Friday, January 28, 2022


Are Idaho RVers “crazy”?

After a recent trip to the wilds of Idaho I find myself asking, “Are Idaho RVers ‘crazy’ or just more seasoned than the rest of us?”

By now most readers of RV Travel know my preferred campsite is far from others, free and in the boondocks. No reservations required! I find my campsites in advance using Google Earth satellite view. For years I have also confidently used Google Earth to determine the condition of the road(s) to the campsite by seeing (via satellite view) what size and types of vehicles/RVs have been camped there before me.* My thinking has been if a 35-foot fifth wheel with slides can travel there and fit into the space, then my 27-foot travel trailer with higher-than-normal ground clearance, towed by a four-wheel-drive truck with off-road 10-ply tires, can also easily go there. I will then confirm my thinking by finding any online road reports/instructions to the campsite I am seeking.

*Note: I also check the date of the satellite image to make sure it was not hunting season when the photo was taken. I have found hunters are willing to drag their RVs up some very unforgiving roads.

Our camp near the end of the paved road

Are Idaho RVers crazy? Read on…

Following are a few of the “surprises” that awaited us on our trip!

Yellow Pine, Idaho

For years I have wanted to visit an abandoned but very intact mining camp called Cinnabar. To get there you have to travel through the town of Yellow Pine, Idaho (population 32). It’s considered one of the most remote settlements in Idaho. Some say it’s the most remote place in the Lower 48 states. Yellow Pine’s current claim to fame is its annual Harmonica Festival, which draws people from far and wide, including those with RVs.

There is even (what I believed to be) a very detailed and informative website about the festival, which includes detailed driving instructions including those with RVs. The driving instructions provide three options to reach town. Option 1 was listed as the quickest and was suitable for RVs. Option 1 instructions state, “Once you are on Warm Lake Road, there are 2 summits. The first one is quite easy. The second one (after Warm Lake) is only 3 miles long, but it takes 10 minutes in a regular vehicle. If you are driving an RV or pulling a trailer, expect to take longer.”

The instructions also detail where the asphalt ends and the dirt/gravel road begins. Not wanting to take my travel trailer down any dirt/graveled roads farther than needed, I went to Google Earth and “saw” there were many places to camp near the end of the asphalt. Many of those spaces were occupied with large RVs. That led me to believe this was an acceptable route which I chose.

Large RV camped near the end of the asphalt. This site had many large RVs in it at the time of our visit.

What awaited us at the “second summit” was much different than expected.

Rounding the first bend, we discovered the road began to climb dramatically before us. Farther along we saw the road high above us with switch backs. Being committed with no place to turn around, we had no choice but to continue. Once we hit the switchbacks (posted at 15 mph), my truck shifted into low gear and I thought we were done. Thankfully, we made the summit and coasted down the other side to near the end of the pavement.

The first campsite I had marked on my map was occupied by a group of RVs including large fifth wheels and class A motorhomes with multiple slides. “Surely they didn’t come the way we just did,” I said to my wife, “or are Idaho RVers crazy?” Luckily, the next campsite I had flagged on my map just before the asphalt ended was open and we pulled in and set up camp.

That night and the next few I didn’t sleep well wondering how we were going to get our RV safely back over the pass, as any workaround meant 30 to 40 miles of dirt/gravel roads. Fortunately, we arrived at the beginning of a weekend and as the weekend came to a close all the locals began to head home on Sunday. I watched them parade by our campsite heading out the way we came. Large and small RVs, along with those pulling boats who had been camped 30 miles away on Deadwood Reservoir via what we discovered was a very rough road, headed up the pass to face the steep decent and switchbacks (are Idaho RVers crazy or not?).

Maybe I was overreacting

I began to think it must not have been as steep as I remembered and I was overreacting. I started to sleep better, too, as I thought, if they can do it, so can I. As the fateful day came to break camp and head over the pass, I was confident (or had become as crazy) that I could safely traverse down the steep hill while keeping my speed down to navigate the switchbacks. I am happy to report we made it safely down.

Upon returning home and researching the pass, I found the elevation change of the “only 3 miles long” pass to be 2,000 feet! Doing the math equates to an average grade of 12.6%, more than twice that of the acceptable grade of an interstate highway which employs runaway ramps for when your brakes fail! (Idaho RVers crazy? I think so!)

Idaho RVers Crazy - Twisty Road
Satellite view of the pass I captured after returning home.

Central Idaho

We had similar experiences when traveling to other destinations in central Idaho. I will let the photos below speak to the craziness.

These RVs 5 miles past the campsite I selected lead me to believe the road was suitable for RVs of this size. It wasn’t.
These large RVs viewed via Google Earth led us down another less than desirable road.  Idaho RVers Crazy? Yes!

This brings me back to the opening question, “Are Idaho RVers crazy or just more seasoned than the rest of us?” I have always thought of myself as a rather rugged RVer, but after what I experienced I am beginning to think I am a bit of a wimp!

What are your thoughts?  Please share using the comment box below.




Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 months ago

Having been an “Idaho Camper” since 1984 (tent then two pop ups and now second TT) I Will say not crazy but love being away from RV campgrounds. Been “boondocking “ before it had a name, we call it camping.

Susan Smith
4 months ago

Would love to have more info on Yellow Pine and pics as my husband worked up there in winter clearing roads

Kate Smith
5 months ago

Born and raised in Idaho, living in Boise, I just enjoy the adventure and quiet. I never thought too much about it, it was just how I was raised, you just do it and sometimes very slowly. My favorite adventure was driving up and down the road to Josephus Lake. You hug that mountain baby and hope no one is coming in the opposite direction. It was where I saw my first black bear. So many amazing adventures here in Idaho.

