Northern Idaho is stunning in the fall, and a drive along the St. Joe River Scenic Byway shows off the best of this region on an easy day trip on a tucked-away two-lane highway. The route begins in the river town of St. Maries, and the first half of the 89-mile (one-way) route takes you through the river valley past a mountainous landscape. At St. Joe City, “The Joe,” as the river is known, transitions from deep and calm to shallow with wild rapids. This part of the river is popular with anglers, where Dolly Vardins, rainbow, cutthroat and other species of trout are the catch of the day.
The beauty of a drive like the St. Joe River Scenic Byway is that you can take your time and stop at the many scenic pullouts and points of interest along the way. At Marble Creek check out the interpretive logging display; in Avery stop at the trout pond, where you can feed the giant rainbow trout. Watch for wildlife along the river, where you might spot bald eagles, elk, moose and bear.
The route ends up at the Idaho-Montana border, where you can turn around and trace your route back to your starting point. St. Maries is about a 1.5-hour drive from Spokane, Washington. From St. Maries, allow six hours for the round-trip drive. The last portion of the route between Avery and the Montana border is usually closed in November. Gas up and buy provisions before you leave St. Maries.
Plan your trip at visitnorthidaho.com/activity/st-joe-river-scenic-byway.