Top Spots to See Fall Colors in Idaho

Colors line the Payette River near the Rainbow Bridge. Credit Idaho Tourism

Colors line the Payette River near the Rainbow Bridge. Credit Idaho Tourism

As September draws to a close, we start receiving calls asking for suggestions for the best places to see fall colors in Idaho. The foliage displays east of the Mississippi are legendary, but Idaho’s trees and native vegetation put on a pretty darned good show with the added bonus of wildlife, flowing rivers, and magnificent mountains as their backdrop. Our evergreen landscapes present a stark contrast to the vibrant golds, oranges and scarlets that dot the hills and countryside.

It is impossible to say exactly when and where the colors will be at their peak, but generally they start popping in early October in northern, central and eastern Idaho, and by mid-October the colors are coming on in the more southern locations.

The US Forest Service also has a hotline and website offering suggested Idaho viewing locations and foliage webcams.

Here are some favorite locations we’ve collected over the years.

Northern Idaho

Two safe bets for fall color in the northern Idaho panhandle are along our Scenic Byways and at ten State Parks. Riparian areas around lakes and rivers are home to species of trees and shrubs sporting splashes of color that contrast the soft muted greens of the pines.

Color along the St. Joe River

Color along the St. Joe River. Credit ID Transportation Dept.

Northern Idaho’s segment of the Selkirk Loop runs from Priest River, through Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry, to the border town of Porthill. A beautiful drive any time of year, it’s especially lovely in the fall. To get an up close view of the fall foliage, spend some time at The Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge.

Traveling the St. Joe River Scenic Byway, the combination of latitude and reflections on the lazy St. Joe River create a kaleidoscope of warm shades all along this 89-mile route.

The University of Idaho campus in Moscow is awash in color in the fall, both from students dressed in Vandal gold, and from the venerable old trees that have witnessed the school’s growth. At the University of Idaho Arboretum you may learn the roles the various trees play in the ecosystem.

Southwest Idaho
Boise, nicknamed the City of Trees, is ground zero for deciduous, non-native trees. Oaks, maples, and ash add brightness to the downtown, area parks and the North End neighborhood. The Boise riverbanks and adjoining parks are resplendent with mature trees adding brilliant oranges and deep reds to the landscape. Cottonwoods and aspens add gold to the palette, with native low-growing plants and shrubs adding shades of red. The Boise Greenbelt – perfect for a walk or bike ride – follows the river, keeping you smack dab in color central.

Southwestern Idaho’s State Parks are ready for fall color seekers. Eagle Island State Park near Boise and Three Island Crossing State Park in Glenns Ferry have plenty of mature trees and native shrubs that beg to have a photo taken.

Traveling north from Boise on Hwy 55, the Payette River Scenic Byway and the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway to its east promise riverside color including reds, golds, aspen and native shrubs.  Traveling  Hwy. 55 through Cascade, Donnelly and McCall, you’ll see pockets of color in the surrounding mountains with red bursts along the roadside and rivers.  The Rainbow Bridge overlook is a great spot for a photo.

Central Idaho

Gold contrasts with green in the Salmon Valley. Credit Sacajawea Center.

Gold contrasts with green in the Salmon Valley. Credit Sacajawea Center.

The whole of the Salmon River Scenic Byway  will dazzle you, and the closer you get to the Idaho/Montana border, the more amazing the painted landscape will be. With increased elevation, the color increases. It is also likely that you will see wildlife so be aware that you may be unexpectedly sharing the road!

The areas around Stanley and the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway are always beautiful. The Boulder Mountain Range to the east frames the pallet of golds and oranges of the aspen and cottonwoods and their attendant red shrubs. If you’re ready for a hike after your drive, head for Redfish Lake and its surrounding trails. Just sitting by the lake is good too!  The Sun Valley/Ketchum area also has some beautiful views.

Eastern Idaho
Our first suggestion for eastern Idaho is easy: Mesa Falls Scenic Byway. Stop at the Mesa Falls Visitor Center and walk down to the viewing platforms for a spectacular view of the falls. Mother Nature is quite the accomplished artist.

Lower Mesa Falls.

Lower Mesa Falls. Credit Rexburg Chamber.

Continue to the Island Park area and up to Henry’s Lake to extend your trip. Being close to the mountains means plenty of water for a wide variety of plants and trees, and the colors are magnificent. River corridors and mountains promise blazing golds and oranges sprinkled amongst the evergreens and along the riverbanks. There is also a strong likelihood of seeing wildlife when traveling the area’s four scenic byways.

As you can see, Idaho is packed with fall color. As locals, we sometimes feel they are a bit elusive, but we welcome the subtleties of color and vivid contrasts against our majestic backdrop. Fall is a special time in Idaho, but it is a beautiful state year-round. For an Idaho fall preview, visit our Pinterest board.

Steve Stuebner suggests some Idaho City area trails that offer plenty of leaf peeping.  Read his blog here.

Ten Surprising Attractions in Northern Idaho

Sometimes a lesser-known attraction ends up being a diamond in the rough.  We’ve listed some off-the-beaten-path Idaho favorites that deserve a look.  From chapels to memorials, wildlife to railways and hops to history, these special places contribute greatly to the fabric and experiences of northern Idaho.

Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Wildlife enthusiasts or bird watchers shouldn’t miss a visit to the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge near Bonners Ferry.  The refuge hosts more than 230 species of birds, 45 species of mammals, 22 species of fish and more scenery than can be absorbed in a day. The refuge lies along the Pacific Flyway, attracting tens of thousands of migrating ducks, geese and swans each fall. With luck, one may spot big game such as elk, deer, bear or moose. The refuge also has a system of foot trails, including Myrtle Falls trail. This well-maintained trail is winding and steep but the view of the falls makes the hike worthwhile. Also in the area, the McArthur Lake and Boundary Creek Wildlife Management Areas offer more wildlife viewing opportunities.

Mission of the Sacred Heart.

Mission of the Sacred Heart.

Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission State Park in Cataldo is home to the oldest building in Idaho. The Mission of the Sacred Heart, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was constructed between 1850 and 1853 by Catholic missionaries and members of the Coeur d’ Alene Tribe. Guests may also see the restored Parish House and historic cemetery. The world-class Sacred Encounters Exhibit includes artifacts from the Smithsonian and Museum of Natural History and tells the story of how Jesuit missionaries came to the interior Northwest at the invitation of the Coeur d’ Alene and Salish tribes and the profound effects this sacred encounter had on both cultures.

The Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center in Sagle showcases the contributions of aviators and innovators who have helped create modern technology and celebrates those individuals who have forever changed the way we live. The museum was founded by Dr. Forrest Bird, inventor of the medical respirator, and his wife Pam in 2007. Allow plenty of time to see Dr. Bird’s personal collection of aircraft, invention displays and flight exhibits. Be inspired! It only takes one person to change the world.

A train funneled through Sandpoint follows the lakeshore.

A train funneled through Sandpoint follows the lakeshore.

Sandpoint Rail Funnel.  Sandpoint has the great honor to be the site where the east and westbound railways in the northern states converge, better known as a railway funnel. For train-spotters and railfans, Sandpoint is the place to be with more than 50 trains chugging through town daily. Railfans from around the world travel to Sandpoint to watch and photograph the trains, some more than a mile in length, as they traverse the bridge over Lake Pend Oreille and through the forested mountains.

Sunshine Mine Disaster Memorial

Sunshine Mine Disaster Memorial

To learn about northern Idaho’s mining history, head to the towns of Wallace and Kellogg. The Wallace District Mining Museum’s artifacts, models, photographs, paintings and displays of mining activity and techniques take you back in time and deep into the history of one of the most lucrative mining districts in the country.  In Kellogg, the Shoshone County Mining & Smelting Museum or (Staff House Museum)  occupies a two-story American-revival style house constructed in 1906 for a mining company executive. It has 12 rooms of exhibits, a gift shop and outdoor displays including a 73.5 ton Nordberg air compressor. Learn about the human cost of extracting the earth’s riches with a visit the Sunshine Mine Disaster Memorial in Kellogg.

Scenic Hiking Trails.  With the breathtaking scenery around Sandpoint, we are most fortunate to have hiking trails that offer access to some exceptional vistas. Bring a camera when hiking these two trails.

Mineral Point Interpretive Trail contours along Lake Pend Oreille about 14 miles south of Sandpoint near Garfield Bay with magnificent views across the lake to the Green Monarch Mountains. View the map and details at Forest Service Mineral Point Trail No. 82.

Views of the Green Monarch Mountains.

View of the Green Monarch Mountains.

One of the closest and nicest hikes adjacent to Sandpoint, the Mickinnick Trail is a challenging trail that rises more than 2,000 feet in its 3.5-mile length (seven miles round-trip). The workout is worth it, affording splendid views as you climb through big granite features ending at a rocky knob commanding a view of Sandpoint, the Long Bridge, the Cabinet Mountains and Lake Pend Oreille. Click to see the Forest Service map and elevation profile.

Bonner County Historical Museum.

Bonner County Historical Museum.

The Bonner County Historical Museum in Sandpoint has numerous displays including Native American artifacts, an extensive collection of Ross Hall photos, a pioneer kitchen and more. Exhibits tell the story of the longest residents of Bonner County – the Kalispell and Kootenai people – and how early residents interacted with the landscape to make a living at farming, logging and mining.

Elk Mountain Farms north of Bonners Ferry grows hops for parent company Anheuser-Busch. The intricate system of poles and trellises is impressive, as are the vines that grow 20 feet tall. Harvest is in late August to early September. To view the field, drive north on Highway 95 to Highway 1 and turn left on the Copeland Road. Drive to the Westside Road and go south for outstanding views overlooking the fields. The operation can also be seen from Porthill.

The Panida Theater.

The Panida Theater.

Sandpoint’s historic performing arts center, the Spanish Mission style Panida Theater, has a rich winter season filled with concerts, plays, fine art films and events. The Panida opened as a vaudeville and movie house in 1927 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Then, as now, its name reflected its mission: to showcase great performers and performances for audiences of the PANhandle of IDAho.

Discover the fascinating history of the Coeur d’Alene region at the Museum of North Idaho, located at the front of Coeur d’Alene’s City Park. Exhibits explore steamboats, railroads, communities, recreation, the U.S. Forest Service, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Farragut Naval Training Station and the Ice Age Flood. Guests may also visit the Fort Sherman Chapel. Built in 1880 by the U.S. Army, the chapel is Coeur d’Alene’s oldest church, school, library and meeting hall. Scheduled historic walking tours of Fort Sherman Chapel depart from the Museum.

Fall Fishing on Idaho’s Waterways

Thanks to our guest blogger, Dave Parrish, with  Idaho Fish and Game

Smallmouth Bass are plentiful in Idaho's Reservoirs.

Smallmouth Bass are plentiful in Idaho’s Reservoirs. Photo by IDFG.

Fall is an exciting time in Idaho. Crisp, cool nights and warm, comfortable days lead to some of the best fishing of the year. Autumn vegetation also is vibrant with many hues of reds and orange covering the landscape – which makes the outdoor experience that much more breathtaking.

Lake and reservoir fishing is at its best in the fall. As water temperatures cool, trout patrol the shorelines in search of food. Fishing with bait or using imitation fish/crayfish are delicacies rainbow trout, yellow perch or channel catfish in C.J. Strike Reservoir just can’t pass. The same is true for Cascade, Salmon Falls, and Dworshak reservoirs – but with differences in the types of game fish you will catch. Fish in about 5 – 8 feet of water with bait and you will find large rainbow trout, smallmouth bass or yellow perch actively feeding. Dworshak, Brownlee and Salmon Falls Creek reservoirs are also a fall favorite with smallmouth bass being very active. Use plugs or jigs in 6 – 8’ of water to catch one of the best fighting fish found in Idaho’s “flat-water.” Most of these waters are stocked with fish by Idaho Fish and Game. Check our Fishing Planner at: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/ifwis/fishingPlanner/ for directions and up-to-date information.

