I can’t tell you how many small towns we drove through on our road trip. So many that I lost count. But on our last day of the trip, heading off from the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana, we made our way into Idaho. If you’ve never been to Idaho, or have only driven through it on I-15, you will never understand how incredible this place is. Our time in Idaho barely scratched the surface of what this mountainous state has to offer. And yes, I said mountainous. Despite being famous for Potatoes, we saw more Bald Eagles than Potatoes while we were there (1 vs 0). Nevertheless, we ended up passing through the river town of Salmon.
It was here the host of the AirBnB we stayed at the night before, recommend we go ride bikes. So it was on our list, and according to Trail Forks we would not be disappointed. But riding is not what Salmon is famous for the river Lewis and Clark used on their expedition crossed the continental divide and, of course, fishing.
As we crossed into Idaho, driving along side of the North Fork of the Salmon River, we were saw an incredible part of this country. Winding roads that navigated down the mountain pass, and eventually into the valley below. A place, in Idaho nonetheless, that I never realized existed. And eventually, as the valley floor opened up, we reached the town of Salmon. It was another small, but busy, mountain town that reminded me very much of Park City and Salt Lake. The town was surrounded by large, rounded mountains on one side, rolling desert-like hills on another, and off in the distance you could see jagged, rocky peaks. All with a pristine river passing right through the middle. But before we could enjoy the river, we had to go ride.
After checking TrailForks, I decided on riding Discovery Hill. Which looked similar to Park City’s Round Valley trail system. But like Park City, there were plenty of options, like the gnarly steep trails at Williams Creek, the long rides at the Landfill & Barracks Lane Mulkey Creek, or the large concentration of trails south of Salmon at Twelvemile. The options were plentiful, but after a week on the road, we just wanted a cruiser ride to get the legs moving and check out a new place. So we hopped out the truck, unlocked the bikes, and the 3 of us headed up Discovery Hill. Climbing up Hillside trail where we dodged cactus and fire ants until we reached the top. Off in the distance, the range that is home to Homer Young’s Peak loomed high overhead. It looked daunting, but an incredible backdrop. After a few miles of riding, we headed back to the truck and into town.
The town of Salmon is a little bigger than a 1 light town, but has that quintessential Main Street you can imagine. On a hunt to find a red beer cookie that Courtney misplaced back home, we wandered into each of the stores until eventually someone let us know the gas station had them! Success. And that now meant we could finally hit the river to relax. So we headed back through Main Street, over the bridge, and pulled into the Island Park. A half-mile Long Island in the Salmon River that you can drive onto and makes for a perfect place to spend an afternoon. We passed people putting in kayaks and floats into the river, while others were picnicking or fishing on the banks.
We drove the truck down the dirt trail towards the north end of the island to find an empty riverbank. We settled on one right near the end and staked our spot. We pulled the camp chairs, Yeti, and SUP out of the truck and sat with our toes in the water. The water was cold, but Gregor didn’t seem to mind. Right away, he jumped in and played as Court and I ate our lunch of meats and cheeses. Eventually, I decided to pump up the SUP board and have-a-go at the river myself. It wasn’t some class IV whitewater, but it was moving fast and it was cold. Plus, I’d never SUP’d a river before.
I headed upstream, on the banks of the island, and put in just below the bridge. Quickly, the river took me along with it and I was floating at a brisk pace. I stood up and enjoyed my ride on the Salmon. A few rocks and boulders in the river gave the slight appearance of white water, but it went smoothly. I was able to paddle hard and eddy-out by our spot successfully. Then came the real challenge, getting Gregor to do the same. Leashed up, him and I repeated our trek to the put-in and got I’m on top of the board. I pushed off, but this time did not try standing up. Instead, I stayed on my knees, counterweighting every movement of Gregors as he explored the front of the SUP, moving from side to side. We made it down the river, not with out some stress, until he saw the side of the river and wanted to go back in. He had enough of my fun, and just wanted to chase rocks in the river.
So no matter what your plan is, if you have the option to stop by Salmon, ID as you’re driving through, make an effort to do so! This place is awesome, and a true hidden gem in my opinion. Plus, there’s a brewery we didn’t get to check out, so another reason to stop by. Go fish, go hike, go mountain biking, or just sit in the river and enjoy the summer sun. Anyway you get outside, you should stop in Salmon.
My name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer. My passion is to tell stories that will hopefully motivate you to go live a more adventurous life. Whether that is to experience the view from the summit of a mountain, or wandering through a new town on a road trip. Currently based out of Park City, UT.