Cisco is our amazing fourteen month old Morgan colt. He has been on a total of four trail rides and his temperment out on the trail is a sight to be seen. Cisco is smart, confident, and sweet. He has been exposed to bridges, water, cows, hikers, down timber, and mud. Cisco follows well on the trail on and off lead. We found that towards the end of our trail rides Cisco would get pesty while on the lead often bothering the horse in front of him so we let him free. He shot off a few times to explore, but for the most part follows the trail keeping up with us quite well. While the water took some time getting used to he sure had fun playing at Hidden Lake. Muddy spots are something that still needs some work on though. When Cisco comes to mud, he puts on the breaks and tries to find any way around it rather then going through it. With time and experience he will get it. While we do not get him on the trail nearly as much as we would like to, every little bit helps and we are hoping that the experiences we give him will help make the transition to saddle that much easier. We are nothing but impressed with our little Morgan.
Are you planning a horseback riding trip out West? Looking for a place to camp with your horses during the summer months? Check out our TOP FIVE PRIMITIVE camping spots
Directions: From the traffic light in downtown Driggs travel north on Idaho Hwy, 33. At 5.7 miles you will cross a bridge that brings you over South Leigh Creek. You will see a sign that will point you to the national forest access. If you were to continue on the highway it would take you into Tetonia. As you leave the highway and take the road to the right that heads into the national forest, you will come to a stop sign. Turn right at the stop sign and drive east towards the Tetons. Turn left at 2.6 miles onto signed North Leigh Canyon Road. You will drive approximately 6 more miles on this road until you come to a large open meadow with a turnaround for trailers. This is where we park. This road can be washboard and rough but they do keep it up pretty well.
Amenities: Fire pit, large meadow, nearby creek, no elecitic hookups, no bathrooms, first come first serve, free, no limit to how long you stay
Access to these nearby trails: Green Lakes/Granite Basin; Tin Cup; South Lee; Badger Creek
2. Teton Canyon
Directions: At the stoplight in downtown Driggs, turn east off Idaho Hwy 33 onto Ski Hill Road toward Grand Targhee Ski Resort. Follow Ski Hill Road for about 6.5 miles where you will come to a sign that points to Teton Canyon on the right. Continue down Teton Canyon road for about 4.miles until you come to the camping facility on the left hand side of the road. there will be an in and out road that leads the the camping area.
Amenitites: large parking area, secluded camping, large meadow, corrals, no electric hookups, no bathrooms, limited camping spots at this area, first come first serve, free, no limit on how long you stay
Access to these nearby trails: Alaska Basin, Buck Mountain, Table Mountain, Beard’s Wheatfield, Hurricane Pass, Mount Meek Pass, Devil’s Staircase (horses not allowed),
3. South Boone Creek
Directions:From Idaho Falls, ID: Head down HWY 20 towards Ashton, ID. Just before coming into Ashton you will see a blue sign for Squirrel Creek. You will turn right onto 1200N. At about a mile you will come to a stop sign, continue straight through it. You will get a nice view of the Tetons on this road. At about 13 miles into this road, it turns to gravel. It is a pretty wide gravel road and in good shape with few potholes. At about 21 miles into this road there will be a little lookout point to the left. It looks out onto a pond with pretty lily pads and yellow flowers. We have stopped here before and taken some pictures. It’s particularly pretty at sunset. At 23.5 miles you will pass a bridge over South Boone Creek. Shortly after the bridge you will come to a sign that points to Jackass Meadows. Turn right here and follow the narrow dirt road. Follow this road for about 3 miles and you will come to the trailhead sign on the right. Pull into the road at your first left and you will park in a big camp spot.
Amenities: large parking area/meadow, fire ring, creek access, no electric hookups, no bathrooms, first come first serve, free, no limit on how long you can stay.
Access to these nearby trails: South Boone Creek, Berry Creek, Conant Basin, Hominy Peak, Union Falls (short driving distance)
4. Coyote Meadows
Directions:From Idaho Falls, ID: Follow US 20 for about 30 miles to exit 339 toward ID-33 E/Driggs/Jackson. Continue on Idaho 33 towards Driggs for 31 miles. You will see a sign pointing to Idaho 32 that heads towards Ashton, turn left on this road. You will drive on this road for approximately 12 miles. Then turn right onto the road marked N 4700 E. Drive for one mile on this road with the Tetons in view and then turn right onto 700 North. 700 N turns into a gravel road. You will travel on 700 N for about three miles and you will cross a cattle guard and come to a sign that says you are entering the Targhee National Forest. You will then turn right onto Forest Road 265 and follow this all the way to the end where you will see the big turn around called Coyote Meadows. You will be on 265 for about 8 miles.
Amenities: large parking area, several camp spots, small corral, tie racks, several fire rings, on site porto potty, creek access, limit to 3 day camping, free, first come first serve, no electric hookups
Access to these nearby trails: Hidden Lake, Hidden Corral, Conant Basin, Bitch Creek, Camp Lake
5. Indian Creek
Directions:From Idaho Falls, ID: Follow US 26 towards Swan Valley. You will follow US 26 for about 58 miles going through Palisades. Just across from the Palisades Resevoir you will find Indian Creek Road NF #281. You will travel on this road for about two miles. Once you start seeing signs for the camping permitted area you may pull over and choose anyone along side the road. There are several camping spots along this road so choose your best one! If you follow this road to the end you will find the South Indian Creek trailhead with tie racks and a bathroom.
