Idaho April 10, 2017
The One Underrated Road Trip In Idaho You Never Thought To Take (But Totally Should)
Idaho has no shortage of scenic byways. Over 30 crisscross the state, in fact, bringing road trippers through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the Gem State, and to some of the most breathtaking panoramic overlooks. While it’s near-impossible to choose a favorite, there’s no doubt that one gorgeously looping road rises to the top: the Salmon River Scenic Byway through Central Idaho.
This 161-mile journey explores some of the most historic, treasured, and rugged terrain in the state and caters to the rugged, tenacious Idahoan. And while remote, alpine lakes mark the end of this wilderness journey, every mile offers magnificent Idaho beauty. Are you up for the journey?
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
A historic byway that begins at the Lost Trail Pass on the border between Montana and Idaho, the Salmon River Scenic Byway showcases some undeniably remarkable scenery.
This scenic route follows central Idaho’s wildest river south to its headwaters in the Sawtooth Range, through desert canyons and over magnificent passes, starting with the tiny town of Salmon.
An optional side trip to North Fork will take you to the edge of Idaho's treasured Frank Church Wilderness.
One of the first gems you'll encounter along your way is the campsite used by Lewis and Clark when they first arrived in Idaho - their first night spent over the Montana-Idaho border.
Other notable sites include the salmon spawning beds at Indian Rifles, Tower Rock, the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, the
Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
, and the Nez Perce (Nee Mee Poo) National Historic Trail.
From the crossing at Lost Trail, the trip will take you to Stanley through Challis, Elk Bend, Ellis, the ghost towns at the Land of the Yankee Fork State Park, and more.
It’s a gorgeous drive and that touches on the historic exploration, fur trapping, mining, settlement, and Native American heritage.
Each of these small towns, ghost towns, and unincorporated communities are worth a stop for the recreation and small town vibes.
Not to mention hot springs!
Spend some extra time in Salmon for the Sacajawea Interpretive Center, Lemhi Historical Museum, breathtaking scenery, and welcoming community.
There's a reason Salmon, Idaho continues to make our "best" lists! You'll find delicious eats at the Junkyard Bistro and Shady Nook, or can rest your head before the main portion of your journey at the Syringa Lodge. This rustic gem is set in the most idyllic meadow you've ever seen! You'll also find numerous parks scattered throughout town that feature large trees and grassy picnic areas.
Visit the rise and fall ghost village of Sunbeam for its history.
A historic cabin and trading post near the banks of the upper Salmon River, the setting of this fascinating community is pastoral, surrounded by lodgepole pine trees and sweeping sagebrush ridges. The nearby Sunbeam Dam was blasted away back in 1934 after effectively wiping out the entire native run of Sockeye Salmon to and from the Pacific Ocean - all except one lone fish, dubbed Lonesome Larry.
Nab a spot at the Sunbeam Hot Springs for a soothing soak!
Near Challis, you'll find the geographic center of Idaho...
... And the Land of the Yankee Fork State Park, where multiple ghost towns stand waiting to be explored.
Land of the Yankee Fork State Park/Facebook
The route ends in Stanley, on the floor of Stanley Basin and in view of Idaho’s most spectacular peaks, the Sawtooth Mountain Range.
When it comes to dining, lodging, and recreation, you can't go wrong with any of the small-town choices, here. This tiny town of less than 100 full-time residents is just as overflowing with homestyle cooking skill as it is with jaw-dropping scenery. Try the Sawtooth Grill or the Stanley Baking Company for long-standing classics, or mix it up with an unforgettable meal at the Bridge Street Grill or the Redd.
The byway also hugs the mighty Salmon River along its southwest course, offering landscapes that have changed little in the past 200 years,
The Salmon River - the River of No Return - is one of the most highly-sought after rafting rivers in the country for its epic whitewater. Flowing freely as one of the last undammed mountain rivers on the continent, it courses untamed through the largest forest wilderness in the lower 48. The Salmon is also one of a kind and one of the last of its kind with a flow that tops even the rushing Colorado River two states away.
For the adventurous summer traveler, a trip on the Salmon is an exhilarating rollercoaster of rapids punctuated by deep pools and roiling banks of massive white sand beaches, Although famous for its whitewater, the Salmon offers a unique variety of options for rafters of all comfort levels - just pick a rafting outfitter of your choice!
The road passes from the Salmon National Forest into the Challis National Forest, and wildlife-viewing opportunities are excellent the whole way.
The river—clean, cold, and swift—drops 15 feet a mile, charging through turbulent rapids and sweeping past several hot spring pools as well.
Feel free to stop and play as much as you like!
It's easy to fall in love with this overlooked byway.
Have you ever traveled the Salmon River Scenic Byway? There’s nothing quite like it!