5 months ago

I am an 8th generation Idahoan, been around, thru, and over much of Idaho. The described area is not all that remote and is easily accessible by most RVs. Is a l bit trickier with snow. There are some dirt roads not far from that area that have a much more challenging RV experience. Much steeper than paved switchbacks heading to landmark, but if careful still doable for a 5th wheel. Diesel torque helps.

David Hagen
5 months ago

The author must be a “flat-lander” from the Boise area. First, the Warm Lake road is a wide, smooth, paved road with 2 moderate climbs. Second, many Forest Service roads, unless they are in a stream bed, are easy for RV’ers if you take it slow.

Danielle Mccrory Steward
5 months ago

You bet!We are crazy!Try taking a 40 ft diesel pusher through there!😁Although my husband is an Iowa farm boy by birthright,…30+ years in The Idaho panhandle, Shoshone County,has made him as crazy as us Natives.We revel in our lunacy!,No,brakes (aka the coward pedals)or fear filters here.Come on up North,I would love to show you a few single lane switchback roads,that lead to Some seriously spectacular campsites.!😁What have ya got to lose?!? Warmest regards,Mrs.Merton Steward,aka that “Psychotic delight from Bear Creek”😁

Dana Young
5 months ago

I came down that pass one fall 25 ft tt in a ft of snow. Chains on trailer rear axle, 4×4 low range.

5 months ago

You’re a wimp. I have lived and camped in Idaho for 58 years. The area where you camped is not remote or rugged.

5 months ago

Cont’d OPPS make that a right turn NOT left or you find a dead end :{

5 months ago

In the early ’70s I lived in Yellow Pine long before Harmonicas ‘found’ Yellow Pine. It was the ‘burbs’ of Stibnite mine. Have been over this raod many times but not towing anything. Ore laden trucks drove that road for years. There are 2 other back country roads that will take one to Yellow Pine instead of going over Johnson creek pass. Turn left on to the South Fork of the Salmon River Road still a dirt road but no steep grades or swich backs. Or the Road out of McCall to Lick Creek Summit Rd that intersects the middle fork of the S fork of the Salmon river Rd turning left follow it along the middle fork to Yellow Pine. They are quite senic but towing a trailer over the Johnson Creek summit to Yellow Pine isn’t first choice. It has been several decades since my last drive into Yellow PIne. It has changed I’m sure since I was last there.
More adventures await safe travels to all

5 months ago

As an Idahoan, yes, we are crazy, but not all of us. We have a 35ft FW and prefer to boondock up FS roads as long as they are passable. Our definition may be different than yours, but for more remote areas, we take our tent.

5 months ago

Don’t follow me and my 8′ trailer, you won’t make it.

Dick Burgman
5 months ago

Being an old Idaho resident for 25 years and camped in many places like you explained, we are not crazy, just adventuresome. I had a small 25 ft camper so put it most anywhere we wanted. Heck, I lived on a mountain ridge at 5000 ft and about 4 miles up a 1 1/2 lane dirt road with 3 switchbacks just to get home. My driveway was another switchback to get into. When that is mostly what you have to camp in you don’t think that much about it, it is just what you do.

Marybeth Almand
5 months ago

We’re pretty intrepid boondockers with our 3500/29.5 rig and have had some serious butt clenching experiences, some on purpose, some by accident. I would never try those! Durango to Ouray creeps me out!

Michael Galvin
5 months ago

Durango to Ouray is a paved federal highway.

5 months ago

There’s not enough money in the US to get me to drive the Durango to Ouray road; with or without a trailer. Heights and myself do not get along well.

5 months ago

I’m a Idahoan and our really good spots are not for the weak or out of State Campers.

Marc Stauffer
5 months ago

I live in the mountains of NE Oregon right next to Idaho. The roads are full of steep passes, hairpin turns, narrow areas and frequently are gravel and dirt with potholes that would swallow a class A. You will take note that most of these crazy RVers have a lot of truck pulling those trailers and are well seasoned drivers. The rewards of going to these crazy places are incredible scenery, crystal clear water, lush unspoiled forests, amazingly fresh air, exciting fishing and breathtaking hiking opportunities as well as finding privacy and solitude. But, these places are not for the faint of heart.

Rolling Coal
5 months ago

It’s for locations like this I purchased a roof top tent for my Jeep! We can still enjoy the best of both. There’s no way I’d try to navigate my 40 ft DP along high mountain passes and switch backs.

frank niehus
5 months ago

Yellow pine also has a airport, YES its a few miles away, called Johnson Creek. They have a van to get to town, walk or bike also. I’ve never been to the festival but read about it. They have huge fly-in’s like the Cessna 180-185 events that will bring in over 100 airplanes. Idaho has the most back country strips in nation only next to Alaska. We have been in sever times camped for a week under the wing. It’s one of the most popular airstrips in ID.

T. Helms
5 months ago

I’ve been snowmobiling there, never have seen it during the summer.

5 months ago

You’re clearly a Wimp. And so am I! I avoid unpaved roads like the plague, and prefer to stick to Interstate and US numbered highways to go from place to place in our 40′ tag axle Coach. We love exploring tiny places like your “pass” but that’s what the Grand Cherokee toad is for!