Idaho is an outdoor lover’s dream come true. The opportunities to spend quality time in sparsely populated pristine wilderness settings are abundant, especially north of the town of Hailey. Depending on what activities you’re most interested in the central to northern stretches of the state have you covered. Fly-fishing, hiking, hot-springing, kayaking and river rafting, backcountry skiing, mountain biking, rock climbing-the list of high quality outdoor activities worth experiencing in this region of the American West are endless. The following represents a small taste of some of the regional highlights showcased in the amazing month of June when mountain living across the country is just about as good as it gets.
It’s no surprise the real time to experience the bounty of the backcountry skiing potential in this area is in the winter and early spring months. Although persistent weak layer issues are not uncommon there tends to be ample low-angle powder skiing when such issues are prevalent, and when stability is in place, there are as many picturesque mountain peaks to explore, tour and track up as you could possibly want. There are also opportunities to base yourself out of a backcountry yurt or hut, and local guide services like Sawtooth Mountain Guides will help you safely access the goods in the area if you’re looking for such assistance.
If you’re cool to go for a walk in the woods with a little extra weight-meaning skis and boots-June can be a great month to get out and ski in the high country of Idaho. The Devil’s Bedstead is an iconic peak in the area and for good reason. The mountain is gorgeous and boasts a striking face that will cause most any skier or rider to stop dead in their tracks while jaws drop and dreams are dreamt. Although our recent experience on this line was a tad late for a full value experience, our turns were indeed classic and from pictures I’ve seen in previous years, even in June, this is easily one of the radder lines in the state.
A visit to the Sawtooth Range is a must for all outdoor lover’s who make a trip to the state. Redfish Lake is a good bet if you’re hanging in the area, especially if you’re a climber.
Some of the best rock climbing in the state-with the exception of City of Rocks-is accessed from Redfish Lake. From the lodge you can hop on a boat shuttle that’ll take you across the lake and drop you off a few miles away from a few choice spots to get your climb on. Trad climbing is the major medium in the area, although there are some sport routes, bouldering opportunities, and routes that feature aid. Of course the boat shuttle is also a great way to get a helpful hand into the depths of the Sawtooth Wilderness to go out for a long hike or overnight backpacking mission.
If you’re not into taking the boat shuttle just hanging around the Redfish Lake area is a good use of time. You can easily bike around the lake and pop in-and-out of several cozy campgrounds,
and there’s even a good sized boulder near the lake that has some good problems and a few anchors to set up a top-rope or lead as short trad climbs.Boat rentals, kayaks, paddleboards and other watercentric recreational opportunities are abound at Redfish Lake. There’s even a few secluded beaches to hide out at and have a nice relaxing mountain beach day if that’s something you’re into.
One of the major draws to the Sawtooth region, especially in July and August, is the recreational opportunities centered around the Salmon River. There are several companies and outfits that run day and multi-day trips based out of the town of Stanley. The river is gorgeous and while the day trip option is a good way to get in the water, most locals and outdoor enthusiasts will point you towards a trip that gets you on the river for several days.
One of the trips that sounds most appealing is a float into the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, which is second only to Death Valley as the largest protected wilderness in the country. A short drive out of Stanley will bring you to Lola Creek campground where you can sleep in seclusion amongst diverse wildlife, wildflowers and the Salmon River. A trailhead is found at the end of the road where hiking access is gained, but to search out the mysterious hidden hot-springs and to truly get deep in this setting without backpacking on a multi-day/week trip hopping on a river trip is the way to go.
After a long day of hiking, skiing, biking, or really doing anything sitting in a hot springs is a proper way to cap a beautiful day. Idaho is full of hot, geothermal water and as a byproduct hot springs are found in various places throughout the state. I was told the hot springs up in the River of No Return Wilderness Area are “the ones”, but this tub that sits right outside of town on the Salmon River is a pretty easy way to get a good soak in as well. There’s a ton of other springs, some of which are accessed by hiking into the woods, and some of which are not to be discussed on the web-you’ll just have to show up and rap with some of the locals to find your way.
Idaho is a huge state with a major section of amazing mountain living found between Hailey and the Stanley area. Two of the top adventures beyond what’s mentioned above are skiing the north couloir of McGowan Peak, and mountain biking the Fischer Creek loop trail. These adventures are true classics. They deserve their own individual reports so stay tuned.