Idaho – The best place for camping, biking and hot springs
Sharing some of our favorite spots and activities from time spent here in late September
Idaho was state #4 that we visited on this journey. It was also one of my favorites. I hope to go back someday during the summer as well! We were very pleasantly surprised by the town of Boise and found the Sawtooth Wilderness to be rather breathtaking. There are endless areas for camping, biking and outdoor activities (and lots of other people out there enjoying them). Note that you will almost always be out of cell service – which is perfect if you’re getting away on vacation and not as great if you’re trying to work remotely. We visited at the end of September when the ‘high season’ had just ended and temperatures were starting to cool down. We had free reign on our choice of campsites and generally had the place to ourselves.
- Salmon River Campground (Redfish lake overflow camp – Stanley, ID) – Despite the freezing night time temps of 17 degrees this was one of our favorite camp spots. Right along the Salmon river, just down the road from Redfish lake, beautiful views of the (snowy) Sawtooth Mountains and an unreal starry sky at night. (44.1722414,-114.9064115)
- Praire Creek Campground (Ketchum, ID) – 5 stars we loved it here. Free camping, right along the creek and only about 15 minutes north of Ketchum. It’s about halfway between Ketchum and Galena so we stayed here the night before we biked the Galena Lodge Trails. (43.816629,-114.593977)
- Warm Springs Road (Ketchum, ID) – While this wasn’t our favorite place to camp it was very convenient in it’s correlation to Ketchum and the Frenchman’s Bend hot springs.
- Galena Lodge Trails – Gladiator Loop – Galena lodge trails are an awesome network of trails. We did the Gladiator loop which was perfect for beginners but still challenging enough that Matt had a great time too.
- Pocatello Lower and Upper City Creek Trail – While this is an out/back trail, I’m not sure I’ve ever had so much fun on a trail. It’s a steady climb on the way out (just enough to feel like you’re working) with a flowy fUN Descent on the way back – crossing over at least 10 bridges over the creek. We also happened to hit this trail when the fall colors along the creek were unreal.
Hot Springs (and other notable bodies of water)
- Kirkham Hot Springs (Lowman, Idaho)- One of the more popular hot springs in Idaho but an awesome one all the same. We came here on a Sunday in September and most of the springs were filled with people. The reason I loved these hot springs was the fact that they run right along side the river. There are lots of different pools and different temps to choose from, including ones with cascading waterfalls running into them. It costs $5 for parking. I think it’s worth the trip, you’ll see here that we enjoyed them.
- Frenchman’s Bend (or Warfield Hot Springs) (Ketchum, ID)- Frenchman’s Bend is right outside of Ketchum, ID on Warm Springs road (see above for free camping on warm springs road). This is a popular local spot so bring some beer and be ready to make new friends in the springs. Listen for voices and look for steam rising from the river, we probably never would have found this if there weren’t already people soaking and chatting.
- Lava Hot Springs Mineral Pools – This is a paid hot springs “resort” – meaning that the springs are organized, clean and maintained. There are several natural mineral pools at different temperatures for ~ $8 each. They offer showers onsite so we opted for this option after a mountain bike ride in Pocatello -mtb, shower, hot spring, shower (worth it).
- Red Fish Lake – we visited in late fall so we didn’t catch the lake in all it’s summer swimming glory. However, this area is incredibly beautiful no matter what time of year you visit.
- Shashone Falls & Dierkes Lake (Twin Falls, ID)- This is quite the opposite of a hot spring, but we did take a dip in Dierks Lake. This was the coldest water we swam (*cough* bathed in) in September but was beautiful and refreshing all the same. Worth checking out the views at Shashone falls while you are her also.
- Note: you could spend a whole month doing a hot springs tour of Idaho – there are more than I can count and many more than we visited. Here are the 7 Must-Visit Idaho Hot Springs according to Idaho Tourism (a great resource for planning your trip).
Favorite City: Boise
- We didn’t have many expectations going into Boise – but we loved it! It supported our theory that college towns always have a good ‘lively’ feel to them. But what surprised me was the very evident outdoor culture here – including a bike shop on every corner. I’m not saying we’re ready to move here but I think this city is worth a visit.
- With the van, one of the first things we do when driving into a more urban area is look for some type of city park to start off at. We drove into Boise and pulled up at Camel’s Back Park on the north end of town. We ended up sleeping and putzing around this part of town most of our stay, except for the night that we ventured downtown.
- Why we love Camel’s Back Park:
- Urban Gym in Camel’s Back Park
- Great for sunrises and sunsets.
- Kickoff point for multiple MTB trails in the Hull’s Gulch Reserve
- Close to Java Hyde Park – my new favorite coffee shop. Get the bowl of soul if you’re looking for morning treat but all their coffee is great. Hyde Park is a great little part of town – what is considered the ‘historic district’ of North End filled with shops, eats and really good coffee.
- Other favorites in Boise:
- Freak Alley Gallery – Alley full of street art downtown, worth the trip if you’re in the area.
- Eureka! – Beers and Burgers. Downtown Boise is filled with brew pubs and
- Garden City & the Surf Park – An ‘up and coming’ area of the city – reminded me of San Francisco’s dog Patch. A brand new park along the Boise River includes river surfing and lots of trendy looking bars and activities popping up in the area.
- Hailey’s Power House – bikes, burgers, beer. Good burgers, refreshing beer and great vibe. It also happens to be a full service bike repair, fit studio & sales shop. Hailey is just south of Ketchum, ID and worth a trip if you’re in the area.