Boise's Scenic Drive

Boise-Payette Loop, illus. by Michael Klein

Hot springs, small towns, whitewater fun, and hiking trails await on this scenic drive.

IF YOU'RE GOING...

Take advantage of the area’s local amenities and services:

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Starting outside Boise, this 150-mile loop rises from arid sagebrush desert to cool pine forests. It links three scenic byways, snaking past quiet towns, herds of elk, and some of the best white-water rafting spots in the West.

  • IDAHO CITY This town of 500 was once the Northwest's most populous city. Step back 150 years with a visit to the Boise Basin Museum, which houses a collection of rare bottles plucked from area trash heaps. (208) 392-4550.
  • KIRKHAM HOT SPRINGS After a four-mile detour east of Lowman on Highway 21, stop to soak in hot springs along the Payette River's south fork. It's a two-minute walk from Kirkham Campground. www.idahohotsprings.com.
  • BANKS The north and south forks of the Payette merge right at the Banks Store and Café. Grab a strong cup of joe before heading south on Highway 55 through the river's gorgeous canyon. (208) 793-2617.
  • THUNDER MOUNTAIN LINE At the town of Horseshoe Bend, hop aboard a classic Western locomotive with open-air train cars for a tour through secluded sections of the canyon. (877) 432-7245.
  • EAGLE ISLAND STATE PARK Stretch your legs at this grassy 545-acre day-use park four miles west of Highway 55. If exploring the network of equestrian and hiking trails heats you up, cool off with a few trips down the park's waterslide. (208) 939-0696, www.idahoparks.org/parks/eagleisland.aspx.
  • BOISE From Highway 55, take State Street into the city's vibrant downtown. Eighth Street brims with topnotch eats. Local favorite: the osso buco–style smoked boar shank at Gino's Italian Restaurant. (208-331-3771).

Illustration by Michael Klein

This article was first published in May 2008. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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