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IDAHO TRAVEL GUIDE

Sawtooth Lake, Idaho Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot, ID Upper Mesa Falls, Idaho

Welcome to the bigroads.com travel guide to Idaho! Hopefully this page and its information helps provide some inspiration and tips to help you plan your next trip to Idaho.

Take note that I build and maintain this website as both a hobby and public service. I take joy in performing travel research and sharing my experiences and adventures. I do not make any profit from this website, and you will see no ads on it. Your constructive feedback about this site and its content is encouraged. Please email me if you have any suggestions or ideas for improvement.

Author/Contributor: Greg Parsons


OVERVIEW



Idaho used to be a sleepy kind of place, but the secret is out. People now know that Idaho is more than just potatoes. Outdoor adventures abound in Idaho. There's jagged mountain peaks (e.g. the Sawtooths), two renowned rail trails, several world-class waterfalls, and dozens of hot springs. I would encourage you to visit soon before things like permits and quotas start appearing like they have in some of the nature parks in neighboring states.

5-STAR ATTRACTIONS IN IDAHO



Here is my opinionated list of 5-star attractions in Idaho. I believe each of these attractions should be on your Idaho state bucket list since they are all noteworthy from a national perspective:

Northern Idaho (including Coeur d'Alene)
Coeur d'Alene - "the honeymoon capital of the Northwest"; don't miss cycling on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alene; lake activities
Crystal Gold Mine, Kellogg - fun underground guided mine tours
Dog Bark Park Inn, Cottonwood - stay in a guesthouse that is shaped like a giant beagle dog; a classic roadside attraction
Lake Coeur d'Alene - scenic lake beside a gateway city; great boating and cycling
North Idaho Centennial Trail - 24-mile paved recreational path
Route of the Hiawatha - 15-mile bike path with ten tunnels & seven high trestles; one of the top 25 bike paths in the U.S.
Schweitzer Mountain, Sandpoint - this 92-trail resort is the largest ski resort in Idaho
Seven Stars Alpaca Ranch, Coeur d'Alene - ranch with guided experiences with many farm animals, including alpacas
Sierra Silver Mine Tour, Wallace - ride a trolley & then walk into an underground mine
Silverwood Theme Park, Athol - the best theme park in Idaho
Timberline Adventures, Couer d'Alene - awesome zip-lining tours
Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes - a 72-mile scenic paved rail trail; one of the top 25 rail trails in the U.S.

Central Idaho (including Boise, Idaho Falls, Ketchum, and the Sawtooth Mountains)
Bayhorse Ghost Town, Challis - drive a dirt road to reach one of the best ghost towns in the Pacific Northwest
Boise River Greenbelt, Boise - excellent 25-mile mostly paved bike path
Challis Hot Springs, Challis - thermal baths at a developed hot spring resort
Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, Arco - scenic and otherworldly volcanic landscapes; lava tubes you can enter/explore
EBR-I Atomic Museum, Arco - atomic/nuclear energy museum
Fall Creek Falls, Swan Valley - 60-foot waterfall that drops into the Snake River
Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness - premier wilderness area with excellent backpacking
Goldbug Hot Springs, Salmon - moderate hike to excellent hot springs
Hells Canyon National Recreation Area - North America's deepest gorge; world-class multi-day whitewater rafting
Idaho Botanical Garden, Boise - beautiful high-desert gardens
Idaho Falls Temple & Visitors Center - stunning Mormon church
Museum of Idaho, Idaho Falls - good history and science center
Old Idaho Penitentiary, Boise - tour a decommissioned 1872 prison
Redfish Lake - largest lake in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area; excellent fishing, boating, and swimming; trailhead for several hikes
Roaring Springs Waterpark, Meridian - best water park in Idaho
Sawtooth National Recreation Area - one of the premier mountainous areas in the U.S.; world-class hiking and backpacking
Sawtooth Scenic Byway - the finest paved scenic drive in Idaho
Spud Drive In, Driggs - beloved drive-in movie theater near Wyoming border
Stanley Lake - beautiful lake with stunning mountain views
Sun Valley, Sun Valley - the first major ski resort in the US; loved by celebrities
Upper Mesa Falls / Mesa Falls, Ashton - beautiful 114-foot tall block-style waterfall; one of the top 25 waterfalls in the U.S.
World Center For Birds of Prey, Boise - exhibits & demonstrations of various birds of prey

