Touring the Byway
140 Miles | 9 Days/ 8 Nights | Gateway City: Twin Falls, Idaho

Day One

We recommend starting your journey in Twin Falls, where you can begin exploring geologic phenomena and the region’s heritage. Begin your visit at the Twin Falls Visitor Center, followed by one or more of the historic walking tours of downtown. You can also visit the Orton Botanical Gardens and the Herrett Center for the Arts and Science before enjoying Centennial Waterfront Park, Pillar Falls, Perrine Coulee Falls, and Shoshone Falls. Spend the night at the Fillmore Inn.

Day Two

On Day Two, on your way to Jerome, you can briefly visit the Jerome County Lava Tube, one of several caves and tunnels around Twin Falls. From there, you can visit the Minidoka National Historic Site, the Idaho Falls Farm and Ranch Museum, and the Jerome County Historic Museum before an overnight at the Governor’s Mansion Bed and Breakfast in Shoshone.

Day Three

Beginning Day Three, you can stroll the Shoshone Walking Tour before visiting Idaho’s Mammoth Cave, the Shoshone Bird Museum of Natural History, and the Shoshone Ice Caves. Enjoy an overnight at the Silver Creek Hotel in Bellevue.

Day Four

On Day Four, you’ll be headed for the Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway, stopping at the Hayspur State Fish Hatchery and Carey Lake Wildlife Management Area. Next up, Craters of the Moon National Monument, where you can explore spatter cones, the nature trail, the inferno cone, and Indian tunnel.  If there’s time, the EBR-1 Atomic Museum is located on US 26 between Arco and Idaho Falls. An overnight at the Mackay Mansion Bed and Breakfast will position you to begin following the remainder of the Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway in the morning.

Day Five

The next morning, you can tour the Lost River Museum and take the Mackay Mine Tour. And then Mt. Borah, the highest mountain in Idaho. When you reach Challis, stretch your legs on the Challis Historic District Walking Tour and relax in the Challis Hot Springs before an overnight at the Tea Cup Bed & Breakfast.

Day Six

On Day Six, it’s time to explore the North Custer Museum and Land of the Yankee Fork State Park and Interpretive Center with an option to take the Custer Motorway Adventure Loop Road.

Day Seven

From there, it’s time to catch the Salmon River Scenic Byway and head for Salmon and an overnight at Syringa Lodge Bed and Breakfast.

Day Eight

Before leaving Salmon the next morning, be sure to tour the Sacajawea Interpretive and Cultural Center and the Lemhi County Historic Museum.
On your way to Missoula, stop at the Lost Trail Pass Visitor Information Center. Crossing into Montana, you will travel on the Bitterroot Valley Scenic Drive. Spend the day exploring Missoula tomorrow after an overnight at Blue Mountain Bed and Breakfast.

Day Nine

Be sure to take the Downtown Missoula Historic and Art Walking Tour and visit the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, the Montana Museum of Art and Culture, and the Montana Natural History Center before strolling the Riverfront Walking Trail. From there, we wish you a safe and pleasant journey home.

View the Detailed Itinerary below to see the full route, which is complete with dining, shopping, and lodging recommendations!

Highlighted Attractions

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Craters of the Moon

Some have said that the ocean of lava flows and cinder cone islands at Craters of the Moon is a “weird and scenic landscape peculiar to itself. ” President Coolidge designated it to preserve what he called “the most unusual and unearthly lunar landscapes.” It is so unique that Apollo astronauts used the area to learn to detect good rock specimens in an unfamiliar and harsh environment. Encompassing three major lava fields, and 400 square miles of sagebrush steppe grasslands, the Monument covers 343,000 acres. The 60 distinct solidified lava flows that form the Craters of the Moon Lava Field range in age from 15,000 years old to just 2,000 years. Lying along the Great Rift of Idaho, where molten lava shot through to form surrounding mountains, almost every variety of basaltic lava, as well as tree molds (cavities left by lava-incinerated trees), lava tubes, and many other volcanic features are represented.

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EBR-1 Atomic Museum

Plan to drive on US 20/26 towards Arco to visit Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 1 (EBR-I). Colorful, interactive displays also tell the story of EBR-I’s sibling, Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 2 (EBR-II), which once powered much of the site and operated with a novel closed fuel cycle. The museum also has two aircraft nuclear propulsion prototypes, a reactor control room, remote handling devices for radioactive materials, radiation detection equipment, and more. You can walk through the museum using the self-guided tour instructions or take a guided tour.

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Mackay Mine Hill Tour

Relics, structures, small mines, and remnants of houses in “copper city” dot the wild backcountry of Mine Hill, dating from 1879 when ore was discovered. Over the years, almost a million tons of ore have been removed from the mountain. Interpretive Sites along the 20-mile route include the Smelter Site and Hardrock Mining Exhibit, Cossack Tunnel and Compressor Building, Horseshoe Mine and Taylor Sawmill, Anderson Cabin, White Knob Townsite, Aerial Tramway Headhouse, Ausich Cabin Site, Cliff City Town Site, Cliff City Cabin, Cliff City Smelter, Shay Railroad Trestle, and the Empire Mine Ore Bin Location. Three color-coded routes for ATVs, Cars, and 4WDs graded by difficulty are available at the Mackay City Hall.

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Land of the Yankee Fork State Park and Interpretive Center

Yankee Fork preserves a mining camp established on the Salmon River, named because everyone in the party was a Yankee. Even though no gold was discovered immediately, prospectors stayed on and finally found gold in 1870. Soon after, the Yankee Fork Mining District was organized, and after the discovery of the General Custer Mine in 1876, the area began to flood with miners. By 1910, the three popular sites, Bonanza, Custer, and Bayhorse, were all but deserted. The interpretive center illustrates the area’s mining heritage through exhibits, a gold panning station, and audiovisual programs. The grounds also feature a ¼ mile trail detailing the archeological finds of a nearby Challis Bison Jump Site.

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Custer Motorway Adventure Road

For an authentic Idaho mining town experience, explore this stage and freight wagon toll road that was used by mining supply trains running from Custer and Bonanza delivering gold bullion to Challis. The only access for a decade, tollkeepers charged $4.00 a wagon and a team of four animals, plus 50 cents for each additional animal. Initially, the stage fare was $11.00, dropping to $8.00 by April 1880. The backcountry Forest Road 070 trip is scattered with several stagecoach stations, old barns, mining equipment, deteriorating log cabins, and weathered grave markers. Explore the ghost towns of Bonanza, Custer, and Bayhorse and the old tollgate. Interpretive signs provide more information. From start to finish, the loop drive is 98 miles with 46 miles of dirt/gravel road with no services and 52 miles of paved highway. Get a map at the Land of the Yankee Fork Interpretive Center. Stop at the Custer Cemetery, the McGowan Museum at Custer, the Yankee Fork Gold Dredge, and the Sunbeam Dam Interpretive Site.