Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Get outside!

Beautiful weather, recreational options abound for Fourth


The Sawtooth Mountains north of Ketchum are in a protected wilderness area that provides world-class hiking and camping. Photo by David N. Seelig

Looking for a way to enjoy what promises to be a beautiful Fourth of July week? Sun Valley Resort, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Craters of the Moon have offerings open all weekend.

For those who wish to stay close to town, the summer lift on Bald Mountain is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. until Sept. 3. People can take Sun Valley Resort lifts to the top and enjoy a number of outdoor activities from there. Baldy is home to 28 miles of hiking and biking trails that locals and out-of-towners alike enjoy at almost any skill level.

Hikers may also enjoy five miles of hiking around the White Clouds Golf Course in Sun Valley, just across Sun Valley Road from the Sun Valley Lodge. Bikers who want a more advanced experience can take an uphill climb up Baldy before ripping down the Warm Springs Trail. Trail maps can be found on Sun Valley Resort's website, www.sunvalley.com, or at the River Run Plaza in Ketchum.

Looking just to enjoy the sunshine? The Roundhouse restaurant is open daily, for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and for dinner from 6-9 p.m. Dinner reservations are required and can be made by calling 622-2012.

However, those wishing to go farther afield have plenty of options as well. Craters of the Moon National Monument near Carey offers an evening hike on Saturday, July 7.

Because the monument can get so warm during the day in the summer, hikers can take advantage of cooler evening temperatures during a 3- to 4-mile hike around and to the top of North Crater with a ranger. Reservations are required, and can be made by calling (208) 527-1335.

The monument offers daily ranger-guided Walks and Talks, through which hikers can climb a volcano, explore a lava tube or join rangers for an evening presentation at the monument's campground. For more information, call 208-527-1335.

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Fun-seekers headed north should be advised that Fisher Creek Road north of Galena Summit is closed due to a major washout and will not be repaired until August.

However, Fourth of July Creek Road is open to the ever-popular Fourth of July trailhead. Iron Creek Road is open to the trailhead as well, though driving may be rough due to washboard conditions for the first mile. Pole Creek Road is also open, but only 6.5 miles to Grand Prize Gulch, after which avalanche debris blocks the road.

The Sawtooth National Recreation Area reports that the forest experienced a mild winter, but snow is still present in higher elevations and the backcountry—higher elevations being roughly above 8,000 feet. Even where there isn't snow, conditions may be wet and muddy, with trees down over the trails.

However, there are plenty of clear and dry trails to explore.

According to the SNRA headquarters, the Bench Lakes Trail near Redfish Lake is clear and snow free to the second lake; Fishhook Trail, also near Redfish Lake, is open and clear; Boundary Creek, starting on the east side of state Highway 75 across from the Sawtooth Fish hatchery, is dry to the ridge before Casino Lakes; and the Alpine Creek Trail near Alturas Lake is open to one mile past the wilderness boundary.

At the south end of the SNRA, north of Ketchum, Murdock Creek Trail is open and clear—and wheelchair accessible for the first mile, providing a true backcountry experience for those with mobility issues. The Harriman Trail, another wheelchair-accessible trail, is open and clear for its full 18-mile length. The Norton Creek Trail near Baker Creek is open as an out-and-back but is still snowy around the lake, and Titus Lake Trail is covered in snow for the last mile to the lake.

For more up-to-date information on trail conditions, call the Ketchum Ranger District at 622-5371 or the SNRA headquarters at 727-5000.

Kate Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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