Star Valley Scenic Byway
The Star Valley Scenic Byway of Wyoming is an 80 mile scenic stretch of U. S. Highway 89 in northwest Wyoming. The southern end of the Star Valley Scenic Byway is located at the Idaho State line at mile post
55 near Geneva Junction, Idaho. The Star Valley Scenic Byway then heads slightly east, then north again while climbing in elevation to the 7,610 foot summit of Salt River Pass.
From Salt River Pass, the Star Valley Scenic Byway then drops into the scenic Star Valley as it continues through a series of small towns, such as Smoot, Afton, Grover, Thayne, Etna and Alpine Wyoming.
At Alpine Wyoming, the Star Valley Scenic Byway then continues eastward as U. S. Highway 26 and U.S. Highway 89 heads into the fabled Snake River Canyon and eventually reaching its most northern point at the Teton County-Lincoln County Line about 9 miles south of Hoback Junction.
Star Valley Scenic Byway Google Map Location
A view from the Star Valley Scenic Byway in Western Wyoming.
Located between the Salt River Range of Western Wyoming and Webster Range of Eastern Idaho, Star Valley Scenic Byway works its way through the wonderfully scenic and historic Star Valley. Travelers of the
Star Valley Scenic Byway will be rewarded with excellent views of both mountain ranges, as well as the amazing scenery along the Salt River as the road heads northward through this incredible valley.
Star Valley is a broad, scenic valley with ranches, hay fields, cattle and small towns. The Salt River Mountain Range rises to the east, and the Webster Range of eastern Idaho looms to the west. Each town located along the Star Valley Scenic Byway has its own "personality" in this amazing valley.
The Star Valley Scenic Byway not only takes its visitors through amazing scenery, but as this scenic byway works its way northward along the Salt River, visitors have the opportunity to stop and explore some or all of these small western towns, which is a fun adventure in and of itself.
At what is known as "Alpine Junction" near Afton, Wyoming, three major river meet at Palisades Reservoir. These three rivers are the Salt River, the Greys River and the Snake River. Leaving Palisades Reservoir, the "new" larger river is still called the Snake River as this famous river works its way to the mighty Columbia River to the west.
Major Route to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park
The Star Valley Scenic Byway is an extremely popular route for visitors heading from the Salt Lake City Area, Utah, northward to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park and back again.
The Star Valley of the Star Valley Scenic Byway was originally inhabited by mainly Shoshone Indians during the summer and fall for many hundreds of years, up until the early 1800s. The Shoshone was drawn to this vast valley for its plentiful game and the pure salt deposits found the present day town of Auburn.
There are also pure salt deposits just south of present day Afton as well. Then as early as 1812, white explorers traveled through Star Valley as they were seeking new routes to Oregon and California. Shortly after the white explorers came through the area, Canadian and American trappers began to trap in the valley, up until the late 1840s.
Historic Lander Cut-Off of the Oregon Trail
The 1850s and 1860s was the era of many, many emigrant pioneers passing through the upper Star Valley Area via a historic wagon train trail known as "The Lander Road", or also known as "The Lander Cut Off". This trail was part of the historic Oregon Trail, where hundreds of thousands of emigrant pioneers crossed the Rocky Mountains on their way westward to Oregon and California. The Lander Cut Off Trail worked its way over the Salt River Pass, and then northward down into Star Valley. The wagon trail then headed west toward Oregon and California near the present day town of Afton Wyoming.
About the name "Star Valley"
There are two theories presented by Wyoming historians as to where the name "Star Valley" came from. One of the theories is that because Star Valley was settled in the late 1870s by Mormon pioneers, that this valley was proclaimed the "Star of All Valleys" by the The Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Church). The name was later shortened to "Star Valley".
The other theory held by Wyoming historians is that Star Valley was named after a series of horrifically bitter winters in the late 1880s. For example, over 40 inches of snow fell on the valley floor in just two days in March of 1889. The locals named the valley "Starvation Valley" as a result of these terrible winters, and the name later was shortened to "Star Valley".
View along the Star Valley Scenic Byway, Wyoming.
Salt River Pass
The Salt River Pass is located along the Star Valley Scenic Byway in the Bridger National Forest, at the southern-most end of Star Valley. The Salt River Pass is 7,630 feet above sea level, and provides visitors with a wonderful panoramic view of
the fabled Star Valley. At the pass there is a large parking area so you can enjoy one of the most scenic points along the Star Valley Scenic Byway between Salt Lake City Utah and Jackson Wyoming. We highly recommend that you stop at this very scenic pass and enjoy the view!
Located 4 miles east of Afton Wyoming in the Salt River Mountain Range is Periodic Spring. This unique spring is one of only three springs in the world that naturally turn on and off! There is an interpretive sign on Salt River Pass that discusses this rare geologic wonder.
Lander Cut-Off of the Oregon Trail
Also located on the pass is several informative interpretive displays that explains the fascinating history of the Salt River Pass and area, as well as a marker that memorializes the historic Lander Cut Off of the Oregon Trail that tens of thousands of emigrant pioneers used to get to the west coast on covered wagons. The Salt River Pass is one of the highlights along the Star Valley Scenic Road, and is well worth the time discovering this historic and scenic spot.
