Kid and Beginner Friendly Sun Valley Rides

Kid and Beginner Friendly Sun Valley Rides

Sun Valley is famous for miles of singletrack trails and this might seem intimidating for kids and beginners. Luckily there are a couple of good options. Also remember with any kid bike ride to take the pace easy and walk any section that kids are unsure of there abilities. Also make sure to bring along some fun snacks to eat along the way. Our favorite option are fruit snacks which provide a nice treat for kids.

Right in Sun Valley and Ketchum you will find a whole network of paved bike paths. These are the easiest options and are the flattest options. The Wood River Bike Path runs along the Wood River in Ketchum and will take you all the way to Bellevue. The path is about 21 miles long and there is lots of shade along the way along with benches and picnic spots. If you are looking for a harder option then the Harriman Trail runs from Galena Lodge to the SNRA Headquarters.

Are you looking for a kid friendly singletrack experience? Your first destination should be Galena Lodge. Park in the Galena Lodge parking lot and ride east on the main dirt road and you will come to the Galena View Trail. The Galena View Trail is a very mellow trail and has a great flow to the trail. A lot of the trail is like a little pump track with lots of little ups and downs. You will have some great meadow views all along the trail and some great views of the Boulder Mountains.

Once you have done Galena View and want a little more remote singletrack experience then Corral Creek is worth checking out. The trail is is about 3.3 miles in length and can be done with beginner using the road to get back to the top. With kids you can descend the trail and then have the kids wait at the picnic table in the shade at the end of the trail while someone rides back up the road to get the campervan. From the top of the trail you will start in dense pine and Douglas fir forest with patches of aspen groves along the way. The trail is rolling and fun for all ages with mellow grade. At mile 2 you will come to a section of the trail that has a steep drop off on one side. The trail is nice and wide, but some beginners might walk a couple of sections. The section with the steep drop off is short and is worth walking since the rest of the trail is so much fun.

Smokey Boulder

Smokey Boulder

Just north of New Meadows off of Hwy 95 is the Smokey Boulder Rd. This road will take you along the scenic meadows of Round Valley. You will have a good chance of seeing elk in the morning or evening along this road.

smokeyboulder map.jpg

Keep on driving on Smokey Boulder Rd. and you will want to bear right to stay on the Smokey Boulder Rd. toward Smokey Boulder Camp. Near Smokey Boulder Camp you will find ample primitive camping, but no official campgrounds so you simply choose a spot off the side of the road.

There are some great trail opportunities in the area for hiking and biking. The Pollock Mountain Trail and the Cow Camp Trail are both great trails and are usually well maintained. The Pollock Mountain trail is recommended as a downhill only for Mountain Bikers and the Cow Camp trail is a great trail for most intermediate riders up until mile 4.5. There are some great views along the Cow Camp trail and you will likely be the only ones on the trail.

Springtime Moab

Springtime Moab

Annually we make a trek down to Moab at the end of April to mountain bike and explore for couple of days. The campervan came in handy for extra sleeping and some of the shuttling we did with our bikes. This trip was also the first time on a new mountain bike from Cannondale and you can read the full review here.

This trip we practiced a little more filming than in years past so we have a couple great videos to watch.

Spring on Washington's Palouse Prairie

Spring on Washington's Palouse Prairie

Over spring break we spent some time in Washington's Palouse Prairie and visited the small towns of Dayton and Walla Walla. Spring time on the Palouse is an experience as you drive through the verdant green hills of grass and sprouting green crops. 

Our first stop along our route was at Palouse Falls State Park, the state park has a spectacular 198ft water fall and many miles of trails. There is limited parking near the falls view point and you will need to purchase a Washington Discovery Pass. The view point is very spectacular year around as the river cascades over the cliff and into a massive canyon. The trail system at the state park is still under development and you do need to be careful on some of the user created trails since they can take you near numerable cliffs. We were not able to explore the trails as much as we would have liked since someone had fallen and emergency crews were on the scene assessing the situation.

After visiting Palouse Falls we headed to Historic Dayton. Dayton has a wide main street and many historic buildings. You can check out the old train depot just one block off of main street or check out the many well maintained historic building right on the main drag. There is a wonderful wine scene in town with many excellent restaurants. You will find many varieties of local wines at the restaurants in town. The dining options in town will defiantly keep you happy. There is the Petit Creek Restaurant, a four star french restaurant that attracts people from miles around to enjoy the delights. You can find a little more casual atmosphere at the Manila Bay Cafe, a quaint little restaurant with numerable dishes that will be sure to keep you happy and a great kids menu for the little ones. On busy weekends we defiantly recommend calling ahead for reservations since the restaurants are all pretty small with limited seating. Dayton is also home to Mule Mania days over Memorial Day Weekend. It is a fun and family friendly event that celebrates the often overlooked mule.

Just south of Dayton is Walla Walla and many more places to explore. Walla Walla also has a nice historic downtown area and some amazing dining options. Walla Walla is consider the capitol of Washingtons wine country and you will find numerable tasting rooms and wineries to visit. 

Walla Walla has a unique combination of climate and has become home to one of the finest wine regions in the US, boasting more than 100 wineries and 2,800 acres of grapes. To get started on your wine tour check out this list.

 

Campground Recommendations:

The campgrounds recommended below are open during the spring time. There are also numerable campgrounds in the nearby national forest, but many don't open until Memorial Day weekend.

Palouse Falls State Park- There is limited camping here with bathrooms and the sites are all first come first serve.

Lyons Ferry Marina KOA - Located on the Snake River and right across from the Lyons Ferry State Park. The sites here all have shade and trees like a more traditional campground. If you want to spend some time on the Snake River than this is a great destination to call home.

Lewis and Clark Trail State Park - In between Dayton and Walla Walla is this state park which offers and great spot to stay while exploring Dayton or Walla Walla. There are 24 sites and you have access to the river and some short hiking trails. 

