Published: April/May 2009
Mountain States
Check out the season's best weekend trips near you.
Text by Contributing Editor Robert Earle Howells
You Did What?: Ranching 101

Tap into your inner Basque shepherd (yep, everyone’s got one) at Andrus Ranch in southeastern Idaho, the only farm in the country where guests can wrangle sheep. While the Andrus has steers too, its prize flock of Suffolks takes center stage during May shearing season. The 3,500-acre ranch abuts the Caribou National Forest, where rolling meadows and pine-covered peaks mean wide-open spaces for some great mountain biking. Out on the range you’re likely to encounter sandhill cranes, mountain bluebirds, and bald eagles, as well as elk, moose, and badgers. Plus, there’s blue-ribbon trout fishing in the Portneuf River. It’s a family ranch, so chow time means sitting down to hearty meals of fresh beef—and, of course, lamb ($950 a week, including meals;

The River Wildest

In a state full of great rivers, just one is officially Wild and Scenic: the Cache la Poudre, which tumbles north and east out of the Rockies below Rocky Mountain National Park. "I’ve been guiding rafts for 15 years and can honestly say that the Poudre is my favorite river in Colorado—and I have been on them all," says local outfitter Bob Klein. A Wanderlust Adventure’s "Blast of Whitewater" trip is one of the West’s wildest for concentrated Class IV ($59; Add an upper stretch that includes a set of rapids called Death by Dismemberment and you’ve got a full day of Class III and IV on the Poudre ($99), which is at high water in mid to late May. You might catch a glimpse of mule deer or bighorn sheep in the heart of the granite gorge, but chances are you’ll focus more on what’s ahead: Flip Rock, Killer Bridge, Last Chance, and Pine Box.

Canyon Confidential

Fifty miles northeast of Tucson, the mirage is real. "Here you are in the middle of the Sonoran Desert," says Diane Drobka of the BLM, "but you have this creek that supports giant sycamores and willows, acting as a magnet for wildlife." On bubbling Aravaipa Creek, which has carved an immense gorge in the Galiuro Mountains, the critters include bighorns and hightailed coatimundis. To hike the 11-mile route through the heart of the canyon, divide into two parties, meet in the middle to camp together, exchange car keys, and proceed. (The east and west trailheads are nearly 200 road miles apart.) The BLM limits Aravaipa to 50 hikers a day, so get permits in advance before you hightail it through the canyon ($5 a day;

Save the Date: May 8-10: Reno’s Whitewater Gamble

Nothing is normal when 40,000 whitewater paddlers and onlookers gather on a half-mile stretch of river. Consider the Reno River Festival, May 8–10 at Reno’s Truckee River Whitewater Park, which blends the purity of competition with generous doses of looniness (free; The 2,600-foot-long venue with 11 drops and countless smooth boulders is open to anyone on the first day, but on the second the best paddlers in the world (juniors through pros) take over—spinning, looping, and McNastying their way right through downtown. All the while, bands are playing, food is sizzling, and beverages are flowing as fast as the Truckee.