Recreating away from the big, bad city

Boise is known as a haven for outdoor recreationists who love easy access to trails, rivers and assorted activities right outside their front door. But getting out of the Treasure Valley can lead to new adventures in gorgeous settings. Here are our choices for some of the best getaways within an easy drive of the Boise area.

Sun Valley (150 miles from Boise)

click to enlarge BRIAN SENDELBACH

Two hours northeast of Boise lays a year-round outdoor-lover's playground. Sun Valley is internationally renowned as the world's first ski resort, where the "steep and deep" is a way of life. Nordic skiers and snowshoers rack up the miles along the groomed trail system that runs throughout the Wood River Valley. It's possible to make a weekend out of it by trekking into one of the numerous yurts that dot national forest land. Once the snow is off the ground, ski runs turn into mountain bike trails and road bikers then take to the paved pathway that runs nearly the length of the valley. Fly fishermen come from all over to try their skill in Silver Creek or the Wood River. Staying in Sun Valley isn't exactly cheap, but remember, there are always the numerous campgrounds scattered across the area.

Riggins (150 miles from Boise)

click to enlarge BRIAN SENDELBACH

Idaho is known as the home of whitewater rafting with more river miles than anywhere else in the country. Few places celebrate that fact quite like Riggins, where whitewater is the town industry. Located on the Salmon River, Riggins calls to rafters and kayakers like a siren in a life jacket and river sandals. Each summer, boaters flock to the big water of both the Salmon River and the nearby Snake River in Hell's Canyon. And don't forget steelhead fishing in the fall.

City of Rocks (200 miles from Boise)

click to enlarge BRIAN SENDELBACH

The Gem State is known for the majestic forests of north and central Idaho, but southern Idaho holds its own special allure, especially for those who like to hold on to life with the tips of their fingers. Not far from the Utah border, the City of Rocks National Reserve stands like a citadel on the high desert, where soaring rock towers, jagged cuts and sheer cliff faces attract climbers who want to surround themselves with their sport. For those who want to keep their feet a little more firmly on the ground, camping in the City of Rocks offers a whole new kind of people watching.

McCall (100 miles from Boise)

click to enlarge BRIAN SENDELBACH

Tamarack shamarack. McCall and the Long Valley were a draw for recreationists long before there was even talk of a ski area. Now, most skiers who head north of Boise hit the slopes at Brundage or trek on skinny skis on the trails maintained as part of the extensive Sno-Park system. In the summer, Payette Lake brings families who want to bask along its shores or glide across its waters on waterskis, jet skis or a little more quietly in canoes or sea kayaks.

Stanley (130 miles from Boise)

click to enlarge BRIAN SENDELBACH

The town of roughly 100 residents isn't known as the Gateway to the Sawtooths for nothing. As far as mountain recreation is concerned, if you can think of it, chances are you can do it near Stanley. Although the road to Stanley is often closed once the snow flies, the area is a year-round destination for everything. In alphabetical order, shall we? Biking, camping, climbing, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, hot spring soaking, hunting, kayaking, outdoor live music listening, rafting, skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, wildlife watching, yurting. And we guarantee we're missing a few.

Idaho City (40 miles from Boise)

click to enlarge BRIAN SENDELBACH

Less than an hour from Boise, Idaho City is a sure way to give your non-Idaho friends a nugget of that old Wild West feeling. Wandering the streets and the old cemetery can keep a city slicker gawking all day, but if real recreation is on your agenda, the surrounding area is rife with trails for horses, ATVs and your dusty boots. Those same trails make for good snowmobiling come winter and if you want to make a weekend out of it, snowshoe into a yurt. You'll find camping near town and if you're one of those camp-in-the-comfort-of-your-RV types, you'll find a few spots to hook up.

Garden Valley (50 miles from Boise)

click to enlarge BRIAN SENDELBACH

Allow us to recommend getting to Garden Valley the long way: Boise to Idaho City, then down to Lowman and cut over to Garden Valley. It's a hell of a pretty drive, won't take but a few hours, and if you get to Crouch, you'll be happy to see not one but two packed bars. As for the actual recreating, rafting and ATVing are definitely the big draws here. Let the lazy upper Middle Fork of the Payette float you a few miles or get serious with a guided company on the main. Hot springs are literally around every corner, but you'll have to get a guidebook or earn the trust of a few locals if you want to find them. Come snow season, snowmobiles replace the ATVs and in Garden Valley proper, you'll find a respectable family tubing hill.

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