Are you looking for the best places in Idaho to enjoy the great outdoors? The state known as the “Gem State” is filled with precious and semi-precious gemstones, but it also has a wealth of hidden treasures waiting to be discovered in the form of unique locations to explore. Idaho’s lakes, rivers, gorges, and waterfalls make it a must-see for outdoor enthusiasts. The following is a selection of our preferred locations in Idaho to enjoy the great outdoors.
1. Lake Coeur d’Alene
Lake Coeur d’Alene should be your first destination of entry in Idaho. This lovely alpine setting surrounds a 26-mile-long lake in northern Idaho. Despite its fame as a renowned tourist attraction, it nevertheless feels like a peaceful escape from reality.
Some of the best water sports may be found in crystal-clear waters and on pristine beaches. The lovely city of Coeur d’Alene may be located at its northernmost tip. This alpine village has numerous restaurants and bars with a floating boardwalk. Your trip to Idaho would be incomplete if you didn’t spend some time at this picturesque lake and take a walk around it.
The Coeur d’Alene Resort is the kind of place for a luxurious vacation. Guests may enjoy lakefront accommodations and dining, watercraft rentals, and the World’s Most Romantic Spa, according to MSNBC’s poll. In addition, the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course, which has the world’s only floating green, is located on the site.
2. Middle Fork of the Salmon River
The Middle Fork of the Salmon River is considered as some of the best whitewater rafting for the adventurous. This 100-mile rafting route is almost entirely whitewater, making it a genuinely exciting experience. The rafting will be unique, but so will the view from the top. You’ll pass by Native American petroglyphs and mining ruins and see the Inaccessible Canyon’s granite walls.
Take time to relax in numerous hot springs after a long day of boating. Early in the season, when the water levels are the highest, and the river is most violent, is the best time to go rafting. In August, the river flow is slower and more manageable for families and less experienced rafters.
3. Hells Canyon
Hells Canyon is another destination you shouldn’t skip. This river valley is over 2,000 feet deeper than the Grand Canyon, making it the deepest in the United States and worldwide. It is traversed by the Snake River, which divides Idaho from the states of Washington and Oregon. In the same way that you may find Native American petroglyphs and abandoned mines along the Salmon River, you can also find them on the Idaho side of the Canyon, which the Seven Devils Mountains decorate in Idaho.
Hells Canyon has some of the best views in the country, as well as world-class whitewater rafting and jaw-dropping alpine scenery. Hiking or horseback riding through remote wilderness areas is a great way to see a wide variety of species, prehistoric relics, and the rustic remains of early miners and settlers.
4. Sawtooth Mountains
Idaho’s stunning wilderness is a summer must-see. The Sawtooth Mountains of the Rocky Mountains are one of Idaho’s most beautiful places. This landscape offers miles of hiking routes, fast-flowing rivers, and gorgeous mountain lakes.
Alice Lake is a famous wild lake. Alice Lake illustrates the Sawtooth wilderness’s beauty. Redfish Lake is another alpine destination. This lake offers both relaxation and adventure.
Take Sawtooth Scenic Byway through Sawtooth National Forest and “America’s Alps” You’ll enjoy the voyage and find numerous exciting sights. Black Magic Canyon is a great hike. Its fascinating lava rock sculptures will transport you to another dimension. Big Wood River carved them.
Before visiting, do research. Sometimes flooded, the Canyon has rattlesnakes. Stop at Galena Summit to observe the Sawtooth Mountains and Salmon River headwaters. Sun Valley is along the Sawtooth Scenic Byway. Redfish Lake offers boating, fishing, and scenic landscapes.
5. Shoshone Falls
Shoshone Falls on the Snake River is near Twin Falls. Higher than Niagara Falls at 212 ft. The falls include playgrounds, hiking paths, picnic spaces, a boat ramp, swimming, and a scenic overlook. A picnic in the grassy area is a great place to see the falls. Shoshone Falls is a Snake River natural wonder. Higher than Niagara Falls at 212 ft. They’re best seen in spring and early summer when river flows are high due to snowmelt. In dry years, irrigation diversion of Snake River flows can reduce water over the falls in summer and fall.
Even without high water, the falls are beautiful year-round. Shoshone Falls/Dierkes Lake Complex is owned by Twin Falls. It has playgrounds, hiking trails, picnic spaces, a boat ramp, a swimming area, and a beautiful overlook. In addition, the facility offers restrooms, visitor information, and sheltered, grassy spaces for picnicking and watching Shoshone Falls.
