Jerry Painter: Looking for holiday outdoor fun

We’ve entered that season when spring offers up some of the nicest days of the year. Not too cold, not too hot.

The trees are leafing out and the flowers are putting on a show. With Memorial Day weekend coming up, many of us will head to the outdoors to play, camp, hike and just plain get after it. But some places still aren’t ready.

A friend attempted to climb the Middle Teton in Grand Teton National Park last weekend and said he was hiking in snow almost from the trailhead parking lot. The east side of the Tetons are still under a blanket of snow in most areas.

I’ve checked with buddies and called around to find out good places to camp, hike, bike and climb. Here’s a partial list:

— Craters of the Moon. The campground is open. The loop is open and most of the caves are open, although some caves have icy conditions.

— Island Park/Harriman State Park. Many of the campgrounds are open or partially open and some of the trails will have mud and/or snow in the higher areas. The lower trails at Harriman State Park are dry and ready for bike riding. The Mesa Falls Scenic loop is open and the falls are charging entrance fees.

— City of Rocks National Reserve. The campgrounds and trails are snow free. Parking lots are filling during the weekends with climbers and hikers. Temperatures range a few degrees cooler than Idaho Falls and weather can change quickly into cold and wet conditions if it storms. Basically, if you are comfortable with the temperatures, then it’s game on.

— Grand Teton National Park. While many of the trails in the mountains are snow covered, the bike path from Jackson, Wyo., is clear all the way to Jenny Lake inside the park. If you want to do some hiking, your best bet is the valley floor trails such as the Hermitage Point Trail south of Colter Bay at Jackson Lake, or the trails around Two Ocean Lake. You may still encounter some large snow patches or wet areas.

— Yellowstone National Park. For hiking, the best bet is the northeast part of the park where the elevation is the lowest. I like the Hell Roaring Creek Trail near the Yellowstone River. The trail features a suspension bridge over the river and heads into some beautiful country often frequented by bison this time of the year. The trails around Mammoth Hot Springs can also be a good bet.

— Kelly Canyon area. Mountain bike trails on the southwest side of Kelly Mountain (Sidewinder and Stinking Springs) are good to go. Other trails are mostly clear with a few patches of snow and/or mud in higher, shaded areas. Climbing areas near Heise are good to go and getting too hot in the full sun. Camping is already in full swing.

— Palisades Reservoir/Snake River Mountains/Big Hole Mountains/west side of the Tetons. Roads to canyons are clear, but some trails will have large patches of snow, especially higher up. Taller peaks in the ranges will be snow climbs/hikes above 8,000 feet. Palisades Creek Trail is open, but snowy higher up. The roads into Teton Canyon is snow covered near the campground. The campground is still covered in snow. The road up Darby Canyon is snow covered past the turnoff to the Darby Girls Camp. Things appear to be a few weeks behind schedule.

— Massacre Rocks State Park and climbing area. This fun state park just off Interstate 86 has some historical things to see and features hiking and boating. Across the river, usually accessed by driving through American Falls to cross the Snake River, there are miles of sport-climbing cliffs. This area is also popular with the ATV/dirt bike crowd. Be advised, if the temperatures are above 65 degrees, you’ll be chasing the shade. It can get seriously hot with the sun reflecting off the basalt cliffs.

For more specifics on which campgrounds and areas are open, go to http://www.fs.usda.gov/news/ctnf/news-events.

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