I am planning a trip to the Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming area the first week of October. Is there any area to avoid at all costs? Is there any area to “must see”?
We will only have 6.5 days on the ground so must make every minute count. Your knowledge and help is greatly appreciated. Thanks, – Mr. Falsch
JWR Replies: Wow! Covering three states in six days? That will really be pushing it. Given that incredibly tight time constraint, I’d recommend this itinerary:
Fly in to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and rent a four wheel drive SUV. But don’t look around there–it is a resort town. Drive south and start looking in earnest in the Star Valley of Wyoming, then drive down to Montpelier Idaho. Then zoom through (skip-over) most of southern Idaho, and head north on Highway 95. Start looking in earnest again when you get to about 20 miles south of Riggins, Idaho. Then take a half-day side-trip to see any available ranch land up on the “Island” plateau (a must)–that sits west of White Bird, Idaho. Then proceed to Grangeville, and drop down the south fork of the Clearwater river. You’ll pass right by a property that I used to own, near Stites. Spend some time looking around Kooskia (a must), and be sure to take a drive out Clear Creek Road. Next, drive down the Clearwater River Valley to Orofino, and then Lewiston. Then drive up to Moscow and perhaps take a short side-trip to Troy. Proceed north on highway 95 and then take a side trip to St. Maries (a must), then after skipping over the resort town of Coeur d’Alene, check out the area from Athol up through Cocolalla. Then, skipping over the resort town of Sandpoint, check out the vicinity of Bonner’s Ferry and take a half-day side trip up the Moyie River Valley. Crossing into Montana, check out the Yaak River Valley, and then up the Kootenai River Valley to explore the Libby, Montana area. Finally, drive up to the vicinity of Eureka, Montana.
Even with only brief stops to talk to real estate agents to pick up brochures and to buy some Huckleberry ice cream cones, you will be hard pressed to do all that in six days. If you had just a couple of more days available, then I’d advise taking a side trip to the Salmon, Idaho area (especially driving the nearby River of No Return Road, as far as the wide spot in the road called Shoup), and perhaps another side trip Driggs, Idaho.
Places to avoid: Skip by all of the arid regions (wherever you see mostly sagebrush-dotted hillsides), skip all the trendy resort towns, and skip all of the high-elevation towns like McCall!
For much greater detail, see my book “Rawles on Retreats and Relocation“. There, you will find some useful maps and details on the locales that I mentioned. That book ($28) will give you the equivalent of several days of my consulting time, that is normally $100 per hour.
There are also numerous suitable retreat properties listed at our spin-off SurvivalRealty web site. (You will note the Idaho, Wyoming and Montana are featured prominently.)
OBTW, mid-October will be the peak of the fall colors through most of the route that I described. So bring lots of film or a high capacity digital camera memory card!
Also, BTW, October is deer and elk season in all three of those states, so expect to find only skeleton crews manning the real estate offices. It is best to make appointments with agents in advance!