What do you think of when you think of Idaho?
I mean, if you’re doing it the way God intended, it looks like this:
but the point is, Idaho isn’t on many people’s radar because, well… it’s Idaho. Most people assume it’s just a bunch of flat farmland. And, admittedly, there is plenty of that…
But, there’s also a whole lot of this….
Not only is Idaho surprisingly beautiful, but, with our visit to Henrys Lake State Park*, we turned the page on all our Colorado aggravation – no more heat, no more bugs, no more crappy campgrounds. In fact, it was all quite the opposite: During our visit, we enjoyed perfect weather, stayed busy with fascinating trips to Yellowstone National Park and, quite unexpectedly, ended up at the same campground as some of our friends – which meant we got in some good socializing as well.
Of course, our main goal in coming to this specific part of Idaho was to explore Yellowstone but I’ll write about that separately because it’s enormous and deserves its own post or three.
For now, let’s go Idaho!
After our great escape from Colorado, we made three one-night stops in a row on our way north, eventually arriving at Juniper Campground in the tiny town of Ririe, Idaho. The campground is part of a pretty county park and offers full hook-ups for $25 per night. The park is overwhelmingly green, it’s built on a reservoir, and the sites are enormous. After baking in bone dry Colorado for weeks, we really enjoyed the change of scenery, even if it was only for a few days.
Ririe is located about 20 minutes from Idaho Falls which is a decent sized city. We headed down there a couple times to run errands and took the opportunity to check out the Idaho Falls Greenbelt – a lovely system of trails and parks that run along the Snake River which cuts through town.
Soon enough, though, we were back on the road heading north and, more importantly, to a higher elevation. Barney’s engine had to work hard to climb the mountains, but once we arrived in Island Park, Idaho, we were thrilled to find temperatures in the low 80’s and an absolutely gorgeous state park campground located right on Henrys Lake.
While our site was technically a back-in site, we pulled in facing forward and just ran the utilities under the rig.
which meant we had this view….
And yes, it is oddly charming to have windshield wipers interrupting this scene.
Not only are the campsites at Henrys Lake fabulous, but the park offers guests beautiful walking trails as well as free kayaks. We hiked one of the trails one morning…
and went kayaking on the lake the next….
In addition to offering the free kayaks (both singles and doubles), the park also provides PFDs and emergency whistles…
We thought the whistles were a little odd until we experienced the intense windstorms that kick up at the park without warning on a seemingly daily basis. The lake is subject to some of the most unpredictable weather patterns we’ve experienced, making all the safety equipment and the instructions to “paddle in immediately” if we felt the winds pick up, understandable.
The park staff also offer a bunch of seminars each week. We attended one about options for hiking and sightseeing outside Yellowstone National Park. Turns out, you can stay busy in the surrounding region for weeks and, when we return, we’ll stay as long as we can. The park was just perfect!
After changing our plans in Colorado, I made a comment on Facebook about heading to Idaho. That prompted our friend, Mona Liza, to email me to ask whether we might be crossing paths with them. Turns out, not only were we going to be in the same area of the state, but we were going to be in the same campground! They were headed for Henrys Lake too! What are the chances of that?
This news was as welcome as it was surprising. After all the Colorado aggravation, knowing that we’d have friends to hang out with in this random park in the middle of nowhere provided one more thing to look forward to. Even though we’ve only hung out a handful of times, we feel like we’ve known one another forever because of our blogs (Their site is Lowes Travels). In addition to our travel and RV life connections, all of us have been through some rough patches on the road and it’s always nice to connect with people who truly understand your situation.
Anyway, it was great to hang out with them and we are endlessly grateful for their friendship.
Rock Creek Basin Hike
Along with having dinner at each other’s respective homes several times, we all went on a hike that turned out to be one of our most unexpected finds of the year. Steve found this particular trail, alternately called the “Rock Creek Basin Trail” and the “Sawtelle Trail,” on Alltrails and it seemed to be within all of our comfort zones. Little did we know the views would be so spectacular!
In fact, it was the kind of scenery we expected to see a lot more of in Colorado.
