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Idaho’s highway 21 is a busy road because it is a winter gateway to everything from snowshoeing to snowmobiling.

I drive it a lot in the winter to hit the nordic ski trails about 18 miles northeast of Idaho City. It seems like I’m so zoned in on getting from Boise to Gold Fork Park N’ Ski area that I don’t really see what’s along the highway. I must have driven that road hundreds and hundreds of times since I first started cross-country skiing the area in the mid-’70s, even before formal nordic ski trails were developed in the area. I used to bushwhack mountain draws and old logging roads back in the days of Jackrabbit ski wax (remember the creosol-type smell of that wax?).

Anyway, the other day we took a leisurely drive up the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway and took a really close look at the mountain route.

First was Nature’s icy artwork in Mores Creek. I had to stop and get photos of different ice patterns in the creek. Great photography. By the way, it’s not easy to stop on the highway. There are few pullouts and they usually are not where you want to stop for a great photo.

As you drive to Idaho City, the creek cascades over rocks, winds through willows and flows past beaver ponds.

Once past Idaho City, the road climbs in elevation and gets into pine and fir. There are a few places to pull off, like at Granite Creek for a picnic or just to walk in the snow.

The road gains in elevation and the snow-laden mountains create magnificent scenes as it nears Mores Creek Summit. The summit is busy with skiers and snowmobilers but stop for the views on the other side of the Salmon River Mountains north of Lowman and the surrounding ridge lines. This is also where you see the effects of forest fires and the stark black and white landscape of snow and burned trees.

From Mores Creek Summit to Beaver Creek Summit, there are several places to pull off the road and have a picnic. We always have our camp chairs in the roof rocket so that we can just sit anywhere on the side of the road and have lunch while soaking in the scenery.

I usually turn back here and it puts about a 120-mile round trip on the odometer.

So, why not enjoy a leisurely drive this holiday season and soak in the snowy mountains?

Happy holidays from a snowbank somewhere along Highway 21.

Pete has been writing about the outdoors in Idaho and the Northwest for decades. Give him a shout at pete@getoutdoorsnorthwest.com.

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