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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And the scenery we were seeing was plenty glorious enough, and the roads were very peaceful!
The skies, however, were not peaceful at all, and rumbling in the heavens got our attention.
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.
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.
I managed to catch him surrounded by the sun’s vivid magenta reflection in the water before he dived out of sight.
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.
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!!
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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!!
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.
This part of Idaho is wonderful for RVing, and it has been popular with RVers ever since RVs were first built!
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.
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!
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
- Bear Lake, UT – The Caribbean of the Rockies 07/15/12
- Mirror Lake Scenic Byway Utah – Fishing and Fun! 07/08/12
- Provo Canyon & Alpine Loop Scenic Byways in Utah 07/02/12
- Logan Pass, Bear Lake, Mt. Nephi, & Cedar City, Utah 09/28/09
- Idaho Falls River Walk – A Glorious Garden Stroll by the Snake River! 06/20/22
- Craters of the Moon + Cataclysms from Sun Valley ID to Alpine WY 09/02/14
- Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, ID – Pretty Waterfalls 07/25/12
Scenic Drives for RV Touring in Idaho:
- McCall, Idaho – Summer Beach Fun on Pretty Payette Lake 09/14/16
- An Idaho Panhandle RV Trip on US-95: Sandpoint, Moscow & McCall 09/10/16
- An RV Cruise Along Idaho’s Salmon River on US-93 05/08/16
- Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, ID – Pretty Waterfalls 07/25/12
- Sawtooth Scenic Byway and Stanley, Idaho – Picturesque! 08/28/09
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Great pics and great trip log. We would never have guessed that Idaho back roads could be so nice! Definitely a trip for us to make sometime in the future…
As you two know from all your worldwide travels, the best surprises are off the beaten path!!
Absolutely awesome post! So beautiful there… small towns are more interesting than big ones
Thanks a bunch!
Absolutely! Small towns are all so unique and such great character. I’m glad you enjoyed this!
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.
Our next post is going to be about our trip up 93. Such a beautiful drive. We need to stay longer someday, like you did, but even just a brief glimpse on a drive-by is really fun.
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!
It’s a beautiful world, Laurel, and we are both so fortunate to be able to explore it at a leisurely pace. Happy trails!!
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!
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.