Ruby Mountain Heli-Assist Backcountry Skiing

Ruby Mountain Heli-Assist Backcountry Skiing

Recommended Stay: 3 to 5 days

Distance from Boise 260 miles/Drive Time: 5 hours

Trip Cost Estimate: $675 to $2675

Just 5 hours south of Boise is one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in Nevada. The Ruby Mountains are 80 miles long and run north to south with the highest peak Ruby Dome topping out at 11,388 ft. The Ruby Mountains get large amounts of dry fluffy snow, but access to the mountains can be challenging during the winter months since there are no plowed roads that go into the mountain range. Most winter recreation in the Ruby Mountains takes place from Lamoille Canyon. To gain access for Backcountry Skiing you have three options in the Ruby Mountains. You can drive up Lamoille as far up as possible to one of the many turnouts and park along the road. You can use a snowmobile to travel up Lamoille Canyon or finally you can get a ride from Ruby Mountain Heli-Experience. The route shown on Day 2 is easily accessed using a snowmobile by going up the canyon. The road up the canyon is not maintained so if there is a large snow storm it can be a challenge to drive up the road.

The Terminal Cancer Couloir is the most famous line in the Ruby Mountains and runs dead straight in between two rock walls at a consistent pitch of 30 to 40 degrees. Terminal Cancer is accessed near Thomas Canyon Campground, but it can be a challenge to get to the start if there has been a lot of low elevation snow. Terminal Cancer's popularity also means you might find some moguls inside the couloir so if there has not been a lot of recent snow then it might be best to explore some other lines.

During our trip to the Ruby Mountains we parked our campervan in Lamoille Canyon and then partnered up with Ruby Mountain Heli-Experience to help with our transport into the Mountains. The camping opportunities in the Canyon during the winter are limited to primitive sites and you will not always have access to a toilet so it is recommended to bring along a port-a-potty. To partake in the Ruby Mountain Heli-Experience you will need to have at least 8 people in your party and it will cost $1200/person. They provide a lift in on the helicopter in the morning and then a lift out at the end of day in addition to one guide per four people. 

Day 1: 

On our first day in the Ruby Mountains we met our guides at the Ruby 360 lodge just outside of the town of Lamoille. We had to get all the usual forms out of the way and then get training on how to board a helicopter. As with any helicopter experience you are at the mercy of weather since the helicopter may not be able to fly depending on cloud cover. In those cases there is a snow cat available to shuttle you up into the mountains. The clouds finally cleared in the morning and we got our first lift. We were dropped off near the summit of Bald mountain and set to skiing the north-east aspect of the mountain down some long wide open slops. There were some nice aspen groves down in the valley and we ended up doing some laps on this slope for most of the morning. As the day went on we decided to try the western aspect and after working our way over some wind blown rock bands we dropped into a large aspen forest. We did one more run on the western aspect before working our way out among the aspen forest down in the valley. The terrain was fairly mellow today and snow conditions were excellent so we were ready to move onto some steeper aspects the next day. You can find the Route Map here or in the picture below.

Day 2:

Day 2 was our biggest day and we got picked up in Lamoille Canyon. This days skiing is all accessible from a snowmobile or you could access it with about a 5 mile ski in up the canyon. After getting picked up we were flown to the saddle just below snow lake peak. From the saddle we skiied down the southeast aspect toward Lamoille Canyon. We then did another lap on this aspect before dropping into Island Lake drainage. We drop down a narrow rock chute that then opened into some vast bowls. There were lots of great options in this bowl and we did a bunch of runs, but left a great deal of terrain untouched and unexplored. This drainage is defiantly worth exploring more in the future. To finish out the day we climbed up to just below a cliff band on one of the surrounding peaks and then dropped in on a 2000ft run down into Lamoille Canyon. The snow was excellent until the last 100 feet above the valley floor. From the valley we got picked up and flown down the canyon. Our finish spot on the map would be a great place to park a snowmobile and ski up into the drainage. You can check our Route Map here.

Day 3:

On day 3 the group was a little tired after two hard days of skiing so we planned on taking it easy today. We waited for the weather to clear in the morning and then got a lift up into the mountains. The winds were a little fierce on the summits this morning so we ended up having two separate landing spots to start our days adventure. From the summit we decended down into a large basin before climbing up the other side to look down into Lamoille Canyon. We enjoyed one more big run down the mountain before working our way out to a good spot to be picked up and flown out. We had a great trip in the Ruby Mountains and will definatly be making plans for next year. You can check out our Route Map here.

ruby_mountain_heli_backcountry_skiing

 

 

Van Life Travel Tips

Van Life Travel Tips

Do you love camping? Do you love van life? Here are some tips we have compiled to help you on your next trip.

 

1)Do you love card games on the road? Tired of losing your cards on the road. How about a soap box holder. 

2) Tired of getting mud from your shoes inside of your van? Just bring along some shower caps.

3) Toilet Paper Roll Fire Starter. Place dryer lint inside of a toilet paper roll and then wrap in paper.

camping-hacks-wandervans-outsidevan-idaho-boise56.jpg

5) Tired of getting bugs in your cups. Try using some cup cake liners and a straw.

camping-hacks-wandervans-outsidevan-idaho-boise.jpg

4) Night light. Use a simple water jug and a headlamp to make a jug lantern.

Banff National Park

Banff National Park

Recommended Stay: 10 to 14 days

Distance from Boise 756 miles/Drive Time: 13 hours

Trip Cost Estimate: $1375 to $1675

 

Banff National Park is a classic destination due to the amazing scenery and wildlife all around the park. From Boise there are three ways that google recommends to get to Banff National Park.  To break up the drive we recommend allowing at least two days and camping along the way. We recommend travelers take Route 2(US95) on the way to Banff and then Route 3(US95,12,US93) on the return trip.

Route 1 (Fastest and Least Scenic I-84,I-82,U395,I-90,US95):

From Boise we recommend you make it to Kennewick/Walla Walla Area one the first day and then the Couer d'Alene area on the second day. Here are some campgrounds along the route.

Palouse Falls State Park - 10 first come first serve sites.

