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:
- 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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