6. The Craters of the Moon National Monument
You’ll find these bizarre lava fields between Carey and Arco, Idaho, south of the Sawtooth National Forest. The Craters of the Moon National Monument is suitably called because of its mystical atmosphere. An old lava field carved out the craters and caverns found throughout the area. The park is nearly as large as Rhode Island. In this area, there is a lot of trekking to be done, and each view is like looking at a new planet. Explore the “lava tubes” to find lava tube beetles that can’t be found anywhere else.
For millennials, Boise, Idaho’s largest and most populous city, is a top choice for a place to call home. Because of its reputation as the “city of trees,” Boise, the state capital of Idaho, is consistently ranked among the state’s most visited places. In the 19th century, French Canadian trappers named this wooded river after the cottonwood trees that dominated the oasis.
For nature lovers, this is a haven full of rivers, mountains, canyons, deserts, and lakes where they can engage in various recreational activities. It’s also a fantastic area to go sightseeing in the city centre, with the Idaho State Capitol and the Classic Egyptian Theatre, as well as a wide variety of small businesses, making it a cultural hub. This mid-sized city retains the character of a small town thanks to its friendly residents, stylish cafes, and quirky shops.
8. Idaho state capital building
Idaho’s State Capitol’s 208-foot dome towers over Boise’s modern multistory buildings and rolling foothills. The Renaissance Revival Capitol reflects Idaho’s political, social, and economic history. Since it was built over 105 years ago, the Capitol has been the headquarters of Idaho’s state government, containing the executive, legislative, and various state offices.
The Capitol and its grounds occupy two blocks of the urban grid, with grounds equal to the building’s 328-foot north and south façade and 170-foot east/west axis. The building’s location highlights its size and classical form. The design uses transitional architectural forms from several historical eras but local materials. The Capitol’s sandstone front reflects the dusty light red colors of Boise’s foothills, modifying its civic symbolism to suit Idaho’s people and land.
9. Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park, located partly in the state of Idaho, is undoubtedly one of the most well-known national parks in the entire world. However, if you are going to be in the state, you must check out this tourist destination! The truly great wilderness area extends almost 3,500 square miles and sits on a volcanic hot stop, which explains the incredible hot springs and geysers found there; be sure not to miss the world-famous Old Faithful Geyser.
It is also among the best place to take a vacation in Yellowstone because it offers various places to stay and serves as a center for many different outdoor activities, such as climbing, cycling, and hiking.
10. Snake River Canyon
Boating and hiking in the Snake River Canyon are activities that absolutely cannot be missed when in Idaho; it is one of the most scenic areas to visit in the state.
The Snake River formed this scenic Canyon in Southern Idaho, and it extends east to west and then back east again on each side of the city of Twin Falls. The Snake River has a length of fifty miles; during that time, it has cut through and continued to flow across ancient basalt lava. If you are seeking exciting things to do in Idaho, the Canyon provides a beautiful environment for activities like hiking and boating. In addition, the Canyon is home to several springs and two significant waterfalls.
11. Idaho Falls
Idaho Falls, a city in eastern Idaho, is renowned for its proximity to the outdoors and is considered among the most exciting place to visit in the state. Both sides of the Snake River are blessed with the stunning Idaho Falls River Walk, a five-mile-long walkway that offers a spectacular view. In addition, the greenbelt is a popular route for bicyclists, runners, and parents with strollers since it showcases some of the city’s most beautiful surroundings.
The Art Museum, the Museum of Idaho, and the Japanese Friendship Garden at Sportsman Park are just a few examples of the city’s cultural offerings. In addition, you can easily go to world-famous destinations like Yellowstone National Park and Jackson Hole from Idaho Falls.
McCall is a beautiful place to spend your holiday during spring, summer, fall, and even winter. However, if you are searching for a destination ideal for family vacations in both the summer and the winter, you might consider giving the resort town of McCall a try. It is a fantastic calm scenic resort in Idaho located on the magnificent Payette Lake and approximately 2.5 hours north of Boise. Here you may rest or engage in various activities such as boating, kayaking, or hiking.
The town has a delightful atmosphere and features some beautiful locations to shop, go, and stay. While walking along the waterfront, you can either go for a dip or set off on a cruise instead. During the winter, special events take place, such as exhibits of ice sculptures.