Amenities: several camping areas, creek access, fire rings, free, first come first serve, no electric hookups, bathroom at trailhead, tie racks at trailhead.
Access to these nearby trails: South Indian Creek and North Indian Creek
Trails within a short driving distance: Palisades Creek, Rainy Creek, Big Elk Creek, Bear Creek, Sheep Creek, Fall Creek
South Boone Creek is one of those must do rides. This ride is located just across the border for us in the fabulous state of Wyoming. The South Boone Creek trail is a 15.5 mile loop. It is a very scenic trail that offers views of the Grand Tetons, pretty rocky cliff areas, and green grassy meadows with wildflowers at the right time of the year. You will also spend a lot of time in the forest on this trail and since we visited this a little earlier in the year, not many people had been on the trail yet and there was quite a bit of downed timber. We were lucky and most of it was in spots that made it easy to find an alternate route. However, there were a few spots that we had to take out the saw and cut our way through it. We also saw a little bit of snow on the trail but it wasn’t bad at all.
This ride is a day ride for us and we are fortunate that it is only about an hour and a half from our home. However, if you are not that lucky there is camping available at the trailhead. The trailhead is located in Jackass Meadows and there is a big camping area available complete with bear box, fire pit, and a creek nearby for your horses.
Finding the South Boone Creek Trailhead
From Idaho Falls, ID: Head down HWY 20 towards Ashton, ID. Just before coming into Ashton you will see a blue sign for squirrel Creek. You will turn right onto 1200N. At about a mile you will come to a stop sign, continue straight through it. You will get a nice view of the Tetons on this road. At about 13 miles into this road, it turns to gravel. It is a pretty wide gravel road and in good shape with few potholes. At about 21 miles into this road there will be a little lookout point to the left. It looks out onto a pond with pretty lily pads and yellow flowers. We have stopped here before and taken some pictures. It’s particularly pretty at sunset. At 23.5 miles you will pass a bridge over South Boone Creek. Shortly after the bridge you will come to a sign that points to Jackass Meadows. Turn right here and follow the narrow dirt road. Follow this road for about 3 miles and you will come to the trailhead sign on the right. Pull into the road at your first left and you will park in a big camp spot.
South Boone Creek Trail Description
Once you are saddled and ready to go, head down the road that you drove in on for about 1.3 miles. We actually start the trail down the road and then come out at the trailhead sign that is across from where we parked. As you head down the road you will see a forest service road maker 264. The trail starts right at this sign. The trail takes you through the forest where you will steadily gain elevation. Like we mentioned above there is a lot of down timber at this point.
In 4 miles the view will open up and you will get a pretty overlook with snow-capped mountains. You will also notice the Grand Teton making its appearance. This is perfect spot to pull over and get some awesome shots. We took ours with the Olympus Tough Camera.
The trail will continue on this hillside for a bit with your views continuing. At about 5 miles that trail will go downhill for a bit before it climbs back up. The trail goes down through a little drainage where you will see a sign and we took the small trail to the left.
At 6.2 miles you will come to a sign, head left on the Teton Crest Trail 008. This trail takes you to South Boone Creek and Jackass Road. Jackass road is the road we drove in on. Shortly after turning onto this trail you will come to an amazing cliff view where you are riding on the edge. Yes sounds scary but it is actually a really wide path. This has an amazing over view of rolling mountains and is the perfect spot to stop for lunch. We tie our horses up to one of the many trees and grab a seat on the cliff edge to enjoy our lunch. Here you are about 8400 feet in elevation.
After lunch continue on down the trail. Shortly it will take you into a green grassy meadow where you will be for about 2 miles. At 8.3 miles you will come to a sign. We veered of trail at this point to the left. If you follow the rocky, boulders that line a creek bed you will come to another amazing overview. There was actually water in this creek bed which is a rarity. We usually do this trail much later in the season when the water is all dried up. Water in this area just added to the beauty and it looked like a totally different area this trip. We tied the horses up in some trees as we got off and explored the rocky cliff ban and off course got some of those cool shots.
Once you are ready and back on your horse follow the rock bed back to where you saw that trail sign and continue on towards Jackass Road. The trail will take you back into the forest and in about a mile you will come to a lake. The trail will then go up a short hill where you will get a nice overview of a second lake. At this point the trail kind of fades for a second but just head up to the left towards the lake. You will see a sign in a minute that will point you in the right direction.
At 10 miles into your journey, the trail will start to descend through some thick Aspen trees. This is where we pulled out the saw and cut our way through. The trail will also be taking you through a thick rooted forest area and you will be climbing over some big roots in the trail. This trail used to have a bit of a tough spot on it where there was a tree root and a big rock that was somewhat of a challenge to ride up or down. We have ridden this trail many times and have had to do this. Well to our delight, someone fixed that spot! Whomever this great group or person was, a big thank you to you!
At 11 miles you will come to a creek crossing. We stopped here to let the horses get a drink. You are going to follow down the creek to the right for a second before you see the trail reconnecting on the other side. The trail continues through the forest and South Boone Creek will be running on your left all the way through to the end of the trail. When you come out at the end of the trail cross the road and you will find your vehicle in the big camp spot.
