Hey all, I wanted to share my trip from Northern California to install the camper. While I have read different trip reports, I haven’t seen too many that took place during early March. I wasn’t sure what to expect in regards to weather, temperature, and what was open. Below is my experience picking up and installing the GFC in early March.
Day 1: Sacramento CA to Twin Falls ID
We left early in the morning on Friday morning and made pretty quick and easy progress to Twin Falls Idaho. Nothing really too exciting, just a lot of highway miles through the Nevada desert along Highway 80. We did start getting our first (of a good amount) of snow in Twin Falls. We could have probably made more miles this day, but it seemed like a good stopping point on the way to Montana.
Day 2: Twin Falls ID to GFC HQ (Install Day!)
We took off early Saturday morning from Twin Falls with an install time of 4 PM in Belgrade. We decided to take Highway 20 to Highway 191 up to Belgrade. Our only real stop was in West Yellowstone where we grabbed lunch and beer at the Buffalo Bar (one of the few places still open- West Yellowstone is a bit of ghost town during the winter season) before hitting the road again.
After a day and a half of driving the GFC was installed in less than 30 minutes. It was almost anticlimactic (not necessarily a bad thing). Just goes to show how well GFC got the installs figured out. Nick with GFC did a great job going over the camper with us on the GFC and explaining things. After the install we hit a couple of breweries in Bozeman and explored the downtown area a bit. Just a word of caution, Montana has some odd brewery laws and apparently they have to close by 8 PM.
We decided to camp the first night at the Bozeman Hot Springs Campground. Their website says that there is a two night minimum during the winter season, but when I called they didn’t have an issue with booking us for only a single night. When you stay at the campground you get two passes to the hot springs included. Apparently, the hot springs are the place to be on a Saturday night in March. The parking lot was completely packed and they were at capacity with a good wait list. However, if you are staying at the campground they will let you right in with no wait.
The overnight temperature of our first night in the GFC was 16 degrees. One of the colder nights we have ever had camping. We were warm enough with our gear, but didn’t vent the windows enough and had some frozen condensation in the morning. I recommend Mama Mac’s for their breakfast, just down the road from the hot springs.
Day 3: Bozeman MT to Stanley ID
We decided to take a more scenic route back to California. From Bozeman we took the back highways to Wisdom then Hwy 43 to Hwy 93. We took Hwy 93 along the Salmon River through Salmon and Challis where we cut over to Stanley for the night.
Not knowing what the conditions where and the ability to camp in the area, we made reservations to stay at the Mountain Village Resort in Stanley. There were some BLM camping options that we passed closer Salmon and Challis, but nothing that we saw near Stanley. There was just way too much snow and would be way too cold to camp. All USFS campgrounds were gated.
The standard room at the Mountain Village Resort was a basic roadside motel status. The rooms were old and worn, but clean. Nothing special, but I would stay there again. The saloon and restaurant where good which was nice since it was basically the option option in the small town.
The main draw to the Mountain Village Lodge was the hot spring. We were able to enjoy a 8 PM starry soak with a plan for an early morning soak the next morning before hitting the road.
The overnight temperature that night was -7 degrees in Stanley. Glad we had a warm motel room to sleep in!
Day 4: Stanley ID to Battle Mountain NV
The next morning we hit the hot springs at 8 AM when it was still 0 degrees out. The hot waters was very much appreciated and it was a great way to wake up. Plus we finally got those beautiful views of the Sawtooths. After the hot spring soak we grabbed a breakfast at the restaurant we hit the road down to Twin Falls.
After a quick stop is Twin Falls to check out Shoshone Falls (rather disappointing at this time of year with little water) and lunch at Koto Brewery we continued on our way down into Nevada.
With the amount of BLM in land in Nevada, we had nearly unlimited camping options. We decided to spend the night at Mill Creek Recreation Area south of Battle Mountain. We had the whole snowy campground to ourselves. Just be warned that the wind blows through the canyon over the night. This was the first night I used the diesel heater I bought on Amazon. It made everything comfortable with all the wind and resulted in no condensation.
Day 5: Nevada Back Home to Sacramento
Nothing really exciting on our last day back home to Sacramento. Just a few more hours of highway miles we had to cover to get back home to Sacramento.
In general, we had a great time traveling to pick up the camper. Neither my fiancee or myself had spent to much time in Idaho or Montana before, so it was great to see a bit of the country we haven’t seen before. I would caution people from warmer climates that March is still very much winter (at least from my perspective). I don’t regret picking up the GFC in March, but I do wish things had been warmer and more places were open. If you plan on going in March, expect snow, cold, winter like weather, and most campgrounds to be closed. Definitely plan to head back when the weather is a little warmer to revisit and spend more time camping.