A Backcountry RV Roadtrip in SE Idaho – Quiet Splendor!

April 2016 – In our RV travels we prefer to take small back roads from town to town instead of zipping past everything on the interstates. As we left the Moab area in Utah to head north into Idaho, we scoured the map to find some skinny roads through the farmlands that would take us through the valleys between the mountain ranges.

RV roadtrip past snowcapped mountains of northern Utah

Wow! We left the red rock canyons of Utah behind and headed into northern Utah.

Our minds were still reeling with the incredible and world renowned landscapes we’d enjoyed at Canyonlands National Park (North and South), Arches National Park, Dead Horse State Park and even the roadside stop of Newspaper Rock after coming up through the (appropriately named) Valley of the Gods. But we were astonished by the beauty of our surroundings in this lesser known area as we looked out our truck’s windows.

RV roadtrip through Farmland and mountasin of northern Utah

We knew the farmland around in Logan, Utah, was gorgeous, but this was incredible!

Route 89 heading out of Ogden, Utah, was a little fast paced for our tastes, so we snaked our way through the farmlands on Route 23 and then on Route 36. The views in every direction around us were breathtaking.

Farm and mountain scenery southeastern Idaho

It’s scenery like this that gets us off the highways and onto the backroads of America.

This is farm and ranching country. Horses grazed in the pastures and cows dotted the fields all the way to the mountains in the distance. It was early spring, and newborn calves bounded behind their mothers.

Views from the RV southeastern Idaho mountains

Horses and cattle didn’t seem to notice the views — all they saw was breakfast!

We had traveled through this part of the country several times before, spending time at Bear Lake and Logan Pass in Utah and driving north through Afton Wyoming on our way to and from the Tetons. Despite two visits to the Tetons, there are places there we still haven’t seen. However, we decided to stay on the Idaho side of that stunning mountain range on this trip.

RV camping by southeastern Idaho lake

The lakes were as beautiful as the mountains.

And the scenery we were seeing was plenty glorious enough, and the roads were very peaceful!

RV roadtrip through southeastern Idaho mountains

Not a bad spot to live!

The skies, however, were not peaceful at all, and rumbling in the heavens got our attention.

RV camping southeastern Idaho

The skies began to look a little threatening.

A stormy day that had been promising rain all day long suddenly ended with a spectacular sunset that had us running out of the buggy and down to the shore to take photos.

Southern Idaho sunset on lake

Cloudy skies sometimes bring awesome sunsets. This one was exceptional, especially after a gray day!!

As we were busily snapping away at the sky, I heard a loud splash and looked down at my feet to see a beaver swimming right past me.

What luck!

I managed to catch him surrounded by the sun’s vivid magenta reflection in the water before he dived out of sight.

Camping sunset beaver in Idaho lake

A beaver swam right by me!!

We were doing this little backroad RV roadtrip in a season that fell somewhere between winter and spring, which gave us lots of unpredictable weather. Nasty weather makes for great photography, however, and we continued on our farm road journey on Route 38 under pretty clouds at dawn.

Malad City Idaho sunrise

Reflections at dawn.

Later in the day, however, those clouds got angry once again. We watched a massive black cloud forming in the distance as we drove. Suddenly the cloud was upon us. Fortunately, just at that moment, we saw a huge roadside pullout with a big red sign that said “Stop!” And stop we did!!

RV travel southeastern Idaho_

Yikes! A huge black storm cloud made us pull over and stop!

No sooner had we run back into the trailer and closed the door than the heavens opened up. It rained buckets. It rained so hard the raindrops seemed to be bouncing off the ground. Thank goodness we had our house with us!

We made lunch, and afterwards we soon got drowsy from listening to the rain pelting our roof. So, we crawled under the covers for a nap! When we awoke, the skies had lightened and Nature gave us the “all clear” and go ahead to continue our journey on Route 37.

2016 Dodge Ram 3500 Dually_

Four hours later, after a good nap, the skies began to clear.

We continued north, and after all this time on the backcountry roads of northern Utah and southeastern Idaho, when we arrived in the town of American Falls, we felt like we’d landed at an enormous city.

We watched long trains crossing the train bridge in town. One was so long it had three engines on the front and two on the back!!

Train crossing bridge in American Falls Idaho

In American Falls we saw a long train with five engines!!

The storm clouds continued to threaten and were moving very fast above us. I’d gotten a kick out of setting up a timelapse video of the clouds moving across the canyon walls of Dead Horse Point State Park a few weeks earlier, and this seemed like a perfect chance to try that technique again:

From American Falls, our journey took us north along Route 39 to Route 26 and through Atomic City which we had enjoyed on an earlier trip to the otherworldly Craters of the Moon National Monument. But instead of seeking out moonscapes, on this trip we had snowcapped mountains in mind and on our agenda.

RV views on Salmon River Idaho roadtrip - nowcapped mountains

Snowcapped mountains were what we were after.

