Originally published in the Boise Weekly:
Over the next several months, I’ll be hitting the trail to report on the best outdoor adventure spots in the great state of Idaho. These reports will hopefully provide unique insight into the lifestyle and history of some of the most scenic parts of the Gem State, while shedding light on the fun to be had for weekend warriors willing to go a little further off the beaten path.
Many of the sites I’ll be visiting are listed as part of the Idaho Adventure Motorcycle Club’s 2011 Challenge. Appropriately, all reports will be done atop my old trusted friend, the War Pig—a Honda XL600V Transalp dual-sport motorcycle.
Site No. 1: Pearl
To tell the truth, Pearl, Idaho, doesn’t really exist anymore—at least not as it once did. The old mining town is little more than a few historical relics and ranches left over since its heyday in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Despite this unfortunate fate, Pearl is still a wonderful place to explore, and just a stone’s throw from Boise.
Leaving Boise around 2 p.m., I navigated the sea of greater Eagle’s McMansions until I was noticeably north of the homogeneous city landscape. Eagle Road turns into Pearl/Willow Creek Road about a mile north of Beacon Light Road. A few tight and twisty curves later, the pavement transitions to a well-manicured dirt road where the fun begins.
There are numerous forks and splits in Pearl Road along the way. I suggest keeping to the right (northeast) to end up on Highway 55 at the summit of Horseshoe Bend Hill. Alternate routes can take you west to Highway 16. Much of the land in this area is privately owned, so be sure to stay off the surrounding ranch properties.
As you enter Pearl, you may begin to envision what it looked like 100-plus years ago. Old abandoned mine shafts, a few archaic building foundations and some excavation sites are all that remain, but still provide enough imagination fodder to visualize a bustling—albeit short-lived—boom town. The main mine abutting Pearl Road is photo-worthy, complete with an ancient rusted-out sedan half buried in the hillside above the entrance.
A few miles north of the original Pearl townsite, you begin to see signage stating: “Road not maintained in inclement weather.” While the road out of Pearl can be rough, the hilltop panoramas are unbeatable. The 5-mile traverse back to Highway 55 is peppered with endless vistas overlooking the Treasure Valley and Eagle Foothills. Apart from a few ranchers and the occasional dirt bike or ATV, I only came across a handful of people on a Sunday afternoon. I rolled back into Boise by way of Cartwright Road around 4 p.m.
The road to Pearl is certainly one of the best short trips in Southern Idaho, one where you can’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia for what Idaho used to be.
Total roundtrip from Boise: 25-51 miles