Hidden Lake is located within Coyote Meadows which is found between Ashton and Tetonia Idaho. There are several trails located within this trailhead and they all lead to some pretty amazing views. A person could spend weeks at Coyote Meadows and see a new view each time. We frequent this area quite often. We have camped at the trailhead before which is a big turnaround that has several camp spots with fire pits and tie racks. There is even a small corral located on site and there is also a bathroom. There is a limit to 3 day camping at the trailhead. We have also done some pack trips into this area. This ride that we did though was only a day ride for us. The Hidden Lake to Conant Basin trail is about a 15 mile loop that can be done in either direction. We prefer to go to the lake first to eat lunch. The lake can be a popular spot so you often end up sharing it with other folks. It is also a popular fishing spot, so if that is your thing bring your fishing pole. Besides seeing a beautiful lake on this view you also get the pleasure of getting up high and reaching an elevation of about 8,100 feet with some spectacular views.
Finding Coyote Meadows
From Idaho Falls, ID: Follow US 20 for about 30 miles to exit 339 toward ID-33 E/Driggs/Jackson. Continue on Idaho 33 towards Driggs for 31 miles. You will see a sign pointing to Idaho 32 that heads towards Ashton, turn left on this road. You will drive on this road for approximately 12 miles. Then turn right onto the road marked N 4700 E. Drive
for one mile on this road with the Tetons in view and then turn right onto 700 North.
700 N turns into a gravel road. You will travel on 700 N for about three miles and you will cross a cattle guard and come to a sign that says you are entering the Targhee National Forest. You will then turn right onto Forest Road 265 and follow this all the way to the end where you will see the big turn around called Coyote Meadows. You will be on 265 for about 8 miles.
Hidden Lake to Conant Basin Trail Description
Once you are saddled and ready to go head towards the trailhead sign for Coyote Meadows.
Just in case you didn’t see it as you drove in it is to the right of the bathroom. The trail is mostly a hard dirt packed trail. With our horses being barefoot they are able to do this trail without putting boots on. The trail starts in the forest but brings you out into a meadow for a short bit and at .12 miles you will see a sign for Bitch Creek. Continue straight on the trail. There are plenty of opportunities for your horses to get drinks on this trip including the first one as you cross Bitch Creek. From here Hidden Lake is 4.1 miles. Some people just make a ride out of going to the lake and back which we have done before. However, the loop around into Conant Basin is definitely worth it if you have the time. When you are about a third of the way into the trail you will come to an intersection. This is where we will be starting our loop. We headed to the left first so we can reach Hidden Lake and then we will be coming back on the trail to the right as we finish our loop. Hidden Lake is 4.1 miles from here.
The trail continues to meander through the forest all the way to the lake. At 2.4 miles you will come to a big mud hole that you have to cross. It seems like this mud hole is always here no matter how dry it gets. Gracie stops to get a drink here.
Shortly after this mud hole you will come to a sign that says you are in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness-Caribou/Targhee National Forest sign.
At 4 miles you are nearly to the lake and have gained some elevation. The view opens up a bit to your right and if you pull of the trail you can get a good lookout. We have also stopped here to get some shots with the Olympus Tough Camera.
Shortly after this you will begin to catch your first glimpse of Hidden Lake through the trees. It is a pretty blueish green color. Here is will begin your decent as the trail starts to switch back down into the lake. Hidden Lake is a good spot to stop for lunch. The calm and serenity of the lake is amazing. Like we mentioned at the beginning the lake is often a popular spot. We spent our lunch watching a couple of guys fish off the back of their horses and another couple having lunch with their dogs.
Hidden Lake can also be a fun spot to go for a swim on a nice warm day.
Make sure you bring lots of bug spray both for yourself and the horses, because the bugs can be quite grueling at all times of the year.
When you are finished with lunch head back up to the trail and continue to the right around the lake. The trail will continue through some thick forest. Make sure you have your bear spray, this is bear country and we have seen some black bears on this trail before. At 4.8 miles the trail will split and go through a camping spot. We stayed on the trail that goes to the left and goes around the camp. In about two miles from here the trail will open up to a grassy meadow with footbridges that will take you over some boggy areas.
At 6.4 miles you will come to another split in the trail. This time there is a sign on the trail that goes to the left, but we are going to head up the trail to the right to continue our loop. Shortly after getting on this trail you will come to a little pond on your left. We saw a few ducks swimming in it. There is also a camp spot by this pond with a bear box. Perfect place to camp with horses. After this camp spot the trail started to get a little muddy.
As you continue on you will be doing some switchbacks up the mountain and will gain a pretty view of some mountains to you right you will also be getting a pretty view behind you. There is still some climb after this as the trail continues to switch back up an open hillside. At 7.6 miles you will finish your climb up to the top where you get a pretty overlook. The higher elevation mountains are still filled with snow, which adds to the beauty of this scenic overlook. This is a perfect spot to stop, let your horses catch their breath while you get some of those pretty pictures.
The trail will continue on for a little while and at about 8 miles you will come to a junction in the trail. At this junction you will be just coming off the Conant Basin Trail and there will be a sign here telling you which direction to go. We are going to head to the right and the sign states that it is about 5.4 miles back to Coyote Meadows from this point. In about a mile you will be climbing through some Aspen trees with an amazing view to your left. Some time after this point the trail will start to descend through the forest. As you get down towards the end of your decent you will be coming off of a y-intersection. Continue straight the other trail will lead you back into Hidden Corral. Shortly after this point you will be completing your loop and coming to the sign you saw earlier in your trek that led you up to the lake. From here you have less than a mile back to the truck.
The Dead Horse Ridge Trail is out of Fall Creek near Swan Valley, Idaho. This trail is in the same area as our Rash Canyon article we posted previously. Dead Horse Ridge is one of the prettier rides out of this area. Several different views encompass this ride. It is about a 16 mile loop that takes you through lush forests, fields of wildflowers, a high ridge with a beautiful 360 degree overlook, and creek crossings. When you get to the ridge there will be plenty of photo opportunities. We got a lot of great shots with the Olympus Tough Camera and even got some videos with the Go Pro.