Stream fishing on a fall afternoon is an experience like no other. The St. Joe River, Henrys Fork of the Snake River, Wood River and Silver Creek present abundant afternoon insect hatches and vivid fall colors. Rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout are all aggressively feeding in the low, clear water. If you want to learn the secrets of these world-class fisheries, hire a guide for the afternoon.

Bright red kokanee salmon.

Bright red kokanee salmon. Photo by IDFG.

Check the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association (IOGA) webpage for licensed individuals who can teach you the fundamentals of fishing at: http://ioga.org/fishing/rivers-and-streams/. If you would prefer to just look at fish, bright red kokanee salmon can be seen on their spawning migrations in pools along the South Fork of the Boise River, tributaries to Payette Lake, and Deadwood River in southern Idaho from just before Labor Day to the first of October. Kokanee in northern Idaho are a later running variety and can be seen in tributaries to Lake Pend Oreille and Lake Coeur d’Alene in November and December.

If big fish are your quest, the Clearwater, Snake and Salmon rivers are the place to be after Labor Day weekend. Steelhead trout can be found in all three rivers. Back-trolling with “hotshots” and plugs can produce exciting fishing from a drift boat or jet boat. Steelhead can just as easily be taken using a spey rod and fly while fishing eddy or current lines from the edge of the river. You can also throw lures or use side-planers from the bank to catch these 20 – 30” fish. Barbless hooks and a steelhead card are required to fish for steelhead in Idaho. The Lewiston and Riggins areas both have many reputable Outfitters and Guides to assist – if you are unfamiliar with the area or methods for finding steelhead. Check the IOGA website shown above for contact information.

Fall sturgeon fishing on the Snake River is my all-time favorite get-away. These 3 – 8’ fish can weigh upwards of 300 lbs. and can give you the

Sturgeon are found in Idaho's Snake River.

Sturgeon are found in Idaho’s Snake River. Photo by IDFG.

fight of your life. To see one of these monsters come out of the water and stand on its tail is a remarkable sight. It’s not uncommon to need 30 minutes or longer to battle one of these river giants into submission. Sturgeon can be found in the free-flowing Snake River from above Idaho Falls to the Lower Granite Dam pool upriver from Lewiston. You need to fish pools or back-eddy’s that are 20’+ in depth. Cut-bait, pickled herring, or other “smelly” baits work the best on these bottom-feeders. Heavy gear (50 lb. test line) and rods and reels designed for hefty action are mandatory. Again, licensed outfitters and guides are available in all areas to assist in your adventure.

Novice or pro – it doesn’t matter. Get your fishing license and hit the water at the best time of the year to experience what makes Idaho so special. If you have questions send us a note at: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov and click on the “Ask” icon.

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If you happen to land a kokanee, here’s a tasty recipe you can try.  Charlie’s Tea Smoked Salmon with Wild Apricot Ginger Glaze.  Yum!!
Charlie Reinhardt's Tea Smoked Salmon

Charlie Reinhardt’s Tea Smoked Salmon with Wild Apricot Ginger Glaze.


The Glaze:

  • ½ gallon wild apricots, washed well to remove road grime, halved and pitted, cut away any brown spots
  • 1 tbsp. fresh ginger,  peeled and grated
  • ½ cup granulated sugar (more or less depending on the apricots and how sweet you like it)
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. Aji-Mirin (optional if you don’t have it, but delicious if you do)

Simmer apricots until very soft, mashing and stirring often. Transfer to blender and puree. Return to pot and add remaining ingredients. Simmer 20 min. Stir often to prevent scorch.

The Fish:

Get your grill (or fire) started. Grill with medium, indirect heat.

Set 3 to 5 green tea bags to soak (about 2 min).

Prepare a whole fish fillet for the grill. Make sure the skin is clean and well descaled. Pat the flesh dry. Salt lightly.

Make a foil bowl for the tea bags. Squeeze the excess water from the tea bags (you can drink the tea), and place them in the foil pouch, but do not close it all the way.

If using a gas grill, turn off one side of the burners. Place the tea bags in their foil over the lit burner. Place the fish, skin down, over the other (turned off) burner. Baste with glaze. Close the lid. Reapply glaze every 1 ½ minutes until fish is done. The total time depends on the size of the fish.

If using charcoal, push the coals to one side and place the tea bags on top of them. Grill the fish on the side without coals.

Chef’s Notes
Charlie Reinhardt concocted this dish after a trip to Hells Canyon. Along the banks of the Snake River down by Oxbow Dam grow a large amount of feral apricots. These work best because of their wild, not quite sweet, tart flavor. In a pinch you can use any fresh Apricots. If you’re really desperate, apricot jam would be ok, I guess. Any Idaho salmon will work well and I especially love this on Kokanee.

Eat Local and Celebrate the Bounty of Idaho!

EventSeptember welcomes a Super Harvest Moon, tomato tailgate parties, Farm to Fork feasts and beverage events around the gem state.

Eat local and celebrate Idaho’s bounty!

 

Here are several food-related events to add to your Fall Harvest calendar.  Eat, drink and be merry!

September 4: Uncorked in the Garden, Idaho Botanical Garden, Boise  

September 5 – 6: Taste of Idaho, Ford Idaho Horse Park, Nampa  

September 6: Harvest Moon Winemakers Dinner, Carmela Vineyards, Glenns Ferry  

September 9: Tomato Tailgate Truck Rally, North End Organic Nursery, Boise

September 12: Farm to Fork on the Creek, Caldwell, 6th Avenue Indian Creek Bridge.  

September 13: Between the Vines, Carmela Vineyards, Glenns Ferry  

September 13: Boise Craft Beer Festival, Memorial Stadium, Garden City  

September 13: Eagle Food and Wine Festival, BanBury Golf Club, Eagle.

