Nature August 12, 2021
The 10 Best Backroads In Idaho For A Long Scenic Drive
Maybe you’re not an outdoorsy person but that certainly doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy all the beauty that Idaho has to offer! In fact, these scenic drives make it pretty easy to see all of the Gem State’s gorgeous landscapes. There’s a lot to see here in Idaho, so go ahead and fuel up the car and start your engines because these backcountry drives are the perfect way of exploring our beautiful state. Here are 10 of the best scenic drives in Idaho. Be sure to put at least one of these on your bucket list!
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
1. Mesa Falls Scenic Byway
Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, Idaho, USA
This scenic byway runs for approximately 30 miles, starting from Ashton, Idaho, and leads into the gorgeous Targhee National Forest. The highlight of this drive is the spectacular view of some of the most impressive waterfalls in Idaho, the Upper and Lower Mesa Falls. The northern part of the byway contains the wildlife preserve Harriman State Park which has plenty of hiking trails and opportunities for fly-fishing. This is one of the most spectacular Idaho backroads for a scenic drive.
Learn more about Mesa Falls in our full coverage.
2. Sacajawea Historic Scenic Byway
Along with breathtaking views, this byway offers up some truly incredible history from the days of the Lewis and Clark expedition along with the mining age of the 1800s. On this byway you'll see old mining communities and even the incredibly well preserved charcoal kilns that were used to process silver ore. This history-rich drive goes on for 120 miles.
Learn more about the Sacajawea Historic Scenic Byway in our full coverage.
3. Thousand Springs Scenic Byway
Beginning in Bliss, Idaho, the Thousand Springs drive is relatively short at less than 70 miles. However, it offers a lot to do and see. The byway starts off by going through the incredible Snake River Canyon and from there you have easy access to the historic Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, the pristine Thousand Springs, and the epic Shoshone Falls. As one of the most beautiful drives in Idaho, this byway sure packs a punch!
Learn more about the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway on the Visit Idaho website.
4. Pioneer Historic Byway
Idaho 34, ID-34, Soda Springs, ID, USA
5. Western Heritage Historic Byway
Starting in Meridian, Idaho, this byway goes south for about 50 miles. As you pass through Kuna, you'll find yourself at the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey Conservation Area. This is one of the most impressive areas in all of Idaho, with 600,000 acres of canyon that is home to hawks, falcons, eagles, osprey, etc. Further along the byway is Dedication Point which offers up some outstanding panoramic views of the Snake River Canyon.
Learn more about the Western Heritage Historic Byway on the Visit Idaho website.
6. St. Joe River Scenic Byway
Saint Joe River, St Joe River, Idaho, USA
The St. Joe River is one of the most majestic rivers in Idaho, and this byway is perfect for exploring it. This river has something for everyone since it starts out as a lazy river but gradually progresses into an intense whitewater river. Beside the St. Joe are many incredibly hiking trails and opportunities to view wildlife. The byway stretches along the river for nearly 90 miles and is one of the most beautiful drives in Idaho.
Learn more about the St. Joe River Scenic Byway on the Visit Idaho website.
7. Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway
Ponderosa Pine Scenic Route, Idaho, USA
The Ponderosa Pine byway begins in Boise on Highway 21 and goes through the dense Boise National Forest. It goes on for about 130 miles, passing Lucky Peak Lake and the historic mining town of Idaho City (this place makes a great day trip!). It eventually hits the spectacular Sawtooth wilderness which has plenty of opportunities for camping and fishing. Several hot springs line the byway including the highly trafficked Kirkham Hot Springs, as well. It's one of the most spectacular country roads in Idaho.
Learn more about the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway in our full coverage.
8. Northwest Passage Scenic Byway
This is Idaho's longest byway, stretching for 202 long miles. As you drive along, you find yourself traveling along the same exact route that Lewis and Clark traveled through over two centuries ago! This incredibly scenic route begins in Lewiston and spans across expansive wilderness through the stunning Clearwater River Canyon. The route eventually splits, with one section heading south toward Grangeville and the other going along the Clearwater until it reaches Lolo Pass where you can stop at the Visitor Center to learn all about the history and geology of the beautiful Bitterroot Wilderness Area.
Learn more about the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway in our full coverage.
9. Hells Canyon Scenic Byway
This byway lets you travel one of the most magnificent landscapes in all of Idaho, the one and only Hells Canyon. This 22 mile drive begins near Copperfield, Oregon and continues on the Idaho side of the border along the side of the canyon. You'll likely feel very small among the giant black and green basalt cliffs!
Learn more about the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway in our full coverage.
10. Wild Horse Trail Scenic Byway
This 50-mile byway begins in Sandpoint and follows a historic path used by Native tribes. The road stretches north all the way to the Canadian border. Along the byway are the intense and beautiful Selkirk Mountains. Further along the road is the McArthur Lake Wildlife Management Area, which contains 1,200 acres of spectacular bird watching. Hit the road and find out why this is one of the best scenic drives in Idaho!
Learn more about the Wild Horse Trail Scenic Byway on the Visit Idaho website.
Have taken one of the best scenic drives in Idaho? What’s your favorite scenic drive to take in the state? Let us know! And if you’re looking for more incredible scenic roads to explore, click
this link here.
Best Scenic Drives In Idaho
August 19, 2021
What road trips can I take in Idaho?
Discover someplace new along a road trip through the Gem State. We have a few themed road trips you may want to take, such as our Awesome Idaho Weekend Road Trip which will lead you to some of the most beautiful spots in the state. Then there’s the Ultimate Central Idaho Waterfalls Road Trip, the Ultimate Idaho Hidden Gem Road Trip, and, if you like creepy things, the Ultimate Terrifying Idaho Road Trip. Now go forth have an epic Idaho adventure!
What are some of the best day trips in Idaho?
If you don’t have enough time for a weekend getaway, a day trip is another fantastic way to explore part of the state you haven’t been to before. Head to our article, 7 Unique Day Trips In Idaho That Are An Absolute Must-Do, for some ideas.
What are some of the most beautiful places in Idaho?
The Gem State is brimming with beauty between its borders. From charming small towns to a natural wonder like the Palouse region with its vast stretches of hills, you can find beauty just about anywhere you go in Idaho.