Lewis and Clark Trail State Park - 24 reservable sites

Blackwell Island Campground, Couer d'Alene-182 reservable sites

Farragut State Park - 222 reservable sites

ound Lake State Park - 51 reservable sites

riest Lake State Park - 176 reservable sites

Route 2 (+10 minutes but very scenic US95):

From Boise we recommend you make it to Winchester State Park the first night and then the Couer d'Alene area on the second day. Here are some campgrounds along the route. All of our vans have an Idaho State Parks pass so you get free admission to the park along with discounted campsites.

Winchester State Park - 68 reservable sites

Blackwell Island Campground, Couer d'Alene-182 reservable sites

Farragut State Park - 222 reservable sites

ound Lake State Park - 51 reservable sites

riest Lake State Park - 176 reservable sites

Route 3 (+1.5 hours but very scenic U95, HWY12, US93):

From Boise we recommend you camp you make it to a campground along Hwy 12 the first night and then Missoula area on the second day. Here are some campgrounds along the route.

Powel Campground USFS - 68 reservable sites

Glacier National Park - Apgar Campground

Banff National Park

Banff National Park is one of Canada's Premier National Parks. There are amazing sites and lots of places to view wildlife. During the busy summer season we recommend hiking some of the trails to get away from some of the crowds. Check out some of the recommendations from Parks Canada here.

Banff National Park Camping-  The camping around Banff National Park offers the most inexpensive way to stay in the park while providing amazing scenery and easy access to nature. There are 13 Banff National Park campgrounds which offer 2,468 sites at reasonable rates. 

Here are some recommendations around Banff:

1) The Cave and Basin National Historic Site - Here you will see an underground Cave, and bubbling thermal waters. 

2) Lake Minnewanka - Has an excellent multiuse trail system and many places to relax on the water at the beach or for a picnic. 

3) Banff Legacy Trail - A paved bike path from the east entrance to Bow Valley Parkway. 

4) Upper Hot Springs Pool - Enjoy a natural hot springs where travelers have soaked for generations. 

4) Johnson Lake - Hike around the lake our paddle on its waters.  

5) Vermilion Lakes - Perfect place to enjoy birds and wildlife.

6) Johnston Canyon - Do you love waterfalls? Then this is the ideal stop. You can hike anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and enjoy some amazing views.

7) Lake Louise - The most classic destination in the park and a must do.

8) Lake Agnes Trail - A very popular trail in the park that takes you to Mirror Lake and has some amazing views of Lake Louise.

9) Plain of Six Glaciers Trail - This is another popular hike around Lake Louise featuring glaciers, views, and lots of wildlife.

0) Moraine Lake - Hike around the lake our paddle on its waters.

 

 

 

Glacier National Park Map

 

 

 

 

 

Castle Rock State Park/City of Rocks Preserve

Castle Rock State Park/City of Rocks Preserve

Recommended Stay: 3 to 4 days

Distance from Boise 210 miles/Drive Time: 4 hours

Trip Cost Estimate: $375 to $675

Tucked into the Southern part of Idaho is Castle Rock State Park and the City of Rocks Preserve. The City of Rocks is a premiere destination for rock climbers, but can also be enjoyed by hikers and mountain bikers from spring to the fall. There are loads of hiking and biking trails in both areas and these also connect to trails on Forest Service and BLM lands.

Campervan camping can be found in City of Rocks or in Castle Rock State Park. The campervan sites in City of Rocks Preserve are all dirt sites with limited services, but you get to camp right among the rocks. Here is a link to the map and click here to reserve. You will want to try and reserve ahead of time since there are limited sites and high demand. Campervan sites in Castle Rock State Park have more services than those on the preserve. The Castle Rock State Park campground is call the Smokey Mountain Campground. The Smokey Mountain Campground is not located in the main State Park unit, but is instead just south of Almo, check out this map for details and click here to reserve. There is not a lot of shade so it is nice to have a campervan for hanging out at when you need a break from the sunshine. We also can provide a free standing awning if you need even more shade.

Castle Rock State Park Trail Map

Grand Targee Resort

Grand Targee Resort

About 6 hours from Boise is Grand Targee Resort and some amazing powder. Plus you can stay overnight in the parking lot with your campervan so you will able to score first tracks in the morning. In addition to life serve skiing there is also some great cat skiing.

Overnight campervan parking is allow in the lower lot at a cost of $20/night. The restaurants are open from 7am to 7pm and there is no bathrooms available outside of those hours. We do have a small porta-potty available for rent if you will need bathroom service outside of normal hours.

Resort Trail Map

Expert Riders and Skier Recommendations:

Mary's Nipple: For those willing to do a little bit of hiking you can explore the large powder bowl off of Mary's Nipple and some amazing views of the Tetons. To get to Mary's you will take Dreamcatcher Lift to the top and then head south along the edge of the resort to Scotty's Gate. At the gate you will find out if Mary's is open. Once you pass through the gate you will have a 1/4 mile hike and about 300ft of climbing. The skiing is well worth the effort.

Toilet Bowl and Das Boot: At the top of the Sacajawea lift you will find some expert lines to the north. These two bowls are steep and you will find yourself working around some cliff bands or launching off of them. It is a nice rowdy time for those with the skills to pull it off.

 

Tamarack Campervan Skiing

Tamarack Campervan Skiing

A two hour drive from Boise is Tamarack Resort and some excellent campervan skiing and snow boarding and some great views of Lake Cascade. One of the best parts of the resort is the lack of lift lines. Every time we have skied at the resort we have never had a line to get on the lift. The resort is ideal for intermediate skiers and riders. There is a great beginner area right near the lodge and you will find no line at all on most days. More advanced skiers and riders will find the most challenging runs off of the summit. 

It is possible to park a campervan overnight in the Aspen Parking lot right near the entrance, we recommend first checking in with the information desk since there may be a small fee. Otherwise Brundage allows overnight parking in there lot for campervans. If you need another place to park overnight you can try the West Face Snowmobile lot right across from the Bear Creek Lodge.

