalls next to a body of water
Fall Creek Falls
jeeps driving on a dirt road
Shafer Trail in Canyonlands National Park
night time view of stars over a mountain ridge
Milky Way near Torrey, Utah

Idaho

Bike the Route of the Hiawatha
The 15-mile Route of the Hiawatha summer bike trail on former railroad lines crosses through 10 tunnels and seven trestles, including the 1.7-mile long Taft Tunnel, which begins in Montana and ends in Idaho. The route is downhill, family friendly, ends with a shuttle bus ride back to the top and offers stunning views of the Bitterroot Mountains. Cost: $11 adult trail pass, $9 shuttle ticket; bike rentals vary; open May to September

Take a Sun Valley Sleigh Ride
A romantic sleigh ride in Sun Valley is a postcard-perfect adventure in Idaho’s winter wonderland. The horse-drawn carriage — operated by Sun Valley, America’s first ski resort — ends with dinner at the Trail Creek Cabin, a rustic 1937 log cabin where author Ernest Hemingway used to dine. Cost: $30 for sleigh ride only, $129-$179 for adult sleigh ride and dinner; open mid-December to March

Spelunk Caves at Craters of the Moon
The ancient black lava rock at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve fills 618 square miles in Central Idaho. The impressive lava tubes and caves were created 2,000 years ago when lava oozed from the earth’s core. The 1.6-mile Caves Trail has four caves to spelunk, including the 800-foot long Indian Tunnel. 
Cost: $20 per car

Watch the Sunrise on Fall Creek Falls
The multitiered waterfall of Fall Creek Falls in Swan Valley off the South Fork of the Snake River is a photographer’s dream. Sunrise during fall — when early morning light hits the waterfall and surrounding colorful trees — offers the best view. To reach the falls, travel east on Highway 26 from Idaho Falls toward Jackson Hole and take the turnoff labeled “Fall Creek Road.” Follow the paved road along the Snake River until it turns to dirt for about 1.4 miles, then look for the Fall Creek Falls sign on the left. If you can’t find a sign, pull into a small turnout and follow a short trail to the top of the falls. On your way home, stop in the town of Swan Valley for a square scoop of ice cream at the Rainey Creek Gas Station, offering flavors like huckleberry cheesecake. Cost to view falls: Free

Iditarod near Jackson, Wyoming. Stock photo provided by Adobe Stock.

Wyoming

Mush an Iditarod Dog Sled
For an incredible arctic adventure, try mushing a dog sled in the Bridger-Teton National Forest with Jackson Hole Iditarod Dog Sled Tours. Skilled mushers orient first-timers who want to try controlling the canine-pulled sled, or guests can sit under blankets and enjoy the ride. Full-day trips include lunch, supplemental clothing, transportation and a swim at Granite Hot Springs. Cost: $290 per person half day, $370 per person full day; open Nov. 15 to April 15

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