September 13: Snake River Valley Harvest Festival, Ste. Chapelle Winery, Caldwell

September 18 – 21: Sun Valley Harvest Festival, Ketchum and Sun Valley  

September 20: Idaho Spud Day, Shelley

September 23: Tomato Tasting and Harvest Festival, Edwards Greenhouse, Boise  

September 26 – 27: Oktoberfest, Coeur d’Alene  

September 27: Oktoberfest, Lava Hot Springs  

September 27: Oktoberfest Street Dance, Pocatello  

September 28: Idaho Wine Run, Caldwell

Food & Scenery Roadtrip Ideas

Sawtooth Scenic Byway Bites
Thousand Springs Byway Bites
Ponderosa Pine Byway Bites
Western Heritage Byway Bites

Eat Local in Idaho
Read more about Idaho’s art, culture and food on the Culture Trip

Live-Eat-Local
Idaho Preferred Cookbook
Enjoy over 100 delicious recipes organized by season, making it easy to learn about and cook with the freshest Idaho-grown products throughout the year.

Cookbook

9.5 miles + 2,600 vertical gain = An Awesome Bike Ride

Written by guest blogger, Steve Stuebner 

 This fall ride tip is about the loop trail around Stack Rock called Freddy’s Stack Rock Trail. Stack Rock is a signature granite pyramid-shaped rock on a timbered ridge to the west of Bogus Basin Mountain Resort located 45 minutes from Boise.

It’s a 9.5-mile hike or bike ride from the trailhead to do the loop around Freddy’s Stack Rock Trail. I would rate the bike ride as advanced to intermediate because of a number of fairly steep continuous climbs along the way, and I’d rate the hike or trail run as moderate to strenuous because of the distance and 2,600-vertical-foot gain/loss.

Just so you know: The trailhead is not marked. It’s a major pullout on the left as you’re heading to Bogus Basin after the road passes the turnoff to a number of cabins on the left. Set your odometer when you leave the stop sign at Curling Drive, and you’ll find it, no problem. Mile 12.

You should allow 2+ hours for the biking loop, and 4-5 hours for hiking the loop. Be careful when you’re climbing around Stack Rock. Going up is the easy part, it’s getting down that’s hard.

Have fun & click on link for Two Rides in the White Clouds http://stuebysoutdoorjournal.blogspot.com   – SS

 

Idaho is Ideal for the Foodie who Seeks an Authentic Culinary Travel Experience with Breathtaking Scenery

Wine SawtoothsHarvest Idaho – One Bite at a Time

We know that people think of potatoes when they think of Idaho and some Idaho farmers do grow the nation’s best potatoes. However, did you know that the state’s fertile soil and moderate climate yield an abundant harvest of fruits, meats, fish, cheeses and libations throughout the year?

Statewide, farms grow fruits and vegetables as diverse as asparagus, cherries, table grapes, lentils and all kinds of beans, onions, tomatoes, squash and zucchini, and eggplant. During the fall harvest months, grocery stores are full of locally-grown, fresh produce and farmer’s markets are plentiful throughout the state.

Make plans to attend these upcoming Harvest Festivals.

September 3 – 7: Taste of Idaho Adventures in Nampa
Includes the Idaho Sanctioned International Chili cook-off and a BBQ Competition for pork, chicken, and beef.

September 18 – 21: Sun Valley Harvest Festival in Sun Valley  Elegant fine dining and edible, rustic simplicity rolled into one. The Sun Valley Harvest Festival, voted one of the top fall festivals in America by Fodor’s, is four days of foodie events and outdoor experiences like no other. It’s a chance to enjoy the fruits of our local and regional “slow foods” brought to you in farm-to-table style by passionate, celebrated chefs who artfully prepare dishes with local ingredients.  (Janice Nieder explores Sun Valley Harvest Festival)

Trailing-Of-The-Sheep-IdahoOctober 9 – 12:  Trailing of the Sheep Festival in Ketchum. Premier cultural event celebrating the arts, history and culture of the west.  The Festival celebrates Idaho’s sheep ranching families highlighting its principal contributors – the Basque, Scottish and Peruvians.  The weekend includes storytelling, ethnic dancing and singing, culinary events, a Folklife Fair, cooking lessons and demonstrations, fiber classes, children’s activities, entertainment, sheepdog trials and the Big Sheep Parade with 2,000 sheep stepping lively down Main Street in Ketchum.  (Experience Trailing of the Sheep with born wanderers- Jürgen and Mike, from Germany and the USA)

For more culinary events click here.

Food & Scenery Roadtrip Ideas

Sawtooth Scenic Byway Bites
Thousand Springs Byway Bites
Ponderosa Pine Byway Bites
Western Heritage Byway Bites

Let’s go hiking! Five of my favorite kid-friendly hikes in Stanley and McCall

Reposted with permission from Steve Stuebner, Stueby’s Outdoor Journal

The summer is fast slipping away! There’s only a couple of weeks left before school starts, so time is running short to get the kids and family out of town for some mountain adventure in our state’s top scenic locations in SW Idaho — Stanley and McCall.

For my outdoor tip this week, I’m recommending five kid-friendly hikes in these cool, high-elevation areas:

4th of July Lake

4th of July Lake (courtesy panoramio.com)

1. Short hike to 4th of July Lake and Washington Lake, Stanley area – This one is ideally suited for young kids because it’s not a very long hike. It’s about 1.7 miles to 4th of July Lake, and 2.8 miles to Washington Lake. Very easy hiking in a beautiful mountain setting in the White Clouds! Access the trailhead by driving south of Stanley to Iron Creek Road on the left side of Idaho 75. Take the road about 10 miles to the trailhead. Bring your flower book.

Alpine Lake

Alpine Lake has some nice camping spots.

