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Unearthing Idaho – The Trinity Mountains


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 summer.


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