The Dead Horse Ridge trail to South Fork Fall Creek is an easy trail to follow and is well-marked. It starts off as a two-track trail that is opened to ATV’s and dirt bikes. At about 4 miles into the trail a little gate will prevent ATV’s from entering. The trail here turns into a single track where dirt bikes are still allowed. This loop has a lot of climb which is great for getting horses in shape, but can also be tough on them if they are still coming back from their winter vacation. There are also spots as the trail winds through the forest where it becomes very rutty from the dirt bikes and can also be very muddy and slick. When we did this trail it had just rained the night before so the inclines through the forest were quite slick and the horses had to really power up it and at times they would lose their footing and their feet would slip out from underneath. Be careful heading through these parts, we sometimes got off the horses because it was easier and safer to just walk up the muddy parts.
Finding the Dead Horse Ridge Trailhead
From Idaho Falls, ID: Follow US 26 towards Swan Valley for about 30 miles. Just before you cross the bridge over the Snake River, you will see a road to the right titled NF-058 this is a paved road for about a mile and will take you past a boat ramp. This part of the road is relatively wide, but be careful as you will most likely encounter a few big rigs on this road. In a little over a mile you will come to a fork in the road, continue right onto Fall Creek road. This turns into a narrow dirt road with some turn outs along the way in case you run into a larger vehicle. Sometimes cattle semis are seen on this road. There are also plenty of camping spots along this road. Follow this dirt road for about 5 miles until you see what is called the rock quarry on your right. It is basically just a lot of white boulders lined on the hillside. There will be a camping turnout across the road from the rock quarry on the left. You will also see a small wooden bridge that goes across Horse Creek with a trail marker sign 140. This is where we parked.
Dead Horse Ridge Trail Description
Once you are saddled, ride across the bridge with the trail marker sign 140. This will take you across Horse Creek. This trail is a two-track trail that will bring you to a metal gate in about half a mile.
Open the gate and continue through to the trail that will meander though the forest with some creek crossings. Make sure you stop to get your horses hydrated now because once you are up on the ridge you won’t find any water until you come back down onto South Fork Creek Trail. At two miles into the trail we came across a yearling moose. He was off the trail hanging out in the trees. We all just stared at one another for a moment before he took off. A little further up the trail, a deer ran out in front of us and watched us ride by. It is always great to come across wildlife when out and about.
At 2.7 miles into the trail you are going to come to what looks like a junction. It is actually just a trail that leads to an overlook. We took a right up that trail and headed to the overlook. It was a pretty good spot to take a break for lunch and get a good view of the green rolling hills. It is also one of those good photo opportunities. Once you have taken in the view go back down the overlook trail and continue straight along the trail. The trail takes you up through the forest where it starts to get muddy here, so be careful the horses were sliding out.
At 4 miles into the trail you will come to a narrow brown gate that closes out the ATV’s. Only horses and dirt bikes are allowed through this part of the trail and it now turns into a single track. From here the trail starts its climb through the forests. The trail can get pretty rutty here from the dirt bikes. Anytime we saw trails veering off we took them. They were better and most likely created by other horse riders that weren’t as slick. They all lead to the same place and join back up with the main trail.
At 5 miles the trail splits, we took the main trail that goes up the steep hill. This won’t be your only steep climb for the day. There will be plenty more to come. However as you start your climb on Dead Horse Ridge, there are some horse trails that go around the bigger climbs and sometimes we just made our own trails through the forest. After some climb you will be at about 7,600 feet in elevation and the view is pretty. We saw some patches of snow off in the distance and pretty rolling green mountains. There is plenty of climb left in the trek. You will be on the ridge for about 2-3 miles with a lot of rollercoaster hills. It is an amazing 360 degree view. Sometimes it can get windy up top, we lucked out this day as the weather was pretty good. At times you think you will be descending off the ridge, as it goes through some Aspen trees, but it will only meander through the forests for a minute until you are exposed on the ridge again with the view. Like we mentioned it looks like there are a bunch of different trails on the ridge, but they all loop back into one another. Whenever given the chance we avoided the steep hills and took the little trails that went around them.
At 7.5 miles the trail comes to a little camp site in the forest. It was a cute set up with a flat rock table build between two trees, a fire ring, and a tie rack that is also built between two trees. Perfect area to camp if you are wanting to pack in with horses. Only drawback is that there wasn’t a water source at this point for your horses. As the trail continues past this campsite you hit yet another climb and get to catch another glimpse of the view.
At 8.4 miles you will come to a sign on a tree to the left of the trail. The trail splits here giving you the option of going up to Red Ridge to the left, we cut down to the right staying on Dead Horse Ridge Trail, 267. You could make your ride a little longer and go up Red Ridge, it will loop around and eventually intersect back into Dead Horse Ridge, however we have heard that is not the best trail and not very well maintained. Once you make this turn onto trail number 267 the trail starts to descend into a forest of Aspen trees. It switch back down through the forest and you will be going over some bridges.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
At 8.7 miles you finish the switchbacks through the forest and come to a big four-way intersection with a big sign on a tree telling you your options. We turned right onto trail #30 which is the South Fork Fall Creek Trail. You will also see the trail where Red Ridge intersects back with The Horse Ridge Trail. Once on the South Fork trail, the trail meanders through the lush green forest with wildflowers and there are now plenty of opportunities for you horses to drink as the South Fork Creek is trickling to your left. You will be crossing over some bridges at this point too.
