Idaho loop

Map of road trip through central IdahoRoad trip overview

This is a road trip we did in Summer 2015 from the Palouse through central Idaho and a little bit of Montana. We camped three nights, stayed in a hotel one night, and stayed in a vacation rental the last two nights. It was a nice balance of roughing it and comfort. Idaho is an amazing state and we had a great trip with several hikes and enjoyed some fun eateries.

First stop: Boulder-Louie Lakes loop

We had a 7:30 am departure and got to the trailhead around noon. The drive itself was spectacular, particularly the drive from Grangeville down to Whitebird. It was a Tuesday and the first part of the loop from the trailhead to Boulder Lake had quite a few people. After we got to Boulder Lake the trail runs along the side of the lake before heading uphill and the traffic dropped off.

Boulder Lake Trail near McCall, Idaho
Boulder Lake

Louie Lakes trail near McCall, Idaho
Second climb
Louie Lakes trail near McCall, Idaho
Great views from trail on second climb

Boulder lake trail out

Louie Lake Trail back

Once we got back to the car weBoondock campsite near McCall, Idaho found a spot on the road up and boondock camped. Steak for dinner with wine at the campsite. In the morning we had two curious deer. We had a small breakfast and hit the road, traveling to Stanley ID.

The Sawtooths

We arrived a little before noon and had breakfast for lunch at Stanley Baking Co. A busy place even on a Wednesday but we found a spot to sit. After breakfast we drove to the Iron Creek trailhead and started on the Iron Creek to Sawtooth Lake Trail.

It was hot and dipping my hat in the creek helped. After climbing we made it up to Alpine Lake.

Hiking Iron creek trail
On the way
Alpine lake view from Iron Creek trail
Alpine Lake

We were tired but decided to go up further to see Sawtooth Lake.

Sawtooth Lake, near Stanley, Idaho
Sawtooth Lake
Sawtooth National Forest
View from Sawtooth Lake

At the end of the hike at the car we cleaned up and headed to The Redd restaurant in Stanley. We were sore and just entering in the restaurant it was a struggle to walk so that no-one would notice a limp. After a great meal we headed to Alturus Lake campground where we had a reservation.

I had carefully picked the site using Google maps months before to try and get as much privacy as possible. We relaxed and thought about what a great hike it was. We got a bit lucky as one camper about 5 sites down was running a gas generator non-stop. Thankfully we were far enough away it didn’t impact us.

Drive through Sun Valley

After two hikes in two days we decided to have a lazy day. We started the drive south towards Ketchum and found a dirt road to pull off and have a break. We found some boondocking sites with a really nice one by a creek.

Sawtooth National Forest near Ketchum, Idaho
Lunch Spot, haul out the chairs and relax

Lunch in Ketchum and then on to Hailey, ID where stayed at a motel.

Idaho Moonscape

In the morning we drove south and got to Craters of the Moon National Monument where we did a few of the short walks.

Craters of the Moon National Monument
Craters of the Moon National Monument

Craters of the Moon National Monument Craters of the Moon National Monument

Lunch in Arco, ID at a Mexican restaurant and on to our next boondock campsite.

Bear Creek Campground

We drove up into the area for Bear Creek Campground and found a boondock campsite before the main campground. Relaxing with some wine and a campfire while watching the Idaho sunset and retiring to our SURV.

Boondock camping Lost River Range
Bear Creek Area Boondock Campsite
Boondock camping Lost River Range
Idaho Sunset

Unfortunately it was Friday night and after dark some local kids came in and started to party about ½ mile away at the main campsite. We saw a couple of other campers leave shortly after. We were far enough away the noise was not too bad so we stayed. That is one consistent problem with car camping, anywhere you can get a car, you never know who might pull in later in the evening and start crankin the tunes. C’est la vie.

Mt Borah

We headed out in the morning after breakfast towards Mt Borah, the highest point in Idaho. I had been looking at the map and decided we would take a ‘long-cut’ that would take us on a dirt road with views of the peak.

Lost River Range Idaho, road trip
Sometimes a “Long-cut” is the best option


This ended up being one of the fun unexpected parts of the trip. We decided we will visit the “Lost river Range’ again sometime in the future and do some hiking. I like to plan road trips with a lot of detail, but I think it’s good to be flexible, when plans change it can really enrich the trip.

Salmon, ID

We had planned to visit the Sacajawea Center but our long-cut had taken some time and we were ready for lunch. We skipped it and stopped at the Junkyard Bistro for lunch. Great food and we bought a salmon wall art.

On to Montana

For the last part of our trip we stayed at a vacation rental in Hamilton, Montana. We spent two nights and enjoyed Higherground Brewing Co. which was walking distance from our rental. We did the Blodgett Canyon Trail.

Hiking near Hamilton, Montana
Waterfall on Blodgett Canyon Trail, Montana
Back to the Palouse

We broke up the drive back down highway 12 along the Lochsa river by stopping at Colgate Licks and walking the 1 mile loop. Then on down to driving alongside the Clearwater river and back up from Lewiston. Idaho is such an impressive state. Our trip was in July and the conditions were perfect. There is so much more to explore.

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