2. Iron Creek Trail to Alpine Lake or Sawtooth Lake, Stanley area – The Iron Creek Trailhead is located a few miles west of Stanley. Follow the Iron Creek Road to the trailhead and park. It’s 8 miles out and back to Alpine Lake and 10 miles out and back to Sawtooth Lake. Alpine Lake lies in a shady forested setting. Sawtooth Lake is much higher with open views of the Sawtooth Mountains. It’s a hefty hike to either location on a steep mountain trail, but your kids will do great. I also see a lot of young kids backpacking to Alpine Lake on this hike.

Marsh Creek

Marsh Creek

3. Marsh Creek fishing special, Stanley area - Fish for native westslope cutthroat trout on the Marsh Creek trail (single-barbless hooks only; catch-and-release) in this key tributary of the famed Middle Fork of the Salmon River. It’s a 5-mile hike one-way from the trailhead to a glory hole at the junction with Bear Valley Creek. It’s worth the walk if you’re a diehard. Access the trailhead by taking Idaho 21 to the Lolo Campground and Bradley Boy Scout turnoff in the Cape Horn area. Turn left and proceed to the Lolo Campground. The trailhead is just past the campground.

Snowside Lake Trail

Snowside Lake Trail

4. Snowslide Lake, McCall - It’s a steep two-mile hike on a rocky trail to Snowslide Lake, but it’s a lovely forested lake with a bunch of small brook trout available for kid fishing. My son, Drew, and I hiked up there with Wendy and Huck last weekend. Had a great time! Took us about an hour to get to the lake at a swift pace.

Huckleberry Trail in Ponderosa State Park.

Huckleberry Trail in Ponderosa State Park.

5.Huckleberry Trail, McCall - Ponderosa State Park built an addition to the Huckleberry Trail late last fall, and hikers and mountain bikers are really enjoying it — for good reason. The trail runs alongside the east side of the peninsula, providing great views of this quiet side of Payette Lake. The trail starts off of the Fox Run Trail, best accessed from Pilgrim Cove Road. Follow the Huckleberry Trail along the lake for 2-3 miles until you join the main Huckleberry Trail. Continue on if you wish and enjoy a more deep forest setting to the top of Osprey Point.

There you have it!
Have fun!

Idaho Small Towns Promise Big Memories

Idaho is known for scenic vistas, historic sites and endless outdoor recreation. Quite often these beautiful areas and fun activities are accessed through some of the state’s smaller towns. Offering lodging, fuel, groceries, dining and a variety of amenities and services, these rural oases will keep you comfortably supplied and ready for your next adventure. Read on to learn more about some of these towns and the recreation they offer.

Historic Wallace.

Historic Wallace.

Wallace, in northern Idaho.

Gold and silver were discovered in Wallace in 1882 and the Silver Valley area became the largest silver mining region in the world. There are many activities and historical sites to explore.

Museums, including the Northern Pacific Depot Railroad Museum, Oasis Bordello Museum, and the Wallace District Mining Museum tell stories from the past.

Underground gold and silver mine tours and gold panning – see what it’s like to mine precious minerals.

Bike the Route of the Hiawatha – 15 miles of tunnels, trestles and stunning views.

Silver Streak Zip Line – Two courses have heights up to 300′ above ground at elevations ranging from 3,349 – 3,773′.

Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission State Park is just 30 minutes away and home to the oldest building in Idaho. It was built by the Coeur d’Alene Indians with assistance and direction from the Jesuit priests, known as Black Robes.

 

Wheat fields in the Palouse Region near Moscow.

Wheat fields in the Palouse Region near Moscow.

Moscow, in north-central Idaho.

The eclectic mix of small-town friendliness and college-town energy found in Moscow makes it a perfect vacation destination.

Play a round of golf at the University of Idaho Golf Course.

At the Appaloosa Museum and Heritage Center learn about this noble breed and its ties to the Nez Perce Tribe.

Bike Moscow Mountain or one of the many surrounding trails. Local bike trail maps are available.

Raft the Salmon River or jet boat in Hells Canyon for a thrilling experience that’s sure to make memories.

Local wineries include Camas Prairie Winery in Moscow and Colter’s Creek in nearby Juliaetta. The farmers market celebrates local farmers, artists, craftspeople and musicians through October.

 

 

Play waves at Kelly's Whitewater Park in Cascade.

Play waves at Kelly’s Whitewater Park in Cascade.

Cascade, in southwestern Idaho.

This small town on the banks of Lake Cascade is perfect for those who love fishing, boating and spectacular scenery.

Kelly’s Whitewater Park, on the north fork of the Payette River is the perfect place to hone your kayaking or whitewater skills, or just watch and be amazed. Tube and watercraft rentals are available in town.

Camp at Cascade Lake State Park and enjoy swimming, fishing and hiking.

Take in a movie at the newly renovated Roxy Theatre in downtown Cascade. The theatre opened for her first film July 14th 1939. A 2013 upgrade kept many of the original elements intact while adding digital cinema upgrades. This beautiful single screen theater offers great service and first run movies.

Visit Tamarack Resort in nearby Donnelly. Golf the award winning Osprey Meadows golf course, bike and hike the IMBA designed mountain bike trail system, fly on the Tamarack Canopy Zipline tour, play in the water or enjoy the luxurious amenities of the lodge overlooking the lake.

Visit Gold Fork Hot Springs in nearby Donnelly, with five mineral-rich outdoor pools set amidst the cool shade of the pines.

Visit historic Roseberry, a Finnish style ghost town.  Enjoy their many special events and visit the General Store and other historic buildings.

Hagerman Horse fossil.

Hagerman Horse fossil.

Hagerman Valley, in southern Idaho.

The Hagerman area offers pastoral countryside and a wealth of wonders to discover. Once off the interstate, pause at the viewpoint and take in the captivating vista of the valley that unfolds below. Follow Highway 30 on the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway to continue your journey.

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument holds the richest fossil deposits of the Pliocene Epoch, about 3.5 million years ago. Stop at the visitor center to see a replica of the Hagerman Horse and learn about the Minidoka Relocation Center, a National Historic Site.

