The rest-area interpretive trail cuts through a sparse juniper forest and climbs a ridgeline with views miles and miles across the high desert near Burns, Ore.
Wait, back up. Rest area? Rest area recreation?
In all my years of writing about the outdoors, I never thought I’d be writing about rest-stop recreation. But, some rest areas across the West actually feature nature trails, wildlife viewing spots and places to veg out among the trees.
They are welcomed stretch breaks on long trips from Treasure Valley to the coast or to north and east Idaho. They are tail-wagging spots for pets, too.
The trip from Bend, Ore., to Boise is pretty long and the Sage Hen Hill rest stop, 16 miles west of Burns (Milepost 114.1), is a perfect spot to stop for a break.
I’ve stopped there many times but never noticed the interpretive trail, sponsored by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The trail goes about 1/2 mile through sagebrush and junipers and up on a ridge where you can get great views.
We stopped for the restroom, then had a picnic while looking at bluebirds, and then headed out on the trail. By the time we were done, the dog and us were well stretched and ready for the rest of our trip.
After that stop, I’ve gotten a new appreciation of rest stops on long trips and started looking for good ones with some sort of recreation.
You’ll find nature trails at rest stops in Idaho. One is located at the rest area at Mineral Mountain on U.S. 95 north of Moscow, which is woodsy. Another is located at the I-15 rest area just north of Blackfoot. That trail was established by BLM and links to Hell’s Half Acre, which is a lava field.
The Lolo Pass Rest Area on U.S. 12 has a trail, visitor center and picnic area. Rest rooms, too, of course.
The Idaho Transportation website shows that the Malad Summit southbound rest area on I-15 has nature trails.
The Massacre Rocks westbound rest area on I-86 has nature trails in addition to all the other rest-stop amenities.
State parks also offer good rest stops with a chance to take a break and explore a new area. Some have day-use entry fees which are well worth for the use of picnic tables, restrooms and a little recreation.
Oregon’s Farewell Bend State Park on the Snake River between Ontario and Huntington, Ore., is an excellent rest stop for birdwatchers. It has picnic tables and restrooms.
So, if you search state transportation and state park websites, you’ll get an idea of rest stops where you can get a little hiking and great stretch breaks on long-distance trips.