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Nestled in the shadow of Idaho’s tallest peaks, the Mackay Rodeo has enough action for locals and visitors alike. Mark your calendar for the 3rd weekend of June to experience “Idaho’s Wildest Rodeo,” then stay to enjoy Mackay’s rich historic and natural heritage.

Idaho’s Wildest Rodeo

The Mackay Rodeo kicks off with a parade on Saturday at noon. The parade is all about the kids, who scramble after the candy thrown from every float. Bring a sack to carry the loot! This year’s parade entrants included classic cars, tractors, and Smokey the Bear.

After the parade head to the rodeo grounds, an easy walk from downtown Mackay. Strap in for a full afternoon of events including bull and bronc riding, barrel racing, cattle roping and mutton busting. Fair-style food and drinks are available at hometown prices.


Need a place to stay? Check out the Mackay Tourist Park next to the rodeo grounds for free camping (first come first served), or one of the many private campgrounds that offer full services. Hotels and bed and breakfasts are also available in Mackay and Arco.

calf roping at a mountain rodeo

Spend the evening watching live music on the main stage, or don a cowboy hat and plaid shirt before stopping by one of the bars downtown.

several horses in front of a mountain background

On Sunday head back to the rodeo for more action or explore the expansive wilderness unfolding at Mackay’s doorstep.

Explore Mackay

Founded by miners, Mackay retains it’s rough and tumble character. Explore the artifacts of a time gone by with the self-guided Mine Hill Tour. Start your drive by picking up a Mine Hill Tour map from any store in town. The tour is accessible for most passenger vehicles. If you don’t have a high clearance vehicle or ATV, stick to the green route.

Green valley with mountains in the background

Stunning views of the Lost River Range are a bonus to this historic tour. Each stop explores a piece of mining history: from tramlines to cabins, mine shafts to smelters. Both the Mine Hill Tour map and placards along the route provide information about each stop. This tour is partially on private property and is done at your own risk. Be sure to stay clear of buildings, mine shafts, and other hazards.

Old, rusted mining building.

After a day of sitting at the rodeo grounds you may want to stretch your legs while exploring Mine Hill. Drive the Trestle Route to the Shay switchback. Park safely off the side of the road and hike one mile to the Shay Railroad Trestle, completely rebuilt in 2002 by the BLM. The trestle provides excellent photo opportunities.

Trestle bridge surrounded by wildflowers.

Getting There

Getting to Mackay is part of the adventure. Take the scenic route with a drive over Trail Creek from Sun Valley. Trail Creek Road, while not for the faint of heart, offers stunning scenery as it drops into the Big Lost Valley.

Along the way, make a stop at Big Fall Creek Falls. This quarter mile hike leads to a waterfall plunging through a well-worn groove in the surrounding rock cliffs.

A mountain waterfall.

Enjoy the scenery unfolding on Trail Creek Road as the valley widens. Make another detour down Wildhorse Creek Road for a picnic meal on the banks of crystal clear Wildhorse Creek.

If you are not coming through Sun Valley, Mackay is easily accessed along Route 93.

All photos, including the feature image, are credited to Sara Sheehy.

Sara Sheehy seeks adventure in the mountains of Idaho and beyond. Follow her on Instagram at @sarasheehy.

Published on July 19, 2016