A route that takes motorists past wineries, fruit orchards, farms and historic sites has become the latest addition to Idaho’s treasure of 30 scenic byways.
The Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway, south of Nampa, runs for 53 miles along the Snake River. State tourism officials say autumn is a good time to travel along the byway because the fall harvest is under way. Besides farms and orchards, there are many other things to see, including 11 wineries.
“It’s kind of a unique scenic byway because you see such a variety of sights along the way—from the Snake River itself to Indian petroglyphs to the wineries and Oregon Trail history,” said Steve Fultz, executive director of the Caldwell/Canyon Economic Development Council.
The Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway starts south of Caldwell and Nampa on Map Rock Road off of Idaho State Highway 45, and runs west along the banks of the Snake River, following a series of country roads in the Snake River Valley Wine Region, passing by the towns of Melba, Homedale, Wilder and Parma before the route ends at the Snake River crossing on the Oregon-Idaho border.
Idaho tourism officials say fall is an ideal time to explore any of Idaho’s scenic byways because it’s the time when trees are turning to crimson and gold and mountain peaks are getting their first dusting of snow. You can find routes and information about lodging and dining at www.idahobyways.gov. The website describes what each route offers so that visitors can tailor their sightseeing trips to their own interests.
For example, the White Pine Scenic Byway features a mix of rolling wheat fields with densely forested mountains near Moscow, Idaho, but in the fall, western larch trees turn bright yellow, creating spectacular vistas amid the green pine, fir and hemlock trees. Travelers will learn about early logging activities in Idaho as they drive by what was once the largest white pine mill in the world in Potlatch, and tour or stay in a campground where one giant white pine tree remains standing.
The White Pine byway also tours the town of St. Maries, Old Mission State Park with the oldest building in the state, and the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, a paved trail that winds for more than 70 miles along the Coeur d’Alene River and Lake Coeur d’Alene.
A good choice for birdwatchers is the Pioneer Historic Byway, which runs from Franklin, the first settlement established in Idaho in 1860, to Soda Springs and Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The route winds through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest on U.S. 91, U.S. 30 and Idaho 34, passing by yellow and gold stands of aspen trees and blazing red maples during the fall.
Travelers can check out 18 points of interest along the 127-mile route, including Mormon pioneer history, a cold-water geyser that erupts on the hour in Soda Springs, and farther north, Grays Lake refuge. The 19,000-acre refuge is home to 163 species of birds.