This little four-county jaunt is an easy way to see what Idaho has to offer geographically: from the Payette River Basin and rolling agriculture, to high mountain peaks and lakes. It also happens to have exceptional recreational opportunities along the way and is an excellent alternate scenic route to Valley County for those looking to minimize contact with the congested summer hubub on Highway 55.
Leaving Boise around 1 p.m. atop Geronimo (my Kawasaki KLR 650 dual sport motorcycle), I headed north on Highway 55 toward Horseshoe Bend. At HB, I went west toward Emmett on Highway 52, and at Montour, I followed signs north through arguably one of the cleanest towns in Idaho: Sweet. From there, it was a short haul up to Ola, where the transition from alfalfa fields to the Central Idaho mountains begins. At Ola, signs clearly point travelers either toward Sage Hen Reservior—a wonderful summer recreation spot—or High Valley, which is just a stone’s throw from Smiths Ferry, Highway 55 and the terminus of the Cabarton run on the Payette River.
The dirt road from Ola to High Valley rapidly gains elevation before dropping into one of my favorite areas in the state.
A handful of homesites surround the High Valley Ranger Station, but this area is really much better known for its fishing and hiking opportunities. Myriad lakes and reservoirs pepper the landscape all the way to Canada to the north and Oregon to the west.
Vibrant seasonal flowers abound along this route, so don’t forget your camera.
The road system to/from/around High Valley is generally in decent condition during summer months, but always check ahead of time to make sure that weather and travel conditions are amenable.
Total Distance: 136 miles (150 if you go to Sage Hen Reservoir), 20 on dirt.