- The Forest lies almost entirely within "the Greater Yellowstone Area" or "the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem," an area of 12 million acres and the largest remaining block of relatively undisturbed plant and animal habitat in the contiguous United States. The Forest lies along the Continental Divide.
The Forest includes all or portions of several distinct mountain ranges, including the Lemhi, Beaverhead, Bitterroot, Centennial, Henry's Lake, Teton, Big Hole, Caribou, and Snake River Ranges. Elevations range from near 5,000 feet on the Snake River to over 12,000 feet on the Forest's western and easternmost reaches. The Forest contains the Island Park Caldera and several reservoirs. Topography ranges from rolling foothills to rugged, glaciated mountain peaks. Although most of the land is dry and semi-arid, 190 stream headwaters are situated on the Forest.
In the Lemhi Mountains and the Medicine Lodge/Beaverhead Mountains area, there is a National Scenic Trail and the Italian Peaks Wilderness. In the Birch Creek Valley are four preserved brick adobe charcoal kilns. In the northeast corner of the Forest is Henry's Lake, a world renowned fishery.
Among the many scenic attractions in the Island Lake area are Upper and Lower Mesa Falls, the last major undisturbed falls on the Columbia River system. The Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, established in 1989, provides motorists with a breathtaking view of the Teton Mountain Range and accesses the two falls. The Island Park area offers excellent trout fishing at Island Park Reservoir and along the Henry's Fork, Buffalo River, Warm River, Fall River and Bitch Creek. The Island Park area is also known for its snowmachine trails and cross-country ski trails and summer home concentrations. Harriman State Park lies in the heart of the Harriman Wildlife Refuge, with 16,000 acres of forest, meadows, lakes and streams.
In the Madison Plateau area, west of Yellowstone National Park, lie the Jedediah Smith and Winegar Hole Wildernesses. Grassy Lake, a 320 acre reservoir, as well as other lakes and streams in the area are popular fishing areas and are accessed by the Flagg Ranch road. East of Driggs, the Targhee encompasses the west slope of the Teton Mountains. The Teton Range is a spectacular line of high peaks rising abruptly along the west side of Jackson Hole. The Jedediah Smith Wilderness traverses the upper portions of the west slopes of the Teton Mountains. The Grand Targhee Ski Resort is also a major tourist attraction in the area.
Between Swan Valley and Victor, Highway 31 is a State Scenic Byway over Pine Creek Pass. This area has a variety of recreational opportunities including Kelly Canyon Ski Resort and backcountry hiking. Palisades Reservoir and the South Fork of the Snake River are used
by water sports enthusiasts.
Recreation - The Forest campgrounds vary in esthetic quality and type of facilities. Some dispersed camping areas offer quiet seclusion and are sparsely occupied but have limited or no facilities. Trails are open to backpackers and horse travel. Mountain bikes are allowed on trails except in the Wilderness Areas. For hunting, game species are moose, elk, antelope, mule deer, mountain goat, black bear, white tail deer, bighorn sheep, small animals, and game birds. Floatboating is done on the Henrys (North) and South Forks of the Snake River and on Falls River. The Targhee offers good canoeing waters through peaceful scenic wooded areas.
Two ski resorts serve the public with excellent skiing terrain and snow conditions: Kelly Canyon and Grand Targhee. There are cross-country and snowmobile trails on several districts. Some of the trails are groomed.
Climate - The area has cold, moist winters and hot dry summers. Average annual
precipitation, most of which falls as snow, increases with elevation. As little as ten inches of precipitation falls in lower valleys and as much as forty inches occurs at the highest elevations. Wide temperature extremes exist, with summer temperatures at lower elevations exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit and winter temperatures at higher elevations falling to less than 40 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.
The Targhee Forest Headquarters is located in St. Anthony, Idaho with District offices in Dubois, Island Park, Ashton, Idaho Falls, and Driggs. The majority of the Forest lies in eastern Idaho and the remainder in western Wyoming. It is situated adjacent to the west sides of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.