Printed on: May 16, 2013

Idaho Trails

Going for the full-meal deal on Saturday

Jerry Painter
Post Register

Saturday was a full-meal deal.

My wife, Julie, and dog, Sunny, wanted to take full advantage of the awesome weather. We packed a few snacks and drove down River Road along the South Fork of the Snake River past Heise. And we drove several miles from the last paved road to Black Canyon, where the road ends. The drive, though long, for me is part of the fun of this trip. I love this country, and I'm not the only one; there were campers along the river about every quarter of a mile or so. This road is passable with a sedan, but expect rocks and occasional ruts.

At Black Canyon, look for a Forest Service kiosk about 50 yards up the canyon from the trailhead. Here, we began hiking down the South Fork Trail. This trail roughly parallels the Snake River and winds east to end at Dry Canyon near Swan Valley after about 5 miles. This section of trail follows a roadless section of the river.

This time of year, the trail is green and beautiful. It offers expansive views of deep rock cliffs and forested canyon sides with fir and aspen. Large islands in the river have mature cottonwood stands that have yet to put on leaves.

I think the two best times to hike or bike this trail are spring and fall. During the spring, the trees and wildflowers are greening up, and during the fall, the aspens and cottonwoods put on a brilliant show.

If you're interested in mountain biking this trail, be prepared to work hard. There are several ups and downs as the trail follows the contours of the side canyons, but more importantly, the steeper sections are often littered with loose rock, causing long sections of hike-a-bike.

This trail is popular with the motorbike crowd. We were passed by nearly a dozen dirtbikes as we hiked but never found it to be a problem. If you want to avoid most of the motorbikes, and possibly see more wildlife, start your hike at dawn.

As far as wildlife, we did see a bald eagle, waterfowl, lizards and squirrels. I was also impressed with the rock formations. There are tall limestone and basalt formations, the kind that make rock climbers drool.

After our South Fork Trail hike, we drove back to the Heise Hot Springs Resort and ate some delicious pizza (go for the Heise Special).

On the way past Heise Rock, I saw a couple of friends rock climbing.

My next goal was to ride my road bike back to Idaho Falls. But before I rode home, I decided I needed a hill. So, while Julie and Sunny drove home, I rode my bike toward Kelly Canyon Ski Resort and the end of the pavement. I stopped to chat with friends at the rock.

"I have an extra harness and shoes," said a climbing friend. "Want to climb?"

A few moments later, I was climbing a route called Hanging Humor in my spandex bicycle shorts and jersey. I stuck around to see a friend lead the same route for the first time. The pressure of the long ride was hanging over me and I hopped on my bike and rode to Kelly Canyon Ski Resort.

The ride back to Idaho Falls along the County Line Road and through Iona was uneventful. I have yet to get a computer for my cobbled-together bike to tell me how fast and far I'm traveling, but I estimate it was about 30 miles. Battling the winds, it took me a little less than two hours to make the trip.

But it's a rare day when you get hiking, climbing, biking and pizza.

One of the e-books published by the Post Register now includes "10 Peaks in 10 Weeks."

This book is a reprint of a series that I wrote for the newspaper more than 17 years ago. It is a guide to the 10 highest peaks in the newspaper's 10-county circulation area. Some of the peaks are monsters, while others are easy walks or bike rides to the top.

The paper version of the book sold out years ago -- I could only find one copy at my house. The e-book has been updated somewhat but should still provide some helpful information and stoke for someone interested in getting to the top of these highpoints and my adventures doing so.

The e-book version is cheap: $2.99 on

To get there easily, go to and click on "ebooks" (in the blue bar at the top of the website). This will take you to the newspaper's offerings.

If you want to read about fishing, check out Rob Thornberry's e-book -- a compilation of pieces from his column over the years -- also found at the same place.