best of nordic
The Harriman Trail each winter attracts many of the best cross-country skiers in the nation to compete in the Boulder Mountain Tour race.
Photo by Willy Cook
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On a sparkling Sun Valley winter day, nothing quite beats gearing up for a cross-country ski, especially on a trail where I can bring the dog. Or, in the summer, as the sun sets over the mountains and work has kicked me in the pants, it's a luxury to know that instead of flopping down in front of the TV, I can drive 10 minutes north of Ketchum to one of the most accessible hiking, biking, and horse-friendly trails that ever boasted towering mountains, green meadows and a spectacular river to boot. So, even if the impetus to collapse on the sofa is overwhelming, there's really no excuse not to relax on a blanket beside said river, with a glass of wine and a delicious picnic.
The remarkable Harriman Trail offers this accessibility to Wood River valley residents and its visitors. Valley resident Kathy K.O. Ogilvie says of the trail, "The best thing about the Harriman Trail is that it is so close and yet it feels as though you are so far away from civilization. You feel as if you are miles and miles from anywhere, when in reality you are a stone's throw from home but still surrounded by wilderness."
As for the trail being voted as the best Nordic trail in the valley, Utah resident and avid skate skier Kate McPherson concurs.
"The length and terrain of the Harriman Trail make it one of the finest trails I have ever skied, and combined with the grooming quality—even late in the year—it yields consistently joyful days for skaters and classic skiers alike. I also love skiing the lower portions near the Sawtooth National Recreation Area headquarters because it's so lovely to see people out with their dogs."
Initiated by the Mary W. Harriman Foundation in 1991, the Harriman Trail meanders 18 miles from the SNRA headquarters to Galena Lodge. The graveled and wheelchair-accessible trail parallels state Highway 75, yet deviates from it just enough to feel isolated. It meanders through willows, aspens and meadows, below the Boulder Mountains to the east and north, and the Big Wood River to the west. It provides welcome rest spots by the river or under the shade of a cottonwood, as well as information (on environmentally appropriate notices) about each leg of the trail.
The Harriman Trail is also the site of the famous Boulder Mountain Tour—a Nordic skier's dream course, where one races against the backdrop of such unspeakable beauty that it is no wonder that author Ernest Hemingway said that our valley and its river "cleansed the mind of all its worldly burdens." As one skis beside the Big Wood on this attractive trail, Hemingway's words are rendered delightfully tangible.
To access the trail, drive eight miles north of Ketchum and park at the SNRA headquarters. Cross over Highway 75 and head north. Alternatively, one can park at Galena Lodge and cruise south. The Harriman Trail also provides manageable parking spots where one can pick up the trial at numerous points in between.