Located at the busy crossroads of State Highway 55 and U.S. 95, New Meadows is more than just a gas-station stop for road-weary travelers. As a gateway to four seasons of outdoor adventures – including cycling, hiking, fishing, skiing, snowmobiling, and even log burling competitions – this small, friendly town is worth a stop and stay.
Meadows Valley is the local name for the large, spectacularly scenic meadowlands located in the heart of Idaho’s rugged west-central mountains. The Little Salmon River slowly winds through the pastures and wetlands of Meadows Valley and provides ample opportunities to spot bald eagles, moose, elk, and sandhill cranes. The densely wooded Payette National Forest frames the entire valley and offers diverse recreational opportunities year-round. Stop by the New Meadows Ranger District office of the Forest Service (www.fs.usda.gov/payette/) to learn more about trails, campsites, fishing holes, and other outdoor activities on these uncrowded public lands.
In the summer, drive eight miles southwest of New Meadows to Lost Valley Reservoir, where you can cast for trout, ply the smooth waters in a canoe, or camp near the quiet shores. Lost Valley is also home to a successful restoration of a rare animal species, the Northern Idaho ground squirrel. Hike the interpretive trail to see and learn about these tiny animals (dogs must be on a leash to protect the foraging squirrels).
A few miles west of New Meadows, the Weiser River Trail offers hours of cycling, walking, skiing or snowshoeing adventures. This 84 mile-long gravel trail extends all the way to Weiser (www.weiserrivertrail.org) and was built on the old Pacific and Idaho Northern Railway bed. You can begin your adventure at the Wye Trailhead parking area five miles west of New Meadows. The city is still working to connect the last few miles of trail along U.S. 95 to New Meadows.
In the winter, drive nine miles east to ski or snowboard the deep-powder slopes of Brundage Mountain Ski Resort, which has an undisputed reputation for the Best Snow in Idaho™ (www.brundage.com).
After a day of outdoor excursions, explore the city of New Meadows (population 497), which offers a quiet, low-key friendliness that embodies a small-town atmosphere. Enjoy clean, affordable lodging at the historic Hartland Inn or across the street at the Meadows Valley Motel. Sip your morning coffee at Roadhouse Java, an artistic gallery coffee shop with a brand new “Little Free Library” for your traveling entertainment (www.littlefreelibrary.org). Or visit the Internet coffeehouse, The Connection, for computer access and a sampling of locally made gifts and natural foods. For breakfast, rub elbows with the locals at Granite Mountain Café while enjoying their popular biscuits and gravy and fluffy omelets. In the summer, try the tasty cuisine of The Front Porch Café while browsing the upstairs gift shop that features more locally made gifts. If a meal to go is on the agenda, grab a piping hot Brown Boyz pizza and choose from a great selection of beer at Brown’s Mountain Market.
New Meadows also offers a full-service grocery store and two gas stations stocked with all the conveniences you need during your stay. The town also has a public library, a bank, a post office, a medical clinic, auto repair and tire service shops, a recycling center, churches, restaurants and bar, a hardware store, a salon/spa, a school with athletic fields, and a city park with playground. Just a few miles east, in the small enclave of Meadows, discover special treasures at the Ol’ Johnny Popper Antique Store.
Take a stroll back in time at the newly restored Historic Railroad Depot just west of City Park. The depot was the original “end of the line” of the Pacific and Idaho Northern Railway from Weiser, built in 1911. It served as a farm-to-market railroad until 1940, and thereafter was used to transport lumber and livestock until 1979. After a 30-year volunteer restoration effort, the depot recently celebrated its 100th anniversary grand reopening to the public as a museum and civic center (www.historicpindepot.com). View the historic photos and exhibits depicting life in early Meadows Valley, and visit the Museum Store for a variety of Idaho-unique gifts, such as an original ceramic depot mug.
New Meadows is also home to one of the last fully volunteer ambulance and rural fire departments in Idaho. Visit the 1942 LeFrance fire truck display and memorial at the west end of town. The community annually supports and honors its volunteer emergency service providers each June in a family friendly event called “S.A.V.E.S. The Day” (Supporting All Volunteer Emergency Services) (www.avolunteersaves.com).
To celebrate the logging and ranching heritage of Meadows Valley, don’t miss the annual Labor Day weekend event of Meadows Valley Days at City Park. Watch or participate in a variety of logging competitions, enjoy a car show, parades, arts and crafts vendors, live music, and the best barbecue dinner in the West. If you’ve never seen log burling, ax throwing, or Jack and Jill crosscut saw competitions, this is the place to immerse yourself in logging culture (www.meadowsvalleydays.org).
For a little more refined recreation, try a round of golf at the18-hole Meadow Creek Resort, two miles north of town and coincidentally at the 45th Parallel, the halfway point between the equator and North Pole (www.meadowcreekgolfresort.com).
At the end of the day, winter or summer, treat yourself to a soak at Zim’s Hot Springs, four miles north of New Meadows. The historic Zim’s is an old-style family friendly establishment offering an Olympic-size hot springs pool, snacks, games and RV camping.
For more information about New Meadows, visit www.newmeadowsidaho.us