After one look, the valley’s earliest visitors began referring to Star Valley as “America’s Little Switzerland”.
The title certainly fits. With a beautiful high-alpine setting and the rural backdrop of a mountain valley, northwestern Wyoming’s Star Valley really does feel like a picture postcard from some long-past excursion to Switzerland.
The valley stretches roughly 40 miles from north to south and is quietly overlooked by the Salt River Range to the east and the Caribou National Forest along its western edge. The valley floor is still dotted with dairy farms, working ranches and uninterrupted large land parcels, with hues running from verdant green in late Spring to a subdued gold in Summer and early Fall. Star Valley’s roots are firmly planted in an agricultural history, and any tour through the valley reveals dairy cattle and horses quietly gazing, with farm operations continuing through the growing season.
Scattered through Star Valley are a number of small towns with unusual names like Smoot, Grover and Etna. Alpine anchors the northern end of the valley at the intersection of the Snake and Greys River, while near the southern end of the valley sits Afton, with its famed intermittent springs and elk horn arch. And, all along, from north to south are scattered other towns like Thayne, Osmond, Freedom and the areas newest town Star Valley Ranch.
A Great Real Estate Investment
Small town charm, wide open alpine beauty and the abundant outdoor recreational opportunities of Star Valley, combined with proximity to larger communities like Salt Lake City, Utah and Idaho Falls, Idaho, have certainly fostered the dynamic growth of the Star Valley real estate market over the past decade and should continue to make it a valuable commodity.
The Major Communities Of Star Valley
First settled in the late 1800’s and later incorporated in 1902, it’s said that Afton gets its name from the poem Sweet Afton, penned by famed Scottish poet Robert Burns. Another account concludes that the rumbling of nearby Swift Creek reminded a visiting native of Scotland, William Budge, of the actual Scottish waterway that inspired Burn’s poem, prompting his suggestion for the town name.
However Afton got its name, anyone who has spent time there will agree that it’s like a Hollywood back-lot vision of an idyllic small western town. The main street (Washington St.) passes under a stately elk antler arch (dubbed the world’s largest) spanning both lanes and runs the full length of the main business corridor with shops, restaurants, bars, banks and more on both sides.
Beyond the obvious picturesque beauty of the area surrounding Afton, the town itself is generally recognized as the commercial hub of Star Valley with a large majority of the area’s small businesses, county government offices, the local movie theater and a state of the art medical center (Star Valley Medical Center).
The neighborhoods are quiet, the pace is easy and the idea of raising a family in the Afton area is easy to imagine. Like many of the towns in Star Valley, the Afton real estate options are eclectic. You can chose from small fixer-upper properties at modest prices, to median priced single-family Afton homes and on to the high-end Wyoming gentleman’s ranch property. The possibilities are as endless as the landscape.
Alpine has held the distinction of being one of Wyoming’s quickest growing towns for years. And deservedly so, Alpine is just 35 miles from famed tourist destination Jackson Hole, making it an ideal gateway for the Grand Teton area and Yellowstone beyond. But Alpine has qualities that merit its own standing as a great place to live. Planted right next to Palisades Reservoir and at the mouth of the Snake River and Greys River, Alpine is not only picturesque, it is an outdoor recreation lovers dream. In minutes you can begin enjoying your choice of fly-fishing, water skiing, hiking, camping, hunting in season or snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in winter.
The Alpine, Wyoming real estate market generally consists of single-family homes and moderately sized building lots of one-half to two acres. Home prices run a broad range from the mid-$100’s to over $1 million for larger custom homes on much larger acreage. Most properties are in established subdivisions. The prices overall in Alpine tend to be slightly higher than elsewhere in Star Valley due to the influence of the Jackson Hole real estate market.
Star Valley Ranch, Wyoming
Star Valley Ranch, Wyoming, Star Valley’s newest town, instantly became one of the area’s largest communities when it was incorporated in 2005. The original Star Valley Ranch Association, which began life in 1970 as a private retirement golf resort, defines the footprint of the new Town of Star Valley Ranch. Today, there is nothing retiring about Star Valley Ranch. The town is home to a diverse range of homeowners from young families with children, to virtual business owners with home offices, second homeowners from all over, and of course retirees enjoying golf, tennis, hiking, biking and everything else this little mountain enclave has to offer.
Snuggled right against the Bridger Teton National Forest on the east side of the valley; there are really only two options for Star Valley Ranch real estate homes and building lots. Most of the lots for sale in Star Valley Ranch are one-half acre with a small number of larger one-acre lots for sale. Homes range from the quaint Star Valley Ranch cabin in the woods to beautiful custom Star Valley log homes with prices that range from the mid $200’s to the high $400’s and beyond.
In central Star Valley lies the town of Thayne. Thayne, like other towns in Star Valley, doesn’t have a stoplight. And you won’t find any high-rise buildings. No rush hours. No crowds. What you will find is a beautiful area, rich with western character, beautiful mountain scenery and a laid back attitude. What Thayne doesn’t have may make it the perfect choice for your new primary home, a Star Valley vacation getaway or retirement property.
While not as large as it’s southern cousin Afton, Thayne still offers a broad range of goods and services including banking, auto repair and a great grocery store, all of which make living in Thayne an easy choice.
The Thayne real estate options and pricing are comparable to both Afton and Star Valley Ranch. Homes for sale in Thayne are generally moderately sized and priced, with expected prices in the mid to upper $200’s Larger homes with larger lots in more exclusive developments can fetch prices in the high $500’s to over $1million for a Thayne area home with views and large acreage. But there is a wide array of options between the two price points.
For more related information about the Star Valley, Wyoming real estate market, check out our roundup of Star Valley real estate developments. This section of the site contains more specific info on individual real estate developments in the Star Valley area.
Contact me with any questions about Star Valley real estate, the Star Valley lifestyle, or building a home in Star Valley. I’m here to help.