Natural springs gush from the canyon walls, providing a picturesque and naturally flowing cold water environment for nurturing trout. Visit the Hagerman National Fish Hatchery to learn more.

Visit any of the four units of Thousand Springs State Park: Malad Gorge, Billingsley Creek, Niagara Springs and Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon Springs Preserve, a 350 acre state park with a 20-ft waterfall and crystal clear springs.

The Thousand Springs Scenic Byway leaves the valley floor and emerges at Buhl, a delightful town with a thriving arts community. Just south of town, see Balanced Rock. At 48-ft tall and 40 tons, it is balanced on a pedestal of just 17 x 36 inches. Have a picnic in Balanced Rock Park or soak your bones at Miracle Hot Springs.

 

Salmon River near Challis.

Salmon River near Challis.

Salmon/Challis area in central Idaho.

Salmon is known as the whitewater capital of the world because of its access to the Main Salmon River, while Challis has a rich mining history and is home to the Land of the Yankee Fork State Park. Together, they offer a world of recreational opportunities.

Visit Land of the Yankee Fork State Park located along the Salmon River Scenic Byway. The interpretive center near Challis has exhibits, a gold panning station, audiovisual programs, and friendly personnel to provide information on local mining history and area attractions. Visit the nearby ghost towns of Bonanza, Custer and Bayhorse. The Yankee Fork Gold Dredge, Custer Motorway and Challis Bison Jump are sites within the park.

The sister cities of Custer and Bonanza were once booming with people set on finding their futures in gold. Beginning in 1870, the area attracted gold seekers searching its streams and mountains. But the gold eventually played out leaving Custer and Bonanza ghost towns by 1911. Today, restored buildings, the tales of the miners and secluded cemeteries are all that remain. A trip to Bayhorse, an 1880s era ghost town will help you understand the trials and tribulations of this historic site.

See the Yankee Fork Gold Dredge, a 988-ton monster barge that searched the gravels of the Yankee Fork for gold as recently as 1952, recovering an estimated $1,037,322 in gold and silver.

The Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural & Educational Center in Salmon is dedicated to honoring and providing education about America’s great historical heroine, Sacajawea, an Agai Dika Lemhi Shoshone, and her role in Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery.

At the Lemhi Historical Museum in Salmon, see artifacts with new eyes to better understand the American West and Lemhi County history.

Hiking, horseback riding, rafting, fishing, wildlife watching and hot springs are just some of the activities available in the SalmonChallis area.

 

Soda fountain at the Corner Drug in Driggs.

Soda fountain at the Corner Drug in Driggs.

Teton Valley in eastern Idaho.

The communities of Driggs, Tetonia and Victor comprise the less crowded side of the Teton Mountains. The valley is a rural agricultural area perched at 6200 feet in elevation with outstanding outdoor recreation year-round.

Fish the Teton River, Snake River, and the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River with or without an outfitter, for exceptional trout fishing.

The Ashton-Tetonia Trail opened in 2010 and extends nearly 30 miles between the two towns. This scenic gravel trail includes five bridges and restored rail trestles. The 8-mile Victor to Driggs Trail connects the two towns with the Teton Mountains in the backdrop.

Explore the Teton Valley Museum on Hwy. 33 and the Warbirds Museum at the Driggs Airport.

Relax and unwind at Teton Springs Lodge and Spa. Enjoy fabulous restaurants, beautiful scenery, relaxing spa treatments, luxurious accommodations, on-site fly fishing and world-class golf at Headwaters Golf Club.

Take a hot air balloon ride with Teton Balloon Flights and enjoy picturesque views of the mountain ranges and forested wilderness.

Mount up for a scenic horseback ride with Dry Ridge Outfitters or Linn Canyon Ranch.

Grand Targhee Ski Resort has special events throughout the non-skiing season and great hiking.

Harriman State Park is a great place for wildlife watching, fishing and historical exploration.

You’re just a short distance from Yellowstone National Park…. Use the Teton Valley as your base camp. The new Teton GeoTourism Center is a great resource for the Grand Teton Yellowstone loop.

Private soaking pool at Aura Soma Lava in Lava Hot Springs.

Private soaking pool at Aura Soma Lava in Lava Hot Springs.

Lava Hot Springs in southeastern Idaho.

Lava Hot Springs is a popular family-friendly resort town southeast of Pocatello. Once a sacred gathering place for the Bannock and Shoshone Indians, today it is a popular spot for travelers world-wide seeking its soothing waters.

Soak in any of four separate pools ranging in temperature from 104 to 110 degrees. Cool off in the Olympic-sized pool, complete with water slide and kids’ fun zones. Or enjoy private soaking pools at area hotels.

Float the Portneuf River on an inner tube. Tube rentals are offered in town.

Feel the thrill with Lava Zipline Adventures.

Enjoy a wagon ride and dinner with western entertainment with Baker Ranch Wagon Rides.

Downata Hot Springs, south of Lava Hot Springs, offers pools, a water slide, driving range, mini golf and more.

Soda Springs, just to the east of Lava, is home to the only captive geyser in the world today. See it erupt, shooting gallons of sparkling water over 100 feet into the air every hour, on the hour.

Byway Bites: Foodie Stops Along the Western Heritage Scenic Byway

To drive the Western Heritage Historic Byway is to experience “wild” Idaho. Museums, birds of prey, ancient sites, and mining towns along with the rugged outdoors invite travelers to create their own unique Idaho frontier adventure. The Birds of Prey National Conservation area is well worth a visit. It is the home to the largest population of nesting raptors in the world.

Another historical site is the Swan Falls Dam. This dam was the first powerhouse on the Snake River and is known as the birthplace of modern electricity – with the same standards used throughout the world today. As you descend into the Snake River Canyon, imagine a trip back in time as you witness the volcano path that created today’s Yellowstone Park and a field of hundred-ton boulders that were deposited by one of the largest floods in geologic history. And still visible today ready for you to discover, are thousand-year-old petroglyphs inscribed by early Native Americans.

