The Great Scenic Loop through Central Idaho & Western Montana

Average Rating - This road has been rated by 4 visitors

State: Montana
Date Submitted: May 23, 2011
Submitted by: MCR Contributor
Motorcycle Road Length: 655 Miles

Written Directions

This is a loop and therefore can be started at any given point but for the purpose of this description, we will start at Stanley. Follow the Salmon river East out of Stanley on ID-75 to US-93 in Challis. Continue on US-93 through Salmon and up over Lost Trail Pass into Montana. Continue on US-93 North through Montana following the Bitterroot River to Lolo. Turn West at Lolo on US-12 and cross into Idaho over Lolo Pass. Follow the Lochsa/Clearwater Rivers West to Kooskia. Turn South on ID-13 to Grangeville. Turn onto US-95 at Grangeville and follow the Salmon River heading South. Continue South through Riggins before veering East at New Meadows on ID-55. Follow ID-55 South through McCall. At Banks, take the Banks/Lowman Road (Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway) following the South Fork of the Payette River heading East. At Lowman, continue east on ID-21 through the Boise/Challis National Forest to Stanley.


This route takes you along the banks of the Salmon, Bitterroot, Lochsa, Clearwater, and Payette Rivers. You will see some of Idaho's most prized natural resources: dense forests, desolate deserts, mountains of varying composition and stature with towering summits, deep foreboding canyons, pristine lakes, abundant wildlife, and numerous creeks and rivers. You will travel along both legs of Lewis and Clark's routes through Northern Idaho/Western Montana. You will also see World famous Salmon and Stealhead fishing waters as well as world renowned rapids for white water rafting. You will drive through the Sawtooth Scenic Byway, Ponderossa Pine Scenic Byway, Salmon River Scenic Byway, Northwest Passage Scenic Byway, Payette River Scenic Byway, and the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway.

Road Quality  

This is only a trip for riders that love twisties! I do not believe there is a stretch of over 5-10 miles without some sort of bend in it (at the top of Lolo pass on the Idaho side, there is a sign that reads "winding road next 99 miles"). The route follows US and State highways from start to finish (with the exception of the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway between Banks/Lowman). The road is very well managed during the warm months with very little traffic (traffic will be more of a problem during certain times of the year). Wildlife and cattle can be a problem in some area's so it is best to ride defensivly at all times.

Roadside Amenities  

This route will take you through many small mountain towns, each with their own personality and historical significance; you will also travel through the Nez Perce Indian Reservation. There are plenty of turn offs for camping, fishing, and scenic viewing along the way. From start to finish, you will encounter numerous markers of historical significance, be that ancient geological history, people of early state significance, or sights of historic US/Native battles. If you prefer to stay in hotel lodging as opposed to camping, there are several inn's/lodge's along the banks of the rivers that are clean and resonably priced. There are also plenty of hot springs (both developed and undeveloped) along the way. If necessary, greater civilization is a short drive off the path on each courner of the trip and can be accessed with a short drive of 1 hour or less (Missoula, Lewiston, Boise, Sun Valley).

Additional Info

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Reviewed by Guest on October 26, 2012
(2 out of 2 members found this review useful.)
Creator: sshake
motorcycle_year: 2007
motorcycle_make: Honda VTX 1300
motorcycle_type: Cruiser
Comment: I have done this loop at least twice, each way, in the last 3 summers...and I never get tired of the spectacular scenery and vast variety of road types it offers. From where I live, near Boise, the loop can be done in two, 400 mile days...or...take 3 days, if you have never done the loop. US 12...Lolo Hwy on the north side, is constant curves for 75 miles,with no straights over 1 mile long...Yeh
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Reviewed by Papa on August 30, 2011
(2 out of 2 members found this review useful.)
Creator: Papa
motorcycle_year: 2001
motorcycle_make: HD Wide Glide
motorcycle_type: Other
Comment: We did this loop clockwise, beginning at New Meadows and heading North to LoLo Pass. The West side of the loop is great, but the Eastern side is spectacular especially from Salmon South through Stanley. Good roads most of the way.
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Reviewed by RedWing04 on September 24, 2015
(0 out of 0 members found this review useful.)
Creator: REDWING04
motorcycle_year: 2004
motorcycle_make: Honda Goldwing
motorcycle_type: Touring
Comment: Have ridden this entire route in several phases and it is definately one to do. Great roads and scenery. Hiway 12 from Lolo to Lewiston is one of my all-time favorites with lots of sweeping curves, a river, and views (have ridden it probably 5-6 times). Several mom and pop places to stay and eaton this route.
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Reviewed by ROADWHORE on September 6, 2013
(0 out of 0 members found this review useful.)
motorcycle_year: 07
motorcycle_make: HD
motorcycle_type: Touring
Comment: we rode this twice so far this year. The first time we did it in one day. The second time we took two days. We plan on doing it again but take 4 or 5 days.
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