Tamarack Resort Ski Map

Recommended Routes Advanced Skiers and Riders:

Adrenaline and Funnel: Start off Canoe Ridge from the top of the Summit chair. You might have a drop off to get onto the ski run and then you will have a nice steep run in a large snow bowl. 

After You and Me First: To the south of the Summit chair you will find the other advanced bowl this one has some nice ski lines tucked into the trees down the center. These lines are often overlooked on powder days so you may find some fresh stashes.

Sun Valley Campervan Skiing

Sun Valley Campervan Skiing

Sun Valley has some amazing skiing at the resort, but also some astronomical priced lift tickets. Our campervans can be part of the solution. Instead of spending loads of money on lodging that you will hardly use since you will be out enjoying the slopes, why not rent a campervan and then ski all day and then go check out the night life before crashing on some amazing beds. 

While Sun Valley Resort does not allowed overnight parking in the ski lots and you are likely to get towed if you park on any of the downtown streets overnight.  For $25/night you can park at the Meadows RV Park. You will want to call ahead to reserve your spot. North of Ketchum there are some lots that you can park in off Hwy 75. The Baker Creek Lot is the first lot you will come to after you leave town. Be aware you can get plowed in during a big snow storm.

Resort Trail Map

Sun Valley Backcountry Skiing:

There is a lots of great Back Country Skiing around Sun Valley. Around the Galena Summit are or near the Bake Creek Rd. Check out this cool video on Peak to Van skiing.

Craters of the Moon

Craters of the Moon

Recommended Stay: 3 to 4 days

Distance from Boise 170 miles/Drive Time: 3 hours

Trip Cost Estimate: $375 to $675

Craters of the Moon is a lunar landscape dropped in the middle of Idaho. Craters of the Moon is currently a National Monument and we hope to see it designated as Idaho's first National Park in the near future. Craters of the Moon erupted between 14,000 and 2,000 years ago and is one of the youngest lava flows in the lower 48 states. The landscape looks very lunar from a distance and is even harsher when you get up close and personal. Hiking in the park is easiest on established trails near the park entrance or there are some old roads in the southern portions of park that are an excellent way to get away from the crowds. 

The only official campervan campground is right off of Hwy 20 at the main park entrance and is called the Lava Flow Campground. Spots are limited so reservations are defiantly recommended. The campervan campground is right in the middle of the Lava Flow which can be fun for kids to play on, but sections can be very sharp.

Hiking Suggestions:

1) Tree Molds Trail- The Tree Molds hike is 2 miles long and has some amazing scenery as you will get to witness the locations of trees as they were encased by the lava flows. Make sure to stay on the trail since it is easy to get lost in the flows. Here is a map with more information.

2) Broken Top Trail:  This trail is one of the most spectacular trails in the park and as you hike its 2 miles length you will experiance all of the different types of lava flows. Check out this map for some extra details. There are a number of caves along this trail, but you are required to get a permit at the visitors center before entering them so make sure to due this when you enter the park.

 

Southern California Adventure (Death Valley/Joshua Tree)

Southern California Adventure (Death Valley/Joshua Tree)

Recommended Stay: 9 to 14 days

Distance from Boise 936 miles/Drive Time: 14.5 hours

Trip Cost Estimate: $1375 to $1675

For the holidays this year we planned a campervan trip to see Death Valley, Joshua Tree, and the San Diego area. We had two weeks of time to accomplish our trip which worked out to be a good length of time for our campervan trip since we did not feel rushed at any of our destinations.

Day 1: Boise to Death Valley

On Day 1 we choose to make the drive from Boise to Death Valley National Park. The route recommended by Google will take you down to Bruneau and south on Hwy 51 and then into Nevada. We did not know what to expect on the drive, but was pleasantly surprised to enjoy some great canyon driving on NV225 and Hwy 51 in between Bruneau and Elko. The roads were snow covered in places, but our campervan did great in the snow and we were glad we were not in anything larger like a RV. The entire route is very sparsely populated so it is important to make sure you have plenty of gas due to the remote nature of the drive. We needed to drive almost 9.5 hours before things started to warm up and then an extra half an hour to our campground. There are three campgrounds in the heart of Death Valley National Park near Furnace Creek, these are the warmest campervan campgrounds in the park during the winter months. Since we pulled in late at night we ended up just pulling in Sunset campground which is basically a large and flat gravel lot and the easiest for just crashing and going to bed. 

Day 2: Death Valley National Park

On Day 2 we awoke in Sunset Campground and realized how barren Sunset Campground is during the day. We packed up and head to check out the other two campgrounds in Furnace Creek. The first option is Texas Springs which has a lot of great sites and was very full so we decided to check out the Furnace Creek Campground. We end up liking Furnace Creek Campground the best since it had some trees that shelter you from the afternoon winds and was right next to the visitor center. We parked our campervan in Furnace Creek Campground and made a plan for the day. We decided to head to 20 Mule Team Canyon and check out the short one way dirt road. The road weaves through some amazing formations and you can pretty much climb anywhere. The campervan did well on the dirt road and we did some great exploring. There is no way you could take a RV(recreational vehicle) on this dirt road and not get stuck. My wife had no problems negotiating the narrow turns. At the end of the road we had to make a trip to Palrump to visit the nearest grocery store, we though we would pass one in Beatty, but all they had was a convenience store. So on your drive from Boise if you need any supplies make sure to stop in Elko, NV. After returning from Palrump we drove our campervan to the visitor center and checked out the exhibits and got a status update on the roads in the park. There had been some flash floods in 2015 that did considerable damage to park roads and this means Scotty's Castle will not reopen until 2019. After the visitor center we headed to Borax Works and then drove through Mustard Canyon. Mustard Canyon was worth the short drive and it was a great place to explore on foot and we explored the yellow colored dried out mud. You can find some wide pullouts along the road and hike up on the mustard colored mud and witness the weird formations formed by water. Driving out of Mustard Canyon in the dark we headed for our campground and a well deserved meal.

