NORTH IDAHO ADVENTURE
Overlanding at full throttle
“Overlanding” is a buzzword these days. Whether you call it that, car camping, backpacking or anything else, it’s one of the most immersive ways to travel for multiple days on the trail and live the UTV life. Recently, we linked up with Ian Blomgren from Full Throttle Battery and set out on a multi-day adventure in northern Idaho. Idaho is one of those UTV-friendly states where you can do a trip like this, passing through towns that allow you to ride in, fuel up, restock supplies and hopefully grab a bite to eat. The towns see the value in extra revenue generated by this activity, so they allow OHVs on some city streets. In fact, we rode through one of the most UTV-friendly towns in the state—Wallace. In Wallace, our group easily spent $2000 at the gas station and restaurants. Wallace used to host the High Mountain ATV Jamboree, and after spending some time on the nearby trails, we now know why.
Our route started in the town of Clark Fork, just 80 miles (on dirt) from the Canadian border. We traveled along the Backcountry Discovery Route (BDR), which is a network of trails that adventure motorcycle groups have mapped out primarily in the western U.S. and mid-Atlantic region. We did a section that consisted of OHV trails, Jeep trails and gravel county roads. If your machine is not registered in Idaho, you are required to purchase a non-resident OHV sticker, which is simple to do online at www.parksandrecreation.idaho.gov.
Since the trails favored big, heavy motorcycles, they were not challenging for UTVs; however, the scenery was amazing, and the remoteness of the route added to the excitement. On a trail like this, you can expect to see big game—such as moose, grizzly bears and elk—right on the trail. That fact made camping in the woods a little scary, so we set up camp near highways, towns and a little civilization.
We typically like to do point-to-point (Baja) routes or loops when we go on a big ride so that we don’t see the same terrain twice. This trip was an out-and-back (225 miles each way), and we were pleasantly surprised at how different the terrain looked going the opposite direction. For the most part, it was like riding a completely new trail. If we had to pick a favorite part of the trail, it would be the section between the towns of Wallace and Avery. Just north of Avery, there are two routes you can take—a low road along the St. Joe River or High Bank St., which takes you on the Old Milwaukee Railroad Grade through a half-dozen tunnels and over a handful of bridges. Both are worth doing. The lower road has lots of camping opportunities along the way.
If the view from the trail is not epic enough, this part of the country is dotted with fire lookout towers that you can climb up to get a 360-degree view of the area. Speaking of fires, if you do a trip like this later in the summer, be sure to check with the forest-service website for fires and potential road-closure information. We had a trip scheduled for three weeks after this one but had to postpone due to a wildfire.
Our group included 12 people, 10 rigs and three dogs. Most of the rigs were Polaris, with the exception of a few Can-Ams, one Talon and the Kawasaki Teryx KRX4 1000 that we were in. We’ve taken the two-seat KRX on 1000-mile adventures in Baja before, so we knew we had a reliable machine that we didn’t have to worry about. The rig had plenty of room for a full-size cooler, spare tire, camping gear and supplies. We were able to do about 110–125 twisty mountain miles before the fuel light came on. We never had to put more than 9 gallons in at the stops. The KRX was not too big for the twisty mountain roads. In fact, the extra wheelbase and electronic suspension made it the smoothest car in the group over the rougher sections of the trail. View videos of the trip and some of the camping tips we filmed here https://youtu.be/7I6JV-35v3Q
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