In addition to the magnificent mountain vistas, we found fields blanketed in wildflowers.
So many wildflowers….
I mean, these were some frolic-worthy meadows!
Now, just close your eyes and picture Kevin twirling around like Julie Andrews belting out “The hills are alive with the sound of music…..”
I’m not gonna say that it happened, but I’m also not gonna say that it didn’t happen.
(Ok, fine. It didn’t happen. If it did happen, I can assure you: you would have already seen it on the internet.)
It was also nice for all of us because Mona Liza and I could hang back and take pictures of all the things while the guys walked ahead….
Our visit to this wonderful state park in this lovely area of Idaho and our time with friends provided confirmation that we’d made the right choice by changing our plans. Speaking of which, our decision to spend as much time as possible exploring Yellowstone National Park was also a good one. More on that next.
*If you, like me, are driven nuts by the improper use of of apostrophes, rest assured, there is no apostrophe in “Henrys Lake.” Trust me, I checked. If, on the other hand, you have no idea what I’m even talking about, bless your heart and carry on….*
Where we stayed:
Henrys Lake State Park, Island Park, Idaho
Lol! I share your apostrophe use feelings! Thank you for making sure it was correct ????. Wow! I’m so surprised at how green everything is. I pictured Idaho to be very flat and nowhere near as colorful. I might just be able to talk Jeremy into Idaho for one of my marathons! I have a new respect for “fly over” states now. Can’t wait to see the Yellowstone post up next!!!
So we’ve only seen a small segment of Idaho so far, but my sense is most marathons would be run in the southern part of the state – places like Boise or Idaho Falls. Those are more of your standard “small cities,” though they have a lot to offer themselves. However, the real beauty is in central and northern Idaho up in the mountains. If you can combine a marathon trip with some sightseeing in the mountains, I think you guys would love it. And yeah, these flyover states have a lot more to offer than you might expect. We have learned that lesson over and over!
Yay, relief from the heat and time with friends! So glad you found your happy again.
Us too!! It’s been a nice change! Hope you guys are doing well too!
MonaLiza and Steve are the best! I know they helped “make it all better”. I wish you and the Lowe’s would stop singing Idahos praise’s though….pretty soon everyone will know its not all potato field’s and the campground’s and trail’s will fill up with people! The wildflower picture’s are so beautiful….its odd for me to see such display’s this late in the summer, but then I remember the elevation. A real treat to see, thank’s for showing them to us, or is it us to them? Who worries about apostrophe’s?
HAAAAAAAA! The truly impressive thing is I know you worked hard to come up with a bunch of words that you could use just to make your point. This shows real commitment to messing with me. Good work, Sue! This is why you are awesome! 🙂 And you are correct – we all really should shut the hell up about Idaho before it gets wrecked like everything else. But… I can’t help myself. It’s all so PRETTY!!
Your photos are outstanding!
Thank you!! It’s hard to take a bad picture of such a lovely place!
We may have to check out Henrys, apostrophe or not. Beautiful and free kayaks.
You absolutely should – while it’s not the cheapest state park by any stretch, they do offer a lot, and you can’t beat the views!
So pretty! Looks like a good reason to visit Idaho! Other than the taters!
I’m not gonna lie – I have eaten more potatoes in the last 2 weeks than the last 6 months… Turns out they are even more delicious when you’re in Idaho!! 🙂
Howdy! I’m commenting here, although my comment is a reply to Colorado Disaster II. Relating to Ridgeway State Park, we had the same refund thing happen while we were there recently. However, unlike YOUR experience, the kiosk attendant simply credited our credit card (which we confirmed later) and we were good to go. Your problem was the ATTENDANT (they are mostly retirees), not the system. If the one on duty is not experienced with computers and/or credit card processing, your screwed, because THEIR way of dealing with your issue is to BS you about filling out forms, Denver, etc.
On another front, remember we discussed our camp hosting job just east of Moran Junction in the Tetons/Yellowstone area? Well, we are still here and love the experience in scenery to die for. Due to being at 8490 feet, temps are seldom above 80 degrees.
