A shuttle boat across Redfish Lake ushers you to some of the best hiking and climbing in the state. Idaho Adventure Center takes full advantage, running raft/climb trips out of historic Redfish Lake Lodge that combine a day of whitewater and hot springs soaking on the Salmon River with top-roped instruction from Sawtooth Mountain Guides. Climbers start on a boulder and graduate to Super Slabs, a spot across the lake where 5.4 to 5.10 routes run as high as four pitches. Back on the civilized side of Redfish, the lodge and cabins look out on what IAC owner Jared Hopkinson calls “the most impressive view you’ve ever seen”—the Sawtooths towering above the icy blue lake (two days, $325; sawtoothadventure.com).
The late summer heat in southern Utah is well documented, which works to your advantage at Red Mountain Resort and Spa, a red-rock lodge at the stoop of Snow Canyon State Park near St. George. The rates are good and the hiking, climbing, mountain biking, and paddling are uncrowded and surprisingly untoasty. The key is to head out at dawn. Red Mountain offers a daily smorgasbord of hikes, rides, and paddles, such as a mountain bike circuit called the Bear Claw Poppy Trail—a four-hour loop—or a friction-fest hike on slickrock at Sand Cove. Calories burned, sinews strained, and temperature rising, you can swim, gym, soak, or spa between meals—think strip steak, not spirulina ($209 per person per night, including meals; redmountainspa.com).
Calling Wheeler Geologic Area near Creede a moonscape gives the moon too much credit. The spires, capstones, and needles, forged from white volcanic tuff and carved by water erosion, are more fantastic than any geology found in Earth’s orbit. It’s more accessible too, though as a ranger puts it, “You have to work hard to get there. It’s not a casual trip.” Unless you’re a skilled off-road driver with high clearance, the easiest and most direct approach is to hike along Forest Service Trail 790 from Hanson’s Mill picnic and camping area on Pool Table Road. The seven-mile trek, which tops out at 12,700 feet, runs mostly through wildflower meadows and fir, aspen, and spruce forests, suggesting nothing of the badlands ahead. Set up shop at one of the primitive campsites a half mile outside Wheeler and proceed on a 3.2-mile loop around the geological weirdness (free camping; fs.fed.us/r2/riogrande).
[SAVE THE DATE: Aug. 27-Sept. 5] History isn’t written by the victors in Little Bighorn. It’s discussed around a campfire. During trips with Go Native America, Crow wranglers lead visitors on Indian paint ponies across the Little Bighorn River to deliver the story of the battle as they’ve learned it, at the spots they know best (most of which aren’t on Park Service tours). The ride begins on Crow Reservation land and proceeds across the windswept buttes and draws of the High Plains battlefield, tracing the hoofprints of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, while the wranglers—all of them members of the Real Bird family—detail the events of June 1876. “It’s not nose-to-tail riding,” says Sarah Chapman, guide and owner. “It’s time travel” (daylong tour, $550; gonativeamerica.com). For a longer trip to the past, join Go Native on a nine-day tour in Yellowstone National Park, home to the Cheyenne, Kiowa, and other tribes for 10,000 years (August 27–September 5, $3,299).