Here’s a question from a reader of RVtravel.com about boondocking.
We’ve been anticipating a trip into the “Wild West” for years and now are on our way from our home in St. Louis, the first gateway to the West. What would you suggest for a “don’t miss” driving tour where we can experience the wildness firsthand? —Bev and Don
Hi Bev and Don,
At the top of my list for wild areas is the vast expanse of forests and wilderness areas in Idaho. Three federally designated Wilderness Areas, where no wheeled vehicles of any kind – bicycles, baby strollers, or ox carts – are allowed, spread across this huge acreage of timberland. The largest, the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area, is joined in the north by the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, and in the west by the much smaller Gospel Hump Wilderness. Together this combined wilderness expands across the Idaho-Montana border almost to Missoula in the north, and south nearly to the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway near Stanley at the edge of the Sawtooth Wilderness Area.
Wrapped around the borders of all this wilderness, the Salmon, Payette, Challis, Boise, Bitterroot, and Nez Perce National Forests extend outward even further. Idaho residents call this expanse “what the rest of the U.S. used to be like.”
A great way to see this area is a combination of national and state designated Scenic Drives. Begin your journey at Missoula, Montana, up at the northeast corner, follow U.S. 12 southwest where the Lewis & Clark Trail parallels the Lochsa and Clearwater Rivers, officially the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway, to Kooskia. Turn south on State 13 a short way to Grangeville, where you pick up U.S. 95 and head south to New Meadows. Turn east on State Route 55 along the North Fork of the Payette River on the Payette River Scenic Byway. At Banks, turn east on the Banks-Lowman Road, the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway, to Lowman where you pick up State Route 21. Continue east on 21, the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway, to the 6,250-foot-high mountain town of Stanley.
Stanley is the only town in the state where the only three roads into or out of town are all designated scenic byways. You can abandon the circle tour here by taking State Route 75, the Sawtooth Scenic Byway, south to the ski resort towns of Sun Valley and Ketchum. However, if you head east instead of south on 75 you will be following the Salmon River Scenic Byway, where you pick up U.S. 93 near Challis and follow it the rest of the way back to the Montana border at 7,014 foot Lost Trail Pass and on into Missoula. About a 650-mile loop covering six Scenic Byways!
Take your time and bump along at your own speed. Hike the trails. Float a river. Catch some fish. Stay one night in every campground you come upon.
Do you have a question for Bob? Email him at bob.rvtravel (at) gmail.com .