Sandpoint is home to stunning scenic views and recreational opportunities that are among the best in the world. It is a bustling city that offers a wide variety of outdoor sports and cultural events. It is tucked between three mountain ranges on the beautiful Lake Pend Oreille. This city in Bonner County is a popular vacation spot for people looking to spend time in the mountains because of its location. Climb the nearby Selkirk and Cabinet mountain ranges, or hike through the lake Pend’s skirt; Sandpoint was once recognized as the most beautiful small town in the United States, and it is a travel place that should not be missed when traveling through the state of Idaho.
14. Thousand Springs State Park
The Thousand Springs State Park is a public recreation and nature preservation area to explore, and it is full of beautiful wonders waiting to be discovered by visitors. Malad Gorge, Kelton Trail, Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon Springs Nature Preserve, Billingsley Creek, Ritter Island, Niagara Springs, and Crystal Springs are just a few of the many picturesque landscapes that can be found within this park, which was established in 2005 through the merger of four existing state parks in the Hagerman Valley.
If you take the time to admire the stunning waterfalls and springs that emerge directly from the canyon walls and enjoy exploring the grounds, this location will leave you in awe.
15. Sun Valley
The vibrant town of Sun Valley, which is located in the Rocky Mountains of Central Idaho, has a wide variety of opportunities for outdoor activity, including both winter sports and summertime enjoyment. Unfortunately, the lines on Bald Mountain are known to be among the most difficult for expert skiers and snowboarders. In contrast, the slopes on Dollar Mountain are more forgiving, making them ideal for beginners.
The Sun Valley Ski Resort is not only famous for being the birthplace of chairlifts but also for being a popular hangout for some of the most famous people in the world. Visit the Sun Valley Heritage and Ski Museum to get warm and learn more about Ernest Hemingway’s time in the area during his stay in Sun Valley.
The historic mining town of Wallace, which produced silver for a long time, is now recognized as a National Historic Place. Wallace, also known as the “Silver Capital of the World,” is a town that can be found close to the main town of Coeur d’Alene. Along with the neighborhood’s vibrant history, the modern-day Wallace offers a wide variety of activities that are among the best in the world.
Take advantage of the underground mine tours, mine museums, logging, mountain bike, and snowmobile trails located on the roads maintained by the Forest Service, all while surrounded by verdant forests. Both history lovers and people looking for an exciting new experience will enjoy exploring this charming and picturesque town.
17. Silver Mountain
The Silver Mountain region is famous for its thrilling terrain, deep snow, and sunshine. In addition, silver Mountain is a popular destination for outdoor activities such as skiing, biking, and hiking due to its proximity to Coeur d’Alene. The ski resort, which features some of the best skiing in Northern Idaho, is located in the mountains directly above the town of Kellogg, and it is connected to the area by gondolas.
The Silver Mountain Resort is a beautiful place for families to visit because it offers various activities and attractions, including the longest gondola in North America and Idaho’s largest indoor water park.
18. Bruneau Dunes State Park
In the high desert to the south of Mountain Home, you’ll find a few small lakes and the 470-foot-tall sand dune that holds the record for the tallest single-structured sand dune in North America.
The state park features a variety of habitats, including desert, dune, prairie, lake, and marsh, and offers visitors the chance to see nighttime wildlife. Fishing, birdwatching, camping, hiking, swimming, and visits to one of only two public observatories in the state are just some of the activities that may be enjoyed in Idaho.
Climbing is permitted, however, driving a car on the dunes is strictly prohibited. There is a tourist center that sells souvenirs and provides information on sand dunes, birds of prey, insects, fossils, and other species as well as fossils.
It is common knowledge that Idaho is home to some of the most beautiful small towns in the United States, and Stanley, often referred to as a beautiful hidden gem, is not an exception to this rule. Stanley, which can be found in Custer County, Idaho, is a town that serves as an excellent location for a peaceful getaway. Stanley Lake is a tranquil lake that can be found at the foot of the Sawtooth Mountains.
You can take a lot of photographs in Stanley; it doesn’t matter what time of year it is. The peace of Stanley Lake makes it a haven for people who enjoy being surrounded by nature. The lake is known for its breathtaking sunset vistas, hot springs, lush summer vegetation, and breathtaking fall foliage.
Driggs is the place that makes you feel like you’ve left the rest of the world behind. This wonderful small resort town is somewhat low-key in comparison to other resort towns in Idaho, making it a fantastic destination for individuals who want to get away from it all and enjoy some peace and quiet. Skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoe walking are all activities that can be enjoyed here at this central location in Teton Valley, which serves as a crossroads to the Grand Targhee Ski Resort.
The town is home to a few locally owned boutiques, eateries, and accommodations, and the mountains around it feature a vast network of unending hiking trails.