Sunday, August 17, 2008

Smiley Creek Airstrip and Camping

Smiley Creek looking south
As part of our Idaho and Yellowstone airplane camping trip, we stayed at Smiley Creek. This was our first time staying at Smiley Creek, ID (U87). It was a nice location. It is one of the first grass airstrips in Idaho on our way from Colorado, so that made it a nice first destination. There is also a lodge as well as camping so we would have a choice for dinner and sleeping if we were tired after a day of flying. We opted for eating dinner there and staying in the teepees at the lodge. We explored for the day, stayed the night, and headed out to Big Creek the next day.

The Approach

Smiley Creek is one of the easier strips to get into. I would recommend looking at the Fly Idaho Book for details. From the south, you fly up from Sun Valley along the Sawtooth mountains and then fly over a pass just before reaching the area. As long as you land upstream going south and take off downstream going north things are not too bad. As always, it is good to circle the airstrip to make sure everything is clear on the runway and the windsock is pointing the right direction for landing. Make a standard left hand pattern, set up for a short field, soft field landing and things should go pretty well. The runway is at 7160' elevation, so make sure to take that into account during landing and especially during takeoffs. Density altitude makes a big difference on hot days here.

Smiley Creek looking eastThe Airstrip

Above are two pictures of the airstrip, and there is also a web cam for the Smiley Creek Airstrip. There is a view north that the webcam defaults to, and you can also click to see a view #2 which is looking south. It is a nice strip with sprinklers and nice looking grass.

I got a chance to talk with the airstrip caretaker for a while. A very nice man and I would recommend talking with him if you get a chance. He is a pilot, so he can talk with you about the strip and many of the others in the area.

The Campground

The campground is right next to airstrip and is quite nice.

Smiley Creek CampgroundIn the above picture, you see the brand new bathroom and shower building. It is very nice and extremely clean. I was surprised at how nice this was. The camping is just past the sign in the trees. There are not too many trees next to the airstrip except in the camping area.

There are also a number of shelters for campers as well. In the same area are picnic tables, fire pits, drinking water, and plenty of spaces for tents.

Smiley Creek Campground shelter

My son loved the creek that was right in the campground to play in. You can see the planes in the background, so you can see it is all close together.

Smiley Creek campground creek
The Lodge

Smiley Creek has a nice lodge a very short walk from the airport; maybe 100 yards at most.

Smiley Creek lodge

There they have a general store and nice restaurant with a standard menu. For lodging, there is a choice of lodge rooms, cabins, or teepees. I figured my son would like the teepees so we tried one of those. It was a hit.

Smiley Creek teepeeSmiley Creek teepee inside Inside the teepees is a little rustic, but quite nice for a teepee. The beds are on wooden platforms to raise it off the ground. There are lamps, tables, and heated blankets for the bed. It rained pretty hard in the morning, and the insides of the teepee got a tiny bit wet, but not bad.

No shower or bathroom inside the teepee, but there is one nearby.

Around the Lodge

Around the lodge there was a few fun things to look at.

There was an incredible number of hummingbirds around a feeder. I heard at one point, the humbirds were fighting to get a feeding spot and there were probably 6 feed spots. They had the feeder in a great spot for viewing either inside or outside. This kept my sons attention for a long time.

Next door, there were quite a few sheep which was something else to watch. In the evening, there was a beautiful sunset.

If you have time, I have heard there is a lot within a short car drive as well from there. There is a courtesy car at the airport, but I did not get a chance to use it.

There is a decent amount of traffic coming by on the 2 lane paved road in front of the lodge. I guess they are on their way to the town of Stanley and fishing, camping, and rafting. So the lodge has a bit of traffic. It was a nice amount while we there and lended itself to a little people watching.


Smiley Creek is a great stop over for some rest or a great meal. It has a very nice lodge and campground.


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