We hooked up with Route 93 and followed it northwest to the village of Mackay. What a sweet town! Mackay, Idaho, is flanked by two gorgeous mountain ranges, and we walked around town with our heads tipped back to take in the beautiful views.

Mackay Idaho main street

Downtown Mackay, Idaho.

Our RV roadtrip had brought us through some remote and quiet lands. To give you a sense of size and scale, the town of Mackay, which was a major landmark on our trip, has a population of 494!

No wonder the local cinema can offer happy birthday wishes to a resident!!

Main Street Cinema Mackay Idaho

In a small town, your birthday can put your name on the marquee at the cinema! How fun!!

Makcay, Idaho, is on the opposite side of the mountains from the much more well known, busy and trendy community of Sun Valley to the west, and it is “opposite” in spirit as well.

“We like having a mountain range between us and Sun Valley!” One local said to me, laughing.

We meandered the few streets, and admired the rustic, crusty and aging barns and buildings tucked between some of the homes.

Crumbling Barn in Mackay Idaho


Old barn Mackay Idaho RV roadtrip


This part of Idaho is wonderful for RVing, and it has been popular with RVers ever since RVs were first built!

Antique travel trailer RV

We saw a cute antique trailer in a yard. Cool!

Discovering special places that don’t get top billing in the tourist literature is one of our favorite things about this full-time RVing lifestyle. International tourists flock to the major cities and the National Parks. And why not, they’re spectacular! But the roots of America are in the small towns across the country.

Old store front Mackay Idaho

Get your stretchy suspenders here!!

We were so glad we had chosen a route that we had never taken before through this familiar region. Every sight along the way was new and exciting!

RV camping Salmon River Idaho

Getting off the beaten path is our favorite aspect of RVing.

If you are have an RV road trip planned between northern Utah and southern Idaho, consider getting off the interstate and exploring the smaller roads. It’s a very beautiful part of the country!! More info below…

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More info and more stories from our RV travels in this area:

Our route through the Northern Utah and Southern Idaho farms and valleys

Scenic Drives for RV Touring in Idaho:

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12 thoughts on “A Backcountry RV Roadtrip in SE Idaho – Quiet Splendor!

  1. Absolutely awesome post! So beautiful there… small towns are more interesting than big ones
    Thanks a bunch!

  2. Your post about southern Idaho brought back great memories of our trip through this area last year. 93 runs along the Salmon River, a beautiful drive. We stayed at a tiny RV park, Heald Haven, just south of Salmon, ID, right on the river. We used it as a base to explore the area. Some great back country byways there, plus all the Lewis and Clarke stuff.
    We plan to return for a longer visit this year or next.

  3. How fun! We also enjoy exploring “less traveled” byways and discovering what lies off the beaten path. As you said, that’s one of the joys of RV travel and having our home with us wherever we go. I love finding quirky little treasures — the ancient yellow travel trailer, the “Stretchy Suspenders” advertisement — and of course, the gorgeous landscapes. Beautiful!

  4. My wife and I just purchased our first hardsided TT this winter(long time tent and tent trailer campers). Both of us are retiring from the world of full time work this July and we plan on strapping on our kayaks, bikes, bagging our cameras, and art supplies and starting our regular extended “drive abouts” shortly thereafter. We completely enjoy your postings. Your blog, images, and adventures inspire us in so many ways. As someone who is attempting to develop his camera skills past “screen saver” shots, what lens do you use for your landscape shots of mountains, distant sunsets, etc. You manage to capture them beautifully.

    • Thank you for the compliments!!

      We describe all of our camera gear on our photography page. There is a ton of info on that page describing not just our cameras and lenses but all the accessories we rely on, including bags for hiking, tripods and the software we use for processing (“dark room” tools of the modern age!) as well as the tools we used to learn photography, from blogs to tutorial websites to books.

      I use a Nikon 28-300 mm lens for almost everything. Sometimes 28 mm isn’t as wide as I’d like, but I love being able zoom to 300 moments later when a beaver swims by! I also have a Nikon 18-35 mm lens that I use occasionally.

      Mark doesn’t mind switching lenses frequently, and he’s a gear head, so he has a bunch of lenses. He uses a Nikon 16-35 mm lens or a Rokinon 14 mm lens (for stars and super wide shots), and he also has a Nikon 24-120 mm lens (my old standby prior to the 28-300) and a Sigma 24-105 mm lens!!

      Have fun in your new hard sided TT and congrats on your upcoming retirement!

  5. I am having a very difficult time with tires for our house. I currently have 10 ply and plan on upgrading to 14 ply as you have. If you don’t mind what brand do you recommend? Everyone I call has a different brand and recommendation. Any help would be appreciated.

    • We’ve been using cheap Chinese brands as we try to determine whether our overall axle/suspension problem is resolved or not. Our current ones are called Gladiators from Les Schwab, and they are more rugged than our last ones, but they have only 600 miles on them so we have no idea if they will hold up over time.


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