Idaho: Six Scenic Byways in Two Days

Idaho: Six Scenic Byways in Two Days
Idaho has around 30 routes that are officially designated scenic byways. I spend a weekend in late September to take on a half dozen of these with a group of riders led by some avid motorcyclists from the Idaho Tourism Department.

After landing at Boise Airport, I’m just 20 minutes away from High Desert Harley-Davidson where I pick up my rental Road King Classic. I stuff the saddlebags and take a quick ride through downtown to the Marriot SpringHill Suites Hotel. Eventually, our assortment of Japanese and American cruisers takes over a corner of the parking lot. We toss our jackets and helmets in our rooms and head to Boise for our first group ride—on the Cycle Pub.

Calvin Coolidge described Craters of the Moon as "a weird and scenic landscape peculiar to itself."

This giant bicycle-like contraption with seating for about a dozen folks (who provide the pedal power for this eco-friendly machine) is controlled by a hired driver who steers, brakes, and provides tunes from his iPod. Our navigator explains as we sign waivers that there is to be no drinking while pedaling on public roads, and he then takes us on a pub crawl and tour of Idaho’s capital city.

We stop at Huddle Sports Grill on 10th Street to sample a variety of local brews made by the Crooked Fence Brewery. Idaho has one of the largest contiguous hops farms in the world, and Boise has a thriving microbrew scene. We then pedal our way to the adjoining Red Feather Lounge and Bittercreek Alehouse restaurants. The owners of these establishments are adamant about serving only locally sourced food, and they take recycling to an extreme level. They even have a vermiculture operation in the basement. We go downstairs to tour their farm and peek into the large vats of worms that are busy composting waste from the venues, which includes the paper menus.

Motorcycle & Gear

2012 Harley-Davidson FLHRC Road King Classic

Helmet: Bell Star Hess
Jacket: H-D Women’s FXRG
Pants: Cortech Tour Master DSX Denim
Boots: Tour Master Solution 2.0 WP
Gloves: Tour Master Gel Cruiser
Scarf: John Doe Tunnels Multifunctional Headwear

Back on the Cycle Pub, we are cheered by onlookers as we furiously pedal. Someone in our party pulls out a GPS and calculates our top speed at around 7 mph; admittedly, it was downhill.

This works up an appetite, so we park and head to the latest hot-spot eatery, The Fork. This restaurant is housed inside one of Boise’s oldest buildings, built in 1891. It originally was a bank, and its 15-ton vault is still in the basement. We pedal back to the starting point and return to the hotel to rest up for our two-wheeled ride in the morning.

Four Scenic Byways in One Day

At dawn, we cram our suitcases in the chase vehicle. It’s clutches out for our first scenic byway. After a brief detour for a photo-op at the state capitol building, we follow State Street through town and go north on ID-55, a two-lane highway that winds alongside the Payette River. I notice fly fishermen and kayakers in the river, and we mind the speed limits when passing through the handful of rural communities. Around 80 miles later, we break to stretch our legs a bit at the bridge in Banks where the Payette River forks.

A seven-mile loop leads visitors through Craters of the Moon Park.

On to the Wildlife Loop Road Scenic Byway, we go west through Garden Valley and into the Boise National Forest. The only “wildlife” I spot in the forest are the occasional off-roaders on dual sport bikes and hunters on ATVs disappearing up dirt trails, but I am told this area is home to plenty of critters, including elk, deer, wild turkeys, eagles, cougars, bears, and wolves. Massive wildfires have been burning not far from here, and we are engulfed in a light yellow haze. Being from the Los Angeles area, I feel right at home.

Soon we are on a leg of the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway. A check of the map shows that we could have chosen to skip the first two byways and taken this one all the way from Boise via ID-21.

We reach Banner Summit, one of Idaho’s highest altitudes, and park the motorcycles to take in this view from 7,056 feet. Descending the mountain to warmer temperatures, we fuel up in the small mountain town of Stanley. Ten minutes south on ID-75, we arrive for lunch at Redfish Lake.