Star Valley's #1 Natural Attraction: The Intermittent SpringPublished: October 4, 2019
Enjoying all the natural beauty Star Valley has to offer is highlighted with a beautiful hike to the Intermittent Spring, Star Valley's top natural attraction. This rhythmic spring is one of only a few known in the world, and is considered to be the largest.
If that alone doesn't convince you to take the short journey there, the scenic beauty of the trail to The Spring likely will. Let's walk you through the where, how, and why of Star Valley's #1 natural attraction: The Intermittent Spring.
Where is The Intermittent Spring?
The Intermittent Spring is located in Swift Creek Canyon, which is part of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. The canyon is accessed through the heart of Afton, by taking 2nd Avenue to the east off of Highway 89. A short drive through town will take you gradually uphill as you enter Swift Creek Canyon and the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
As you continue into the canyon you'll drive along thick forest and the steep mountainsides of the canyon, as well as a nice, comfy Forest Service campground area to the right. Continuing along this road for about 4 miles total will take you to the trailhead to The Intermittent Spring.
The Intermittent Spring is a short ¾ mile hike along a well-groomed trail.
What You Will Experience Along the Way to The Spring
The four-mile stretch of road coming up to the trailhead winds back and forth and is a bit rugged. Be on the lookout for cars coming the other direction, especially in the middle of the day when traffic to and from the Spring tends to be heavier. The road to the trail is minimally maintained, so be mindful of potholes. This road also hugs Swift Creek all along the way to the trailhead. It is beautifully scenic, but make sure your car doesn't end up IN the cold creek by taking a turn too quickly. It's always best to go slow.
Once you're at the trailhead, there is a fairly large parking area to unload your friends, family, pets, and walking gear and get in a good stretch before the hike. There are restrooms here as well, but no running water (except for the creek of course!).
As you look around you'll be greeted with dense shrubs along the creek bank, as well as oak, fir and aspen trees. You may even be lucky enough to spot some wild raspberries along the trail. Because of the cool Star Valley summers, brightly colored wildflowers can be found along the trail well into the summer months.
The hike to the base of the Intermittent Spring is rarely described as difficult. It's a wide, well-groomed trail gradually sloping upward along the creek. The trail was updated in summer 2017 from local BSA troops. They added hundreds of yards of rock chips to the trail, wheel chair access along a steeper section of the trail, and several picnic areas with tables to let you better take in the beautiful sites and sounds of the canyon. Fishing is also permitted in the canyon (bring your permit!) with a couple of dams along the trail for easier navigation.
The Intermittent Spring
After a short distance, you'll approach an area where the trail splits. Following the trail along the footbridge which crosses Swift Creek will take you to the base of the Spring. The Spring flows about every 12 to 18 minutes from its source further up the cliff side. Plenty of people hike directly to the source, but it's steep and can be slick at times depending on the water level. The Spring cascades down a steep cliff amidst large rocks and boulders and is very enjoyable even without hiking to the top.
Depending on the time of year you visit, the intermittency of the Spring may not be as visible. To see The Spring in its prime, it's best to visit in the later summer or early fall, when more of the melted snow has worked its way down the creek. Regardless of when you go, the hike and views and still worth it.
There are picnic tables where you can enjoy a lunch in the shade, space to walk around for that perfect picture of the Spring, and plenty of small rocks and pebbles for the kids to toss into the water's flow--my toddlers one passion in life!
We hope your visit to Star Valley includes the easy hike to the Intermittent Spring. It's short, accessible, beautiful, and a great way to enjoy a little of what Star Valley has to offer.