Begin your route in Kuna with a visit to the Kuna Visitor’s Center which can provide orientation for all the byway attractions. And if you are interested in food and wine on this byway, Kuna is the place!

Indian Creek Winery

Visit one of the best wineries of the Northwest, a hidden gem with magnificent summertime gardens boasting hundreds of colorful dahlias, dancing butterflies and home-town charm. It’s a true shangri-la located only 30 minutes outside of Boise.

Family-owned and operated, Indian Creek Winery truly believes in that old saying “Work hard, play hard.” Bill and Mui Stowe have been working hard since 1982 to craft premium wines from the best grapes in the heart of Idaho’s Snake River Valley appellation. Second generation Tammy Stowe-McClure and husband, Mike, stepped on board in 2005 to help continue the success of this growing winery. All the hard work has been paying off – taking home gold medals from several wine competitions and receiving recognition as “Idaho Winery of the Year” in Wine Press Northwest’s spring ’08 edition.

Indian Creek produces a wide variety of wine, and most are available for sampling in the winery tasting room. Our most popular wines are the Pinot Noir, Star Garnet, Mountain Syringa, White Riesling and White Pinot along with their small-lot wines: Chardonnay, Muscat Canelli, Viognier, Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Man’s Best Friend Malbec, Ragin’ Rapids Late Harvest Riesling, and our Ruby Dahlia Port.

Besides the tasting room, Indian Creek offers custom wine labeling, wine bars, a wedding and special event venue, group tours, and  a variety of events throughout the year. The wine club lets members take full advantage of special releases, wine discounts, and gift shop discounts.

El Gallo Giro

Culinary Specialist Patrick Rolfe visits with Enrique Contreras, owner of the famous El Gallo Giro restaurant in Kuna, where authentic Hispanic cuisine has been served for fifteen years…

Q: Enrique, tell me about your background a bit on how you got into the restaurant business.

A: I was born in Mexico where my father was a farmer in a village smaller than Kuna! My parents owned a Taqueria, which I worked at. But I had bigger dreams of opportunities in the restaurant business. My mentor, Lucio Prado first hired me as a dishwasher at his restaurant Acapulco’s in Boise. Within six months I was a server, and shortly thereafter when the chef quit I was offered the job of running the kitchen on the spot! Eventually I worked up to managing two of Lucio’s restaurants and then buying one. It has been a lot of hard work which I couldn’t have done by myself. I credit my wife Ana Pez for standing by me and finding ways to differentiate our restaurant. And our main success is derived from the warm embrace of the city of Kuna.

Q: What are some of your signature dishes?

A: We are very well known for our Camerones Borrachos, referred to as “drunken shrimp” (the shrimp is soaked in Tequila)! It is served in a traditional lava rock bowl which brings out the rich red color of the sauce. Also, our fresh table-side guacamole creates a fun atmosphere while a server whisks together a custom guacamole to each customer’s liking. But our famous street tacos are just like Mom used to make, so they are very popular. For me personally, I like to create specials using seafood. It is always a great platform for a chef to explore.

Q: Is there one dish you love but don’t like to make?

A: Yes, tamales! To make them right they take a lot of time. So we usually make them fresh for a special on Wednesday nights and of course for Christmas… that’s a tradition! We follow my mother’s recipe as she has made tamales all her life. This includes our scratch recipe for the masa from grinding the corn and then adding milk and cotija cheese. Most restaurants skimp by adding water and lard.

Q: What’s it like to be essentially one of the only restaurants on the Western Heritage Historical Byway?

A: The local community enjoys the richness of the byway year-round. This is a very tight community where everyone participates in supporting one another. But for our traveling customers, they tell me almost every time, “I’m stopping by the birds of prey”!

Patrick enjoyed some street tacos and table-side guacamole. It was fantastic! Upon leaving, he spoke briefly to Crystal, the manager who radiates with pride about working for Enrique.

“I want to emphasize Enrique’s commitment to El Gallo Giro because it goes far beyond words. Enrique is involved in every aspect that happens on a day-to-day basis. He also shows commitment to the customers by going around to each table to make sure that the customers’ experience is only the best. People often ask when we will expand and branch off, but Enrique is only one person and a chain of restaurants wouldn’t be the same without Enrique being there. He has a special way of making all the customers feel like family.”

Western Heritage Historic Byway

Location: Beginning at exit 44 off Interstate 84, follow Idaho 69 southbound for 8 miles to East Avalon Ave. in Kuna. Turn south on Swan Falls Road and continue 21 miles to the dam. Follow signs to Celebration Park, then head north to Ferry Rd. From Ferry Road go south on Idaho 45 to the Snake River.

Length: 47 miles. Allow 1.5 hours for travel.

Travel & Dining – Check out these Byway Bites
Sawtooth Scenic Byway Bites
Thousand Springs Byway Bites
Ponderosa Pine Byway Bites

#bywaybites

#18 Summers August Vacation Ideas

It is August – the last official month of summer. Whether it’s your 6th summer together as a family, or your 14th, there is still plenty of time to make it a memorable one. We’ve been sharing vacation ideas over the last two months, covering bike trails, hot springs, whitewater rafting, jet boating, unique geological attractions, cool museums and interesting trivia about some of our most popular sites. This month we will add theme parks, water parks, zip lines and lake recreation to our list of summer memory makers.

Cool off on Silverwood's Thunder Canyon ride.

Cool off on Silverwood’s Thunder Canyon ride.

Be sure to check out our 18 Summers docu-memory at 18Summers.us and enter to win an awesome family vacation in Sun Valley. The giveaway ends August 31, so head to 18Summers.us now to enter.

Theme Parks/Water Parks

Idaho’s only theme park and the largest in the northwest, Silverwood Theme Park has over 70 rides, slides, shows and attractions, including four roller coasters, Boulder Beach Water Park, a steam engine train, live entertainment, restaurants and more. A Silverwood pass also gives you access to Boulder Beach Water Park, where kids from age one to 100 can cool off on crazy slides, a lazy river or toddler friendly splash zones. Located just north of Coeur d’Alene guests can take advantage of hotel lodging and ticket packages, simply buy your tickets online and save $4.00 each.

