Palisades Country, located in southeastern Idaho, offers one of the finest horseback destination areas a trail rider could hope for.
As you know, there are three types of trail riding: day riding, destination camping, and backcountry pack trips. My wife, Lisa, and I enjoy all three types, but our favorite is destination camping. We like to locate places to camp with our camper or trailer, and ride several days on different trails without moving camp, or moving less than 10 miles to the next trailhead.
Places like this are sometimes hard to find. That’s what makes Palisades Country so unique.
This area is located just 35 miles from Interstate 15 and Idaho Falls, east of Wyoming country and Jackson Hole on the Idaho/Wyoming border. You’ll find Rainey Creek, Big Elk, Bear Creek, Poker Peak, and Indian Creek all in a 15-mile stretch.
These major trailheads have many loops and branches to explore. For example, at Bear Creek camp, you can ride three to four days on different trails ranging from three to eight hours, depending on your liking. These trails are Forest Service maintained, perfect for the intermediate to advanced rider.
Of these, our favorite is the Upper and Lower Palisades Lakes trail. Located smack dab in the middle of the area, it offers the best of all worlds. A 16-mile round trip takes you along the Palisades Creek for its entirety, and to two beautiful mountain lakes. You’ll also see moose and mountain goats, and get in lots of good fishing.
At the trailhead are wonderful camping facilities, including feed bunks for the ponies. The trail starts up the creek on a gradual grade, winding in and out of willows and pines. The absolute best time to ride this trail is middle to late September. You’ll see fall colors like you’ve never seen before in the west.
About two miles in, you’ll encounter the first of five obstacles: five-foot-wide dirt bridges with no railings, and the water raging below. They look scary at first, but being dirt covered, horses usually walk right over them.
After four miles, you’ll hit the Lower Lake. This is a great place to take a break and visit the nearby Forest Service restroom. From there, it’s one bridge and three miles to the Upper Lake. These unique lakes were formed by a couple of landslides, which are clearly visible.
Continue on past the Upper Lake into Waterfall Canyon. This spectacular mountain valley has numerous waterfalls, and usually a herd of mountain goats foraging above. This trail will add six to ten miles to your trip.
The wonderful thing about destination camping is that you get to hit the comforts of your camper at night. This means a hot shower and a home-cooked meal around the fire. This is one of Idaho’s finest areas. If you need a guide, you could probably twist my arm, and I’d have to go!
For more information contact Idaho State Parks and Recreation, P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0065; (208) 334-4199; www.idahoparks.org; or Palisades Lake, 3659 East Ririe Hwy., Idaho Falls, ID 83401; (208) 523-1412; www.rexcc.com/thingstodo/parkstrails/trailhike/palisades.htm. Contact the authors at [email protected]