MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho --
The mid-May winds rolled over the
mountains as I took a deep breath. The air was so pure and refreshing, even breathing was a
joy. As I swung my feet on the edge of the mountain, I watched the massive
clouds build on the peaks in the distance. I remember thinking “What a
wonderful day this turned out to be.”
I had decided to trek to the top of
Trinity Mountain and into the Rainbow Basin, a peak I had never seen or heard
anyone at Mountain Home Air Force Base talk about.
I did some research and this
mountain seemed to offer just about everything I was looking for in a weekend
retreat. It has huge craggy cliffs, alpine lakes stocked with fish,
campgrounds, stunning views and even a firewatch tower the public can check
out. With a peak almost 2,300 feet from its base, or 9,700 feet above sea
level, it’s the highest vehicle-accessible point in Idaho. It seemed too good
to be true so naturally, I had to experience it.
I hit the road early, hoping to
find this enticing mountain without a hitch. The ride is only about two hours
from base but could take longer depending on the conditions of Trinity Mountain
Road, which can be pretty treacherous when traveling during the spring or early
Finding Trinity Mountain Road
itself can also be fairly difficult. At the time of this post, the only sign
for the turn was knocked down in the ditch 20 feet before it comes up. I got
lost for half an hour the first time I tried to find it and cell phone signal
is also pretty spotty in the pine and Featherville area so smart phone
navigation wasn’t possible for me.
Getting there was a bit difficult,
but once I arrived, all the annoyances of finding the place drifted away.
In short, it’s drop dead gorgeous.
The steep mountainsides are
littered with pine trees, tall grass and mountain flowers. Seemingly every
angle has views which extend forever. It was truly a dream-like experience for
me the first time I went.
The scenery is no doubt
breathtaking, but what made it even more special was the lack of visitors.
I find it paramount, landscapes as
jaw dropping as the Trinities are experienced without the distractions of a lot
of other people.
Places like Lucky Peak or Anderson
Ranch Reservoir offer similar attractions and benefits but The Trinity
Mountains’ level of seclusion is a major bonus. There weren’t a bunch of kids
running around screaming or huge boats pushing full throttle in the lakes.
There was simply the sound of a peaceful breeze and water running down into the
three big lakes from the melting ice caps.
Speaking of water, the main
attractions of the Rainbow Basin are its many alpine lakes. There are about 10
total depending on the time of year. Its largest are the Big and Little Trinity
lakes as well as the Big and Little Roaring River lakes. These crystal clear
bodies of water offer excellent canoe and kayak excursions as well as great
trout fishing. I wouldn’t be surprised if Idaho Fish and Game decided to stock
one of these lakes with a few golden trout or grayling, so keep an eye out for
those rare beauties.
Each lake also has its own
campground. The camps are first come first served, no reservation is necessary
but a nightly $10 fee is collected at each site. These camps offer vault
restrooms and no showers so be prepared for a minimalist camping experience
when staying the night.
Apart from camping and fishing, the
Rainbow Basin offers four miles of trails for hikers, mountain bikers and even
off-road vehicle enthusiasts.
Going off the beaten path can be
very rewarding in this area; however, be aware these mountain ranges are home
to wolves, moose and the occasional bear so have your wits about you if you
decide to go adventuring.
The Rainbow Basin and Trinity
Mountains offer everything from fishing to hiking to campfires by the lake. Get
away from the cities and work, go experience this hidden treasure!
I ran into a bit of trouble finding
the place so here are some directions in case GPS isn’t
an option in the mountains:
From Mountain Home, Idaho
Take US-20 E for 31.5 mi
Turn left onto Forest 61 and continue for 18.1 mi
Turn left onto Lester Creek Rd and continue for 11.7 mi
Continue straight onto Trinity Mountain Rd for 1.7 mi
Turn right to stay on Trinity Mountain Rd and continue for 13.0 mi
Turn right onto Forest Rd 129E for 0.2 mi
Continue straight onto Forest Rd 129E1
Big Trinity Campground will be straight ahead