Granite peaks topping 10,000 feet thrust skyward from a thick pine forest that cradles the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway as it gradually rises to 7,800 feet following a crystal-clear flowing river. The Pioneer Mountains are bounded on the west by this beautiful drive that meanders through heavy forest, giving way from time to time to broader meadows. Exploring here, you’ll never guess what lies below. Over 70 million years ago, molten magma released aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, cinnabar, copper, gold, iron, lead, manganese, mercury, quartz, silver and zinc. When placer deposits (those that are panned from rivers) were exhausted, miners cut deep shafts, ultimately riddling the mountains with hundreds of miles of tunnels buried far below the surface. Between 1881 and 1900, 12,000 acres of lush pine forest were also stripped away to create 19 million bushels of charcoal to power the smelters. The forest has now been restored and the story of the region blends seamlessly with the scenic beauty, although in some places, you can still see remnants of small operations that scratched out a living with isolated veins of silver, lead, or zinc. Explore the ghost town of Coolidge, the abandoned Elkhorn mine, and search for quartz at Crystal Park. Near the end of the Byway, Bannock preserves over 60 structures from its mining roots. The ever present mountain peaks accompany you for the drive, as you follow the footsteps of the trappers, traders, mountain men, and miners, who trod this ground.