At 11.5 miles you will be approaching another small gate where you will be entering the land where ATV’s are allowed. Shortly after this gate the trail turns from a single track back into a two-track trail. You will also come to a junction. We continued on to the right to head back to the trailhead, but the trail also goes to the left heading towards Rash Canyon which is the trail we came out on in our last article. You have about 3.5 miles left on this trail before you come to another metal gate that needs opening. Once you head through this gate before long you will be approaching the South Fork Fall Creek Trailhead. Once you reach the trailhead continue on down the road and you will reach the main gravel road you drove in on. Turn right and you will travel along this road for about 3/4 of a mile before you reach your vehicle.
Rash Canyon is out of the Fall Creek area just before Swan Valley, Idaho. There are numerous trail heads out of this area and some trails are better than others. This trail which starts out at Rash Canyon and loops around into South Fork Fall Creek, isn’t one of our most favorite rides because you are basically stuck on a two-track dirt road the entire way and also stuck in a canyon so you don’t get much of that high view overlook. We did still manage to get some good photos with the Olympus Tough.
It is a good trail however for getting your horses in shape and conditioned. The whole area of Fall Creek is very populated mostly by motorized vehicles. We definitely don’t recommend coming here on a weekend, as you will run into more motorized vehicles than you wish. There is also a lot of opportunity to camp along the way. There are several spots just off the dirt road where you can pull over and camp. There are also a few spots off by some of the trailheads if you want more of a secluded camping experience. We also ran into a few camping spots along the trail so if you want to pack in and camp that is also a possibility.
Finding the Rash Canyon Trailhead
From Idaho Falls, ID: Follow US 26 towards Swan Valley for about 30 miles. Just before you cross the bridge over the Snake River, you will see a road to the right titled NF-058 this is a paved road for about a mile and will take you past a boat ramp. This part of the road is relatively wide, but be careful as you will most likely encounter a few big rigs on this road. In a little over a mile you will come to a fork in the road, continue right onto Fall Creek road. This turns into a narrow dirt road with some turn outs along the way in case you run into a larger vehicle. Sometimes cattle semis are seen on this road. Follow this dirt road for about 5-6 miles until you come to a sign on your left that says Rash Canyon.
As you pull onto this short road be careful it is steep, rutty, and rocky. We went over the cattle guard and parked in the grassy area on the right. If you would prefer, you can find a place to park off the road on the other side, but you will have to ride across the road and then open a gate.
Rash Canyon Trail Description
Follow the two-track dirt trail. In about 3 miles into the trail you will come to a junction with a possibility of continuing straight or going to the right or to the left. If you continue straight you will be on the road that will loop you into South Fork Fall Creek.
We decided to take a little back country way because that is the way that Amy programmed it on the Suunto Ambit 2 Watch. So we headed to the right up trail 262 even though there is a sign in a tree once you turn onto this trail pointing the way to South Fork Fall Creek. In less than a mile you will come to another junction and turn on the road to the left. Shortly you will see an unmarked trail to your right that doesn’t look very well-kept, you need to take this trail. We ended up missing this and taking a trail just down the road that had a marker on it that says no motorized vehicles. This trail is a dead-end and we advise you not to take it. If you take the correct trail, you will immediately find a little cow trail to the right. Take this and you will intersect with the South Fork Trail. Take a right once the trail intersects. We saw deer on this trail.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Once you are on the South Fork trail, you will hear and see the creek to your right. There were some mallard ducks resting in this creek and also some big fish swimming past.
As you continue on this trail, you will see a sign that points to Lightning Ridge. It was pretty fitting at this time as we started to hear thunder at this moment. Luckily we didn’t get rained on. Keep on the road, and soon you will come to a junction where the South Fork trail splits. Turn left and you will be on your final leg back to the truck. We crossed the creek several times here and there were many opportunities for the horses to get drinks.
When you reach the end of the South Fork trail you will come to a giant turn around parking area. You will be coming out on trail marker 30. The truck is not parked here so follow your way out on the road and turn left on the gravel road you drove in from. Follow the gravel road for about 1.5 miles until you see that sign again for Rash Canyon. The down fall here is, this road can be busy with traffic so be careful .
Once you turn down the road to Rash Canyon you will come to that cattle guard you drove over. There is very tight barbed wire gate around the fence corner to the right, but we decided to just go grab the truck and drive it over the cattle guard and unsaddled there. It was a lot easier than messing with that gate.
**Reminder: If you have the Suunto Ambit watch you can import all of the maps we provide of our journeys onto the watch and have your own personal guide telling you where to head on the trail 🙂
Let the fun begin! This was our first ride of our 2016 summer! We started this ride with every intention of doing a loop. However, things didn’t go exactly according to plan and we ended up exploring the area instead. Sometimes it is just fun to roam around and see what’s out there.
The Rainy Creek trail is located in Swan Valley, Idaho. For those of you who are out-of-town and interested in this ride, there are several camp spots available along the dirt road that leads to the trailhead. All of these sites are first come first serve. It can be a busy area, as the trail services horses and motorized vehicles. Camping is prohibited at the trailhead, however there is a porta potty available and a nice large parking area. There is also easy access to the creek, so there is plenty of water for your horses to drink.
Once you are saddled, head through the gate that leads to a two-track road. The track was a little rocky but not too bad. If you are riding barefoot as our horses are, you might want to bring along some boots.
