Drive the Byway
photo courtesy Idaho Tourism
A DRIVE ALONG THE PAYETTE RIVER NATIONAL SCENIC BYWAY IS A ROADTRIP WORTH TAKING. MAKE IT A DAY TRIP OR PART OF A LONGER LOOP!
The Byway is a primary link between the populated Treasure Valley region to the sparsely populated mountains of central Idaho. It serves as one of only two highways that provide access between northern and southern Idaho—US 95 being the other. These two highways converge in New Meadows at the north junction of the byway.
Points of Interest
- Guerber Park
- Eagle Sports Park
- Southern Byway Portal
- Avimor Trailhead
- Horseshoe Bend City Park
- Horseshoe Bend Mill Pond
- Payette River-Banks Access
- Smith’s Ferry
- Fischer Pond Park
- Kelly’s Whitewater Park
- Lake Cascade State Park
- Lake Cascade
- Donnelly Rest Area
- Tamarack Recreation Area
- Historic Roseberry Townsite
- Farm to Market Road
- Ponderosa State Park
- Legacy Park
- Payette Lake
- Central Idaho Historical Museum
- Rotary Park
- McCall Fish Hatchery
- Brundage Mountain Resort
- Packer John’s Cabin
- New Meadows Depot and Dorsey Warr Park
- 45th Parallel Portal
Stops Along the Byway
1. Eagle Sports Park
The first highlight along the Payette River Scenic Byway is just outside the city of Eagle. This 85-acre park is the largest bike park in the country, featuring a 12,500 square foot skateboard park, BMX (bicycle motorcross) track, and trails.
2. Horseshoe Bend Kayak Park & Fish Ladder
The Horseshoe Bend Kayaking Park’s 100-yards of short drops, holes, surfable waves and powerful eddy lines are a tried-and-true destination for training in the pre-season, just a couple hours drive from the home of the world-class North Fork Championship. Horseshoe Bend’s own Tren Long, canoe slalom athlete competing for the United States, trains here.
3. Boise Basin Gold Rush: Queen of the Gold Camps
In the Spring of 1863, the Boise Basin gold discovery exploded on the world. Placerville, Centerville, Pioneerville, Quartzburg, and Idaho City were located in the center of the gold rush. Explore these historic mining towns along bubbling Harris Creek east from Horseshoe Bend, the last stopping off place before wagons headed over the high summit to the gold fields.
4. Payette River BAnks Access
The Payette River is famous for its incredible whitewater. This key put-in and take out for rafters and kayakers is located at the confluence of North Fork and South Fork. The lower North Fork narrows and drops 1,700 feet in the 16 miles above Banks, providing almost endless Class V rapids.
5. Smiths Ferry
Idaho 55 breaks out of the batholith (granite) canyon and the Payette River beside it then flows flat and calm. On the west side of Idaho 55, the Wellington Snow Park is the jumping-off point for groomed trails with access to Cascade, McCall, Ola, Stanley, Warm Lake, and Garden Valley. Snowmobilers will find 400 miles of trails, 250 of them groomed terrain. The Winter Wonderland Trail departs from the center of Smiths Ferry and winds through the scenic back country surrounding Cascade and Donnelly.
6. Kelly’s Whitewater Park
Kelly’s Whitewater Park is one of the most premier whitewater parks in the country. Kayakers, surfers, tubers, paddleboarders, and canoeists of all ages can enjoy the whitewater features in the park. In addition, visit the KWP welcome center, gallery and its cultural exhibits, stroll along the Strand – a 2.5 miles river trail, or view the action in the river from the 3.4 acres of landscaped grounds.
7. Lake Cascade State Park
Lake Cascade State Park provides diverse and exciting recreational opportunities throughout all four seasons. Rainbow trout, kokanee and coho salmon, small-mouth bass, and perch can be caught from the shore or by boat in summer or through the ice in winter. Hiking, bird watching, photography, mountain biking, boating, ice fishing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and other leisure pursuits are all easily accessible.
8. Tamarack Recreation Area
Located in the heart of Idaho’s Payette River Mountains, Tamarack Resort is truly four-season resort. The resort features a blend of mountain, meadow, and lake amenities for visitors of all ages. Skiing and snowboarding are available via a high-speed lift, which in the summer gives guests a chance at exceptional mountain biking, hiking, zipline, or a picnic-basket adventure.
9. Historic Roseberry Townsite
Thie historic Roseberry townsite is centered 1.5 miles east of Idaho 55 on east Roseberry Road and Farm to Market Road. The turn-of-the-century townsite features the Roseberry General Store, Valley County Museum, Finnish Church and Cemetary, and a restored barn amphitheater.
10. Ponderosa State Park
This beautiful park on the banks of Payette Lake features basalt cliffs, meadows, marshes, conifer forests, and open, sage-covered hills. It is also home to a variety of wildlife: bear, deer, fox, moose, and numerous birds. The park provides access to 5 miles of hiking and biking nature trails. Winter activities include snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
11. Legacy Park
This 10-acre community park near the heart of downtown McCall, borders Payette Lake and serves as one of the most cherished public spaces along the lakefront. The park features a pedestrian promenade along Lake Street with overlooks for viewing the lake and mountains beyond, a children’s spray-play garden, a small performance space, spaces for picnicking, sandy areas for beach play, and a sand volleyball court.
12. Central Idaho Historical Museum
A 4-acre 32-ton site listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its unique log structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937. The museum features local history exhibits and has on display the 32 ton Corliss Steam Engine.
13. Brundage Mountain Resort
Brundage Mountain is best known for its powder-packed glades and luxuriously wide-groomed runs. The mountain receives over 320 inches of snowfall annually. A web of mountain bike trails has also been developed on the ski slopes.
14. Packer John Cabin Park
Built in 1862 by John Welsh, Packer John’s cabin turned out to be one of the most historically significant landmarks during Idaho’s path to statehood. Centrally located between Lewiston and Boise, the cabin hosted two major conventions that led to Idaho’s formation. Today, not much is left of the cabin, but a well kept park with camping facilities and scenic Goose Creek abut the site.
15. New Meadows Depot and Dorsey Warr Park
New Meadows was founded at the end of the Pacific and Idaho Northern Railroad (P&IN), about 2 miles west of the old townsite of Meadows. The P&IN built the depot in 1911-12 and the town formed around it. The adjacent grassy block constitutes the Dorsey Warr Memorial Park, which features an informational kiosk, children’s playground, and public rest rooms.
Routes & Driving Resources
Make the Payette Scenic Byway part of a larger scenic tour:
The Payette Scenic Byway is part of an epic eight-day “Idaho Grand Loop.” Day 3 will put you in the heart of Idaho, starting in Stanley, Idaho and spending the night at Tamarack Resort.
Explore more of Idaho’s scenic byways
The Payette Scenic Byway connects to several others in the State. And for those who can’t get enough of Idaho’s beautiful roads, find many more routes to cruise.