Idaho Rivers + Mountains

August 9 - 15, 2014


The Rocky Mountains of Idaho are perfectly suited to Canyon Calling’s multi-activity vacations.  Idaho is known as the Gem State because of the wealth of natural resources extracted over the years.  However we think that the real gems are the rivers and mountains.  Our two-day white water rafting trip through Hells Canyon is renown as one of the best rafting trips in the US.  No experience is needed as the guides do the paddling!  You, however, paddle later in the trip – inflatable kayaks on the Snake River and sea kayaks on a pristine lake near Stanley.  The capital, Boise, has a wonderful greenbelt where we bike through the parks and float the river.  The mountains of Idaho were the most formidable challenge of the two-year Lewis and Clark expedition.  A historical interpreter will share marvelous stories of the explorer’s struggle to find a western route to the sea.  We’ll hike in the Sawtooths, swim in the Snake and soak in one of the many hot springs.  We’ll even squeeze in a museum or two for a flavor of Idaho’s history.   Old homesteader’s cabins surrounded by sage and wildflowers are sprinkled throughout the mountains and are a photographer’s delight.  We love the West – and you will too!

Susan N, NY - Thanks for a fabulous vacation. All your pre-planning certainly paid off. I especially enjoyed Hells Canyon and my first time rafting rapids solo. The riverside toilet with a view was the icing on the cake!

Jane G, TX - You certainly designed one great discovery experience. Thank you for the way you melted away our diverse personality differences.

Vicky M, NY - Thank you for helping me spread my wings in 1000 things I’d never done before. I had the adventure of a lifetime.

Airfares are NOT INCLUDED in Canyon Calling trips. It is your responsibility to get yourself to the assembly point of a trip and home afterwards. There are many reasons for this policy including customers wanting to use their air miles, people wanting to go early or stay on after the trip, some wanting to drive etc. Jane at Jane’s Travel in Phoenix has helped our customers with booking their flights for the last 17 years. You can phone her at (480) 755-1388 or send an email to  Internal flights are included in trip prices when they fall inside a tour like on our Costa Rican, Peruvian Andes, Australian and Hawaiian Islands trips.

Please arrive at the Boise Airport in the afternoon.  You’ll be greeted by your Canyon Calling guide and transported to our downtown hotel.  Visit the Idaho Historical Museum.  This is a fabulous introduction to the mining and ranching culture of the state and to the two main native tribes - Nez Perce and Shoshone-Bannock.  It also has a must-see exhibit of the Lewis and Clark expedition painting a vivid picture of the challenges that Idaho’s geography threw at these explorers of the West.  Boise is a wonderful walking city and you may enjoy a stroll after dinner.

The Boise River winds gently through the city surrounded by a beautiful 19-mile greenbelt.  After breakfast we’ll bike the greenbelt trail, meandering beside the river some of the way and ride through shady parks out to Barber Park east of the city.  Here we’ll switch our bikes for life jackets and inflatable kayaks.  Kayaking down the Boise River is the best fun in town!  We’ll float a 5.5-mile section of the river, traversing gentle rapids that flow within site of the State Capitol.  A shuttle bus will return us to the start and we’ll picnic beside the river.  Cycle back into town with a very poignant stop at the Ann Frank Memorial.  After dropping off our bikes we’ll drive up into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to the small town of Cambridge for the evening.  After dinner, meet with our river guides for a rafting briefing.

Breakfast is early today so that we’re ready for our 7am departure for our two-day Hells Canyon white water rafting trip. It’s a two-hour drive to the put-in on the Snake River, just north of Hells Canyon Dam.  The ride will stretch across farmland and then become more scenic as the road descends into the Snake River gorge where it hugs the river and reservoirs for 22 miles. 15,000 years ago Lake Bonneville overflowed and the massive flood that ensued scoured the area, cutting the deepest gorge in the US.  The Snake River today separates Oregon from Idaho.  At the river, our dry bags are secured to our rafts and we listen to a safety talk.  We raft 34 fabulous miles of class 2-4 rapids with nice scenic flat water in between.  Our mission today is to hang on in the rapids while our guides use oars to steer us safely downriver!  Hells Canyon is a designated Wild and Scenic area with grassy hillsides and conifer forests, blooming wildflowers and cacti.  Our guides serve tasty, nutritious meals and our campsite for the evening is at an idyllic location.  The sound of the river lulls us to sleep.

