- 127 miles (204 km)
- 2.5 hours to drive or 4.5 hours to enjoy the Byway.
Pioneer Historic Byway's unique combination of history, natural beauty, and cultural milestones provide the traveler with an intimate look at the trials and triumphs of a rugged frontier people guided by faith and inspired by freedom. Your journey begins in the extreme southeastern corner of Idaho at Franklin, Idaho's oldest city, before continuing up the Bear River through historically rich sites, spectacular scenery, and opportunities for wildlife viewing.
Most of the stops along Pioneer Historic Byway hearken back to the mid 1800s, when Mormon pioneers began settling the area. Evidence of their hard work and determination abounds all along the way. While in Franklin, tour a variety of historic buildings and sites, including a 19th Century city hall and Yellowstone Rock, an original route marker from one of the first routes to the National Park. In Preston you'll find the Preston-Oneida Stake Academy, a fascinating three story Romanesque stone structure.
Your trek takes you from vibrant small towns to abandoned places where the ghosts of the nation's past always linger nearby. The dusty roads of Chesterfield silence your footsteps as you walk through this untouched example of early western life. Harsh climate and bad crop seasons led settlers to abandon the town, leaving 23 early American structures behind. The trip takes on a somber tone when you tread the hallowed ground of the Bear River Massacre National Historic Site where 250 Native Americans were killed by an American army unit. Many reminders of the Oregon Trail exist along Pioneer Historic Scenic Byway as well, including Sheep Rock, the first split of the Oregon-California Trail.
For a memorable driving break stop at the Franklin Historic District, and the Preston Oneida Stake Academy. Kick back after a day on the road by visiting one of the area's hot springs for a well deserved soak. For cold, naturally carbonated spring water visit Hooper Springs Park in Soda Springs. The park's variety of amenities, including picnic tables, restrooms, and a playground, makes it a perfect spot to stop for lunch. Before continuing on the Byway to Grays Lake Wildlife Refuge and Scenic Tincup Canyon don't miss the captive geyser in downtown Soda Springs.
Points of Interest
Points of Interest Along The Way
Bear River Massacre Site (ID)
This now peaceful valley is the site of one of the most tragic meetings of two cultures that the state has ever experienced. At 1 am on January 29, 1863, an infantry of soldiers with all their weapons moved through the snow drifts into position to attack a band of 450 Shoshoni men, women, and children that had camped along the banks of the Bear River. The troops began the attack at the crack of dawn just as the Shoshoni were lighting their first campfires. The Shoshoni lost nearly 275 people due to this cruel attack of the California Volunteers.
It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1990 and is being considered for National Monument status. Currently, there is a pullout marked by a stone monument. Several brass plaques and markers relate the history of the event. An overlook, with parking, pathway, and interpretive signs, will be in place, across the Bear River, by June 2006.
Proceed north 2.5 miles, 10 minutes, out of Preston on US 91 to Milepost 13.1.
Black Canyon Gorge (ID)
This beautiful gem of the byway could be easily passed oroverlooked if travelers aren't already aware of it. The BlackCanyon Gorge is just one mile west of Grace and offers display of abasalt lava flow combined with the effects of nature over time. TheBear River fomed the canyon as it cut through a series of lavaflows.
A worthwhile site on the byway, the Black Canyon Gorge alsooffers recreational opportunities. Anglers and kayakers especiallylike to take advantage of the gorge.
One mile west of Grace's Center Street.
Caribou Mountain (ID)
Caribou Mountain, 9803 feet high, is viewed from SH 34 between Mileposts 85.0 and 91.9. Gold was discovered there in 1870. It created an economic boom for the region that went as far south as Salt Lake City. Caribou Mt. and its story is very important to the history of this part of Idaho. It is another microcosm of western settlement history available on the Pioneer Historic Byway.
Caribou-Targhee National Forest (ID)
The Caribou-Targhee National Forest occupies over three million acres and stretches across southeastern Idaho, from the Montana, Utah, and Wyoming borders. Activities include mountain biking, hiking, camping, rock climbing, and mountain boarding.
Established in 1879, this historic community on the Oregon Trail is a well preserved example of a small Mormon settlement. The town site features 23 historic buildings, many of them brick, built between 1884 and 1904. The community was abandoned in the 1920s due to crop failures in theharsh climate. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Chesterfield Foundation is working on site and building restoration.
Driving north on SH 34 from Grace go straight (north) through the US 30/SH 34 junction and stay on paved Caribou County road, Old Highway 30. It will swing to the left (west) and take you 10 miles to Bancroft, ID. At Bancroft, turn right on the paved County Road, Chesterfield Highway, cross the railroad tracks, and go 10 miles to PHB Site #9, Chesterfield Townsite.
China Hat Geological Site (ID)
China Hat and China Cap are rhyolite domes that formed around older lava flows. There are many faults located in the area which have had a part in forming these landforms as well as multiple "grabens." "Graben" is the German word for "ditch" or "trench." What the travelersees is depressions created on the earth's surfacewhen blocks of crust drop down. Stop at China Hat for a picnic anda deep exploration of your surroundings.
South of the Blackfoot Reservoir, two miles west of SR 34.
Formation Springs Preserve (ID)
The unique geology of this area makes it a fascinating stop onthe Byway. In 1989, 160-acres surrounding Formation Springs wasturned into a preserve. The preserve features crystal pools and awetland complex at the base of Aspen Mountain.
The terraced pools at Formation Springs are formed by coldsprings that feed into them and deposit high concentrations ofcalcium carbonate. The pools are a place to stay for winteringwildlife, and provide a natural point of interest both geologicallyand biologically. The preserve also include Formation Cave thatstretches for 500 feet. Visitors may want to do a little spelunkingat Formation Springs.
East of SR 34 on Trail Creek Road (Forest Route 124) one mile to the preserve.
Franklin Historic District (ID)
Driving through this little Idaho town, you may not even notice the historic streets beyond the highway/mainstreet of Frankin. But drivers who take a slight detour will be rewarded. Settled in 1860 by Mormon pioneers, Franklin is the oldest town in Idaho and will treat visitors to the sights of the past through its architecture. Travelers will notice the Relic Hall, ZCMI Co-op, the Hatch House, the old City Hall, and the Franklin City Park.
Visitors may also find the distinct Pioneer Monument, a stone spire topped by an eagle that was erected in 1910 to honor the settlers of this territory. One of the last Yellowstone Markers is found here as well. These boulders featured an arrow welded to the top to point the way to Yellowstone National Park. As you continue your drive through Franklin, notice the hill to the west and its tribute to the year Franklin was settled.
Located on Main Street two blocks or so east of Hwy 91.
Geyser Park and Visitor Center (ID)
Soda Springs has the only captive geyser in the world. It wasdiscovered in an attempt to find a hot water source for a swimmingpool. In 1937, the drill broke through and unleased the geyser.
Unlike Old Faithful or many other geysers, this geyser is a coldwater geyser. Its power comes from carbon dioxide gas mixing withwater in an underground chamber.
The geyser is capped and controlled by a timer. It erupts everyhour on the hour in the off-season, though they may adjust it toerupt every half-hour in the regular season. The spout lasts about10 minutes, and reaches a height of 100 feet year round.
Just off Main Street in Soda Springs, at about 1st West and 1st South.
This community was settled in 1889 and is central to many nearby points of interest.
Located on the byway on SR 34.