In just under a mile you will come to your first creek crossing. There is a watch for bear sign at the start of the trail and just before this crossing Maggie heard something crashing through the trees, but nothing was seen.
In 1.25 miles you will come to a sign called Corral Canyon. We plan to go back and do this trail at some point. So we will be reporting back.
We decided to go straight through on the trail and bypassed Corral Canyon. Just past that we came to our second water crossing. At 1.5 miles into the trail we came to another sign called Spring Canyon. We also crossed our third creek at this point and continued on.
Spring Canyon was a neat little canyon with loose boulders lining the hillside to the right and several burnt trees lining the hillside to the left. Straight ahead we had a pretty view of a snow-capped mountain. We captured its beauty with our Olympus Tough camera.
At 2.4 miles we came to a trail marker sign, Tr. 92. We rode past that at this point and went on up Spring Canyon. We did encounter some 4 wheelers and motor cycles near the end of this trail and they could not continue because the trail wasn’t very well maintained and came to an end. We rode up it a few miles until we could not go any further and ate lunch here before turning around.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
As we back tracked our trail we decided to explore Tr. 92 that we passed before.
It brought us through a narrow canyon called Water Canyon, where we passed some very angry hummingbirds before switch backing up a hillside. We gained some elevation here and got a pretty view at the top. The trail did continue on from the top and we were pretty sure it would have looped back into one of the other trails we passed earlier. However, because we weren’t completely sure, we decided to turn around and head back out the same way we came in. Better to play it safe than to get lost. We went back down Water Canyon and back across the creek.
As we continued back toward the trailhead, we decided to ride up the trail that we had actually planned to take before we got a bit distracted. We didn’t go very far on this trail because it was getting late. We will come back and make the original loop we had planned another time. We came across some timber on this trail that we helped make horse safe with our little hand saw. When we got back to the trailhead we looked at the map located on the sign and found that this trail did loop back into S. Fork Rainy Creek Trail. So until next time!
Getting to the Trailhead
From Swan Valley, Idaho: Follow HWY 26 into Swan Valley Idaho. Once in Swan Valley, turn left onto Rainy Creek Road. Follow this road until you come to a T in the road. Turn left to continue onto Rainy Creek Road. Follow that dirt road all the way to the end, where you will come to a large turn around. The dirt road in was a good road, pretty wide and smooth so it is easy to get a bigger rig to the trailhead. There were some beautiful longhorn cattle in a pasture to the right as we headed up the road.
One day and counting until our school year ends and we are officially out on the trail for the summer. We have a lot of fun planned for this summer and thought with it being such a beautiful day today that we would take the horses out for a ride. We went to Stinking Springs, which is a trail not far from where we live in Idaho. It is a great trail to get the horses muscled up for the long hard rides we will soon be doing. The elevation on this ride is also lower putting us at about 6,800 feet when we reach the top, which means we won’t run into any snow packs. Right now that is the one thing keeping us from those high mountain rides. The snow in the higher elevations won’t melt until mid to late June. This restricts our riding a bit, however we won’t let it stop us.
The Stinking Springs trail is located on the way to Kelly Canyon Ski Resort near Ririe, Idaho. We went on an 8 mile ride today, however the trail offers options to make this a shorter or longer ride depending on your needs. This trail is heavily populated by motorbikes and four wheelers. Since it was Memorial Day weekend there were a lot of these motorized vehicles out and about which can get in the way of riding especially when you are having to pull off the trail every so often to let them by.
The parking lot for Stinking Springs is a nice size, that makes it easy for parking a trailer. From the parking lot, cross the road where you will find a cattle guard and gate. Once through the gate there is one main trail that takes you to the top, or you can take a trail to the right. We will do a write-up on that trail on another post. There are also several cow trails, since cattle often roam the area. Sometimes we go off and explore these trails, however today we stuck to the main one. The main trail we took this day is a two-track trail all the way. It is basically a steady incline to the top getting steeper the higher you go. Also towards the top you will find a lot of rocky switchbacks. There were also spots where the trail was rutty and washed away. We have seen, snakes here a few times including Rattle Snakes, so if you ride this trail, just beware.
Once at the top of the switch backs, you get a pretty good view of the town of Ririe Idaho, beautiful farm land and the Snake River. You can see quite a ways off into the distance. The weather at the top can also change fairly quickly. It was warm and tank top weather on the journey up, then once we reached the top the wind kicked in and we threw on some coats. The weather in this area in general can change in an instance. We have done this trail numerous times and have started out with perfect weather only for it to change in an instant. We have gotten caught in some pretty bad rainstorms here.
After you take the time to enjoy the view here, there is still some more climb up on a very rocky trail.
Once at the top of this trail, carry on for a moment and you will come to an intersection with basically two different options. You can either go to the left or the right. There is a trail in the middle but it joins up with the trail to the right in a short while. Here is a chance for you to have some fun and explore. You can’t go wrong either way!
We chose the trail to the right. It takes you through a forest, Aspen filled area. Eventually you will come to a barbwire gate. This gate was tight and was quite difficult to get closed. However we persevered and between the two of us got it closed. There are cattle up there and so it is very important to get those gates closed. Once through the gate the trail splits again and we ventured to the right for a bit before turning around and making our way back down.
