|Scenic vistas of the Sawtooth Mountains (courtesy iexplore.com)|
|Upper Payette River along the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway|
|Classic scene at the Rainbow Bridge on Idaho 55, Payette River Scenic Byway|
|Idaho scenic byway routes in Southern Idaho|
|North Fork Owyhee River canyon|
|Silver City - hiking up Jordan Creek with Wendy|
The cooler weather and rain this week should make the colors really pop this weekend when the sun comes back to shine on a beautiful display. Aspen trees, tamaracks and cottonwoods are turning yellow, and different species of shrubs are glowing orange, yellow and red, particularly at higher elevations.
To enjoy the colors, I'm recommending taking a drive in the mountains on some of Idaho's scenic byways. Here are five recommendations - click on the links to see the scenic byway detailed descriptions via VisitIdaho:
|Fire closure area in the Boise National Forest.|
(click on map to enlarge)
1. Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway - Idaho 21 and the Banks-to-Lowman Highway are both open now after the 188,404-acre Pioneer Fire has moderated and is hopefully getting close to full containment after the cool weather and moisture this week. This would be a good opportunity to not only see fall colors where things didn't burn to a crisp, but also gauge the fire damage in some of your favorite recreation areas. There is a large closure area in effect at the moment off the highway. See the map below.
2. Sawtooth Scenic Byway - The Sawtooth Valley is at a higher elevation and thus, the colors are happening big-time right now. Following Idaho State Highway 75 through Ketchum-Sun Valley and then over Galena Summit into the Sawtooth Valley should be spectacular. Do the big loop by combining the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Highway on Idaho 21 from Boise with the Sawtooth Scenic Byway on the way home, going from Stanley to Ketchum and then back to the Treasure Valley via U.S. 20. Stop for lunch in Ketchum. There are many great restaurants to choose from. I personally like the Pioneer, Whiskey Jacques, and Lefty's.
3. Payette River Scenic Byway - Take Idaho 55 north to McCall to enjoy fall colors along the North Fork of the Payette River and in the Payette National Forest. Once in McCall, keep going north on Warren Wagon Road toward Upper Payette Lake and Burgdorf Hot Springs to see even more brilliant colors. Bring a swimsuit and towel to enjoy the natural geothermal hot water at Burgdorf. The hot springs won't be accessible by vehicle much longer until snow shuts the road and turns it into a snowmobile highway. That usually happens in late November. Stop for lunch in McCall -- there's a great sushi place as well as multiple other venues with sandwiches and burgers.
4. Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway - Take a big drive from Grand View to Jordan Valley, Oregon on this scenic byway on backcountry dirt and gravel roads. It's about 100 miles and full day's drive to cover the byway. Beyond the BLM online guide, we provide all the details on this scenic drive in our popular guidebook, The Owyhee Canyonlands - An Outdoor Adventure Guide, by yours truly and fine arts photographer Mark Lisk. There are restaurants and services in Grand View and Jordan Valley. Make sure you top off your gas tank before venturing off into the Owyhees!
5. Take a scenic drive to Silver City in the Owyhee Mountains. The aspen trees are turning color in the quaint mining ghost town, located near Murphy. There are places to go hiking and mountain biking in Silver City. Details are available in The Owyhee Canyonlands - An Outdoor Adventure Guide. To reach Silver City, go south of Nampa on Idaho 45 to the Snake River and junction with Idaho 78. Turn left to head for Murphy and watch for a signed right-hand turn to Silver City. It's paved road for a while, and then it turns to dirt. Pack a lunch and enjoy the day!