US-20’s route across southern Idaho cuts through one of the most magnificently empty American spaces, an arid, volcanic region cut by life-giving rivers and isolating mountain ranges, with strange geological outcrops that encourage travelers to stop and explore the inhospitable terrain.

Irrigation has altered the look of the land considerably, so much so that vineyards and lush fields now thrive in the otherwise barren, gray-green sagebrush plains, but little else has changed since this region provided the greatest challenge to pioneers crossing the country along the Oregon Trail.

The provision of visitor services has improved considerably in the intervening centuries, but southern Idaho is still a wild and demanding land. Like much of the American West, it’s also an addictively satisfying place to explore.

Map of the Oregon Trail through Idaho.
Map of the Oregon Trail through Idaho.