Moto-Journaling: Taking Two-Wheeled Trips to Idaho's Hidden Gems 

Backcountry roads offer opportunites for exploration

"If it weren't so cold--and if I weren't a motorcycle--I'd dive right into that lake."

Andrew Mentzer

"If it weren't so cold--and if I weren't a motorcycle--I'd dive right into that lake."

In the last few weeks, I've been sussing out some of the best-kept secrets for exploration around Idaho atop my old friend the War Pig: a 600cc Honda Transalp dual sport motorcycle.

This summer, I'll be covering the state from Canada to Nevada, shedding light on some of the best off-the-beaten-path backcountry roads. By this fall, I hope to have enough information for a full guide book.

To date, I've hit the Boise Ridge Road, the abandoned mining town of Pearl and Atlanta. Soon, I'll have reports on the South Fork of the Owyhee River by way of Silver City and the route to Jarbidge, Nev., by way of Wickahoney Camp.

Boise Ridge Road

Total distance: 24-75 miles

As the only continuous east-to-west route north of Hill Road--with countless spokes running north toward Idaho City and Horseshoe Bend and south to Boise--the Boise Ridge Road offers adventurers a versatile and scenic option, particularly in good weather.

My favorite variation starts in Rocky Canyon and ends either on Bogus Basin Road or North Eighth Street. An off-road motorcycle, quad or four-wheel-drive vehicle with good ground clearance is recommended for this area, however, two-wheel drive is adequate for some lower fringe points.

Getting there: Head up Reserve Street, which turns into Shaw Mountain Road before dropping into Rocky Canyon on the other side of Fort Boise.

Rocky Canyon Road meanders through the Foothills before Aldape Summit. From here, the road gets rough. Head west from the summit for arguably the best views of greater Boise. You'll likely run into snow, so it might be best to wait a few weeks to attempt the full traverse.

If you choose to venture west of the Eighth Street Extension, you will end up adjacent to Eagleson Summit and, eventually, just south of Deer Point near Bogus Basin. From here, you can continue to Bogus Basin Road and back to Boise or head west past the Bogus Nordic Center. Behind Bogus, you can access Placerville, Centerville, Idaho City or Horseshoe Bend. Assuming you don't get lost, Highway 21 or Highway 55 will get you back to Boise quickly.

Atlanta

Total distance: 181 miles

Arguably the preeminent "off-the-beaten-path" destination of the Gem State's habitable wilderness, the inconspicuous mining town of Atlanta has more to offer than people think. Located on the Middle Fork of the Boise River about a four-hour drive northeast of Arrowrock Reservoir, this sleepy hub is home to both exploratory mining and some of Idaho's best recreation. It has changed little since its founding in 1864, offering a frozen-in-time ambiance.

The area surrounding Atlanta is an outdoorsman's paradise. The laundry list of fun to be had is impressive: summer fishing on the Middle Fork, hiking trails, 10-plus hot springs, hundreds of camp sites and plentiful backcountry options.

The road to Atlanta is daunting. While relatively well groomed most of the year, the 62-mile, two-county dirt trek is a long afternoon's drive. One-lane bridges and rockfalls are common, so watch for potential hazards.

Getting there: Leaving at 2 p.m. one afternoon, my friend and I made it to Atlanta in about three hours. We took the route over Aldape Summit to Robie Creek/Highway 21 before doubling back to Arrow Rock Road. About four miles past the marina, the road turns to dirt and leads to the confluence of the Middle Fork of the Boise River.

The farther you travel, the more palpable the seclusion. The scenery goes from bare hills to rocky canyons and vibrant forest.

There are endless campgrounds, a handful of rental cabins and a two alternate routes to Atlanta. We'd hoped to take the 22-mile road from Atlanta south to Featherville but it was still snowed in. This area should be accessible in a few weeks by way of Idaho City or Arrow Rock Road. Distances range from 86 to 128 miles each way from Boise.

According to the locals, the best time for tourist activities is Labor Day weekend for Atlanta Days, however, camping and recreation are excellent all summer.

Pearl

Total distance: 51 miles

Pearl doesn't really exist anymore--at least not as it once did. The mining town is little more than a few historic relics left over from its heyday in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Despite its fate, Pearl is still a wonderful place to explore.

Getting there: Leaving Boise around 2 p.m., I navigated the sea of Eagle's McMansions until I was north of the city landscape. Eagle Road turns into Pearl/Willow Creek Road about a mile north of Beacon Light Road. A few tight curves later, I was on a well-manicured dirt road.

There are numerous forks and splits in Pearl Road. I suggest keeping to the right to get to Highway 55 at the summit of Horseshoe Bend Hill. Alternate routes lead west to Highway 16. Much of the land in this area is privately owned, so stay off the properties.

A few miles northeast of the original Pearl townsite, a sign reads: "Road not maintained in inclement weather." While the road out of Pearl can be rough, the hilltop panoramas are unbeatable. The five-mile traverse to Highway 55 is peppered with endless vistas overlooking the Treasure Valley. Apart from a few ranchers and the occasional dirt bike or ATV, I only came across a handful of people. I rolled back into Boise by way of Cartwright Road around 4 p.m.

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