Twenty Mile Canyon Road:

Day 3: Death Valley National Park

On Day 3 we awoke in Furnace Creek Campground in our campervan and sat down to plan our days adventure. After some deliberation we decided to go check out the ranger program at the  Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. The Sand Dunes are very large and there is lots of places to climb and explore or you can look for the the less seen. We wandered off from the crowds and went searching for some footprints of the animals of the desert. We found lot of tracks that orginated from the green islands among the sand dunes. Lots of fun can be had on the Sand Dunes, but we decided to heat to Mosaic Canyon for a long hike. We dug into the campervan cooler for some lunch before heading out on our 4 mile hike. The road to the trail head is again dirt and would be challenging in an RV(recreational vehicle), but luckily we had no problems as we bounced along on the wash board road. At the beginning the trail it was very busy, but then the crowds thin out as you climbed further into the canyon. Just as you leave the crowds behind the canyon gets wide. Keep on going because the best part of the canyon is about 3/4 of a mile ahead. The canyon then gets very narrow and we had a blast working our way up water chutes and around massive boulders. We had lots of fun to exploring this amazing canyon in the desert. It also worked up a good appetite for everyone as we returned to Furnance Creek for some dinner and a little relaxing.

Day 4: Death Valley National Park

On Day 4 we awoke in Furnace Creek Campground in our campervan to another nice and warm day. We were defiantly basking in the warmth as our family back home relayed pictures of the snow and frigid temperatures. After breakfast we got an early start and headed to bad water basin which is 252ft below sea level. There is a hike you can do out onto the salt flats, but with all the people on the trail we decided to try another spot. So we headed to Devils Golf Course which was just a short drive back on the park road and enjoyed a nice quiet spot as we climbed among the amazing salt formations. There were some spectacular sights to be seen and it was amazing to see what salt can do. After poking around we head to Natural Bridges and again the road to the trail head was dirt and would be challenging in an RV(recreational vehicle), but luckily we had no problems as we bounced along on the wash board road. There seemed to be a common theme in this park and the fact that any of the best hikes required some dirt road driving. We then hiked a short way to Natural Bridge. Unlike other arches I have seen that have been formed out of sandstone this one was a type of conglomerate rock that had been formed by flooding. It was quite the amazing sight. After three days of hiking we decided to take a scenic drive to Dante's Point and we were pleasantly surprised by the amazing view we behold on the summit. There is a short hike at the summit, but the views were just as spectacular from the campervan. We then spent the afternoon in our campsite relaxing and planning our adventure for the next day.

Day 5: Death Valley National Park

On our last day in Death Valley National Park we packed up and headed for the west end of the park and our last hike in the park. We drove towards Panamint Springs and came across some interesting Coyote activity on the salt flats. The Coyotes were sitting on the side of the road and waiting for a car to hit an animal and then they would run out and grab the road kill without needing to do any hunting. It is amazing how these animals have figured out how to survive in the desert. After driving through Panamint Springs we took our second left onto an unmarked road and drove on another dirt road to the Darwin Falls trailhead. The Darwin Falls trail is an amazing hike that starts in a very dry landscapes and then you enter into a desert oasis and will walk among trees and lush grasses as you pick your way to a natural spring and an amazing waterfall. After you enter the trees there are some mandatory creek crossings that you might get your feet wet and you'll also need to do some scrambling over some rocks as you work your way to the end of the trail. The trail is unmarked, but is easy to follow and worth the 2.5 mile hike. Everyone loved the waterfall at the end, but we were wiped out as we returned to the van and started our drive further south. We planned to make it to Silverwood Lake campground that evening and got delayed a little as we drove through a rare southern California downpour. We pulled into our campervan campsite and were so happy to not be sleeping on the ground as giant puddles formed all over the place outside. 

Death Valley Road Tour:

 

Day 6: Death Valley to Carlsbad, CA

On Day 6 we awoke at Silverwood Lake to some more showers and had a lazy morning before setting out for Carlsbad, CA and our campervan campsite in Carlsbad Beach State Park. We managed to avoid most of the traffic and cruised into Carlsbad Beach State Park with plenty of time to enjoy the beach. There are a couple of beach access points within the campground and we choose our site based on how easy it would be to get down to the beach. To access the beach you must descend down a steep staircase to the water. Once on the beach you will have a nice sense of isolation as the cliffs give a nice sense of solitude. 

Day 7: Legoland Carlsbad, CA

Having never been to southern California we had to check out the local sights and attractions. Our first stop was Legoland. We arrived in the parking lot at 9am and were ready to walk in as soon as the gates opened at 9:30. Getting such an early start meant we had very short waits at all of the rides we rode except for one. While the crowds were just entering the park we were in the back of the park getting in multiple rides and then we swapped places with the crowds as we looped back to front to catch those attractions after a late lunch. We were amazed at our good fortune since we got to do all of the rides in the park. Legoland is a great place for kids under 10 and the Lego structures inside of the park are just amazing a fun for all to enjoy.

Day 8: San Diego Zoo

A must do stop on our trip was the San Diego Zoo we had heard so many good things about the zoo and the animals inside that we decided to take a trip down to check it out. The scale of the San Diego Zoo is immense and you could easily fit 10 Boise Zoos into the San Diego Zoo. The exhibits were immense and there were actual bus stops inside the park to help you get around. If you have never been it is worth it to first take the bus tour near the front entrance so you get a good idea of the layout of the zoo. After the bus tour we decided to take the shuttle bus that makes 4 stops around the park and check out all of the animals. It was immense at the zoo and we stayed until 5 just so we could see the majority of the exhibits, we defiantly missed some stuff, but after 8 hours in the park we were exhausted and almost decided to just crash in the back of the camper van.