Hang in there, Northern Idaho is almost as nice and cool. ALMOST!! 🙂
Interesting – I actually went to the main front desk of the campground to get the refund, but as I recall, I did that because the guy in the booth told me that’s where I had to go. And the people at the main desk were super nice, but said that was the policy. I have no idea…. It’s definitely a mistake that shouldn’t have happened. The site wasn’t even close to what he told us it was, so it was all a lot of aggravation for nothing, which is frustrating.
We are actually heading into Grand Teton tomorrow, but I am not sure of our exact plan. We’ve been running around a lot lately and I have nothing planned other than to “go to the visitor’s center and ask them what to do.” I completely forgot you were working there (things have been a little crazier than usual the last couple of weeks). Anyway, if you happen to see this, please drop me an email at [email protected]
I’ll bet the peace and quiet of the state park was a nice change from the hectic pace of Yellowstone. We’re planning to stay in the park for most of September, but I can already tell that we may give up after a few weeks! Your experience in Idaho helps explain why half of California is toying with the idea of moving there….
I have to believe September will be a lot calmer than July… but, worst case, you really can try to head over to Henrys. It’s only a 20 minute drive to the west entrance, so it’s really not that big a deal. I can promise it will be quiet and relaxed and a nice getaway from whatever crowds there are at Yellowstone. And honestly, we didn’t find Yellowstone all that bad. You just have to go to certain places at certain times of the day, but if you stick to the plan, you’ll be fine.
It looks like Henry’s Lake would heal almost anything that ails you! It’s gorgeous! And what a real treat to have Steve and MonaLiza to share time and trails with! We will definitely be looking at the possibilities of spending more time in Idaho! The wildflowers are amazing!
OK…I did NOT add the apostrophe to Henrys. ????
Hahaha – it’s ok! That’s what you’re SUPPOSED to do! I’m sure of it!! Anyway, yes, Idaho should be at the top of anyone’s list who enjoys mountains, wildflowers, and wildlife. We absolutely loved our time at that park and look forward to exploring much more of the area in the future.
How nice to catch up with Steve and MonaLiza! It’s nice that ML had someone to hang back with and take photos. Sometimes Steve gets so far ahead you don’t see him. Good he had a friend, as well. Looks like a great area with nice hikes, scenery, and lots of wildflowers. We are heading that way in September so it’s nice that you are paving a trail for us. Love the group selfie!! We have found several names of locations that show possession and no apostrophe. We read that it was just easier to skip it. So Henrys Lake it is…even if it looks incorrect!!
You will absolutely love this area in September. There are so many incredible hikes – the one Steve found is a perfect example. It was just some random trail and it was spectacular! Everywhere you look, there are incredible places to explore… Plus, there are lots of little historic towns within easy driving reach, and of course, all the wildlife. Its just a fantastic place. Are you going to head into the national parks or avoid them?
I think it would have been more hilarious and more surprising had we just bump into each other at Henrys! That would be a trip! After your CO debacle, you deserve to be in a happy place again. And we were there to listen in to more details of those disasters as we munched on Kevin’s steak and savored the yummy wines. Knowing now that Kevin is such a good cook, we want to be in the same campground with you again somewhere 🙂
I thought the guys were ahead of us to make noise so the bears would not bump into us accidentally. I liked the last pic’s caption, it’s reality ha ha and I’m still working on my pictures, so many beautiful images. And yes I agree with you Idaho is dang beautiful!
Well now that Kevin has convinced Steve to buy all these fun kitchen gadgets, I think we need to have a cook off! See who can make the best dishes with the sous vide thing! Of course, you and I would get to be the judges. We could be objective! I’m sure of it! 🙂 And I agree – it would have been hilarious if we just ran into one another, though, given how oblivious I can be at times, I might not have even realized you were our neighbors. It is incredible what a small world it can be, huh? Anyway, I am more than a little glad our timing worked out. Hopefully we’ll cross paths again sooner rather than later! And I look forward to seeing your captures from our hike and all the wildlife you found in the campground (even without realizing it). I’m sure your photos will be awesome!
