For the last five years, my rigorous and often unplanned overseas travel schedule has kept me from really feeling like I could call any place home. I have laid my exhausted head in both dirty and luxurious hotel rooms, Icelandic campgrounds, and Maasai Bomas countless times in this half a decade stretch. But that all changed when I decided to cut my travel schedule a bit and begin to settle down. I packed up what little belongings I had and found a home in the outdoor paradise that is Idaho.
Despite my attempts, for the first nine months, I was barely in the country, let alone the state. But after spending a snow covered winter in down jackets on snowboards and snowmobiles, I was looking forward to the warmer temperatures and vivid greens that appear as the thick snow layer melted away. So I stayed in Idaho this Spring to plan some photography workshops for Idaho Photo Workshops. And it was pretty incredible. Using some research from the Visit Idaho website, here are my favorite places that I adventured in before the 100-degree heat arrived. Obviously, I highly recommend visiting this beautiful state any time of year, but spring is a perfect mix of still snow-capped mountain peaks, vibrant wildflowers and warming temperatures.
While most of Idaho can become quiet during a deep winter, Sun Valley is an exception. The destination is known the world over for its incredible skiing, but the beauty and recreation doesn’t stop when the snow melts. Seemingly endless trails can keep hikers and mountain bikers exploring new terrain for weeks, including the famed Bald Mountain ski area which is open to hikers and bikers from June to September. At the foot of the mountain lies the town of Ketchum, which is full of rooftop bars and restaurants, perfect for a Spring sunset cocktail and appetizer. They even have one of my favorite beer makers, the Sawtooth Brewery.
But the real Spring surprise of Sun Valley is the incredible wildflower display. It doesn’t last long and blooms at different times every year, but if you somehow find yourself able to get to Sun Valley during this time, you will be rewarded with a ‘Sound of Music’ looking scene as you gaze out to the mountains that surround the Valley. Keep an eye on the Visit Sun Valley Facebook or Instagram to know when the bloom arrives. And make the short drive north to Cathedral Pines for an impressive scene of wildflowers in the field in front of the Boulder Mountains.
Just an hour north of Sun Valley over the stunning Galena mountain pass, lies Stanley. I still remember my first trip to the town with a population of just 62 residents. It was in the beginning of winter, and needless to say, it was quiet. While winter makes Stanley a near ghost town, the complete opposite occurs in the summer months, as thousands of outdoor enthusiasts descend on the picturesque town to backpack through the remote Sawtooth Wilderness or raft down the legendary Salmon River. Spring though is a perfect time to visit as the air is warm, wildflowers pop up in front of the Sawtooth Mountains and the summer rush of adventure seekers has yet to awake from their hibernation.
For those with real sense of adventure, you can even hike up to Alpine Lake and Sawtooth Lake, high above the town. Be ready to lose the trail and use your compass navigation to just go straight up a wall of snow until you eventually reach a body of likely still frozen water. There is nothing like relaxing in a hammock in front of a frozen lake in your shorts and a t-shirt. But that’s just a typical spring in Stanley.
Some would consider Redfish Lake a part of the above-mentioned Stanley, as the lake lies just 8 miles south of the town. But you can easily spend a couple of days at Redfish and never need, nor want to, leave. While you can stay at the lodge, most opt to camp at this Idaho staple. There is nothing like watching the sun set and the sky light up behind the jagged Sawtooth Mountains behind the lake.
Boating, jet skiing, stand up paddle boarding, and kayaking is all great water sports to waste a spring day away. But few know that you can sharpen your rock climbing skills just a couple hundred feet from the shoreline. Call up Matt and Sam from Sawtooth Mountain Guides and they will have you rigged up and scaling an impressive boulder in no time.
The town of Twin Falls is a perfect gateway if you want to explore…you guessed it…waterfalls! The biggest and most popular is Shoshone Falls, which at 212 feet tall is bigger than Niagra Falls. And springtime is the best time to visit Shoshone or any of the other countless waterfalls in the region as the snow melt makes the walls of water incredibly powerful. But there is plenty of other things to do in Twin Falls, such as renting a kayak and moving slowly down the Snake River to Pillar Falls. But when you get to Perrine Bridge, make sure to look up as this is the one bridge in the United States where BASE jumping is legal. On the Summer Solstice of 2017, Red Bull athlete Miles Daisher just broke the world record when he completed 63 jumps off of the famed bridge.
But on your way down to rent your kayak from AWOL Adventure Sports in Centennial Water Park, stop by the incredible Perinne-Coulee Falls. Standing behind this monster is an experience you don’t want to miss!
Don’t miss the regions other waterfalls in Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon, Niagra Springs, Auger Falls, Devil’s Punchbowl, plus much more.
Cascade can often be overlooked, as the small town with the big lake lies just south of its heavily touristed big brother, McCall, Idaho. But Lake Cascade State Park is a beautiful body of water that has 47 miles of surface area, making it the fourth largest in the state. While the summer months see a massive uptick in sun drenched weekenders looking for a swim, the early spring months are almost completely empty, as shown in our April weekend adventure story. While it was a little chilly and stormy, the solitude that the area provides is a welcome adjustment to the recent winter months.
Ah Boise…what else can you say about the ‘Big City?’ The state capital is home to a diverse and ever changing demographic of residents. But there always seems to be a common attitude among the people who call Boise home. They know how to have fun and live life to the fullest. Miles of mountain biking, hiking, and Green Belt jogging make the city an outdoor enthusiasts playground, and even though the temperatures haven’t hit the summer warmth of daily 90+ degrees, Boise residents see spring as their breakout from the deep freeze of winter, with this year being especially brutal. As the snow melts and the sun shines, the stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, bicycles and recently groomed dogs all come out to play. And in between those outdoor sun soaked adventures, we always know how to enjoy a sour ale from Barbarian Brewing, a bratwurst and a boot from Prost! and some of the downtown’s best restaurants, like Fork and Alavita.
Anytime is a great time to visit Boise…but if you really want to see the excited and friendly personalities, come here in Spring and sit back, relax and enjoy. Just don’t blame us if you never leave.
By all accounts, Camas Prairie has some of the earliest wildflower blooms in Spring. So in late May, I packed up my Xterra and headed out for a 24-hour adventure. While the purple camas lily bloom wasn’t as vibrant as in previous years, I was still blown away by the beauty of the 3,100-acre marshland. The imposing Soldier Mountains in the background make for a great background for your spring photos.
Idaho has alot of beautiful lakes. But few that are as easy to access are as beautiful and peaceful as Pettit Lake, just 16 miles south of Stanley. Every time I stop by this lake, I am amazed that I am one of the only ones there. But imagine my surprise when a quick stop turned into a half day affair as I discovered that the lake’s hillsides are home to a massive bloom of wildflowers. If you are looking for a little solitude, some stunning flowers, and a mellow place to chill in your hammock, it’s hard to pass up Pettit Lake in the spring.
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Unfortunately, this historic National Monument was one of 27 currently being reviewed by the Department of Interior. But just last week, it was recommended that no changes be made, meaning Craters of the Moon will stay as is for the foreseeable future. And what exactly is Craters of the Moon? Well as the name suggests, the landscapes resemble the moon, thanks to its massive 618 square mile lava field, the largest in the United States. And living up to its name, this almost century old National Monument also served as the training grounds for the Apollo astronauts. Today, visitors can drive the famous loop to see some of the volcanic cones and craters, and the eerie trees serve as amazing foreground for Milky Way photography as this is truly one of the darkest night sky in all of Idaho.
But what was it about Spring that made a bunch of dried lava so special? Well, believe it or not, wildflowers actually bloom in this harsh landscape. While they are small, the way they overtake the dark, martian ground is stunning. Coupled with mild temperatures and the arrival of the Milky Way under clear night skies, spring is a perfect time to take a trip to the Moon.
As you can see, it’s easy to love Idaho, especially in the spring months. Come on out, we would love to have you!
I cannot thank Visit Idaho enough for the support they have given me. In addition to being the friendliest tourism board I have ever worked with, they also have the slickest and most informative website I have ever seen. Check them out and start planning your Idaho getaway at https://visitidaho.org/.
And make sure to tell me when you come through town. Would love to try some of the crisp craft beer and delicious food with you!