We hiked three trails, swam in three lakes, soaked in three hot springs, stayed in three different campgrounds, got, er, one speeding ticket, and laughed too many times to count. After a busy summer season, I took a GoCamp trip of my own to Idaho with some girlfriends. There were three of us, which resulted in exponential fun. Here’s a recap of our trip by the numbers.
Miles Driven: 1066 miles
We set off for our adventure from Portland, Ore. and drove to Stanley, Idaho, gateway to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. We stopped for provisions in Boise and then headed out Highway 55 to Banks, where we turned right on the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway to go through Lowman and on to Stanley via Highway 21, all of which had the benefit of jaw dropping scenery.
GoCamp will have camper vans available for pick up in Boise, Idaho during the 2019 season, so if you’d prefer to fly into Boise (as some of our crew did), that’ll be an option for you soon.
When we first arrived late Friday afternoon, the campgrounds at Redfish Lake were already taken, so we kept going to Alturas Lake and the North Shore Campground. Best decision we ever made. Next year I’ll suggest we drive another two miles down the main access road to the Alturas Inlet Campground because it seemed to offer a little bit better beach access and was nestled near a charming meadow.
After Alturas Lake we tried our luck at Redfish Lake again and scored a perfect spot (#4 I think) at Chinook Bay Campground. This campground is the first you come to on the right as you enter the Redfish Lake complex. It is quiet, lovely and boasts its own beach on Little Redfish Lake, away from the hustle and bustle of it’s bigger namesake.
Pine Flats Campground, in the Boise National Forest along the Banks-Lowman Highway (the same scenic byway mentioned above), was our final stop. The trail to a beautiful hot spring starts in this campground, which gave us all the reason we needed to stop here on our last night. Nestled along the South Fork of the Payette, the forest across the river from the campground is recovering from a fire. I found the look of black, charred trees against new growth to be stunning.
With over 700 miles of trail in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, the biggest problem is choosing which hike you’ll do. We were interested in jumping into alpine lakes, so we let the presence of a lake guide our selection.
We hiked the Cabin Creek Trail, the Bench Lakes Trail, and Saddleback Lake Trail. Of the three, Saddleback was the most strenuous and required really paying attention to cairns and other trail markings, but was well worth all the scrambling over boulders off trail.
Lake Swims: 3
Not counting Alturas Lake, where we camped for two nights, we jumped in three alpine lakes, one during each hike above!
Hot Spring Soaks: 3
That Idaho has so many hot springs, one around every corner it seemed, was a revelation to me. Boat Box Hot Spring made us giddy, with its cauldron off the side of the road along the Salmon River, and the two pools at Pine Flats Campground mentioned above made it hard to leave Idaho. Pro tip: while at Pine Flats Campground head down the trail to the hot springs just before dusk so that the light is just so over the river as you soak.
Idaho, we’ll be back for more, much more.
Photo credit: Shawn Linehan