Day 9: Downtown San Diego

On Day 5 w decided to leave the campervan in the campground in Carlsbad, CA and head south on the commuter rail. A short 5 minute walk from our campsite we were at a train stop and boarding the train south to San Diego. We were a little confused at first since we could not find a ticket booth, but luckily we found tickets online and were on our way south. Once on the train we learned about the famous Holiday Bowl Parade and were glad we had taken the train instead of driving since downtown was going to be packed. We got off at the last stop at Santa Fe Station and walked over to the waterfront to get a spot for the parade. What an amazing parade it was and we were glad to have happened upon it. After the parade we ventured over to the USS Midway which is one of the top attractions in San Diego. The old aircraft carrier is a floating museum and had an amazing of this to see and experience and there was lots of walking. After a great tour we head back to the train for the 1/2 ride back to Carlsbad, CA. We then happened upon Pelly's Fish Market which had some of the most amazing seafood, everything was fresh and tender. There calamari was unlike anything we had tasted before. This was a tiny little gem tucked into a shopping plaza with limited seating so make sure to get there early.

Day 10: Carlsbad to Joshua Tree National Park

On Day 10 we made the drive from Carlsbad to Joshua Tree National Park. We ended up taking the scenic route and came into Joshua Tree National Park from the southern end at Cottonwood Guard Station. We immediately drove to the Cottonwood Springs campground and snagged one of the last campsites in the park. The Cottonwood Springs Campground has nice big sites and lots of pointy objects to run into! We settled into our campground and started to plan our destinations for the following day.

Day 11: Joshua Tree National Park

On Day 11 we started to explore Joshua Tree National Park in our campervan. We started the day with a bike ride out the Pinkham Canyon Road. This road was defiantly the territory of a short wheel base 4wd so we left the campervan back at the campsite while we explored on a bike. It was nice and peaceful out there and a great way to escape the crowds. After 15 miles on the bike we returned to get our campervan in the campground and set off to explore the park and make it to our campsite at Indian Cove. Our first stop was the Cholla Cactus Garden and we were amazed to see how concentrated the cactus were in this one spot. We climbed out of our campervan and walked the short loop hike to check out some of the amazing cactus. Afterwards we got back in our campervan and headed for our camp spot in Indian Cove. We arrived and got setup and then headed out for 49 Palms Oasis and the hike into the Oasis. The hike is a 1.5 miles to the Oasis and you will be rewarded with an amazing sight as you take in massive pine trees nestled in an otherwise dry landscape. We happened to catch the sunset at the oasis and got some great pictures and were glad to have some headlamps to allow us to get back on the trail in the dark.

Cholla Cactus Garden Panorama

Cholla Cactus Garden Panorama

Day 12: Joshua Tree National Park  

On Day 12 we got out for some more exploring we were a little tired from our previous days exploring so we decided to check out a ranger program at Skull Rock. We had a nice hike with the ranger and enjoyed his program. We learned a great deal about the Joshua Tree and the rocks in the park. It was fascinating to learn that before DNA sequencing the Joshua Tree was thought to belong to Lily family, once the tree had been sequenced they discover that is was a close relative of the Yucca. So in the National Park you will see lots of examples of plants from the Yucca family. The Joshua trees also will only grow at a high enough elevation where they can get a winter freeze so this limits there range. Finally the Joshua Tree does not have an animal that transports it seeds very far so its range is limited. After a great ranger talk we explored the rocks around Skull Rock and then drove further into the park in search of a nice place to eat lunch. Our plan was foiled a little bit as it started to pour so we ended up eating our lunch in the campervan and were glad to have space inside away from the rain. The rain finally let up so we decided to do a short hike to the Ryan Ranch and check out the home site of some brave folks that setup shop in Joshua Tree National Park for over 100 years. We stayed mostly dry on our hike to Ryan Ranch and then had some excitement on the way back as we watched a rescue helicopter attempt to land among the rocks and Joshua Trees, it appeared that someone was rock climbing and fell. We hope the person recovered from there fall and it was great to see the fast response. After that excitement we head back to our campsite in Indian Cove and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.

Day 13: 

On Day 13 we began our drive back to Boise and made a couple of stops in Mojave National Reserve. We wanted to stay a little longer in the reserve, but we had heard forecasts of snow in the Boise area so we decided to keep driving north. We are already thinking that on our next trip south we will plan to camp at the Hole in the Rock Campground in the Mojave National Reserve.

Mojave National Preserve

Mojave National Preserve

Joshua Tree National Park Road Tour:

Central Idaho Backcountry Skiing

Central Idaho Backcountry Skiing

Within a short drive of Boise you can find numerable locations to go Back Country Skiing and many of them have pull outs or parking lots that can accommodate a Wandervan Campervan. Here is a summary of some possible destinations, but be aware that conditions are variable and these are only suggestions and any route choice should be evaluated depending on conditions. Finally before you venture into the backcountry be sure to check the weather forecasts and also the avalanche forecast for the area. 

1) Mores Creek\Pilots Peak Area: Mores Creek Summit is only an hour from Boise and contains a lot of great options for skiing. You will park at the Mores Creek Summit Snowmobile lot and we recommend parking as close to the main road as allows since the parking area does tend to fill up with snowmobiles. After you park you have lots of options. If you travel North you will head towards Pilots Peak and will find some of the best skiing off on the north and east slopes. If you make it all the way to the summit of Pilots Peak the lines are not as steep as off the eastern side of Pilots. West of Pilots Peak you will find the Freemans area this is best accessed by going west on highway 21 to the first major bend and then going up from the road there. If you want a little longer adventure you can follow the forest service road going south from the main parking lot. Sunset Peak is about a 2 mile skin from the parking lot so you must be willing to work a little harder before you hit the skiing terrain. Once at Sunset Peak you will see the burn area to the east and find the best turns in the burn. There is also a great blog that displays up date conditions for this area so be sure to check it out.

Sunset Peak. Route from Mores Creek Parking Lot shown in Purple. Possible ski line in red.

Sunset Peak. Route from Mores Creek Parking Lot shown in Purple. Possible ski line in red.

