Scenic Drives in Idaho
Ernest Hemingway once said, “A lot of state this Idaho, that I didn’t know about.” Nestled against the western side of the continental divide of the Rocky Mountains, Northern Idaho gleams with emerald green hillsides and sparkling lakes of all sizes. Rugged mountains, wilderness areas, and rolling farmland make up central Idaho. The Snake River Plain, with its wide open vistas, lush farmlands, and vibrant cities, forms the character of southern Idaho. Idaho’s remarkable geographic diversity and the endless recreational opportunities attract more than 30 million people from all over the world each year. Take it all in and explore the vast wonders by car.
The 48 mile Wild Horse Trail, which heads north from Sandpoint, is part of a 280 mile international drive that continues to meander through British Columbia and Washington state.
Follow the breathtaking north shore of Idaho’s largest lake from Sandpoint to the Montana state line.
Miles of soothing river scenery reflect the pastoral beauty along the route that explorer David Thompson canoed in 1809 in search of a passage to the Columbia River.
Keep your binoculars handy! This drive- one of the most beautiful in Idaho-provides opportunities for bird watching enthusiasts to spot bald eagles and osprey.
Wildlife abounds along Forest Road 50 where deer, elk, moose, and bear can be seen between St. Maries and the Montana border.
Discover the tranquil small lakes and marshlands adjacent to the lower Coeur d’Alene River while traveling through the St. Joe National Forest.
Journey 22 winding miles past three reservoirs to glimpse into this massive canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America.
Meander along the wet and wild Payette River for 111 miles passing through Smith’s Ferry and by Cascade Lake, to arrive at McCall.
View wildlife along the turbulent South Fork of the Payette River from Banks, through Garden Valley to Lowman, and stop to raft, fish, or just soak in a hot springs.
Wind your way 131 miles from the heart of the Stanley Basin, along the South Fork of the Payette River, past Lowman and through historic Idaho City, to Boise.
This high desert byway crosses more than 50 miles through a rich tapestry of places, people, and a scenic agricultural landscape along the Snake River.
Travel 30 miles alongside old trails through Kuna to the Snake River Canyon and Swan Falls Dam. Bring binoculars to watch for birds of prey soaring nearby.
Explore the remote high desert of Owhyee County with its gnarled stands of junipers and sheer red cliffs of river canyons on this 101-mile road.
Climbing from the high desert and lava fl ows near Shoshone to Stanley (6,260 ft.) in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, you will pass through Sun Valley, over Galena Summit, and past several stunning alpine lakes.
The Hagerman Valley is best known for its fi sh hatcheries, fossil beds, and the thousand springs-water gushing from canyon walls-along this 68-mile route.
Pioneers wrote their names in axle grease on rocks at this landmark along the California Trail. Today, climbers from around the world come to be challenged by the towering granite spires. This 49-mile route begins at Albion and concludes in historic Oakley.
Follow the route of Idaho’s pioneers on this 127-mile journey through through the towns of Franklin and Preston where you can see many quaint homes and churches now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More recently, Preston gained recognition as the filming location of the hit movie “Napoleon Dynamite.” Other highlights include Chesterfield Town Site, Gray’s Lake Wildlife Refuge, and Soda Springs Geyser.
This 110-mile scenic drive passes by stunning Bear Lake, which straddles the Idaho-Utah border. A great viewpoint is the 7,800-foot summit on Hwy. 89, high above Garden City, Utah. Along the way, don’t miss a true pioneer landmark - Paris Tabernacle. Other highlights include Bear Lake State Park, Minnetonka Cave, Soda Springs Geyser, Lava Hot Springs, and the National Oregon/California Trail Center.
In 1810, an early white settlement was established by Andrew Henry near St. Anthony. Today, this 81 mile route, best traveled between mid-April and November, takes you past herds of deer and elk and on through game bird habitat on the way to the Fort Henry Monument. A 48 mile side loop through Spencer and Dubois commemorates the area’s mining trails and offers opportunities to visit opal mines.
From this 29 mile byway in the Targhee National Forest near Ashton, you can hear the thunder of both Lower and Upper Mesa Falls, two of the last undisturbed waterfalls of consequence in the West, on the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River. Trails, boardwalks, viewing platforms, plentiful parking, and accessible restrooms enhance the experience at Upper Mesa Falls.
Wander over Pine Creek Pass through the lush rolling farmland of eastern Idaho- land of the famous potatoes-to the ranchland of the Teton Valley on this 69 mile byway. Along the way, the Grand Tetons will peek out from beyond the foothills and draw you in for a closer look.
This 132 mile scenic drive across Hwy. 28 from eastern Idaho through the Lemhi Valley to Salmon offers a glimpse into the historical legacy of Sacajawea and the Lemhi Shoshone tribe. At Tendoy, consider driving up to Lemhi Pass.
Follow the Salmon River between Lost Trail Pass and Stanley where three scenic byways meet. En route are the magnificent Sawtooth Mountains, Land of the Yankee Fork State Park, and the towns of Salmon and Challis.
See where Lewis and Clark unfurled the U.S. flag for the first time in the West as you travel this 39-mile gravel road from Tendoy, a 3-hour round-trip.
With the most diverse scenery of any of Idaho’s byways, this 140-mile drive will take in Craters of the Moon, the Lost River Valley, and Mt. Borah, Idaho’s highest peak.
Find suggested driving itineraries at visitidaho.org.