How to Get to Stinking Springs
From Idaho Falls, ID: Head east on US-26 for 19 miles. Then turn left onto N 160 E. You should see signs on the highway pointing you to Kelly Canyon Ski resort. Follow this road for about 1.3 miles then turn right onto E 100 N/Heise Rd. Then take slight left onto N 5050 E and then turn right onto E. Heise Road. Continue driving on this road for about 2.3 miles. You will see a split in the road and you will want to veer to the right to continue onto E. Heise Road. Follow this for about 2 miles where you will come to a parking lot on the right with a big red ramp. This is where we park.
Massacre Rocks is a state park located in American Falls, Idaho. It is a state park with a lot of history. Massacre Rocks is a famous spot along the Oregon Trail. Wagons in route of the Oregon Trail travelled over twelve-hundred miles from Missouri. It is said that many considered their trek through the Idaho desert as one of the most difficult parts of the journey. Unfortunately today, the interstate cuts through part of the Massacre Rocks State Park. Massacre Rocks was given its names because there are large boulders in the area that created narrow passage ways through the rocks. Emigrants feared a possible ambush by Native Americans through these passageways because only one wagon could fit through at a time. These passageways were termed “Gate of Death” or “Devil’s Gate”. In 1862, five wagons clashed with Native Americans and ten emigrants died in the fight. If you want more of a historical background on Massacre Rocks State Park you may visit Pathways of Pioneers or Legends of America.
Given the historical significance of the area and the fact that we were looking for a new area to get our horses in shape for the riding season, we decided that riding Massacre Rocks State Park would be an interesting adventure. We did our research, found a park map that outlined the trails that were “horse accessible”, and we mapped out a route using the Suunto Watch. We traveled the hour and a half to the state park, paid our visitor fee and parked the horse trailer at a boat ramp. Yes it was a weird spot to park a horse trailer and the freeway was buzzing to our left. It wasn’t quite what we had in mind and definitely was too populated for our taste. We decided to make the best of it, saddled up and carried on our way. At about a mile into our trek we were stopped by a park ranger who told us that Massacre Rocks State Park does not allow horses in the park. There were no signs stating horses weren’t allowed. We pleaded our case, stating we found a state park map that reinforced we had every right to ride these trails. The park ranger reiterated that horses have been banned from the area for some time because they ruin the trails. We reluctantly obliged, turned around and headed back to the truck. It was our first time ever being kicked of a trail. We ate lunch at the boat ramp, knowing we needed to squeeze in a ride that day.
Maggie had fortunately ridden the area a while back and we ended up finding the place she had ridden. It was located on the other side of the Snake River that runs through Massacre Rocks State Park. It was a section of land not owned by the state park. This area offered many trails and services horses and unfortunately dirt bikes. We got back on our horses and picked a trail and just rode. There are many trails that wind through the desert and it is a sandy, hilly area. Be careful though because there are large sections of the land that are fenced in. Even though our day hadn’t gone as planned it was still an adventure and we got to do some exploring which is always fun. We actually went back to this spot the next weekend and explored even further. With the sand and hill climbing it is a good spot to get your horses in shape and surprisingly we didn’t come across any dirt bikers while we were on the trail. We only met them in the parking lot.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Directions to Massacre Rocks State Park (NO HORSES ALLOWED)
From Idaho Falls head south on I-15 towards Pocatello, follow I-15 for about 45 miles. Take exit 72 for I-86 west toward Twin Falls. Continue on I-86 W for 33 miles. Take exit 28 towards Massacre Rocks State Park. Turn right toward Park Ln. There is visitor station when you enter the park and the park fee is $5.
Directions to Horse Approved Riding Area
From Idaho Falls head south on I-15 towards Pocatello, follow I-15 for about 45 miles. Take exit 72 for I-86 west toward Twin Falls. Continue on I-86 W for 22 miles. Take exit 40 for ID-39 toward American Falls/Aberdeen. Turn right onto ID-39 N stay on this road for about 3 miles. Then turn left onto W Lamb Weston Road, turn left onto Borah Rd, then turn left onto S. Lake Channel Rd. Follow this road for about 3 miles you will see two big turn outs on either side of the road. In these turnouts you will see some dirt bike trailers. We parked on the turnout to the left of the road and explored the trails on that side.
The Buffalo Horn trail was supposed to be an easy ride into Ramshorn Lake. We planned to eat lunch at the lake, then explore a bit beyond there, and then turn around and take the same trail back out. Sounds easy right? This was one of our first attempts at exploring a brand new trail in an area we weren’t completely familiar with and the first trail we tried using the Suunto Watch. Let’s just say things didn’t go as according to plan on this journey. It all started with finding the trailhead. This was probably our first clue that we were in for an adventure. The Buffalo Horn Trailhead is located within the Montana 320 Guest Ranch. When looking at the map and planning this ride, we didn’t realize we had to drive all the way through the guest ranch before accessing the trail. As we were traveling down the Gallatin Gateway, we saw a sign pointing to Buffalo Horn trail and it was pointing into the guest ranch. We argued for a moment, one of us certain that the trailhead couldn’t be within the ranch. We pulled in, looked around, and there were no signs pointing to the trailhead. We turned around, went back to the main highway and searched around a little more. After aimlessly driving around we decided to give the guest ranch one more shot before giving up all together and picking some other trailhead along the highway. This time we pulled into the Guest Ranch and parked. We went to the front desk for help in locating the Buffalo Horn Trail. The kind lady at the front desk pulled out a map and circled the trailhead. Apparently they get many people coming through getting lost and asking the same question. You’d think they would put up a sign poining you in the right direction.