Haha, that last pic and caption!! You’re right, MonaLiza is good company for moseying along with on the trail. I’m finding it hard to believe that SOMEONE on that hike didn’t belt out “The hills are aliiive…” You don’t have to name names. 🙂
I’m so glad you found so much beauty, cooler temps, and most of all, great friends in Idaho. We’ve loved our Idaho adventures, and are looking forward to more—Henrys Lake is on our list (I’m glad to know I’m not the only one driven crazy by apostrophe abuse) and after seeing your photos, I want to be there when the wildflowers are in bloom. You must have been there at the perfect time, and your photos are gorgeous!
Love the pic of the four of you. There’s something special about the friends we make in our travels and being able to share not only the fun times but also the challenges.
The wildflowers were a complete surprise and an awesome bonus. We saw some while in Colorado, but we were told they’d already peaked by the time we got there. We never in a million years expected to see fields of them in Idaho. We assumed it was much too late. But, there they were and, honestly, it was one of the most beautiful sights we’ve seen. I’m not unhappy with my photos, but they really don’t come close to capturing what those meadows looked like. It was truly a magical moment. So yes – you should definitely go and you should stay at Henrys and hike that trail! You’ll love it!
As for travel friends, you are so right. It’s a whole different world now and the friends we’ve made have been some of the best we’ve ever had. We’ve gone through multiple serious challenges out on the road and every single time, we’ve had good friends or family to help us through. We simply wouldn’t want to keep doing this if not for these connections we’ve been so fortunate to make.
I had not planned on a trip to Idaho on our west coast tour next year, but I may have to tweak my plans a bit. It’s just so beautiful! So glad you found your happy place after all the aggravation.
I can’t recommend it highly enough. I think it’s still in a golden period where it’s just not on a lot of folks’ radar, but it’s just as spectacular as so many places that have been overrun with tourists. If you all can spend some time in these mountains, I bet you’ll love it!
What a gorgeous hike! Thanks for sharing. I’m taking note of this place for when we make our way to this corner of Idaho and Wyoming.
It is absolutely worth adding to your list! The wildflowers were gorgeous, but even earlier or later in the season, the views would be incredible!
Bumping into friends on the road is always a special treat. We bumped into RandomBits while we were in AZ. Neither of us had any idea we’d be at the same campground. As for Idaho, you might not think the pictures did it justice, but the beauty sure comes through. On our way to Alaska, we were in Idaho for all of 13 miles and managed to get pulled over. I saw the sign for the boater’s checkpoint, but never thought about our kayaks on top of the Jeep. Oops! Had to turn around and get them inspected at the state line. Since Colorado let you down, I’m glad Idaho surpassed your expectations. Henrys looks awesome. We’ve done the pull into, instead of back into, for the view as well.
Haha! Yes, I remember the kayak story well. I would never have expected that to be an issue either. Too funny! Just don’t hold it against Idaho! It really is a wonderful state! (and yes, I realize I blame the entire state of Colorado for our aggravation there, but that’s totally different. Somehow… 🙂 As for Henrys, the decision to pull in was easy given the view, but it’s something we need to consider more in the future. There have been several sites we could have done that and just didn’t think about. It really can make a world of difference!
Never knew Idaho was so beautiful. What a great park with awesome hikes and free kayaks! Nice score.. Adding Henry’s , I mean Henrys Lake to my list!
Definitely add it to the list! It was actually one of the first places we were like “we could totally work here for a summer!” There’s so much to see and do in the area and the campground is just awesome. You never know!!
I checked out Idaho’s website for volunteer information out of curiosity…..looks like it could be a great gig-no bathroom cleaning, 30 day min commitment, and you get a free pass to all the parks!
I would definitely consider it…. Everyone we met there was super nice and you could tell they were happy to be working there. I have no idea what the other Idaho state parks are like, but Henrys Lake was fantastic!
A bit of little known history.
According to the elders, the founders of Henrys Lake stated plainly:
Apostrophe?? We don’t need no stinking apostrophe!
Seriously… I wonder if they were trying to be edgy or rebellious. Or maybe they were just doing it to annoy some future blogger. I could totally see that being the case. 🙂