Tag Archives: byway

Idaho Scenic Byways

DCIM100GOPROThis is the time of year to hit the scenic byways of Idaho. These are great one-day and even multi-day trips that most vehicles can handle. If you have been a steady reader of the blog or the podcast, you know we love to hit these 4-wheel adventures. Idaho has so much to offer.

When researching, make sure your first stop is to http://www.visitidaho.org/scenic-byways/ where you can order your free travel guide. While the guide lacks many of the details to plan out your trip, it does give you enough of a view to pull out the map and do some planning.

Go Prepared

While some trips don't require this much recovery gear, trips on backcountry byways requirs that you go completely preparred

While some trips don’t require this much recovery gear, trips on backcountry byways requires that you go completely prepared


But before you head out- think of how you pack for the trip. Remember Idaho’s byways range from rural to remote. Be sure you have any emergency gear packed for the trip such as first-aid, good communications, extra water, tools, etc. Some of these byways skirt alongside backcountry areas so help will not always be a phone call away. If you have a breakdown or other emergency- you need to be prepared to stay for awhile. In my other article I briefly outline what we take on trips such as the Owyhee Backcountry Byway, one of the most remote byway trips in Idaho.

I keep a road atlas with me to do over-the-hood planning while on the road. They are great for reference along the way

Shutter Bugs

253No matter where you start out from, there are great options for awesome scenery. Be sure to pack your camera and if you are really a shutter bug, pack those once-in-a lifetime lenses you rarely pull out. This last winter I had my dad along Sawtooth, Payette River, and Western Heritage byways where he had opportunity to shoot pics of Antelope, a young brood of Sand Hill Crane, and a few other hard to get close to animals. In addition, great scenery abounds on the byways so packing a tripod and a wide angle is a must. Pack extra batteries, throw in a dust cloth for the lenses, and maybe an extra memory card. There are even opportunities for the iPod photo enthusiast so keep your car charge handy.266

Soak in the Sites

  IMG_6040 Stop off at the small museums, wineries, and state parks along the way. There are great stops along the way like Craters of the Moon National Park along the Peaks to Craters Byway or Huston Wineries along the Snake River Byway. Most have great mom and pop diners for lunch, keep cash on hand for some of the better stops. Better yet, throw in your own picnic. We usually throw in lunch for the day and stop for dinner or start off with breakfast in a non-chain dive. IMG_6043I love driving but need a break from hours of windshield time. I like to find an area where we can park and either pull out sandwiches or I can do a quick burger or two on one of our portable grills. I even throw in a few lawn chairs to relax in.

Journal It

Capture moments along the way and post in the journal

Capture moments along the way and post in the journal

DCIM100GOPROThere are 30 official byways in Idaho. I recommend creating a special journal for the adventure, and log each one with thoughts to scribe, postcards, pictures, museum tickets, etc.


Sometimes we will take a few days to do one or more byways- and camp along the way. This is where our home built Explorer box designed by Compact Camping Concepts is a huge benefit.

Sometimes we will take a few days to do one or more byways- and camp along the way. This is where our home-built Explorer box designed by Compact Camping Concepts is a huge benefit.

For more information checkout the article just released from Magic Valley Times-News http://magicvalley.com/lifestyles/recreation/scenic-byway-adventures-adventure-guide/article_8f53f418-d7d0-11e3-aaf4-001a4bcf887a.html

In addition, I have a few write up on my own byway tours at AdventureIQ.com including these two…



And if you see us on the road out there-stop and say hey! We just might have a sticker or two for you!

Touring the Owyhee Back Country Byway


Rock’n the red JK on this one. Answered lots of questions about the winch and other gear.


Be mindful of private property. Most land owners are friendly, but remember, this is home- and for most for over a hundred years. Be polite and ask for access.


Great photo ops out here


Stone cattle chute- only one I have ever seen made from stone


Post Office in (defunt) Fairly Lawn, Idah


a real “two-holer”


Post cards- most from the 1930-1950 in the outhouse




You are going to get your off-pavement fix with this trip

This last weekend I was able to finally get Melissa and her camera gear out to the Owyhee Uplands Back Country Byway. Abby and I hit this road last year on the Idaho Overland trip with Beau Johnston from Living Overland. On that trip I saw a million photo opportunities so I knew I had to get her back out there.


Taking a lunch break with the group and listening to the history of the Owyhees from people who have seen it in some cases more than 50 years.

Locally known as Mud Flat Road for its impassibility when rain and snow make the terrain an absolute mess, is the primary
access to central Owyhee County. An area rich in history has something for every overlander wanting a day or two of exploration. Off the byway, there are multiple trails to explore, and though most people do it in a few hours, we prefer either an all day trip with lots of stops or a multi-day trip to fully absorb all there is in the area.

There is really only a small window of travel. As mentioned earlier, rain makes the road slick and due to the terrian, it takes several weeks to dry out. In the summer, the heat can become unbearable for many. When Abby and I passed that area last July the temps in the shade were at 108.

We started our trip in Jordan Valley, Oregon which is about an 90 minutes from our base camp in the Boise area. Another route is from Hwy 78 near Grand View, Idaho. If you love off-pavement travel like we do, you will get mostly gravel and dirt road. You will also get the thrill of crossing back and forth over state lines a few times. There is about 90 miles in Idaho and 15 miles within Oregon.


You are alone for the next 120 miles- be sure you go with the right gear. We help back country travelers get ready for trips just like this


Carry a spare tire, fuel, jack, and other roadside repair equipment with you. Also, a Trasharoo helps with picking up trash along the way from the other morons.

