by Cathy Bourner, Idaho Tourism, with ideas courtesy of Pete Zimowsky, outdoor writer for the Idaho Statesman
The Idaho Bucket List put together recently by Boise State Public Radio created quite a stir among listeners. Additional suggestions and comments necessitated an addendum to the already substantial list, but really, it will never be complete. Idaho just has too much to offer.
With that in mind, we asked Pete Zimowsky (“Zimo” to his fans), outdoor writer for the Idaho Statesman, to share some of his favorite outdoor adventures from 2013. Some are appropriate for winter; others best enjoyed in warmer months; and all offer experiences to remember.
1. Winter camping in an RV at Castle Rocks State Park in January.
“What? In the winter?” Absolutely. Castle Rocks State Park is a terrific place for cross country skiing and showshoeing with its miles of ungroomed snow to explore, and a multi-day visit is just the way to get to know the park. The rocks that are so attractive to climbers in the summer provide the very intrepid with ice climbing opportunities. Electricity is available at the park’s camping spots, although water has been turned off.
If you don’t have an RV, the park is still a great place to take a vacation in the winter. The Lodge, an updated, centuries-old ranch house, is available to rent year-round. Amenities include a fully equipped kitchen, a bathroom with shower/tub, and a living room with a propane fireplace.
2. Staying at Stargaze Yurt in the Idaho City Trail System in January.
The Idaho City Trail System has six yurts for rent. All can be reached within a 2-3 mile cross country ski or snowshoe trek . The Stargaze yurt is the newest addition to the system, and is the perfect place if you really want to get away from it all. A 270 degree view gives you beautiful sight lines for Scott, Wolfe, and Steele Mountains, Jackson and Pilots Peaks, and the Sawtooth Mountains. Way to embrace winter, Zimo!
The Idaho Parks & Recreation’s website has complete information on what you will need to pack in, what furnishings are provided, and other important details to help plan your trip.
3. Drive the Grangeville-Salmon Road and Visit Square Mountain Lookout and the Gospel Hump Wilderness in August.
Square Mountain Lookout, nestled in the Nez Perce National Forest, looks out on some of Idaho’s grandest scenery—the Gospel Hump Wilderness. The lookout was built in 1931 and abandoned in the early 1970s. Volunteers began restoration work in 1999 and continue to stave off deterioration of the structure. Idaho Public Television has a great program about Idaho’s fire lookouts. Watch “Eyes of the Forest”.
From the lookout’s 8,345-foot vantage point, the 206,053-acre Gospel Hump Wilderness spreads out before you. The area connects across the Salmon River with the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, which along with the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness forms a continuous wilderness area of over 4.3 million acres, the largest in the lower 48 states. Read more about the Gospel Hump Wilderness.
4. Hiking beautiful Redfish Lake Creek Trail from Redfish Lake into the Sawtooths in late June.
The Redfish Lake Creek Trail starts at the upper end of Red Fish Lake and can be reached by a five or six mile hike around the lake or a short boat ride in season. From the trailhead, you’ll climb along Redfish Lake Creek, passing through boulder fields and skirting granite cliffs. After a steep set of switchbacks, you reach the eastern shore of Alpine Lake.
The Alpine Lake hike is a great introduction to the Sawtooths; it’s also a nice camping spot for a multi-day adventure. The Inlet Trailhead, where you begin the hike, can also be the starting point for a number of longer hikes and camping possibilities. Visit the Sawtooth National Recreation Area website to learn more. Details regarding boat service can be obtained through the Redfish Lake Lodge or by calling 208-774-3536.
Read Zimo’s blog about the Alpine Lake hike here.
5. Camping and floating the Salmon River near Stanley in June.
Each year, approximately 10,000 people float the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. The Middle Fork is a 104-mile free-flowing river in the heart of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, originating 20 miles northwest of Stanley at the confluence of Bear Valley and Marsh Creeks. Rafters are treated to a smorgasbord of Idaho scenery and climates as the river flows south: cool alpine forests, high mountain desert and a sheer, rock-walled canyon-the third deepest in North America.
If you’re considering a trip down the Salmon, visit the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association website for valuable information on who is permitted to run the Middle Fork, trip options, and contact information so you can cross this one off your bucket list!
6. Steelhead fishing on the Salmon River near Riggins in October. “Good fishing and lots of wild fish.”
The quest for this largest of Idaho’s trout brings untold numbers of fisherpeople to Riggins each year to stand on the Salmon’s bank and cast a line or to set float in a drift boat to get their catch. Steelhead returning to the Salmon River for the second year of their lives can be 10-13 pounds and measure between 31 and 34 inches. A three-year-old can easily exceed 37 inches and often weighs more than 20 pounds. It is not uncommon to see fisherman stand almost shoulder to shoulder along the steep bank of the Salmon to try their hand at landing one of these fish.
Like so many of Idaho’s mountain towns, Riggins was a mining camp in the 1850s. The website for Riggins City will tell you about this tiny, but very active town on at the confluence of the Salmon and the Little Salmon Rivers.
2013 was quite a year for Mr. Zimowsky, who spent more than 50 nights camping, hiking, and immersing himself in Idaho. We appreciate his willingness to share those experiences, opportunities and helpful hints with his readers, broadening our horizons and spurring us to get out and see for ourselves.
Are you inspired? Let Idaho Tourism help you plan your Idaho assault on your bucket list. Visit www.visitidaho.org for travel information and order an Idaho Travel Guide or RV/Campground directory at www.visitidaho.org/publications.