experience the old west

HWY 95 Guide

Just a quick detour from Hwy 95 can lead to some stunning views of Hells Canyon.

Ever wonder what it would be like to experience the Old West before it was discovered?

Take a second to picture it: Imagine yourself trekking across the desert, scaling soaring mountain peaks and navigating deep canyons — before cities, roads and civilization moved into the picture.

Stretching from the Owyhee mountains to the depths of Hells Canyon, Hwy 95 takes you through some of the most remote (and picturesque) places in Southwest Idaho. 

Locals’ Tip: Check the road conditions before planning your trip. Summertime can sometimes mean construction, and winter can bring ice and snow. Check out Idaho’s road conditions here.

Owyhee Wilderness

Hwy 95 enters Idaho through the rugged Owyhee wilderness. Here, it’s as if the Old West days never ended.

Jagged rock faces loom over narrow river canyons. Raptors sweep across the clear blue skies above, while bighorn sheep trot through the sagebrush below.

You won’t find signs of civilization for miles.

Silver City Located an hour east of Hwy 95, tucked up in the Owyhee mountains, Silver City is one of the last few mining towns standing from Idaho’s gold rush days. Wander along the streets for just a few minutes and you’ll find cabins, campsites and mine shafts that look the way they did in the 1800s.

Jump Creek Fifteen minutes from Hwy 95 and a short hike from the parking lot, you’ll find a waterfall cascading over the the canyon walls into a clear pool below — the best spot to escape the heat.

Marsing

After the deserts of Owyhee county, Hwy 95 passes through patchwork vistas of lush fields, vineyards and orchards. This is the Snake River Valley — home to Southwest Idaho’s burgeoning Sunnyslope Wine Region. Here, long sunny days and soil from extinct volcanoes produce nationally-acclaimed wines.

Drive a few minutes east of Marsing, and you’ll meet self-made winemakers and tight-knit families who all share a deep-rooted pride in their craft. Take a quick detour, and you can taste the wines Vogue and Travel + Leisure Magazine have been raving about. 

Don’t miss these awesome wineries!

The Snake River

snake river hwy 55 travel ideas guide

After passing through orchards and vineyards, Hwy 95 crosses over the powerful waters of the Snake River. After winding through Marsing, the clear waters travel all the way to the Columbia River, eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean.

Camping Along the banks of the river, you’ll find quiet campgrounds shaded by willows and cottonwoods. Check out the Idaho RV Campgrounds Association for the best spots.

Fishing You can catch bass, catfish, trout and more. Need a fishing license? Pick one up along the way in Fruitland at Hammer Stores or the Shell gas station.

Birding Thousands of species of birds nest along the Snake River, including the Great Blue Heron, American Kestrel and more.

Boating The wide, calm waters of the Snake River make it perfect to take the boat out for a spin. (If you’re from out-of-state, you can use your boat in Idaho waters as long as you have a valid registration in another state.)

Local’s tip: Check out Martin’s Landing for a quiet campsite with easy boat access.

Weiser

After crossing over the Snake River, Hwy 95 winds through rolling hills until it reaches Weiser. Named after a nearby river, this town is filled with historic buildings that date back all the way to 1863.

Locals’ Tip: Explore the Galloway House and the Union Pacific Train Depot, then treat yourself at Weiser Classic Candy.

National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest & Festival Every year, hundreds of fiddlers travel to the “Fiddling Capital of the World” to compete and keep the tradition of the Old West alive. During the week-long festival in June, the sounds of fiddles fill the streets of Weiser with folk songs, polkas and waltzes.

Bike the Weiser River Trail Explore rolling hills and dense forests, spotting deer, bears and raptors along the way. Following the route of an old railroad, the Weiser River Trail begins in downtown Weiser and finishes in New Meadows.

Payette National Forest

After Weiser, HWY 95 climbs up through the Payette National Forest. Ponderosa pines tower over the highway as it meanders through the rugged terrain. With the exception of a few ranches and gas stations sprinkled along the way, there are no cities for miles — only wilderness.

Seven Devils Mountains The craggy peaks of the Seven Devils Mountains soar above Payette National Forest. Here, you’ll find jaw-dropping views of the Snake River cutting through the walls of Hells Canyon.

Our favorite way to experience the Seven Devils Mountains? Stay at the Seven Devils Lodge. Located on an actual working cattle ranch, you’ll get the true Western experience, from shooting bows and arrows to horseback riding through mountain meadows.

New Meadows Located at the junction of Hwy 55 and Hwy 95, the small mountain town of New Meadows is a gateway to quiet camping spots and picturesque hikes. It’s also home to the 45th parallel, the official halfway point between the equator and the North Pole.

Locals’ Tip: Hike Hard Creek Falls, a 6.9-mile trail through Payette National Forest. At the end of the trail, you’ll find a secret waterfall tucked deep into the mountains.

Hells Canyon

Photo courtesy of America’s Rafting Co.

Just past Council, the ponderosa forests open up to the stunning expanse of Hells Canyon. This is where surging Class IV whitewater slices through the border of Oregon and Idaho, creating steep canyon walls and powerful rapids — and it’s all best experienced up close by jet boat or raft. 

Our recommendations? Book an all-day jet boat or rafting tour through Hells Canyon Adventures. (If you want to extend your trip by 3-5 days, check out America’s Rafting Co.)

Along the rim of the canyon are some unforgettable hikes with stunning panoramic views. The banks of the river itself are sandy, lined with secret campsites and fishing spots along the way.

Locals’ Tip: For even more scenic views, drive along the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway.

Hwy 95 should definitely make your road trip bucket list, but here’s two last things to remember before you go:

1. Don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path.

2. Take time to enjoy the view.

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