Out here, it’s just you, your motorcycle and the open road.
From the remote Owyhees to Downtown Boise to the famous Hells Canyon, Southwest Idaho is the wide open country that motorcyclists dream of. Here you can begin your day riding through the desert and end it in the mountains, camping under the stars.
Ready to hit the road? We’ve outlined 5 motorcycle trips that will show you the best of Southwest Idaho.
Hwy 95 — From the Owyhees to Hells Canyon
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. On this route, you can experience the Wild West at its best: untouched, untamed and unadulterated.
Stop #1: Owyhee Wilderness
Driving through the rugged Owyhee wilderness as the desert turns gold.
As you ride through the Owyhee wilderness, jagged cliff faces and narrow river canyons cut through the desert landscape. Along the way, you might spot some bighorn sheep trotting through the sagebrush and raptors soaring in the skies above.
Take an hour-long detour east of Hwy 95 and explore Silver City, one of the last mining settlements still left standing from Idaho’s gold rush days — Or stop by Jump Creek Falls, a waterfall hidden in the desert.
Stop #2: The Snake River
Cotton candy skies paint the perfect sunset over the Snake River.
After driving through the desert, you’ll pass through the Snake River Valley and cross the powerful waters of the Snake River. More than 2 million wild salmon and steelhead trout return this river every year.
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Stop along the river bank to cast a line underneath the willows and cottonwoods. Be on the lookout for the 274 bird species that nest here. The peace and quiet you find around the river makes this spot a great place to camp for the night.
Stop #3: Hells Canyon
Winding along the rugged canyon walls through the deepest river gorge in North America.
Up past Council, Idaho, the dense ponderosa forests open up to the stunning expanse of Hells Canyon. Here, the powerful Snake River slices through the Seven Devils mountains, creating a 7900-feet deep river gorge — the deepest in the Pacific Northwest. The ride through here is unforgettable.
While you’re in Hells Canyon, don’t miss out on the adventure of a lifetime by rafting down the river with Hells Canyon Raft, America’s Rafting Co., or Hells Canyon Adventures. Getting a total adrenaline rush as you race through surging Class IV rapids is definitely an experience you need to cross of your bucket list.
Want to spend a few more days in Hells Canyon? Check out our 5-Day Hells Canyon Adventure Guide
Hwy 55 — From the valley to the mountains
Hwy 55 is the quintessential Idaho road trip. This winding mountain highway will take you from the sandy desert to stunning mountain views, and everything in between. You can hike through alpine meadows or raft powerful rivers — all right along the highway.
Stop #1: The Payette River
Rafters brave Class III rapids along the Payette River — a natural roller coaster ride.
For 35 miles, Hwy 55 follows along the winding path of the Payette River. Stop at Banks to stretch your legs and relax by the river. Just a few miles further down the road you can grab a burger at Cougar Mountain lodge, where you can sit along the river bank and watch for bald eagles swooping by.
Stop #2: Lake Cascade
Sailing across the stunning blue waters of Lake Cascade, pushed by a gentle mountain breeze.
This stunning reservoir is one of the largest bodies of water in Idaho. Surrounded by the rugged Central Mountains and towering ponderosa forests, Lake Cascade is a great spot to stop after a long day on the road. Dive into the water for a quick swim, or rent a kayak or paddleboard and glide along the surface as you take in the scenery.
Stop into Cascade for a bite to eat. This small mountain town is a great jumping off point for outdoor adventures. You can soak in hidden hot springs nearby, or hit the trails for some epic views.
Stop #3: McCall
Relaxing along the calm shores of Payette Lake after a long day on the road.
Nestled along the shores of Payette Lake, McCall is a four-season hub for outdoor adventure. Hike along the trails winding through the meadows of Ponderosa State Park, or cruise along the lake and watch the sunset from the deck. In the winter, hit the slopes with fresh powder at Brundage or Tamarack.
Back in town, wander the streets lined with cafes, pubs, bistros, boutiques and ice cream shops — great for window shopping or grabbing a bite to eat.
Spending the weekend in McCall? Check out our travel ideas here.
I-84 — From the City of Trees to the Desert
Wide open spaces, the desert wind, epic sunsets…you’ll find all of this just miles outside America’s fastest growing city. Riding east I-84 will take you through Craters of the Moon, Sun Valley and eventually Yellowstone. But within Southwest Idaho, you’ll find some iconic sights no one should miss.
Stop #1: Boise Metro Area
Exploring the vibrant streets of Boise during the Saturday market.
With a thriving culinary scene and an artsy downtown core, the City of Trees has plenty to explore. Feel free to grab a pint at one of the many breweries in town or catch some live local music along the river. Art can be found all over the city.
Looking for a great view of Boise? Drive up Bogus Basin Road for some stunning views and sunsets.
Looking out at the City of Trees from the foothills along Bogus Basin Road.
Just 30 minutes south of Boise’s downtown core is the World Center for Birds of Prey and the Morley Nelson Snake River Conservation Area. Take a detour here, and you’ll spot hundreds of hawks, eagles, falcons and more swooping above the sagebrush desert.
Curious about experiencing Boise like a local? Check out our guide here
Stop #2: Bruneau Sand Dunes
Pulling into Bruneau Sand dunes after riding through the barren desert.
Ride just over an hour east of Boise on I-84, and you’ll hit Bruneau Sand Dunes. At first glance, this iconic Idaho landmark looks like a scene from the Sahara Desert — windswept dunes for miles, warmed by the desert sun. At 470 feet high, the tallest sand dune here is also the tallest single-structured sand dune in North America.
Take a quick detour here for the afternoon. If you’re feeling adventurous, take out a sled or snowboard and go sandboarding down the dunes (Check out the video below.) Dunes Lake is also nearby, where you can dive into the cool water or go fishing. At night, sleep under the stars and take in the thousands of constellations in the night sky.
Stop #3: Three Island Crossing
From Bruneau Sand Dunes, ride just over 30 minutes east along ID-78 and Old US 30, and you’ll find yourself at what used to be one of the most dangerous stops along the Oregon Trail. Three Island Crossing is where many pioneers and homesteaders braved the powerful waters of the Snake River.
All throughout the park, you can see the old ruts of where the wagons once passed through the area over a 100 years ago. At the visitor’s center, you can find old artifacts and photographs from the days when the pioneers crossed the Oregon Trail.
Feeling tired? You can even rent a rustic cabin to stay for the night.
Riding through the cool mountain air as the sun sets over Horseshoe Bend.
Freedom — that’s what inspires every motorcyclist to take the road less traveled. Freedom to roam. Freedom to wander. Freedom to explore.
That kind of freedom is just a way of life in Southwest Idaho. Here, taking the scenic route is strongly encouraged and choosing your own journey is always possible.