Fall colors are popping throughout the mountains of Idaho; take a drive on our lovely scenic byways.

Reposted with permission from Steve Stuebner, Stueby’s Outdoor Journal

The fall colors are just beginning to happen in the Treasure Valley. But in the mountains, the aspen trees are turning yellow and orange, the tamarack needles are turning yellow, the shrubs are turning orange and red, and this weekend would be a perfect time to go for a scenic drive — and maybe a side-hike — to enjoy the kaliedoscope of colors. (Click through to Steve’s blog to see more photos.)

Wood River Valley

Wood River Valley (courtesy SunValleyrents.com)

So where are you going to go? Start by taking a look at the Idaho Scenic Byways web site, provided by our friends at VisitIdaho. There are now a total of 30 official scenic byways that you can explore in statewide. The drives that I’d recommend include:

  • The Sawtooth Scenic Byway - This byway runs from Shoshone to Stanley on Idaho 75. You’ll see the cottonwood trees turning color along the Big Wood River, and then things really get brilliant with the aspen trees in the Ketchum/Sun Valley area. Consider a side hike in Adams Gulch on the left side of the road, just north of Ketchum. Check out the Sun Valley web cams for a sneak-peek. Going north, you’ll see some beautiful aspen groves in the Boulder Mountains on the right side of the road. And then the byway continues north over Galena Summit, where you’ll be treated to a huge view of the Sawtooth Valley, the headwaters of the Salmon River, the Sawtooth Wilderness on the left, and the White Cloud Mountains on the right.
  • The Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway – Follows Idaho 21 from Boise to Idaho City to Lowman to Stanley. You’ll see a cornucopia of colors in the Boise National Forest, with a menagerie of yellows, oranges and reds in the shrubs and underbrush below the stately ponderosa pine trees between Idaho City and Lowman. You’ll see some pretty groves of aspens as you get closer to Stanley. Stop by Stanley Lake Campground to enjoy the views.

    Fall colors in the Sawtooths (courtesy explore.org)

    Fall colors in the Sawtooths (courtesy explore.org)

  • Do a big combination loop by driving the Ponderosa Pine byway to Stanley and then follow the Sawtooth byway to Ketchum/Sun Valley and return to Boise via U.S. 20. Allow a full day to complete this drive, or break it up by staying overnight in Stanley or Ketchum/Sun Valley.
  • The Payette River Scenic Byway – This is a familiar drive for many from Boise to McCall, but it won’t disappoint when it comes to fall colors. On this route, you’ll see tamarack or western larch trees turning yellow by the time you reach Smith’s Ferry and onward to McCall and Payette Lake. Plus, you’ll see lots of colorful shrubs in the Boise National Forest along the way and isolated aspen groves here and there. Check the McCall web cams for a sneak-peek for the lake view. Take a side hike in Ponderosa State Park once you’re in McCall. You’ll see lots of colors in the park.
  • The Owyhee Backcountry Byway - This is a more adventurous scenic drive because it involves 85 miles of dirt road between the paved portals of Grand View and Jordan Valley, OR. But it is truly a scenic drive into the Owyhee Mountains and Canyonlands. You’ll cottonwoods and aspens throughout the route. Bring plenty of food and water because there are no services along the route. Allow a full day for the drive. Expect to encounter hunters in vehicles and ATV’s along the way.
  • Murphy to Silver City – Wendy and I went hiking in Silver City on Tuesday, and the cottonwoods and aspens were peaking a brilliant yellow along Jordan Creek. It’s about two hours from Boise to Silver City. Take Idaho 45 south of Nampa to Murphy, and then watch for a signed turnoff to Silver City east of Murphy. The road is paved for a while, and then it turns to dirt. A high-clearance vehicle is needed to navigate the bumpy, rocky road to Silver City. As you drop down from the pass into Silver City, turn left at a Y-junction by the ATV parking area and rest room, and then proceed through town to a BLM parking area and rest room. Take a walk up Jordan Creek to stretch your legs. Bring your own food and water. The Silver City Hotel may or may not be open on the weekend, and it’s closed during the week.