Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway

Sign marking the Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway

The Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway is a 140-mile route through the heart of Idaho. The section of the route between Challis and Arco is along the western edge of the Lost River Mountains. The Lost River Mountains are a large desert fault block range that rises a mile above the valleys on either side. 9 of Idaho's 12 highest peaks are in the Lost River Mountains, including Borah Peak (Idaho's highest at 12,662').

At Arco, the byway turns to the west and crosses Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve before coming to Carey, then Richfield, then Shoshone where the Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway ends at the junction with the Sawtooth Scenic Byway (Idaho Highway 75). The entire length of the byway is on US Highway 93.

The road passes through steep walls of hardened lava as it leaves the Salmon River canyon
Rising out of the Salmon River canyon
Borah Peak, highest point in Idaho
Borah Peak

Gold was discovered near Mackay in 1879 although real production didn't get underway until 1884. Unlike most gold strikes, the amount of gold found in this area was enough to keep some of the miners working right up into the 1980's. Almost a million tons of ore were dug out of the ground in places like Cliff City and White Knob, although both towns were abandoned in the 1930's. If you're driving through the area, you might want to stop and check out Mackay's Mine Hill just for the spectacular views of the Lost River Mountains and the Lost River Valley.

The White Cloud Peaks showing above a valley off to the west
The White Cloud Peaks
The Lost River Valley is a well-treed riparian area along the Lost River
Lost River Valley

Arco is on the edge of the Idaho National Laboratory and was the first city on Earth to be lit by nuclear power (the Idaho National Laboratory was for many years a facility for research into the design and construction of nuclear power plants). King Mountain, just up the Lost River Valley from Arco, is the site of the World Hang Gliding Championships, located here because of the wondrous drafts of air flowing up the open valley.

McKay Reservoir on Lost River
McKay Reservoir
The City of McKay High Country Tech Park
The High Country Tech Park in McKay

The Silver Creek area is world-renowned for the quality of its fly fishery. Sections of the National Forest in the vicinity of Borah Peak and Leatherman Peak are under consideration as potential national wilderness areas because of the vast roadless and trail-less areas of talus fields, steep terrain and deep canyons. There are campgrounds, hiking trails, climbing routes, fishing streams, world-class big game hunting and more available to outdoor sportsmen who visit. But if you're coming here to find a shopping mall, you'll be sorely disappointed.

A view of vertical rock layers running through the mountains just north of Arco
Vertical rock layers in the mountains
An ancient lava flow at Craters of the Moon National Monument
At Craters of the Moon National Monument
Photos courtesy of TheArmchairExplorer, CCA-by-SA 4.0 License
Map of the Sawtooth Scenic Byway area

Related Pages

Map courtesy of National Geographic Topo!