As we say in all of our workshops and seminars, prepare for adverse situations. You are alone out here. There are no services, cell phones are out of range, and even our testing with the 2m HAM set up proved that we were alone. This makes a great case for carrying a SPOT GPS unit with you. Top off your rig with fuel in Grandview or Jordan Valley, carry 3-5 gallons of water, your survival kit, and if possible and extra gallon of two of fuel. We also carried a full tool kit along with extra hoses and belts.

IMG_0380We were incredibly fortunate to have “Frankie” along on our trip. Third generation rancher in the area, at 95 years-old has more life in her than most people. Through her we were entertained and educated about some of the small historic details including a trip to the school house in Cliffs, the old post office in Fairy Lawn (both now defunct towns) stories of moonshiners, wagon train contracts, the people she knew in the area, and even games played as children.
Please be aware that there are many parcels of private land along the Byway. Please respect private property by having the right maps and equipment to avoid trespassing.IMG_0366

This is a great trip and recommend it for all regional overlanders. Make sure you checkout our facebook page to see when we are going to be out there again or exploring other regional areas as part of Project ROVE. And as a small reminder, remember, we do workshops and seminars to prepare you for safe back country travel.

We will be doing a full podcast on this trip soon.


School house at Cliffs, Idaho, a now defunt town


Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway

I woke early Saturday morning with unknown plans for the day. The threat of weather forecasters about the doom and gloom of snow coming in canceled the plans that my buddy Travis and I had made to explore the Oregon Trail Main route going from Glen’s Ferry to Boise- a back country trail. So when I awoke to partly cloudy skies and Travis sleeping in- I headed out the door to my back-up plan. With both dogs in the Jeep, electronics and survival kits tucked in their spots, a guide from department of transportation, and a cup of coffee we headed out the door for the Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway.

The Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway technically spans more than fifty miles in Southwest Idaho. I did just over 150 miles for the day. I enjoy this area because it reminds me much of what  early pioneers would have seen when they arrived to create a new life for themselves in the sage brush covered valley. Today’s rich agricultural lands and the small towns found along the byway are the legacy passed down to us by those early Idaho pioneers. I love the legacy for all of us to discover and enjoy as we drive a travel.

I did several side trips and strayed from the actual path recommended by the Idaho Department of Transportation. The first of these stops was to the Sawtooth Winery. I enjoy wine history. I think this is because when living in Europe, I had the opportunity to tour local monasteries that produced local unknown and unlabeled wines. I am by no means a wine guy, but I do love interesting stories surrounding wineries. It was closed.

Not to be dissuaded I continued south on Idaho 45 and just before the crossing at Walter’s Ferry I ventured over to the Idaho Western Heritage Byway and then to some back country trails that skirt the Snake River. I figured this would be a good place to let the dogs go play for a bit.

The trails were passable and we had the place to ourselves. We were also rewarded with the first of several Bald Eagle sightings for the day.

After the pups had a chance to run around a bit, it was time to go connect with the byway. Since I was also ready for lunch and wanted to keep the Jeep fueled, I headed to Dan’s Ferry, an old Phillipp’s 66 station where they serve some of the greasiest, yet best tasting chili in all of Idaho.

Next we traveled North and hit Map Rock Road for the beginning of the byway. We made several stops to explore along the way. Map Rock and Trapper’s flat are some of my favorite areas to stomp around in. These are better known for fishing and camping spots, but I like to hit them for rabbit hunting.

One of the attractions of the Snake River Scenic Byway is the number of orchards, vineyards, and wineries in the area. There was a particular one I wanted to visit since it was new. Located on Chicken Dinner Road is Huston Vineyards. I pulled in to have a look around. I enjoy the atmosphere of wineries, specifically when they are doing tastings. There is something about the social experience that is inviting.  Since I am driving my participation is at the observer’s level. But I do have light conversation with one of the owners, very friendly people, buy a bottle of wine for a co-worker’s birthday (a wine expert) , sample a great tasting Thai salad, and head on my way. Highly recommend visiting Huston Vineyards when you out that way.

Back on the road I observe more reflections of the past including the old Huston School building, which I couldn’t find any history or records of. Dotted throughout Southwest Idaho are buildings like that are abandoned.

The amount of wildlife can vary on this route. In fact I would be cautious if driving this early morning or late evening due to deer on the roadways. I was blessed with several hawk observations and highly recommend taking a good set of binoculars and birding book with you. Photographers take your better lenses for distance and a tripod along. I saw my second bald eagle on the route after leaving Huston perched right above an old barn. Beautiful.

After making my way down to Homedale, I took another side trip to a BLM area we call “Spanish Charlie” this is a set of trails I have done on ATV but had never ventured out on with any of my Jeeps. I love these trails because there are times in the year you can find yourself completely alone. They also take you over into Oregon, and for some reason I still find crossing the boarder in the middle of nowhere very cool. Must go back to my military roots.

The byway starts off at Walter’s Ferry and ends in Nyssa, Oregon. Since I spent the majority of the day on side trips and tours, it took me longer than the recommended time of 2 hours to complete. In fact I would make this an all day affair. I never made it to Nyssa, and instead opted out in Caldwell since it was late and I needed to get back. The guide that I ordered for free is a good starting point, but recommend a detailed map as well. For a quick look at the location of the area, check out the Idaho Byways site.

The Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway is a well woven tapestry of the things that make Idaho great including places, people, and scenic lands that encompasses the spirit of the west. Rich agricultural lands dating back nearly 4 million years ago are still found today along the byway. These were created by the fire of volcanoes that once dominated the area. In addition, there is evidence of mass flooding 15,000 years ago demonstrating the power of water as it reshaped the land from Idaho to Oregon via the Snake and Columbia River. Truly a great day trip, and when coupled with all the exploration that can be done here by linking several byways and back country trips could be an interesting 3-5 day self-supported adventure.

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Video of this trip