Triple Play is another family fun park located in northern Idaho near Coeur d’Alene. Triple Play has activities such as laser tag, arcade games, bumper boats, bowling go karts and more. Raptor Reef is an indoor water park with a wave pool and children’s lagoon with a 2-story play structure complete with slides, water guns and a tipping bucket. Guests can ride one of the three amazing slides, one banking in at over 390 feet, or just lean back and relax in the indoor/outdoor Jacuzzi while the kids play. Triple Play is conveniently connected to the Holiday Inn Express where stay & play packages are available. Some area hotels also offer discounted tickets.

Idaho has more fun parks sprinkled around the state, including Lava Hot Springs, and Roaring Springs and Wahooz Family Fun Zone in Boise. Guests at Silver Mountain’s Morning Star Lodge will enjoy the indoor Silver Rapids water park year-round.

Lovely Lakes

Looking to enjoy water in a more natural setting? Head to one of Idaho’s many lakes. We have too many to list them all, but here are some of the more popular spots to enjoy the cooling waters.

Soft sand beaches on Payette Lake.

Soft sand beaches on Payette Lake.

Redfish Lake, Stanley – Swim at the beach, or the marina has paddleboards, canoes, kayaks and a few different types of boats to rent. Lake cruises and shuttle rides to the main trailhead for the Redfish Lake Drainage are also available.

Payette Lake, McCall – Swim at the Beach, or rent jet skis, kayaks, paddle- boards and boats at Mile High Marina. Enjoy an afternoon or evening scenic cruise with McCall Lake Cruises, or head to Ponderosa State Park for swimming, fishing, boating and camping with lake views.

Lake Cascade, Cascade – Swim at the Beach, take a water sport boat tour or rent, jet skis, waverunners, boats and anything you might need for water skiing/boarding/tubing at Invert Sports. Tamarack Resort overlooks the lake, and rents kayaks and paddleboards from the golf shop. Lake Cascade State Park is situated on the southwestern side of the lake and offers lake view camping, swimming and much more.

Fun in the waters of Priest Lake.

Fun in the waters of Priest Lake.

Priest Lake, north of Sandpoint – Way up in northern Idaho, Priest Lake is a hidden gem. Some of the lodging properties along the lake are beachfront, making swimming fun and relaxing super-easy! Blue Diamond Marina offers rentals, including canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and a variety of power boats. Priest Lake State Park also offers excellent day use areas with large sandy beaches with designated swimming areas. Learn about more access points here.

Lake Coeur d’Alene, at Coeur d’Alene – There are more than 55 lakes within easy driving distance of Coeur d’Alene in northern Idaho, but none more scenic and full of activities than Lake Coeur d’Alene itself. There is plenty to do: swimming, lake cruises, kayaking, boating, paddleboarding, sea plane tours and lakeside dining. Want a real thrill? Try the Jetovator!

Lake Pend Oreille, Sandpoint – Lake Pend Oreille is a deep water lake and home to a U.S. Navy submarine research center. Its miles of shoreline are dotted with rental cabins and resorts and Farragut State Park offers public beach access and spectacular lake views. Sandpoint’s City Beach is a local favorite for swimming or launching a kayak. There are many marinas around the lake offering a variety of rentals and services or take a narrated lake cruise aboard the Shawnodese.

Turquoise waters of Bear Lake.

Turquoise waters of Bear Lake.

Bear Lake, near MontpelierBear Lake spans the border of Idaho and Utah in Idaho’s southeastern corner. Often called the “Caribbean of the Rockies” for its intense turquoise blue water, the lake is best known for its waterskiing, swimming, sailing, jet skiing and fishing. Paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, and watercraft of all sorts can be rented at Bear Lake area shops and marinas.

Zip Line Tours

There are so many fun things to do in Idaho! Moving on to ziplines…Idaho has seven to delight and entertain. There are often weight requirements, so check with the zip tour company to make sure you little ones aren’t too little or to see if they can ride tandem with an adult.

Silver Streak Zipline Tours - Located near the historic town of Wallace in northern Idaho, segments on both courses of this platform-based zip course allow riders to fly like superman. Zippers will travel about 300 feet above ground with beautiful views of Wallace and the surrounding mountains.

Zip the Snake offers an educational tour of the Snake River Canyon near Twin Falls. Riders will learn about the history, geology, and wildlife in the Snake River Plain as they travel the lines.

Schweitzer Mountain Zip Line stretches over 700 feet, beginning at the resort village and running towards Lake Pend Oreille, offering spectacular mountain and lake views year-round.

Riding the lines at Zip Idaho.

Riding the lines at Zip Idaho.

Zip Idaho in Horseshoe Bend provides a unique eco-adventure that combines Idaho’s longest zip lines with tree based canopy-tour style zip lines. The course offers seven lines, ranging from 200 to 2,030 feet in length, and beautiful mountain views.

Tamarack Canopy Zip Line Tour, located near Donnelly in the southwest Idaho mountains, promises a thrilling, action packed mountain tour experience. Eight zip lines range in length from 250-800 feet, whisking zippers above 4,425 feet of rugged, scenic terrain with a 1,700 change in elevation.

Heise Hot Springs Zip Line in Ririe in southeast Idaho has seven zip lines covering nearly a mile of terrain. During the 2-hour tour, riders learn the history of Heise Hot Springs while enjoying the beautiful mountains and the valley and river below.

Lava Zip Line Adventures near Lava Hot Springs in southeast Idaho, features a course with three lines of 800,1000 and 1500 feet in length. The two and one half hour tour travels through a scenic canyon with views of the Portneuf River, Petticoat Peak and Haystack Mountain.

Go to www.visitidaho.org for lodging options and more travel ideas.