The Sand Butte Wilderness Study Area is twenty-one thousand acres of public land managed by the BLM in Idaho. The wilderness is in a remote region of the state and nestles against the western border of the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. The wilderness has a stark and arid landscape of volcanic origin that includes some ancient lava flows, an immense crater and two outstanding buttes that rise to an elevation of almost five-thousand feet. The only vegetation in the area is sagebrush though some native desert grasses and forbs do sprout in the cooler months adding a splash of brightness to the cinder-colored terrains.
The Sand Butte Wilderness Study Area is a place for solitary hiking in a rocky, desert environment. There's little animal life apart from reptiles in the wilderness as it's an area which has no source of flowing water. Anglers will be pleased to know there's a well-stocked reservoir just a few miles to the north-west, so a visit to the wilderness doesn't mean going without their fishing. It's a great place for settling down and watching for the raptors that inhabit the region flying over. With the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds Of Prey National Conservation Area over to the west, spotting eagles or vultures soaring over the lands in search of prey is almost guaranteed.
Once you've finished exploring this Idaho backcountry, you'll find there's plenty of things to do in the nearby towns of Shoshone and Twin Falls. RV camping in the Sand Butte Wilderness Study Area isn't allowed but there are campgrounds nearby in the Sawtooth National Forest or at privately run campgrounds around the shores of Magic Reservoir.
The Sand Butte Wilderness Study Area is isolated and very difficult to access. The only roadways leading to the wilderness boundaries are narrow, single-lane gravel-surfaced tracks only suitable for four by fours or vehicles with high clearance. You will need to be determined to get there and have the right set of wheels.
You can take one turn-off from the ID 26 between Tikura and Pagari that will take you over the old highway, across a creek and around the south-west border of the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. BLM signs along the way will advise you that the nine miles you're about to travel could take you at least an hour so be prepared for a rough ride. The southern border of the wilderness can be reached by turning off onto one of several un-named roads leading off the ID 24 eastbound out of Shoshone.
If you're motoring up to the wilderness from Nevada after being camped out at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, you'll be able to join the US 93 northbound on the outskirts of Las Vegas near Dry Lake. It'll be a lengthy drive getting to Shoshone that will take around ten hours, but it's a straight run on the US 93 all the way.
The best campground for easy access to the Sand Butte Wilderness Study Area is located in the Sawtooth National Forest. The Boundary Campground is just a two and a half hour drive south of the wilderness along State Highway 75 through the rural communities of Carey and Tikura. The campground is open from the end of May through to the end of September. It's a campground that operates on a first-come, first-served basis and doesn't accept prior reservations.
The Boundary Campground has nine gravel-surfaced pitches that can accommodate lengthy RVs. There are no utility hook-ups but drinking water can be obtained on-site by using a hand pump during the open season. Each campsite is furnished with a picnic table, fire ring and grill. There are few on-site amenities other than the drinking water and a block of vault toilets. The campsites and the toilets are ADA accessible. The Boundary Campground is pet-friendly so long as dog owners are responsible and pick up their pet's waste.
Hiking through the Sand Butte Wilderness Study Area can be testing for even the most hardened hiker. The terrains are rocky and difficult to cross. Two of the best hikes you can do there are over Sand Butte and the Broken Top Butte.
You'll be trekking through a landscape full of unusual volcanic formations like lava vents and blips and around the edge of the crater. It's definitely not a stroll in the park - more like a walk on the moon.
If you're longing for the sight of water and want to get in some fishing after exploring the arid Sand Butte Wilderness SA, head to the Magic Reservoir. The reservoir is about a one and a half hour drive from the wilderness near the small community of Magic. There you can boat or shore fish for a multitude of different species including trout, bass, and shiners as well as walleye and whitefish.
All anglers to be in possession of a current license and respect the bag limits imposed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
Find a comfortable spot to sit down in the Sand Butte Wilderness Study Area and cast your eyes to the skies. With its central location between the Craters of the Moon National Park and the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, you'll be right in the flight path of many raptors as they soar from one park to the other. You could spot any number of eagles, hawks and falcons though you'll need to wait until dusk to spot owls.
Anyone interested in ornithology or who has a love of the feathered species will want to make a stop off at the Shoshone Bird Museum of Natural History. The museum houses an extensive collection of birds of the world as well as regional ones in both stuffed or skeletal form. There are also exhibitions on butterflies and lots of mammal fossils, and even some of dinosaurs.
The museum displays diverse artifacts varying from mining and farming equipment to Africa and Alaska. In this museum, there's a surprise around every corner.
From March through to September, anyone visiting the Sand Butte WSA in search of an extra adrenaline thrill can find one in Twin Falls. Head to the Centennial Waterfront Park and from there you'll be whisked away to a location on the Snake River where there are four ziplines in place. Take a deep breath before you launch yourself across the river gorge at over forty-five miles an hour. It's fun, it's fast and definitely not for the faint-hearted.
One place that's a must-visit when you're in the Shoshone area are the Shoshone Falls. It is one of the most amazing natural wonders in Idaho. The massive waterfall is a two and a half hour drive from the wilderness but one that's worth every minute of the trip.
The falls are over nine-hundred feet wide and cascade down from a height of over two hundred feet. Known as the Niagara of the West, the waterfall is actually larger than Niagara Falls and is an impressive sight that has to be seen to be believed.