Payette River Scenic Byway, Idaho

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Payette River Scenic Byway

The Payette River Scenic Byway goes right through McCall as it takes you along 112 miles of Western Idaho’s beautiful countryside including old growth forest, scenic valleys, sparkling whitewater, and breathtaking canyons Read More

  • A beautiful 112 mile drive along Highway 55 that passes through McCall, starting in Eagle and ending in New Meadows.
  • The drive takes a minimum of 2.5 hours, but plan on 2 to 3 days to enjoy all the highlights along the way.
  • Experience the breathtaking scenery and rich history of Western Idaho via this byway.

Overview

The Payette River Scenic Byway is 112 mile drive through some of Western Idaho’s most beautiful landscape. Following along the Payette River’s famous whitewater at many points, this byway meanders through old growth forest, mountain valleys, and spectacular canyons. Starting at the historic town of Eagle in southern Idaho, you will pass through Smith’s Ferry, drive by sparkling Lake Cascade, and on into McCall. The byway ends at New Meadows, just 12 miles northwest of McCall. Breathtaking vistas, historic spots, and plenty of recreational opportunities along the way make this route fascinating and fun.

Driving Directions

Starting at McCall, you can follow the Payette River Scenic Byway by heading south on Highway 55 all the way to Eagle which is just outside of Boise. If you go northwest on Highway 55 to New Meadows, you will see the remaining 12 miles of the byway.

Time/Distance

The byway is 112 miles long and takes a minimum of about 2.5 hours if you drive it straight through. Plan on 1 to 3 days if you want to stop and experience most or all of the highlights along the way.

Highlights

  • Birdwatching – Bring your binoculars as you will likely spot many beautiful birds along this byway including wild Merriam’s turkeys, Pileated woodpeckers, Boreal owls, and Red-tailed hawks. Peregrine falcons, Golden eagles, and other splendid raptors migrate through this area.
  • Hembrey Creek Wetlands – These wetlands provide a natural habitat for Osprey and many other migratory birds.
  • Lake Cascade – One of Idaho’s largest lakes, this beautiful alpine lake and the surrounding area is great for sailing, windsurfing, camping, fishing, hiking, and mountain biking.
  • Winter recreation – During the winter this byway provides access to several ski resorts, hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails, and a variety of beautiful snowy terrain for Nordic skiing.
  • Rainbow Bridge – Built in 1933, this beautifully designed structure arches 410 feet across the Payette River. It is one of the byway’s most famous landmarks and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Thunder Mountain Train Ride – Be sure to stop in Horseshoe Bend to enjoy a vintage train ride along routes once used by the settlers.