2) Copper Peak, Sawtooth Mountains: At Copper Peak you will find the closest big mountain skiing to Boise. You will be parking in one of the pull outs right along highway 75. These pull outs can vary in location depending on plow driver, but you will likely have a short hike on the road before you can start skinning. There are number of ways to approach Copper with the most popular starting near the old borrow pit on Newman Creek. There are some very steep and challenging lines off of Copper so make sure you have checked the Sawtooth Avalanche Forecast before heading out. The approach into Copper can take 1 to 2 hours so plan this time into your approach. You can park a campervan overnight in the pullouts and drive into Stanley for food and necessities. The map below is a possible route into Copper Mountain.

3) Thompson Peak, Sawtooth Mountains: Thompson Peak can be done as a long day trip or a multiple day expedition. The best place to park a campervan overnight is at the Stanley Ranger Station. You can either start your ski trip from the Stanley Ranger Station or Redfish Lodge. Starting from the lodge is going to be a little easier. From the parking lot you will have a fairly long ski in, but the route is usually well traveled. There are ample lines all around Thompson and there is something for everyone depending on how extreme you want to get. The map below shows a recommend route in purple for doing a tour around Thompson Peak from Redfish Lake.

thompsontour.jpg

4) Redfish Lake Slopes, Sawtooth Mountains: Just to the north of Redfish Lake are some great skiing slopes that are not far from the lodge and will give you some great runs. Park near the Redfish Lodge and then head north from the road. You will see the slopes right in front of you. Check out the topo map below, the purple lines show some possible ski runs.

redfishmap.jpg

4) Big Creek Summit: The road to Warm Lake is plowed during the winter and this provides an opportunity to ski the Big Creek Summit area. From the summit pullout on the road you can ski on either side of the road. If you cross the road you will find some north facing slopes that will give you anywhere from 600ft to 1000ft run, but the tree cover is fairly heavy so a helmet is defiantly recommended. On the pullout side of the road you will find more south facing slopes with some sparser tree cover, but the snow conditions may no be as good depending on the time of year. Check out the topo map below, the purple lines show some possible ski runs.

big-creek-backcountry-skiing-route-idaho-wandervans-outdoor.jpg

 

5) Collier Peak: The access to Collier Peak can be challenging, but you are probably going to be the only ones on the Mountain. The best way to access the peak is going to cut through the houses on Willow Creek Rd. and then once you hit the creek continue up the creek to the peak. The best place to park is at the end of West Mountain Rd in the snowmobile lot or a plowed pullout. Conditions tend to change from year to year so be prepared for a little exploring. Once on the peak you will find steep slopes on the north side and open faces on the eastern side and southern aspects. If you want some more challenging terrain you can head up into further into the Willow Creek drainage. Check out the topo map below, the purple lines show some possible ski runs.

collier-peak-idaho-backcountry-ski-wandervans-outdoors.jpg

 

 

 

 

Seven Devil Mountains

Seven Devil Mountains

Recommended Stay: 3 to 5 days

Miles from Boise 180 miles/Drive Time: 3-4 hours

Trip Cost Estimate: $375 to $650

The Seven Devils are a great remote spot only a couple of hours from Boise. There are two main ways to access the mountains. The first is from Council off of Hwy 95. The route from Council will take you almost 2 hours and you will end up on the southern end of the Seven Devils and the Black Lake Campground. You can follow the directions found here. Black Lake is a high alpine lake tucked into the Seven Devils and has four camp spots. Chances are you will be the only people at the lake most weekends.

Most visitors go into the Seven Devils from Riggins and drive into the Seven Devils Campground. This route will take you about an hour and directions can be found here. From the Seven Devils Campground you can access a number of trails including the Seven Devils Trail which tends to see the most traffic. If you pass the Seven Devils Campground and continue up the road you can take in a great view from the Heavens Gate Lookout and peer down into Hells Canyon or look upon the many peaks of the Seven Devils.

Overview Map

Hiking Suggestions:

Emerald Lake (Council Side): This trail is also referred to as the Horse Heaven Trail and begins at Black Lake. You can make a quick day hike to Emerald Lake and back within a couple of hours and take in some great alpine lakes and views.

Seven Devils Trail (Riggins Side): This trail is a popular backpack route or can be done in parts as a day hike. It takes you into the heart of the Seven Devils and gives lots of amazing views.

Hood River, Oregon

Hood River, Oregon

Recommended Stay: 4 to 7 days

Distance from Boise 360 miles/Drive Time: 5 hours

Trip Cost Estimate: $575 to $975

Hood River packs a large variety of activities for any traveler. There is ample mountain biking in the Hood River area, lots of hiking, and plenty of water sports options. Finding a place to park a campervan for the night will be easy in the many campgrounds or off old logging roads. In Hood River you will find plenty of breweries to relax in after a long days adventure and taste the local fare.

Biking Trails:

In Hood River area you can either ride classic singletrack or modern flow/freeride trails.

Post Canyon: This ride is an introduction to the flow style trails found in the Post Canyon area. The trails in this loop are all intermediate and will give you a good idea if you are ready to move up to something more challenging. 

Surveyors Ridge: This ride is a classic singletrack loop with great views of Mt Hood and the Hood area. The descent on this trail has a little bit of everything and will certainly keeping you grinning the whole way down. 

Hiking Trails:

Oneonta Gorge: The gorge is one of the most spectacular hikes in the area, but it is defiantly geared towards the more experienced hiker. Please remember that there is no trail, instead the river is the trail and the trail is in fact a river. You will have cold water to walk through and fresh water dripping out of the vegetation above you. You will need to be able to scale constantly changing log obstructions that will blocking your path.  For all this challenge you will be rewarded with a hike that most others will shy away from. You will start by parking in the designated area next to the Oneonta Bridge, In Cascade Locks, Oregon. From there you scale down the east side of the bridge and start up the river. If you are prepared to be wading through water you shouldn’t encounter anything too dangerous. Directions from Hood River.


#campervan #rv #recreational vehical rental #vanlife #wanderlust 

St George, Utah

St George, Utah

Recommend Stay: 4 to 7 days

Distance from Boise: 639 miles / Drive time: 10 hours

Trip Cost Estimate: $575 to $975

St George, Utah is a great destination for a campervan camping trip in the fall and spring. You can combine a visit to the St. George area with a visit to Zion National Park to get the complete red rock experience. 

