Idaho: An Outdoor Recreationist’s Heaven

In my opinion, Idaho gets a bad rap. I grew up in Boise, and whenever I tell people that, I get asked at least one of the following questions: 1.) do you like potatoes? And if so, do you grow them? 2.) Did you know Randy Weaver? (For the record, I was 10 in 1992, during the Ruby Ridge “standoff” – so, no.) 3.) Are you racist? (Of course not. People, Hayden Idaho is a tiny town that was unfortunately happened to be the location for a group of very prejudiced group of people. The actions of a relatively small group of white supremacists, though revolting, in no way represents the values of an entire state. Richard Butler is dead, and the bankrupt organization isn’t even headquartered in Idaho anymore.) Now that I live on the east coast, the standard reply is ohâÂ?¦Iowa. I like Des Moines. Same vowels, entirely different location, I’m afraid.

All that out of the way, don’t let Idaho’s unwarranted reputation or the fact that you don’t know state geography detract you from visiting. Especially if you are an outdoors person. Locate it on a map immediately, and book plane reservations or start planning your road trip route so that you can arrive during later spring, or later summer/early fall. Mid summer is also fine, but try to avoid the south west (Boise) area, as it lies in desert region, and gets hot and dry. Winter is beautiful, but note that parts of Idaho will be cold and very snowy, so bring the right gear. If you are an avid outdoor recreationist, or if you just enjoy the beauty of nature, Idaho will not disappoint.

Here a few options:

1. Camping- there are few states where camping is as accessible, or as memorable. Particularly popular places to go camping in Idaho include lakeside camping in northern Idaho, by either beautiful Lake pond Oreille, or Coeur d’Alene (very crowded in the summer.) Priest Lake, the state’s most northern major lake, is also a nice choice during the summer, when it’s hot. Northern middle Idaho in the Clearwater mountains is full of green forests, rugged terrain, and a ton of wildlife. Expect to see elk, foxes, forest grouse, and possibly bears. Please remember that bears require complete compliance with food storage rules in camp sites, and one should never, ever feed bears.

A clear example of why is Yellowstone national park, which has its westernmost boundary in Idaho, and is another popular spot. Before no-feeding rules were enforced, bears were fed by tourists regularly. Bears eventually began to pursue the possibility of food by coming into campsites, threatening both travelers and their own natural way of life. Hundreds were shot as a safety precaution. Do yourself and the bears a favor: don’t feed them, don’t leave food out in the campsite, and abide by all posted rules in your campsite. Right near western Yellowstone is island Park reservoir, which boasts some of the most amazing sunsets you’ll ever see, and is a good place to see a moose wading in shallow, swampy water.

2. Backpacking- Because Idaho is Ã?¾ mountains (there are 80 recognized mountain ranges here,) there are plenty of backpacking trails that are strenuous and ideal for the avid mountaineer. Of course, anything in the Rocky Mountains will be beautiful and challenging. The Sawtooth mountain range, located near Stanley, is a favorite postcard snapshot, and is one of the most scenic locations in the state. El Capitan, a mountain peak with an elevation 9,920 feet, located on the eastern border with Montana is gorgeous. The highest point in Idaho, Mt. Borah has an elevation of 12,562 feet, and is located northeast from Sun Valley. There are some well tread trails here, and day hiking is popular for those that might not necessarily feel the need to reach the summit. One of the most challenging hikes, in terms of steep altitude, is the Seven Devils Mountain Range, on the western border with Oregon. These steep, dry peaks overlook Hells Canyon, and the plunging contrast between the high mountains, and the deep canyon below will take your breath away. It also might make you feel like you’re going to faint, which is how my last hiking companion ended up nearly tumbling to his demise- please be careful.

3. Fishing- This was one of the things that drew Ernest Hemingway into settling in Idaho. There is no denying that river and ocean fisheries are not what they once were. The countless rivers that run through Idaho are some of the cleanest in the country – make sure you do your part to keep them that way. You’ll find several varieties of trout, including Brown, spotted, and rainbow. Idaho also has wild salmon in many rivers, including sockeye. Rivers are popular for fly fishing, especially all the different forks of the Snake and Salmon rivers. There are also plenty of good reservoirs for float tube and reel fishing.
Clearwater Reservoir, Magic reservoir, and Palisades reservoir are all good choices. Remember to buy your fishing permit, and there’s no shame in catch and release (in some places and some spawning seasons, it’s all that is permitted, so make sure to check.) The thrill is in the catch, and in the setting.

4. Rafting- Again, the intricate river system in Idaho is so precious and needs to be taken care of. Rivers in southwest Idaho, in the Boise vicinity, are particularly good for rafting. They are also in the hottest regions, which makes the water particularly appealing. If you don’t have the heart for tackling rapids, or are just in the mood for a smoother ride, take the kids on the inflatable raft down the Boise river. It’s safe, fun, and runs right through town.

5. Skiing- there are plenty of major ski areas in Idaho. Try Bogus Basin, which is located right in the mountains overlooking Boise, about 45 minutes away. Sun Valley, the popular resort, is a little more expensive, but they have snow machines, so you never have to worry about rocks. The Brundage ski area, in McCall, has great snow, and manmade snow isn’t usually even a concern in the ski season. The new luxury lift area, Tamarack, also just opened nearby, in Donnelly, and gives skiers more access to new terrain and tree areas.

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