View of the Salt River Mountain Range from Salt River Pass along the Star Valley Scenic Byway.
Interpretive Signs on Salt River Pass along the Star Valley Scenic Byway of Wyoming.
Afton Wyoming: World's Largest Elk Antler Arch
Afton Wyoming, with a population of about 1,900 people, is the largest town along the Star Valley Scenic Byway and is a wonderful town to spend some time in and explore. Afton's claim to fame is it is home to the world's largest elk antler arch. This famous arch rises over the main street of Afton, which is also on the Star Valley Scenic Byway, so every visitor along this byway will drive directly under this amazing arch. This means that "you can't miss it"...literally! The Afton Elk Antler Arch is 75 feet across, is made up of over 3,000 elk antlers, and weighs about 15 tons!
The world's largest elk antler arch is located in downtown Afton, Wyoming.
Star Valley Pioneer and History Museum
Located in Afton Wyoming is the Star Valley Pioneer and History Museum Complex which we highly recommend that you spend some time in if you are interested by fascinating pioneer history.
Also located at this museum complex is the Lander Trail Foundation Historical Center, which highlights the history of the Lander Cut-Off of the Oregon Trail.
This top-notch museum complex is the result of a joint venture between the Star Valley Historical Society and the Lincoln Camp of The Daughters of Utah Pioneers. The museum is open all summer long, and is well worth your time exploring.
Afton Wyoming is also home to another wonderful museum called the CallAir Museum. The CallAir Museum features the history of the CallAir aircraft. In 1937, Reuel Call flew over the mountains of Wyoming. This might not seem very significant, that is until you learn about the history behind it. With absolutely no aviation background, a group of civil engineers and businessemen tinkered until they made a plane that flew. The CallAir aircraft became legendary, and the CallAir Museum takes you back to the time of its glory days. Also featured are the CallAir snow cars, which were forerunners of the snowmobile. The CallAir Museum offers free admission, and sponsors the annual CallAir Fly In/Star Valley Aviation Days on the last Saturday of June.
Thayne Wyoming: Charming Star Valley Town
Thayne Wyoming is a charming little town located along the Star Valley Scenic Byway, and is a great place to stop and check out.
There are only about 350+ residents living in Thayne, but this town has a charm to it that we always enjoy. There's a fun main street with restaurants, shopping and lodging.
There are also usually some great fruit and vegetable stands along the highway. You'll enjoy your time in this wonderful little Star Valley town.
Downtown Thayne Wyoming, along the Star Valley Scenic Byway.
Etna Wyoming: Historic Baker Cabin
Located in Etna, Wyoming, along the Star Valley Scenic Byway, rests the oldest surviving house in Star Valley. Built in 1889 by Anna Eliza Baker and her twelve year old daughter May, the Baker family, which
included the parents Alonzo and Anna Eliza, and their 12 children were the very first permanent residents along the east side of the Salt River in the lower section of Star Valley.
Anna Eliza Baker, age 32, was left along with six children, one being a baby, when her husband Alonzo and the oldest son Lonny headed for Montana for work in the spring of 1889. The family was living in an overturned wagon box and a tent. (They lived through several winters in these conditions!)
Well, Anna Eliza had enough of these primitive living conditions and decided to build herself a cabin. She learned how to build a cabin from her contractor father years earlier. And with not only the proper skills, but incredible determination, she and her 12 year old daughter May, built an extremely well constructed cabin that still stands today! The history of this family, and of this cabin is very interesting, and you can learn all about it by visiting this historic cabin at Etna Wyoming.
Old West Town in Etna, Wyoming along the Star Valley Scenic Byway.
Alpine Wyoming is located where the Snake River and Salt River enters Palisades Reservoir. Alpine is often referred to as "Alpine Junction" by the locals.
Alpine is also located where U.S. Highway 89 and U.S. Highway 26 diverge into opposite directions, where Highway 26 heads west along Palisades Reservoir and eventually to Swan Valley Idaho, and Highway 89 heads easterly, then northward through the Snake River Canyon and eventually Jackson, Wyoming.
Alpine Wyoming is a inhabited by about 820 people, and is a wonderful little western town that is fun to explore.
Alpine, Wyoming along the Star Valley Scenic Byway.
Palisades Reservoir is located just west of Alpine, and is the result of three major rivers flowing into the lake. These rivers include the Salt River from the south, Snake River from the north, and Greys River. All
three rivers flow into Palisades Reservoir, and the resulting river leaving Palisades Reservoir that heads west towards the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean is the Snake River.
Located inside the border of Idaho, Palisades Reservoir is surrounded by mountains, and is well-known for its boating, fishing and camping opportunities.
There are several boat ramps and campgrounds found along the shores of the 16,000 acre reservoir, and is a popular outdoor recreational area.
Star Valley Scenic Byway following the Salt River.
Beyond the Star Valley Scenic Byway: Snake River Canyon and Jackson Wyoming
The Star Valley Scenic Byway leaves Alpine, Wyoming and continues on U.S. Highway 89 as it follows the Snake River into the legendary Snake River Canyon. The byway officially ends at the county line between Lincoln County and Teton County, but just beyond the county line is some of the most famous white water rafting in the country. The road continues through the Snake River Canyon and enters Jackson Wyoming further to the north. CLICK HERE for more details.