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The wild north-west

The wild north-west. 

From bears to waterfalls and falcons, a road trip from Montana to Idaho is full of surprises.

There is a group of people about 200 metres off the road, cars left parked haphazardly. They all have cameras pointed in the same direction. This could mean only one thing – an animal sighting worth stopping for.

I grab my camera and zip out the door before the wheels stop. “What is it?” I whisper enthusiastically. The answer sends shivers down my spine. “There’s a grizzly over there!” A grizzly! I move the lens around and hone in on what is a beautiful, big, light-brown-coloured grizzly bear, his wispy fur backlit by the sun in a perfect Hollywood pose. I am in love.

It’s easy to love Yellowstone National Park, the world’s oldest national park and the first stop on a road trip from Bozeman, Montana to Boise, Idaho. We are staying just outside the park at Under Canvas Yellowstone, in a luxury tent with a huge bed, a bathroom, verandah and views of the Yellowstone mountains. It makes you feel at one with nature, which we are the next day when we see the aforementioned grizzly, four black bears (including one that ambles down the road towards our car), big burly bison, elk aplenty and landscapes that absolutely take your breath away.

From Yellowstone we drive to Teton Springs in the shadow of Grand Teton National Park, driving down country roads that snake through stunning countryside and rugged gorges flanking gurgling rivers drunk on thawing snow. Further along we come across the tiny hamlet of Arco, which was the first place in the world lit by atomic energy. We mix with the locals at the eclectic Pickle’s Place diner, where we see a 90-year-old woman celebrating her birthday in a cowgirl outfit Dolly Parton would be proud of.

BREAKOUT: “We see a grizzly, four black bears (including one that ambles towards our car), big burly bison, and elk aplenty.”

Near Arco, we visit the Craters of the Moon National Monument, a weird and wonderful lava landscape that NASA astronauts visited in 1969 before flying to the moon. Highlights are the caves, including Indian Tunnel, and the view from the top of the Inferno Cone.

Gorge-ous views

We tootle on to Twin Falls, where we drive over the Perrine Bridge and are awestruck by the beautiful gorge below. It’s the Snake River Canyon, and while in town we explore the base of it in Centennial Park, watching families picnicking, cute brown marmots nibbling green grass, the pretty Perrine Coulee waterfall cascading down the side and kayakers paddling on the serene river.

At the top of the gorge the Snake River Canyon Trail has 30 kilometres of hiking and biking tracks, but we choose to take in the view from the Elevation 486 restaurant, toasting the sunset with a good glass of white. Even the bridge is worthy of a stop, its sexy arch a great backdrop for the base jumpers who are legally allowed to leap off.

BREAKOUT: “As is usually the case, the true star of the trip is being on the road, stopping at quirky places for lunch or a drink”

We marvel at Shoshone Falls on the way out of town, another beautiful spot in this surprising city – but Boise is calling. We ride electric scooters on the 40-kilometre-long Boise River Green Belt. Cotton from the cottonwood trees floats through the air like snow. We see where the wagons drove through on the Oregon Trail, visit a haunted penitentiary that hosted four Australian “guests” during its many hard years, and admire the stunning Capitol building – the only one in the US heated by geothermal heat.

The city has a rich thread of Basque culture; the Basque Block brims with Basque restaurants such as Bardenay, and is the home of the Basque Museum. Boise also hosts the Jaialdi festival, the world’s largest celebration of Basque culture, next held in late July 2020.

Our last stop is the World Centre for Birds of Prey, home of the Peregrine Fund. We learn about how the peregrine falcon was saved from extinction, and see the world’s biggest falconry archive.

As is usually the case, the true star of the trip is being on the road, stopping at quirky places for lunch or a drink, checking out the lookouts, historic markers, singing songs, laughing at silly things and just enjoying the ride. There is nothing quite like it.


Visit Idaho:

Visit Montana:

Under Canvas Yellowstone: