10 Most Scenic Drives in Idaho

Some of the best loved travel adventures happen on the open road. With music blasting, good friends by your side,...

Some of the best loved travel adventures happen on the open road. With music blasting, good friends by your side, and boundless beauty around every corner, road trips can be a real game-changer when it comes to holiday picks. If scenic drives are your thing, then Idaho might just be your next travel destination. Known for epic mountain ranges, emerald green hills, wide open vistas, gorgeous farmlands, meandering rivers, and of course potatoes, Idaho is truly a place that boasts incredible beauty and wonder.

We’ve chosen 10 gorgeous scenic drives that are bound to delight you and the family. From luscious forests, to mesmerizing waterfalls, these drives boast epic beauty and show-off all the wonder that nature has on offer.  Many of these wonderful drives also boast a fascinating array of wildlife and will be an absolute treat for animal lovers. There are also many historical points of interest along the way, and thus a number of perfect picks for history lovers too.

Before any long road trip, it’s important to get your car serviced and to always bring enough provisions (like water and sunblock) so that everyone can enjoy the adventure and keep safe! Also be sure to check entry fees for national parks and in the warm months, pack swimming gear in case you fancy a splash on one of Idaho’s incredible rivers or lakes.

teton byway

Teton Scenic Byway

If you are passionate about gorgeous mountain ranges and a diverse array of wildlife, then this is certainly the pick for you.  The 21-mile byway will offer you some of the best views in Idaho and in the spring you will be delighted by the gorgeous wild flowers that line the valley regions. The Snake River is an added bonus of this fabulous scenic drive and offers holiday goers the chance to go on a boating adventure or catch some fish along the way.  This breathtakingly beautiful drive will spoil you with its optical delights. From historic sites, to endless vistas, you won’t be disappointed. Further north there are also a number of potato fields and farmlands. If you want to make a real adventure of this stunning byway you might even stay at the Grand Targhee Resort.

Mesa Falls Scenic Byway

Located in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, the Mesa Falls scenic byway is a true gem and offers holiday goers the perfect adventure. The Mesa Falls consist of upper and lower waterfalls and offer truly captivating views amid a lush forest of green. Unlike many of the other waterfalls in Idaho, these haven’t been used for hydroelectric or irrigation, and thus remain untouched. The falls are a short hike from the main road and will truly astound you with their power and immense speed. While you’re driving you are sure to spot elk and moose, and in spring you’ll be truly captivated by the gorgeous array of wild flowers.  This scenic byway is about 30 miles in length and begins in Ashton and the northern part of your trip offers many fantastic hiking trails and opportunities for fly-fishers.  This drive is bound to delight the entire family and astound you with its natural beauty and splendor.

hells canyon

Seven Devils Mountains

The Seven Devils Mountain Range is one of Idaho’s true wonders and you’ll be in absolute awe as you whizz through the Hells Canyon Wilderness. If you’re into wildlife, then this pick will offer you some amazing opportunities to spot mountain goats, black bears, cougars, rainbow trout and much more. This is truly a spectacular drive and nature lovers will be seventh heaven, amid the seven devilish peaks. You will also get to enjoy pine forests and spectacular flora in the spring. There are a number of trails along the way for hiking fanatics, and a number of camping spots for those who want to bask in this natural wonder and escape the city. The Hells Canyon Wilderness has been used for farming, mining and ranching activities since the 1700s and thus embodies a lot of historic value. This trip combines spectacular scenery with fantastic wildlife and is truly an exciting drive worth taking and the green and black basalt cliffs along Hells Canyon will certainly impress.  If you are into climbing this trip also offers a number of exciting adventures.

Sacajawea Scenic Byway

Next up on our list of awesome drives through Idaho is the sensational Sacakawea Scenic byway route. If you’re a history lover, then this is certainly a trip worth taking. You will hark back to days gone by and get to revel in the landscapes of the the Lewis and Clark expedition and explore the very land where a mining industry prevailed in the 1800s. This journey will enable you to explore age old mining communities and amazingly preserved buildings, including charcoal kilns that were used to create silver ore and led. If you adore natural beauty and learning about human life from yesteryear, then this is certainly the trip for you. This trip will offer you an abundance of fascinating stories, from Native American history, to the mining town of Gilmore.  You can also splash in the Meadow Lake, spot gorgeous birds, and bask in the natural beauty that this amazing drive has on offer.

sevecountry road in idaho

Pioneer Historic Byway

The next pick on our list will also delight all those history lovers and is the perfect drive for anyone with a penchant for the past. This epic drive begins in Idaho’s oldest town, Franklin and is about 127 miles in length. On this epic journey you will be able to delight in natural and historical wonders and as you travel along the Bear River you’ll explore Mormon settlements and military campaigns. You will also be able to see what is left of the first grist mill in Idaho and the Mormon Oneida Academy which is over 100 years old. Other attractions to delight in include the Niter Ice Cave, Soda Springs, and the Red Rock Pass. This scenic drive combines epic natural beauty with some amazing history and certainly bodes for a brilliant day out.  Bear Lake is a particularly wonderful spot and is perfect for water-sport lovers, beach babes, and avid fishers alike.

Thousand Springs Byway

The next scenic drive on our list is the fantastic Thousand Springs Byway. This epic drive is bound to impress you with its fantastic geology and breath-taking views along the Snake River Canyon.  Less than 70 miles long, this is a great pick if you feel like a shorter drive and boasts a number of wonderful recreational activities.  On your way you might stop to visit one of the gorgeous parks, witness the incredible Hagerman Fossil Beds, or explore the whimsical Herrett Center Planetarium, museum, and observatory. You might also delight in the Perrine Bridge and the fabulous Shoshone Falls, which has been dubbed the ‘Niagara of the West’.  In fact, these falls are actually 212 feet higher than Niagara, and thus a definite site worth witnessing. You can also visit the historic town of Twin Falls on your adventure and visit some of the gorgeous lakes and have a swim or eat at one of the local hot-spots. This is truly a wonderful day out for the entire family and has a number of entertaining activities that will keep adults and children totally memorized.

idaho nature

Wild Horse Trail Byway

This gorgeous byway is part of the Selkirk Mountains and will astound you with its dramatic colors and absolute beauty.  It is also a definite must if you’re an adrenaline junkie and love partaking in adventurous activities. This byway near the Canadian border is about 50 miles long and is loved by adventurers and nature lovers alike.  This journey begins in downtown Sandpoint, a quirky town known for its amazing art galleries and is a perfect stop for creative types who love to explore local talent. You will then follow the amazing trail that was made famous by the Kootenai Tribe and along the way will be captivated by lush green forests and the stunning Lake Pend. The river allows for a number of water-sports and boating activities and thus this scenic drive will keep you splendidly entertained throughout. The Selkirk Mountains also offer some super fun activities for adventurous souls including fishing, snowmobiling, hiking, and Nordic skiing. Remember to pre-book these activities to avoid disappointment and always go through a reputable company.

Salmon River Scenic Byway

This is a stunning byway for all nature lovers and the incredible colors of the mountains and rocks will captivate you as you embark upon your adventure. Boating majestic vistas and stunning rock formations, the Salmon River Scenic Byway will certainly not disappoint. Along the way you might spot snow tipped mountains, an array of wildlife, and exquisite valleys. Highlights include the epic Sawtooth Mountains and the Stanley Basin, both of which you will encounter on your journey.  This is truly the gateway to Idaho’s phenomenal jagged backcountry and there are a number of activities for adventurers to delight in. You might want to raft on the river of no return or visit Tower Rock recreational site.  You can also explore the natural hot springs and the various small ghost towns that you encounter along the way.  This byway is 161 miles and will impress you all drive long. This is a truly stunning pick for the whole family.

idaho road

Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway

Number 9 on our fantastic list of scenic drives through Idaho is the fantastic Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway. This trip offers a visually diverse landscape and is made up of lava flows, deserts, tall mountains, and wetlands. This gorgeous drive is along the Lost River Mountain Range, which boasts some of the highest peaks in Idaho, including the famous Mount Borah. Along the way you can stop at the Craters of the Moon National Monument where you can climb volcanos and enter lava caves or take a refreshing dip in the Mackay Dam and reservoir. This 140-mile strip should take you about 3 hours to drive, but you can also make a day of it by packing a picnic and stopping for a splash in the summer months. This byway will captivate you with its astounding beauty and diversity.  You can also stop at Spring Creek which is known for its fly-fishing. This is a great pick for avid fishers and adventurous alike.  This pick might also interest engineers, as you can learn about nuclear energy in the nearby town of Arco, which was the first city globally to be lit by atomic energy.

Northwest Passage Byway

Last on our brilliant list of breath-taking byways, is Idaho’s longest byway – The Northwest Passage. This gorgeous drive is 202 miles long and begins in Lewiston. People say this is an amazing journey if you are interested in exploring the history of America’s west or the Lewis and Clark discovery expedition. Located on your journey is the Nez Perce National Historical Park and Visitor Centre and their amazing museum. You can also enjoy a national site known as ‘the heart of the monster’, splash in the Clear Water River, and visit a number of historic ranger stations. There are a number of incredible photo opportunities along the way and if you have some time, it’s certainly worth enjoying this sensational byway in its entirety.

Related Post: Best Car Rental Companies

Sources:

  1. IDAHO SCENIC/BACK COUNTRY BYWAYS – Visit Idaho
  2. Scenic Drives in Idaho‎ – Trip Advisor