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Lava Rock, Red Rock, Ghost Town and Hot Spring

By oldnut - Posted on 12 August 2011

Idaho’s “Chief Meteorologist” said it was going to be great and the timing was perfect.  It still amazes me how a retiree can get so committed to so many projects.  But you just need to take time to live the dream too.  I had accepted the IAMC Challenge 2011 earlier this year and will try to reach “Platinum Knobby” status this year, that’s 45 sites to collect.  The best I could do for last year’s challlenge was a Gold Knobby with 35 sites collected.  My respect and admiration to last year’s Platinum Riders as I realize the committment of time and money and the level of skill needed to acquire many of the more difficult sites.

Monday night I packed the GS with all the gear I needed for a few days on the trail and determined to get away early in the morning but we all know how that turns out.  It was after 8 when I pulled away from the curb and pointed the bike eastward.  She purred like a kitten, a big very powerful kitten and we made some fast tracks on Interstate 84 to Mountain Home then followed US 20 to Fairfield and Carey.  There were several pods of antelope to watch as we rolled by The Big Wood River Valley on our way to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve  (COTMNM&P). 

Midday I rolled into COTMNM&P and pulled out my senior national park pass to ride the Crater’s Loop Road.  Much has improved since I last visited but several of the overlooks and attractions were made inaccessable from improvement projects and were closed to the public. 


I claimed IAMC Challenge 2011 site # 31 and rode on to Arco for fuel and food then forged on to Howe, Mud Lake and Rexburg on ID 33 with hopes of reaching Mesa Falls before a huge black thunderstorm caught me.  More fuel and then on to US 20 to Ashton and exit on to ID 47 to Upper Mesa Falls.

I didn’t stop to photograph the eastern view of the Tetons from ID 47 as the black clouded thunderstorm was catching me and I wanted to get to the falls before the light was gone.  I’d not seen the falls before and it is obvious why they are so beloved. 

I claimed Challenge site # 32.

The beautiful Mesa Falls Inn is a great original structure in a fantastic setting.

As I followed ID 47 to join US 20 the black cloud caught me but only served to cool me and GS down.  I then rode to Red Rock Road and turned eastward toward Henry’s Lake intending to camp at Frome County Park but decided instead to turn in to the Red Rock RV Park and get settled before the weather turned bad again.  It was a super nice camp with gracious folks hosting so I set about pitching the tent in the gusting wind hoping to beat the impending thunderstorm.  I'd just finished when it began to pour so I relaxed in the tent for an hour and studied maps until it subsided. 

When the rain stopped I photographed a spectacular sunset from the front of the tent.

Next morning I brewed coffee, dried the tent as best I could, packed the GS's Happy Trails Panniers and headed west on Red Rock Road after stopping to admire Henry’s Lake.

I stopped for a photo of Mount Jefferson, elev.10,196‘, from Red Rock Road. 

Here GS and I stradle the Idaho, Montana state lines on the Continental Divide.  Red Rock Mountain, elev. 9,512’ flanks the sign.

View of Nemisis Mountain, elev. 9,439’ , from Red Rock Pass Road.

Taylor Mountain at 9,855’ backdrops the remains of a rustic Montana cattle ranch.  

The Madison Range is backdrop for Upper Red Rock Lake.

I claimed site # 30, refuge headquarters at Lakeview.

Lower Red Rock Lake.

What could be more romantic than Montana cowboys on the range?  Why, me riding my GS on Red Rock Pass Road in Montana photographing Montana cowboys, of course!

That’s Lima Reservoir over there and it’s fed by the Red Rock River. 

I couldn’t resist an “art” shot. 

After reaching Monida, Montana (love that name) I merged on to Interstate 15 and headed to Lima for an excellent breakfast at Jan’s then rolled on to the Clark Canyon Reservoir exit to MT 324. 

Clark Canyon Dam is fed by the Red Rock River and below the dam is the launch site for what is arguably some of the world’s best trout fishing on the Beaverhead River.

Scenes like this are hard for me to take as I was an avid fisherman before being bitten by the dual sport bug. 

I continued on MT 324, turned north on Bannack Bench Road cutting through the Cross Ranch and pointing GS north to Bannack State Park.

Bannack City is a well preserved ghost town whose heyday was the mid 1860’s. It was the first capital of Montana Territory in 1863. 

The bottom floor is school house and the top floor is Masonic Lodge. 

The trail to the right leads to the site of early rough Montana justice (the gallows).

I claimed site # 33.

After returning south on Bannack Bench Road I resumed the trek southwestward on MT 324.  The GS pauses for a breather on the way to Bannock Summit.  This panorama is Horse Prairie.

At Bannock Pass, elev. 7,681’ I crossed the Continental Divide back into Idaho.

At the bottom of Bannock Pass Road is Leadore, Idaho, elev. 5,980'.  It's on the Lemhi River Valley side of Gilmore Summit, elev. 7,150'.

I claim site # 34.

Gilmore, Idaho was a bustling mine town and tucked beneath Portland Mountain,elev. 10,872', it's still one of the most picturesque.

This is the eastern view of the Centennial Mountains from Charcoal Kiln Road across Birch Creek Valley.

Well hidden from view until the last road curve are these “beehive“ shaped kilns.  There were originally sixteen!

The bricks from the missing kilns were removed and used in other building projects in the valley nearby.  I could swear I still smelled charcoal smoke. 

I claimed site # 35 and rode to Howe and on to Arco where I opted for a motel room, nice dinner at Pickle’s and early sack time to facilitate an early start in anticipation of a long day. 

Up early and on the road by 6 am., I paused to capture the Tetons from too many miles away after missing them two days earlier.  Still an interesting photograph though.

Sunrise tips the Lost River Mountains with warm early light.


A tributary near Little Lost River Road reflects the early sunlight as it streaks across the Little Lost River Valley. 

After a chilly, but fantastic ride I claimed site # 36, Barney Hot Springs, near the summit.  Just a few more miles and I would have been in the Pahsimeroi Valley.


I frightened two herons when I approached the springs so I lingered for a while and treated the resident warm water aquarium fish to Ritz cracker crumbs. 

After backtracking a few miles I followed Dry Creek Road then Pass Creek Road.

I stopped for a photo of Massacre Mountain, elev. 10,924’.

This view of Pass Creek Canyon looks southwest toward the Big Lost River Valley. The summit here is 7,637’.

Pass Creek Canyon’s walls are steep and high and the duration of sunlight here is brief even in mid-summer. 

After reaching US 93 about seven miles south of Mackay I rolled on to a great breakfast at Pickle’s and fuel for GS in Arco.  Then it was all about gettin’ home, sites claimed, spectacular vistas admired and photographed and great fun roads enjoyed.   

Again I’ve been places in my home state this and last year that I never would have taken the time to visit had it not been for this great idea of a “Challenge”.  Thanks again to our club president, Ed Hiatt at Happy Trails Products for his foresight and encouragement.

This ride most definitely did not suck ...a lot.    the best!

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