Touring - US 93 Going North
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01-04-07, 04:52 PM
Greetings from the Great American Desert (snow ... snow ... snow all day long):
One of the long distance routes I'm considering would go northwest from Blackfoot, ID - via state highway 26 - and then pretty much due north from Arco, ID to Polson, MT - via Missoula - on US 93.
Even for the Fountain of All Knowledge (the Internet) touring information on this route is very hard to find. (The Adventure Cycling routes go substantially to the east).
Any thoughts on riding through this area?
01-04-07, 05:24 PM
This might be farther north than you are planning, but... In 2003 I rode north out of Missoula on Hwy 93. The section from somewhat north of Missoula to Bigfork along the east side of Flathead lake carried heavy truck traffic (cement mixers) and had no shoulder. It was so scary we hitchiked. North of there, up to Eureka, it was fine. I wasn't on 93 south of there. Good luck with your trip, sounds nice.
01-05-07, 05:53 AM
Just wanted to say that that part of the country is one of my absloute favourites! I´ve only driven though so can´t really offer any advice och the riding. Just jealous is all..
Where are you going after Missoula? I drove east on the 200 and traffic was pretty scarce as I recall. Of course you run into the odd big rig in those parts of the country and that could be scary on a bike. Good luck,
keep us posted!
01-05-07, 03:13 PM
Are you only going to Polson or are you heading further north to Glacier?
Will you be doing a round trip or one-way?
I've ridden most of US 93 from Nevada north over the years but it's been some time since I've been on the parts you mention because it has so much traffic. US 93 in Idaho is pretty good - fairly low traffic, but not much of a shoulder ever. The Salmon River Valley is lovely - esp. in the morning and evening - can be pretty hot in the middle of the day. There's a cafe in Gibbonsville with great homemade pies and camping out back. Lost Trail Pass was rebuilt about 8 years ago - so it's got an even grade and is pretty safe.
From Hamilton to Kalispell, US 93 has HEAVY traffic and iffy shoulders. There's a back road thru the Bitterroot Valley (Routes 269 & 203) and an option around Flathead Lake (MT 35 - which still has a lot of traffic). There's a reason AC doesn't have a route on US 93. But even their route up MT 83 isn't the greatest - moderate traffic, narrow to no shoulders, and limited views.
The best route for low traffic, quiet, and scenery is on the east side - US 89 from Choteau north. In exchange for stunning views of the Front Range, you are exposed to more wind - but it is worth it. US 287 in southern Montana is really nice, but is pretty nasty south of Helena - and you'd have to take US 20 in Idaho - - bleah!
If you chose to do the eastern route thru Choteau - I'd take US 93 to Lost Trail Pass, then cut east thru Wisdom, Anaconda, Drummond, Lincoln, and hit US 287 south of Augusta. Really, really nice. There is a small stretch of dirt north of Drummond to Helmville. Going north it would be downhill - it's well maintained, hardpack, usually with a nice bikeable track.
E-mail me and I'll send you some traffic volume maps of Idaho and Montana so you can see and plan for yourself.
Best - J
PS - Pic of US 93 along Salmon River in Idaho.
01-08-07, 03:28 PM
Good to read one of your detailed posts again--did you get out this Fall?
01-08-07, 10:22 PM
In 2001 my wife and I did a loop, Portland -> Yellowstone -> Portland, cycling back through this region of Idaho. We headed up Hwy 28 (Terreton to Salmon) after passing through Rexburg. I'd recommend taking Hwy 28 -- the first 50 miles is long and lonely with desolate desert landscape. But once you cross over the hills into Lemhi County, it's spectacular -- scenic, historic, and downhill. Fascinating small ranch and mining towns... Lone Pine has terrific burgers, and Leodore might have the best ice cream in the Rockies.
There was little traffic on this route back then, and I'd suspect that hasn't changed much. We didn't continue north of Salmon on Hwy 93, in fact we turned south on 93, west at Challis and then into the Sawtooth region. This is fantastic touring country.... The worst traffic we saw was on Hwy 95, which is notorious for trucks and no shoulders. Hwy 93 wasn't bad, but still more traffic than the backroads.
On the way out to Yellowstone, we rode Hwy 93 from Missoula to Lost Trail Pass (border of MT/ID). This is very heavy traffic, especially as you get closer to the cities, but an excellent shoulder (and a screaming downhill heading north from ID). The only stretches of Hwy 93 that I can't comment on are between Salmon and Lost Trail Pass, and north of Missoula. The ACA route from Missoula goes north on Hwy 83, which is an excellent choice.
On Hwy 28 in ID, the portion in Clark County is desolate, as I said above. There's a BLM campground about 40 miles north of Terreton -- otherwise not much else (and little water) within 100 miles.
Hwy 95 is the worst route in Idaho, but hard to avoid in the west part of the state. Hwy 93 is better, still lots of traffic but generally good shoulders. But some of the back roads are much better choices.
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