The Pend Oreille Scenic Byway is a delightful drive along the lake of the same name: Lake Pend Oreille, east of Sandpoint, Idaho. You’ll enjoy mountain scenery and views across the lake for a good portion of this drive into Montana.
My decision to drive down Idaho 200 was made at the last minute. My ultimate destination for the night was Libby, Montana. Looking at the map, I figured it would be just about as far to drive up US 95, then east on 2, as it would be to take Idaho and Montana 200, then Montana 56. The truth is, the route I took was about 11 miles longer — but the scenery was worth it.
Much of Idaho 200 looks like this. The two-lane road skirts the coast of Lake Pend Oreille…
… giving you a beautiful view. Since it was so late in the day, I didn’t stop to take pictures — these are shots from my dash-mounted Drivelapse camera. You can see the video of the drive below.
Near the community of Hope, the road swoops out onto a viaduct over the lake. Hope goes by in the blink of an eye…
… but you will need to slow down briefly for the town of Clark Fork, Idaho.
Just after Clark Fork, and just a stone’s throw from the Montana state line…
… a side road takes you down to the Cabinet Gorge Dam. The dam forms the Cabinet Gorge Reservoir, which extends into Montana. The dam was built in just 21 months, and completed in 1952. Its power plant generates 263 megawatts of power, enough to light 200,000 homes.
There is a nice viewpoint here, that gives you a look at the dam, as well as one of the huge turbines that once generated electricity at the dam.
Back on the road, Idaho 200 turns into Montana 200. You’ll be driving along the edge of the Cabinet Gorge Reservoir, which is much more narrow than Lake Pend Oreille.
The Bottom Line
The Pend Oreille Scenic Byway is a beautiful drive through the mountains of northern Idaho, with great views of Lake Pend Oreille. It’s the long way from Sandpoint to Libby — just by a few miles — but it’s a very enjoyable ride.
The Pend Oreille Scenic Byway is Idaho 200. It runs from US 2, just north of the town of Sandpoint, to the Idaho/Montana state line. Beyond the state line, the route maintains the “200” designation, and remains scenic as it crosses much of Montana.
Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Sandpoint, Idaho to the Montana/Idaho state line, and on to Route 56: