Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Savor the season

Affordable spring getaways abound in south-central Idaho

Express Staff Writer

The banks of the Salmon River near Stanley make a great spring getaway.

Spring getaways in Idaho are plentiful and could be deemed downright necessary to shake out the winter blues. If gas prices make a traveler with a bad case of wanderlust flinch, keep in mind that a change of scene is priceless. A few south-central Idaho getaways offer a pleasant seasonal change in only a few short hours. Try these trips on scenic byways before summer tourists crowd the highways and the plentiful and beautiful campgrounds throughout the state.

City of Trees

An escape to Boise will offer lots of flora and fauna en route and a full-bloom springtime experience upon arrival. The drive across the Camas Prairie on U.S. Highway 20 offers green environs and chances to sight rare birds, including the sandhill crane as it travels north for the summer.

While in Boise, enjoy the area's Snake River Birds of Prey celebration, Boise bike week and the city's abundant trails. Nearby rivers are flowing for adventurous kayakers. Several hotels in downtown Boise allow park-and-walk enjoyment of restaurants, bars, stores, parks and museums. For information on Boise, visit

City of Rocks

Rock climbers know the City of Rocks National Reserve, but few people may know it's an exceptional camping spot, especially in spring. This dramatic geological site with granite spires and monoliths reaching 60 stories tall is a climber's paradise, and it's also a camping, hiking and mountain biking wonderland. In the spring, the flora and fauna of the City of Rocks is abundant. The diverse habitat supports all types of mammals, birds and reptiles. The reserve is managed by the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.

For rock climbers, this world-class site offers the best of granite face-climbing, with as many as 700 developed routes.

From Sun Valley, travel south on state Highway 75 to Twin Falls and go east on Interstate 84. Take exit 216 and travel south on Highway 77 approximately 23 miles. Continue south on Elba-Almo Road approximately 16 miles. The reserve is approximately two miles west of Almo. For climbing program information and reservations, call the City of Rocks visitor center at (208) 824-5901.


Hagerman Fossil Beds

Last year the Long Butte Fire burned more than 75 percent of the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument in Hagerman. A restoration project is under way to restore a small section of the Oregon Trail that runs through the monument. The Oregon Trail Overlook is closed for renovations but other areas of the monument are open. This spring there is an opportunity to learn about the wildfire and rehabilitation project.

A three-mile trail at the park is a great way to experience the Oregon Trail, especially in the spring. Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument Visitor Center is located along Highway 30 in the town of Hagerman across from the high school. From Sun Valley, travel south on Highway 75 to Twin Falls, take I-84 east to the first Bliss exit, No. 137, and travel approximately two miles to the turnoff for Highway 30 on the right. Travel eight miles on Highway 30 to the town of Hagerman. For details, call (208) 933-4127.

Thousand Springs

While in Hagerman, enjoy a visit to Thousand Springs State Park to see the gushing white waterfalls. The area also offers several hot springs, including Banbury Hot Springs, Mircale Hot Springs and Thousand Springs Resort. The geothermal pools are relaxing and many people boast of their healing powers. River activities abound in the area and a major fish hatchery can be entertaining for kids.

For details, call Banbury Hot Springs at (208) 543-4098, Miracle Hot Springs at (208) 543-6002, or Thousand Springs Resort at 837-4987.

Stanley area

Although the mountain peaks around Stanley are covered in snow, the Salmon River is flowing and the animals are on the move.

Small, quaint motels and lodges are the norm in this hamlet about an hour north Sun Valley. They aren't too far but feel a world apart. Glorious views of the Sawtooth Valley and spectacular fishing make this area an oasis. In general, don't expect to watch television or log in online.

"We are so lucky to have the Sawtooth Valley at our disposal. It is a special place," said Karen Day, owner of the historic Salmon River Lodge, which will open Sunday, May 15. "I tell people to go eat at the bakery in the morning and take an adventure to hot springs up and down the river. Also, the museum in Stanley is a gem and a wealth of information."

From Sun Valley, take Highway 75 north to Stanley, approximately 78 miles.

For details, contact the Stanley-Sawtooth Chamber of Commerce at

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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