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Sawtooth Drive

From Boise, through the Sawtooth Mountains, to Shoshone

Mileage240 miles (387 km)
DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.5 hours, 12 minutes
SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.All Seasons
RoadwaysIdaho Highways 21 and 75
ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, hotels, pharmacies, etc.Boise, ID, Stanley, ID, Shoshone, ID, Idaho City, ID, Lower Stanley, ID, Sun Valley, ID, and Ketchum, ID
Rating
3.8 average from 56 votes
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Elevation Graph for Sawtooth Drive

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A scenic drive that leaves the desert environment of Boise, heads through the Sawtooth Range, which is part of the Rocky Mountains, and then meanders to the high-desert town of Shoshone.

Sawtooth Mountains
Sawtooth Mountains

Before leaving Boise, consider a stop at Morrison Knudsen Nature Center (A1) or World Center for Birds of Prey (A2) which will give you a glimpse of the wildlife in Idaho, or head to the Idaho Historical Museum (M1) which tells the story of Idaho from prehistoric times through the fur trade, the gold rush, and pioneer settlement to the present.

Heading east on ID-21, you will soon arrive at the Lucky Peak Dam, where you can enjoy a picnic at Discovery Picnic Area (H1) or swim on the beach of the Boise River at the Sandy Point Beach (W1).

As you continue east, you will see evidence of the area’s volcanic past. Thirty-four miles from Boise, you will arrive in Idaho City, where in the 1860s, it was the location of one of the biggest gold booms in the United States. The Boise Basin Museum (M2) is the perfect location to learn more about mining in the area.

Approaching Lowman in 31 miles, you will see 46,000 acres of forest recovering from the 1989 fire caused by lightning. Along the way, there are several interpretive signs.

After Lowman, you arrive at the Kirkham Hot Springs (W2), where the South Fork Payette River has multiple natural hot waterfalls that create warm pools. As the drive continues to climb, take advantage of the many turnouts and overlooks to see the Sawtooth Range to the east of the road.

As you approach Grandjean, consider a side trip to its hot springs or to the Grandjean Trailhead (H6) which travels along the South Fork Payette River. Continuing on ID-21, you will arrive at the 7,056-foot Banner Summit and the road heads south as you enter the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (H2) where you can enjoy hikes, swim in the lakes, and explore nature.

The Park Creek Overlook (V1) offers a chance to gaze at the magnificent Sawtooth Range. For another view and access to Stanley Lake, turn right onto Stanley Lake Road for the Elk Mountain Overlook (T1). In 2-miles, you will arrive at Stanley Lake where you can enjoy swimming, boating, or fishing, or continue on Stanley Lake Road another 4-miles for a spectacular view of Elk Mountain shimmering on Stanley Lake.

Once in Stanley, the drive merges onto ID-75. This drive heads right, however, you can follow the Salmon River by turning left.

Heading South on ID-75, the Stanley Ranger Station (I1) lies ahead in 5-miles, where you can get information about local hikes and purchase any passes that you may need.

Redfish Lake (W3) and the nearby Little Redfish Lake have many beaches and trails that head into the Sawtooth Wilderness. The scene is almost surreal with the blue-green water and the surrounding mountain peaks. Kayaking, canoeing, and exploring are popular activities here. The Sawtooth Fish Hatchery (A3) farms salmon for release into the local streams and rivers and is open for tours.

Continuing south on ID-75, you will pass many hiking opportunities within the Sawtooth National Forest and lakes. Twentyfour miles from the Hatchery, the Galena Summit Overlook (V2) offers a panoramic view of the Sawtooth Range and in another mile, you will head over the 8,701-foot Galena Summit.

After the Galena Summit, the road descends into the Big Wood River Valley, where the Boulder Mountains begin to rise in the east. In 27 miles, you leave the Sawtooth National Forest and arrive in Ketchum, where a short side-trip on Sun Valley Road will bring you to Sun Valley, a historic resort from the 1930s and Hemingway penned For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Heading south on ID-75, the road will soon intersect with the US-20. Anglers and boaters will enjoy a side trip to Magic Reservoir (W4).

In 10 miles from the intersection, the Shoshone Ice Cave (H3) is a lava tube-formed cave and the temperatures are cool enough to maintain the ice within the cave. Guided tours are available.

Continuing on ID-97 for 9 miles, Mammoth Cave (H4) is another lava-tube cave through which you can enjoy a 1/4-mile hike. Explore the nearby Shoshone Bird Museum of Natural History which features birds, butterflies, and mammals mounted on display as well as a large fossil collection of dinosaurs and fish and many other items that pertain to history and nature.

This scenic drive completes as you arrive in Shoshone. From here, continue on US-93 to Twin Falls, where a short side-trip will bring you to Falls Ave. and the spectacular 212-foot plunge of the Shoshone Falls (H5), best seen during the spring when the snow is melting. To return to Boise, head north on I-84.

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