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A Journey Along US 30 between I-80 in Wyoming and I-15 in Idaho

 


The 186 miles of US 30 between I-80 just west of Little America, Wyoming and I-15 in McCammon, Idaho offers various levels of scenic terrain along with some history as well. A scenic alternate to the Interstates, there is not much of a time or mileage difference to be had between taking the modern all-Interstate highway route or US 30 if you are going between places like Cheyenne, Rock Springs, Twin Falls and Boise. As I was driving west, I found taking US 30 to be a worthy alternative to continuing on I-80 into Utah then following I-84 into Idaho. Once upon a time, this section of US 30 was signed as US 30N, as US 30 was originally split into US 30N and US 30S, with US 30N taking the route from Wyoming to Idaho's Magic Valley via Pocatello, which US 30S went south towards Salt Lake City, Utah before heading north into Idaho.

US 30 follows a flatter, emptier desert-like terrain through western Wyoming, with some hills along the way. I found the section of US 30 in southeastern Idaho to have more dramatic scenery, climbing to mountain passes and down into valley towns such as Montpelier and Soda Springs. It is in this area where US 30 follows the old Oregon and California Trails, so you would follow the steps that early pioneers to the American West had taken to start their new lives or to strike it rich. So let's take a virtual journey along US 30 through western Wyoming and southeastern Idaho.


Exiting I-80 westbound, which will continue to Evanston, Wyoming, Salt Lake City, Utah and eventually end in San Francisco, California. Plus there's a higher chance to having to dodge SWIFT trucks on the Interstate. I'm not taking that chance and taking US 30 instead.

US 30 traverses through rather pedestrian terrain as it makes its way west of I-80. The highway passes by Granger, where you can explore a former Pony Express station called the Granger Stage Station.

WYO 240 is a way to bypass Kemmerer if you are taking US 30 to US 189.

I'm just a route shield living in a lonely world...

One nice thing about taking US 30 through western Wyoming is that you can sometimes see far into the distance, especially if you have to pass a slower moving vehicle.


Bypassing Kemmerer on US 30 westbound. There looks to be a random exit number as well, 57 apparently. Kemmerer is home to the "Mother Store" for J.C. Penney. When I drove on US 30, it was part of a cross country drive. Earlier on the trip, I passed by the town where J.C. Penney himself was born along present day US 36 in Missouri, so you could say I got my Penney's worth.

Passing by Diamondville on US 30 westbound. It's only 24 miles to Sage Junction, which is where US 30 meets WYO 89.

The bypass and the business route join forces again west of Kemmerer.

Wide open Wyoming.

Watch out for deer.

Somewhere beyond this freight train and the ridge is the Fossil Butte National Monument.



US 30 meets WYO 89. Taking WYO 89 south will quickly take you into Utah and to the southern shores of Bear Lake.


Sublette Mountain starts to appear in the distance.

For all the cows...

Getting blocks of hay together for the upcoming winter.

Approaching Cokeville, Wyoming. Cokeville was settled in 1873 along a section of the old Oregon Trail and a store was opened there. Cokeville is probably best known for a tragic event, which was a hostage crisis and bombing that took place at the Cokeville Elementary School in 1986.

WYO 231 is a short spur into downtown Cokeville, while WYO 232 heads east then north into the hills.

Entering Cokeville.


This Flying J was a worthy place for a pit stop, as services are scarce along this stretch of US 30, especially in Wyoming.

As we leave Cokeville, I see a butte.

And the scenery opens up again. I felt that this was more scenic than a lot of the other places I encountered along the way on US 30 in Wyoming.


Farm country.


The scenery begins to become more dramatic as we draw closer to the Idaho border.

That's a different way of saying that there is an intersection ahead.

Sure enough, US 30 veers west towards Idaho while WYO 89 heads to the north towards Jackson Hole.

Right after the intersection of US 30 and WYO 89 is the Idaho border. The state line is roughly at the halfway point between I-80 and I-15 if you are taking US 30 between the two Interstate highways.

Montpelier and Soda Springs are towns we'll visit along the way on US 30 in Idaho.


Approaching the pass at Border Summit, some 6,358 feet above sea level.

The descent from Border Summit is really something.


The body of water to our left is Pine Spring Creek, which eventually empties into Bear Lake.