Mountain Bike Trail Suggestions:

Gooseberry Mesa: This loop really put the St. George area on the map. On this ride you will never have any sustained climbing, but instead lots of little ups that will test your bike handling skills as you roll over miles of slickrock. There is a cutoff road if you need to shorten your ride.

Hurricane Rim Loop: This is one of my favorite loops in the St. George area since you ride along the rim of the canyon for the Virgin river. The trail along the canyon can be technical in spots, but the views are great. As you ride away from the river the trail smooths out and flows nicely across the desert. 

Little Creek Mesa: If you want to get a little more solitude then the Little Creek Mesa trail system would be a good destination. The trails are fun, but you need to be careful finding the parking lot since it can be confusing. The trail system is similar to Gooseberry Mesa, but the trails are a little more primitive. 

 

Hiking Trail Suggestions:

There are lots of hiking options in Zion National Park to explore, but you can also find good options around St. George outside of the Park. One of the best places to hike outside of the park is at Red Cliffs Reserve.

Red Reef Trail: This is a great canyon hike with some amazing views as you ascend into the canyon. The trail starts from the Red Canyon Campground just a little ways off of I-15. You can go as far as you want and turn around when the trail gets too challenging.


#campervan #rv #recreational vehicle rental #vanlife #wanderlust 

Park City

Park City

Recommended Stay: 3 to 7 days

Distance from Boise 371 miles/Drive Time: 5 hours

Trip Cost Estimate: $675 to $1075

Park City and its trail system have been on the rise over the last 8 years, constantly growing trail miles every year. There are now over 450 miles of trail accessible from town. Just as important as trail mileage is a dedication to maintaining and improving existing trails.  Park City continues to live up to its status as IMBA’s first gold-level Ride Center and was named "Best Town Ever” in 2013 by Outside Magazine. In addition to biking and hiking trails there are numerous place for dining and entertainment after finishing your adventure. 

The terrain is great, the views are great, the dirt is great and the weather is great, but perhaps the best thing Park City has going for it is the overall attitude towards the outdoors throughout the town. From citizens to businesses to government agencies, the outdoors are part of the culture of the place. Amazingly, the trail system is all interconnected, and it’s all accessible within an easy distance from most places.  

 

Biking Trails:

Whether you are looking for lift-served high alpine riding, bike parks, lower level terrain to introduce a friend to the sport or a true backcountry excursion (the surrounding area offers hundreds more miles of additional trails for riders to explore within a short drive) you can easily call Park City home for a whole destination bike adventure. Park City continues to be a model for mountain bike destination development, and it deserves to be on the top of any mountain biker’s list for a visit. For more info you can visit this site.

Wasatch Crest Loop: This is one of the two classic rides from town and is a must do for rider looking for a ride around 25 miles. There is about 3500ft of climbing on the route so you do need to be prepared for an epic ride.

Mid-Mountain Loop: This is the second classic ride from town and is only 23 miles with only 2300ft of climbing. Decided what your fitness level is when you get to town and plan to tackle one of these two rides in the beginning of your trip.

Campervan Camping Options:

Wasatch State Park Campground is just over the hill from Park City and is your best bet for campervan camping near trails with decent access to Park City. From the campground, the WOW trail and Dutch Hollow trails are ridable from camp, and you're only about a 15 minute drive to the top of Guardsman Pass where you can drop into Deer Valley or hit the Wasatch Crest.

Spruces Campground is located in Big Cottonwood and is about a 30 minute drive, albeit a beautiful one, from Park City. From here, you could easily ride up the road and hit the Wasatch Crest to Mill D trail that would finish near camp. Otherwise, you'll be driving to Park City for additional ride options. Note that Big Cottonwood is part of SLC watershed and does not allow dogs.

Jordanele State Park offers traditional campground accommodations and is a quick ten minute drive away from Park City. From camp you are a short ride away from Spin Cycle & Village Trails, and could easily loop into the Deer Valley trail system from here. Note that Jordanelle State Park & campground is very exposed and does not offer much in the way of protection from the sun during the hotter summer months.

River's Edge is a private campground and RV resort with great access to the Middle Provo River. While it's geared towards the fly fishing crowd, it's a good option for those traveling in a campervan that's not too far away fro Park City. Coyote Canyon and Dutch Hollow trails would be accessible from camp via the rode and Park City is a short 15 minute drive away.

Unita National Forest. The most primitive and remote camping options would be located off the Mirror Lake Highway in the Uinta National Forest. While there are a plethora of trails located in the Uinta's few of them are optimal for biking and are best suited for hiking or gnarly adventure style riding. While the Uinta's likely offer the best true campervan camping experience, it could easily be an hour+ drive to singletrack from camp. Note that the Uinta's are prone to bugs in the early summer months.


#campervan #rv #recreational vehicle rental #vanlife #wanderlust

Solar Eclipse 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017

Are you ready for the 2017 Solar Eclipse? Idaho is going to a prime spot to experience the 2017 Solar Eclipse. The Eclipse will pass just north of the Boise area so you will need to travel into central Idaho to get the best view. Pickup your campervan a couple of days before and make sure to have campground reservations. 

Luckily for us Stanley and Mackey will be right on the center line of the eclipse and experience over 2 minutes of shadow. Cascade is in the path, but north of the center line, so it will basks in the umbra for less than 2 minutes.

Imagine sitting on the banks of Redfish Lake, Stanley Lake, or Alturas Lake and taking in the over 2 minutes of totality.

For even more of an adventure sit on the summit of Mt Borah and enjoy the eclipse in totality. Mount Thompson the highest peak in the Sawtooths is another amazing location to take in the eclipse in totality.

If you need more info and maps we recommend checking out Eclipse2017.org and don't forget to buy your glasses ahead of time!


#campervan #rv #recreational vehicle rental #vanlife #wanderlust