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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Idaho Vacation: Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway, Part 1 Boise to Idaho City

The Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway is one of the most scenic and diversified byways imaginable.  It has urban elements at one end, large reservoirs, mining towns, mountain passes, beautiful timber and mountain ranges, rivers,  peaceful valleys and the majestic Sawtooth mountains at the other end.  There are many ways to fit this byway into an Idaho vacation. 

Because of the many things to describe on this byway the post is given in three parts - Part 1 Boise to Idaho City, Part 2 Idaho City to Lowman, and Part 3 Lowman to Stanley. 
The 2-lane paved byway is anchored by Boise on one end and Stanley on the other end.  We will start this trip at the Boise end of this 131 mile wonderful trip.  In addition to the beauty and adventure of the byway, there are many side trips that can be taken from this route. 

Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway near Diversion Dam

The byway begins near the junction of I-84 and I-21, just southeast of Boise.  The first side trip comes only a mile or so after getting started.  The Oregon Trail Reserve, a 66 acre site is just 500 feet off of our route.  The address for the reserve is 4500 E Lake Forest Dr, Boise.  The reserve features a scenic view of the Boise Front and the historic Kelton Ramp, a path forged by overland travelers heading down the rim to the Boise River.  More information on the reserve is here.

Diversion Dam Historic Sign
 Another mile or so we find our trip along side of the Boise River.  Diversion Dam was originally built to divert water for irrigation.  Shorty after its completion it was fitted with a power plant to supply electrical power for the construction of Arrowrock Dam a few miles upstream.  A history of Diversion Dam is here.

Diversion Dam With Power Plant
on Far Right Side, Boise River 

A couple more miles brings one to Discovery Park, one of three units of Lucky Peak State Park.  This popular roadside park has reservable shelters, picnic areas, fishing access with bike and walking trails.  Sandy Point located about 1/2 mile farther up the road and at the base of Lucky Peak Dam, offers  a great sandy beach and clear cool waters.  It is very popular during warmer weather.  The third unit of Lucky Peak State Park is Spring Shores, about seven more miles along Lucky Peak Reservoir and has a large marina in addition to watercraft rentals and a convenience store.  Admission is charged for these state park units. 

"Rooster Tail" Spillway from Lucky Peak Dam, Boise River

The road leaves the reservoir after the Sandy Point and dam area and loops over a modest hill to the junction of I-21 and FR 268.  FR268 leads to Spring Shores, on to Arrowrock Dam and Reservoir, the Boise National Forest and eventually to Atlanta, an early Idaho mining town.  My entry on Atlanta and the trip getting there is found here.

We stay on I-21 for this trip.  This road is also signed as FR 237.  The roadway follows an arm of Lucky Peak reservoir then enters a canyon with Mores Creek for a roadside companion.  Homes dot the mountain side landscape and the scenery  changes from dry desert to forested slopes.  Deer are numerous along the highway, especially in winter, and special caution is encouraged to avoid collisions. 

Historic Sign at Grimes Creek Junction on ID-21

Watch for the Grimes Creek about 12 miles past the FR237 junction.  The road up Grimes Creek offers fishing, lots of boondocking (no formal camp ground facilities) camping opportunities and access to backcountry ghost towns Placerville, New Centerville, and Pioneerville, among others. The area is a popular snow mobile and tubing area in winter  This area was an extremely important mining district in the latter 1800's.  The mining history is readily visible.  This is also a popular hunting area.

Continuing on I-21 we soon arrive at Idaho City, a historically important and well preserved mining town.  One could spend an entire day here exploring the visitors center, old cemetaries, historical buildings, and the Boise Basin Historical Museum.  See my entry about Idaho City here.

Wood Carving
Outside of Idaho
City Visitor Center

Wood Carving
Outside of Idaho
City Visitor Center

Additional Information Sources:
Guide to Idaho's Scenic Byways -, Idaho Division of Tourism Development, 700 West State Street, P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0093, Phone: (208) 334-2470
Boise City -, 150 N Capitol Blvd, Boise, ID 83702, 1-800-377-3529
Oregon Trail in Idaho -, 2205 Old Penitentiary Rd, Boise, ID 83712, 208-334-2682
Lucky Peak State Park -, Location: 8 miles SE of Boise, 74 Arrowrock Rd, Boise, ID 83716, (208) 334-2432
Idaho City Chamber of Commerce - 208-392-4159,,
Boise National Forest -    1249 S. Vinnell Way, Suite 200, Boise, ID 83709, (208) 373-4100,,, (Idaho City Ranger District 208-392-6681)

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