The Boise National Forest itself is a special place to visit for over 1.5 million visitors a year! Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy connecting with nature at many beautiful locations to fish, hike, camp, bike, ski and kayak. But within the Forest there are many treasures considered to be particularly special. Rustic cabins available for rent dot the wooded hills, byways offer endless breathtaking views and a chance to see wildlife where they live, and waterways that can be a wet and wild adventure, or a serene and relaxing place to get in touch with your spirit.
“Perhaps the rebuilding of the body and spirit is the greatest service derivable from our forests, for what worth are material things if we lose the character and quality of people that are the soul of America.”
--Arthur Carhart, Forest Service Landscape Architect, 1919
Payette River System
Known for kayaking and rafting, the Payette River is about one hour north of Boise. It includes the South Fork and Main Payette River—rapids range from Class 1 to Class 4. (If desired, rafting outfitters are available to help guide your adventure.) With sandy beaches and boat launch sites such as Banks Beach, Beehive Bend, and Confluence, one can find easy access along the cool river on a hot summer day. Nominal fees for parking and boat launching are returned to the site in the form of improvements such as boat launch facilities, restrooms, paved parking, and recreation infrastructure.
Want a quick trip to the mountains? Take the forest highway from Boise towards Bogus Basin Ski Resort, and within 16 miles you’ll transition from a hot, dry, desert environment to a cool, forested landscape. In the winter, downhill and cross-country ski facilities are available. In the spring, summer, and fall numerous hiking trails, such as the Shafer Butte trail, portions of the Ridge-to-Rivers Trail system, and even a newly created mountain bike trail system await your exploration.
High Elevation Meadows
Nothing is more delightful to experience than a lush flower-filled meadow deep within the forest. About a half day’s drive from Boise, Bear Valley is the perfect spot! Enjoy a leisurely day watching birds, discovering wildflowers, or even canoeing on Elk Creek which winds through the meadow. Other attractive meadow areas include Stolle Meadows near Cascade, and High Valley north of Emmett.
On top of the world! Come visit some of the Boise National Forest’s fire lookouts and get a spectacular 360-degree view from a remote mountaintop. The lookouts are usually accessible from July through September. Lookout personnel are available from approximately 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., but may be busy with a fire during the day. Please realize they need to continually scan the horizon for smoke so they have limited time to talk. Lookouts include:
*Deadwood - available for overnight rental
*Silver Creek - amazing vistas into vast roadless country
*Whitehawk - beautiful overlook of Bear Valley Meadows
*Trinity - a steep hike, but the view is worth it
Trinity Mountain Recreation Area
The highest drivable point in Idaho is located in the “Trinities,” a beautiful high elevation area on the Mountain Home Ranger District (4-wheel drive recommended). At the end of the drive, you can make a short but steep hike to the Trinity MountainLookout at 9,700 feet. Numerous lakes dot the area (some with campgrounds) and rustic cabins are perfect settings for a mid-summer visit. Summer comes late here and the slow snow melt often means the area is not accessible until early July. Wildflowers abound shortly thereafter, so bring your camera!
Ponderosa Pine State Scenic Byway
Length: 130 mi./208 km.
Time to Allow: 2-3 hours
The Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway (along Highway 21 from Boise to Lowman and beyond) has a variety of river scenery through forested landscapes. Fall and spring are awash in color here. This is a journey through the heart of the Stanley Basin, winding down along the South Fork of the Payette River, through Lowman, past Idaho City (a mining town which was once Idaho’s largest city) and on to Boise, Idaho’s