Once we finally found the trailhead and tacked up, we were off to a late start. This ride does offer some amazing views as you meander through meadows and forests. Once you reach Ramshorn Lake, the view is stunning and a great spot for lunch. Remember to always stick to your plan 🙂 After lunch we explored a bit but heard from some people we met on the trail that there was a loop option. Don’t deviate from your plan! We did and we didn’t end up getting off this trail until midnight. This was also a 2 1/2 hour drive from home, so we didn’t get home until around 3 o’clock in the morning. Yikes! It was a beautiful ride though and after getting home we realized our mistake and would do this trail again.
Finding the Buffalo Horn Trailhead
From West Yellowstone: Take Hwy 191/87 north out of West Yellowstone. Stay on 191 as it winds through the corner of Yellowstone Park. You will be on this road for about 36 miles before you see signs for the 320 Ranch on your right and the Buffalo Horn Trailhead. Turn into the 320 Guest Ranch, drive left past the dining facilities and continue left and up the drainage. You will pass several guest cabins and eventually park at a loop in the road at the Upper Buffalo Horn Trailhead at about 6650 feet. If you click the park map above it will take you to the 320 Guest Ranch page. You will see that the Buffalo Horn Trailhead is all the way at the top of the map.
Buffalo Horn Trailhead Description
The Buffalo Horn Trail to Ramshorn Lake and a little beyond is about an 18 mile in and out trail. From the start, the trail has several splits, some are signed and some are not. Make sure you use some sort of GPS on this trail or download the map we provided at the bottom of this post. The trail that takes you in to the lake is a relatively easy trail that meanders through the forest and meadows with the Buffalo Horn Creek to your right. As you go along on your ride you will see Ramshorn Peak in the distance. There are some bridges that bring you across the creek and also some big mud holes that we went though. The elevation gain is steady all the way to the lake. Make sure you look back as you climb up higher, you will get a good view of the Gallatin Range.
Keep a look out for signs on this trail. There were two posted to the trees pointing you to Ramshorn Lake. When we hit the sign that said we were about 4 1/2 miles from the lake that is when we ran into these dirt bikers that mentioned there was a possible loop in the trail that would lead you back out to Buffalo Horn. Of course they weren’t all that detailed, just said follow the trail to Porcupine Creek after you hit Ramshorn Lake. We gave this some thought because doing a loop is so much more fun than going out the same way we came in.
After chatting with the bikers, we made the final trek to the lake where we ran into some other horseback riders. They asked if we had been here before and when we answered no, they told us that we were in for a special treat, because the view at the lake is amazing. They were right! Ramshorn Lake is pretty. The lake is that greenish turquoise color surrounded by a rugged, jagged mountain. The lake was jumping with fish, and there was a couple large camping spots at the lake. At the time we talked about how it would be neat to pack in and stay at the lake in a future visit, little did we know that we were almost going to spend the night here. Later as you follow the trail to the left you will see large corrals for horses.
When we were finished with lunch we jumped back on our horses and continued on the trail to the left that heads up the mountain. The trail follows along Fortress Mountain. It is a neat jagged mountain and there were lots of loose rock and boulders lying on the ground that we posed by. After this section the trail starts to gain some elevation and does some steap climbs up the mountain. However the views are amazing as you get a complete overlook of the range. We stopped when we came to a view and explored a bit before deciding that we better turn around before it gets dark, as we still have about 9 miles until we return to the trailhead.
We were about a mile from Ramshorn Lake when we noticed a sign lying in the grass that poined to a trail to the right that said Porcupine Creek. This is the trail the dirtbike guys said we should take to make a loop. So we decided why not, let’s give it try. Afterall how lost can we get right?
As we turned onto the Porcupine trail, it went into a forest where we lost some elevation with switchbacks. It was also quite muddy through the forest and we went through quite a few deep mudholes. The trail was easy to follow, however there weren’t many signs. I think we came across one that pointed to Eagle Mountain which we knew was in the opposite direction we wanted to head. We started keeping track on the Suunto Watch with how many miles we were traveling while on this section of trail. We also marked the trailhead as our starting point, so the watch did have an arrow that told us which direction we were parked at and how many miles we were from the truck. The sun started to set and the watch kept telling us we were getting further and further from the truck. We understood that in a loop you must first get farther away from your starting point before the trail starts to turn back and go in the right direction. However we were basically traveling this trail blind. At about 5 miles into Porcupine trail, we still hadn’t seen a sign that told us we were on the right track. So we made the decision to turn around and retrace our steps. At the time this was the better decision for us, however when we got home and looked on the map we realized that had we continued on this trail it would have looped back into our starting trail in just a few more miles.
Taking this diversion caused us to put an extra 10 miles on our poor horses. We contemplated spending the night at the lake even though we weren’t competely prepared for that. However, we do carry fire starter in our packs as well as a thin emergency blanket and we always have extra layers so we probably would have made it just fine. Instead we decided to gear up with our headlamps and hoof it back to the truck. We turned an 18 mile ride into a 30 mile plus ride and returned to the truck at midnight. With the drive, we got home at around three in the morning. None the less, it was a wilderness adventure and the trail did offer some amazing views.
We now have the loop properly mapped out and would love to go back and do it again some day. Maybe this time in reverse so that we are traveling the part of the trail we didn’t finish during the early hours.
Where to Camp?
There is camping available at the trailhead. We also found a helpful article through Trail Rider Magazine. It describes a few other horse camping locations along the Gallatin Gateway. There is also the option of staying at the 320 Guest Ranch if you are coming from a distance and don’t want to haul your own horses. They offer trailrides and other activities.
The map you see below includes the loop option that we did not get to finish.