In August the water is typically 72 degrees – perfect for a dip before breakfast.   On this trip you often see river otters, beavers and chukar partridge and if we’re lucky, bighorn sheep.  Petroglyphs of the ancients are found on riverside rocks and abandoned homesteads of the recent past are sprinkled through the canyon.  Today we’ll visit Kirkwood Bar Ranch, preserved and maintained by the Forest Service.  Our guides will share tales of the Nez Perce Crossing, the Deep Creek Massacre, stern-wheel steamers and unsolved murders.  The rapids today are milder so we can all enjoy paddling inflatable kayaks if you’d like that option.  Our river trip ends at Pittsburg Landing about 3pm where our van will be waiting for us.  Change into dry clothes and enjoy a riverside picnic lunch.  Then reload our gear into the van and drive up a switchback road out of the canyon.  It’s a scenic drive alongside the Lochsa (Wild + Scenic) River this afternoon to our lodging at Lolo Hot Springs in Montana!  After dinner you can enjoy a relaxing soak in the naturally heated springs.

After breakfast at our lodge we head south through a beautiful valley carrying the Salmon River into in Montana.  We cross back into Idaho at Chief Joseph Pass.  Our destination is the town of Salmon where we’ll lunch.  This afternoon we’ll and meet Mike, a local historian who will drive us to the actual trail used by Lewis and Clark in the Lemhi Valley.  Little has changed on this trail since 1805 when they were here exploring the feasibility of navigating the Salmon River in hopes of reaching the Pacific Coast.  Realizing that no canoe could safely navigate the Salmon River's rapids, Lewis and Clark changed their course to an over-land route.  Mike describes the challenges and events gleamed from the journals of these explorers and the exhibits he carries along with us make their story come alive.  This valley was home to Sacajawea who joined the Lewis and Clark expedition as interpreter and guide for 18 months.  She was sixteen and pregnant but was invaluable helping explorers trade for horses with the Shoshone and she collected roots and berries providing additional food for the expedition along the way.  We visit her memorial in Salmon.

Stanley is our destination today and surely the most scenic town in Idaho.  Pristine lakes and views of the Sawtooth Mountains make it evident why these are called America’s Alps. Bison used to roam this land and a historic marker near Challis shows where Shoshone used to run small groups off a cliff to make their work easier.  Idaho has more geothermal features than any other state.  It’s fun to explore riverside hot springs and a stop at Sunbeam is a must.  Just outside Stanley, we’ll drive to the trailhead for our 3.6-mile hike to Fourth of July Lake. It is named because the lake is not typically clear of snow until after July 4 and because the magnificent wildflower displays are reminiscent of fireworks. This is an easy hike at 9,500’ with a 565’ elevation gain.  The trail begins in a forest in a pristine canyon, passes moss-covered springs and opens up to spectacular views of meadows, the lake and the White Cloud Mountains.  We will enjoy a picnic lunch beside the lake surrounded by red and white mountain heather.  After checking in to our Stanley lodge we’ll soak away our hiking legs in a private hot spring.  This eveing we’ll dine on a deck overlooking the Salmon River.

Redfish Lake was named for the red sockeye salmon that returned each year to spawn via the Salmon River.  This morning we’ll paddle kayaks on the crystal clear Redfish Lake with views of the Sawtooth Mountains.  It’s so pristine that seeing 30 feet down into the water is easy.  Paddling gently along the forested edge of the lake is the most relaxing way to welcome the new day.  Later we drive south to Sun Valley, Idaho’s jet-setter wintertime playground.  It’s fun in the summer too and we’ll lunch in nearby Ketchum.   This afternoon we drive south some more and see beautiful Shoshone Falls on the Snake River at Twin Falls.  Return to Boise to our favorite downtown hotel.  Farewell dinner in Boise.  Tour ends.  The hotel has airport shuttle service.


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