Oregon Trail and California Trail interpretive site for Big Hill, said to be the longest and steepest hill along the historic wagon trail between Independence, Missouri and Fort Hall in Idaho. It is said that if you look closely, you can still see wagon ruts from the early emigrants at Big Hill.

The descent from Big Hill is pretty awe inspiring for the modern day traveler as well.


Approaching Montpelier, Idaho, home to roughly 2,500 residents.

Montpelier is also where US 30 meets US 89. For travelers going on US 89 between Salt Lake City and Jackson, Wyoming or the national parks at Yellowstone or the Grand Tetons, this is roughly the halfway point.


It is in Montpelier where we pick up the Oregon Trail Bear Lake Scenic Byway, an Idaho scenic byway that stretches 54 miles from the Utah border on US 89 to Soda Springs on US 30. The National Oregon California Trail Center is also found in Montpelier and is worth the stop if you have the time to do so.


Leaving Montpelier, US 30 soon passes through the towns of Bennington and Georgetown. Mormons had settled the area of the Bear Lake Valley and named communities for towns in Vermont (Brigham Young was born in Vermont) or prominent early Mormons.

Leaving Georgetown, we get to discover how far we are from various springs.

Georgetown Summit, which is a mountain pass at 6,283 feet above sea level.

There was repaving going on west of the Georgetown Summit the day I drove through. So I got to admire the various bales of hay.

Or the scenic and quiet beauty of southeastern Idaho while I was stopped for road construction.


The next town ahead is Soda Springs.


Soda Springs is an Oregon Trail Oasis, apparently. Emigrants along the Oregon Trail would stop at Soda Springs to enjoy the hot springs for medicinal purposes, washing clothes and baking bread.

US 30 has a play date with ID 34 in Soda Springs.

The Pioneer Historic Byway also goes through Soda Springs.

I took a quick detour into downtown Soda Springs to see their famous geyser, which erupts every hour on the hour. By chance, I arrived a few minutes before the geyser went off. The geyser was created in 1937 when a well was drilled in search of hot water for a bath house that was being built. Instead, it caused this geyser to be unleashed to the world, and it is the only captive geyser in the world.

Here's a few photos of the geyser eruption. There is a boardwalk, platform and trails around the geyser if you want to explore and see the geyser at different angles.




Back on the road, we'll start approaching one of the more scenic stretches of US 30, in my humble opinion.

Long Ridge is the name of that mountain in front of us.

As ID 34 veers off to the south, US 30 heads due west to Lava Hot Springs. This was not always the case, as US 30 once headed northwest towards the town of Bancroft, then south along the Portneuf River back to Lava Hot Springs. The highway, which was then known as US 30N, was moved to its current and more straight alignment during the 1970s between Alexander and Lava Hot Springs, thus shortening the distance between Soda Springs and Lava Hot Springs by about 12 miles.

The 15 miles to Lava Hot Springs is very scenic even on the modern road, passing along vistas of nearby mountains and farmlands. US 30 is long and straight for about half of the distance to Lava Hot Springs, then has a nice descent into the valley as we draw closer to town. I'll let the pictures do the talking for a while.










Entering Lava Hot Springs as we cross the Portneuf River. The old alignment of US 30 meets with the modern day highway just west of the bridge we are just crossing. Lava Hot Springs is known for its resorts and various campgrounds, built around the natural underground hot springs found in the area. I did not get to stop in Lava Hot Springs, but it looks like it would be worth a visit in the future.

The Portneuf River will follow US 30 fairly closely between Lava Hot Springs and McCammon, before heading north to Pocatello and the American Falls Reservoir, where it meets the Snake River. The Portneuf River was named for a French trapper who once roamed the area.

Idaho is pretty in the fall. There's not a whole lot of note in this area besides the scenery, so once again, a picture tells a thousand words.







Entering McCammon, Idaho. McCammon is a historic railroad town. Before then, McCammon was part of the Hudspeth Cutoff of the California Trail, which was used to shave off miles for emigrants looking to work in the gold mines.


This concludes our trip on US 30 between I-80 near Little America, Wyoming and I-15 in McCammon, Idaho. Continue right to go to Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Twin Falls and Boise in Idaho. Turn left to go to Ogden, Utah.





How to Get There:




Sources and Links:
UntraveledRoad - U.S. Highway 30
CorcoHighways.org - U.S. Routes (Idaho)
CorcoHighways.org - U.S. Routes (Wyoming)

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