Southern Idaho (including Pocatello and Twin Falls)
Bruneau Dunes State Park - hike up and/or sand-board down the best sand dunes in Idaho; good camping; cabin rentals; sky-gazing programs
Castle Rocks State Park, Almo - world-class rock climbing plus scenic hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trails; great camping
City of Rocks National Reserve, Almo - world-class rock climbing on granite monoliths and oddly-eroded rock
Gooding City of Rocks, Gooding - colorful volcanic rock hoodoos
Idaho Potato Museum, Blackfoot - small museum idolizing the state's most famous crop; a giant potato statue in front is a great photo op
Kirkham Hot Springs, Boise National Forest, Lowman - one of Idaho's best hot springs
Lava Hot Springs - one of Idaho's best commercial hot springs
Museum of Clean, Pocatello - quirky museum with antique vacuums, washers, trash cans, toilets, etc.
National Oregon/California Trail Center, Montpelier - living history museum with focus on famous historic traveling routes
Perrine Bridge, Twin Falls - one of the most beautiful bridges in the US; very popular with BASE-jumpers
Shoshone Falls, Shoshone - 212-foot tall, 1,000-foot wide massive waterfall; one of the biggest and best waterfalls in the U.S.

Whitewater rafting is a popular activity on many rivers in Idaho. I didn't bother including these rivers in the lists above because there are simply too many to them (there's roughly a dozen or so of them).

Are you aware of any other 5-star attractions in Idaho? If so, please email me at gparsons66@hotmail.com.

TOP 10 ATTRACTIONS IN IDAHO



Are you short on time or struggling to choose something to do or see in Idaho? Here are my selections for the top 10 attractions or experiences in Idaho, in no particular order:

Cycle one of Idaho's famous long-distance rail trails (e.g. Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes or the Route of the Hiawatha)
Drive the Sawtooth Scenic Byway in central Idaho
Relax in one of Idaho's excellent hot springs resorts
Take an epic multi-day whitewater rafting trip (e.g. Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Snake River through Hells Canyon, etc.)
Go skiing or snowboarding at Sun Valley
Head to Coeur d'Alene, dubbed the "honeymoon capital of the Northwest"
Throw on a backpack and head deep into the Sawtooth National Recreation Area
Hop in one of Idaho's hot springs resorts
Explore an other-wordly volcanic landscape at Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve
Visit one of Idaho's world-class waterfalls (e.g. Shoshone Falls or Upper Mesa Falls)

If I could pick only one place to visit in Idaho, I would choose the Ketchum area so that I could explore the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

BEST TOWNS & CITIES TO VISIT IN IDAHO



These towns and cities in Idaho are generally regarded as the most interesting to travelers:

Boise - the capital of Idaho has awesome green spaces and offers a ton of nearby outdoor activities
Coeur d’Alene - mountain scenery; golfing; boat tours; one of the best rail trails in the US (Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes)
Ketchum - mountain scenery; skiing/snowboarding at Sun Valley; several nearby hot springs; outdoor activities; gateway to Sawtooth NRA

Wallace also looks like it might be a nice small town, but I haven't visited it yet.

If you want to visit the Sawtooth Mountains region, stay in or near Ketchum.

Click here if you'd like to see a complete list of towns and cities that I find interesting across the entire USA.

WHAT IS IDAHO FAMOUS FOR?



Here are some things that Idaho is famous or well known for:

backpacking
canyons
fly-fishing
gem mining (e.g. topaz, star garnet, etc.)
gold mining history
ghost towns
hot springs
lava tubes
lentils
national forests
onions
potatoes
rail trails (e.g. Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, Route of the Hiawatha)
rock climbing
scenic landscapes
scenic rivers
trout fishing
waterfalls (e.g. Shoshone Falls, Upper Mesa Falls)
whitewater rafting
wilderness

Click here if you'd like to learn what other U.S. states are famous for.

NATIONAL PARKS IN IDAHO



There is only one national park in Idaho, but there are many other federally-managed parks and properties in the state, including:

National Parks
Yellowstone National Park - take note that only a small portion of the park is in Idaho (most of the park is in Wyoming)

National Monuments
Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve - otherworldly and scenic volcanic landscapes; lava tubes you can enter/explore
Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument

National Recreation Areas
Hells Canyon National Recreation Area - North America's deepest gorge; world-class multi-day whitewater rafting
Sawtooth National Recreation Area - one of the premier mountainous areas in the U.S.; world-class hiking and backpacking

National Forests
Bitterroot National Forest
Boise National Forest
Caribou-Targhee National Forest
Clearwater National Forest
Idaho Panhandle National Forest
Kootenai National Forest
Nez Perce National Forest
Payette National Forest
Salmon-Challis National Forest
Sawtooth National Forest
Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
Wallowa-Whitman National Forest

National Historical Parks / Other National Parks
California National Historic Trail
City of Rocks National Reserve, Almo - granite monoliths and oddly-eroded granite; world-class rock climbing
Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail
Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
Minidoka National Historic Site
Nez Perce National Historical Park
Oregon National Historic Trail

For more information on Idaho's national parks, visit the Idaho page of the National Park Service. For an overview of all U.S. national parks, click here.

STATE PARKS IN IDAHO



Idaho has more than 25 state parks. Many would agree that these represent Idaho's finest state parks:

Flagship / Premier State Parks:
Castle Rocks State Park, Almo - world-class rock climbing plus scenic hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trails; great camping
Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes - a 72-mile extraordinarily scenic paved rail trail; one of the top 25 rail trails in the U.S.

Other Notable State Parks:
Bruneau Dunes State Park - hike up and/or sand-board down the best sand dunes in Idaho; good camping; cabin rentals; sky-gazing programs
Farragut State Park - famous for its aerial adventure park and exceptional camping
Harriman State Park - 22 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trails; good fly fishing
Thousand Springs State Park - beautiful canyon views and waterfalls

To see my list of the top 100 state parks in the country, click here.

BEST WATERFALLS IN IDAHO



Idaho has an estimated 250-350 natural waterfalls. Some of the best waterfalls in Idaho include:

Devils Washbowl, Thousand Springs State Park
Falls Creek Falls, Caribou-Targhee National Forest
Jump Creek Falls, Jump Creek Recreation Site
Minnie Miller Springs, Thousands Springs State Park
Niagara Springs, Thousand Springs State Park
Shoshone Falls
Perrine-Coulee Falls
Upper Mesa Falls, Caribou-Targhee National Forest

For a listing of all known waterfalls in Idaho, visit the World Waterfall Database.

BEST SCENIC DRIVES IN IDAHO



This section coming soon!

BEST RAIL TRAILS IN IDAHO



Here is a list of the best rail trails (or similar cycling paths) in Idaho:

Boise River Greenbelt
Idaho Falls Greenbelt
North Idaho Centennial Trail
Route of the Hiawatha - widely considered one of the very best rail trails in the U.S.
Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes - widely considered one of the very best rail trails in the U.S.
Weiser River National Recreation Trail
Wood River Trail

For detailed information on all known rail trails in Idaho, visit the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy website.

BEST AMUSEMENT PARKS / THEME PARKS IN IDAHO



Idaho has only a few notable amusement parks. The best amusement parks in Idaho include:

Olympic Swimming Complex, Lava Hot Springs
Roaring Springs Waterpark, Meridian
Silverwood Theme Park, Athol

BEST MUSEUMS IN IDAHO



Idaho has a few excellent museums. The best museums in Idaho include:

EBR-I Atomic Museum, Arco - unique atomic/nuclear energy museum
Idaho Potato Museum, Blackfoot
Museum of Clean, Pocatello - antique vacuums, washers, trash cans, toilets, etc.
Museum of Idaho, Idaho Falls
National Oregon/California Trail Center, Montpelier - living history museum with focus on famous trails
Old Idaho Penitentiary, Boise - tour a decommissioned 1872 prison
Warhawk Air Museum, Nampa

BEST DAY HIKES IN IDAHO



Idaho has many spectacular hiking trails. Here are some of the best day hikes in Idaho:

Northern Idaho (including Coeur d'Alene)
Chilco Mountain Trail, Idaho Panhandle National Forest
Middle Ridge National Recreation Trail
Scotchman Peak Trail, Kaniksu National Forest
Stevens Lakes Trail, Idaho Panhandle National Forest

Central Idaho (including Boise, Idaho Falls, Ketchum, and the Sawtooth Mountains)
Alice Lake, Sawtooth National Recreation Area
Borah Peak via Southwest Ridge, Challis National Forest
Cervidae Peak, Lucky Peak State Park
Fishhook Creek Trail, Sawtooth National Forest
Goat Lake, Sawtooth Wilderness
Goldbug Hot Springs, Salmon-Challis National Forest
Merriam Lake, Salmon-Challis National Forest
Pioneer Cabin, Sawtooth National Forest
Sawtooth Lake, Sawtooth National Recreation Area
Shower Bath Hot Springs, Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness
Standhope Peak
Thompson Peak, Sawtooth Wilderness

Southern Idaho (including Pocatello and Twin Falls)
Bruneau Dunes Loop, Bruneau Dunes State Park
Castle Rock State Park trails
City of Rocks National Reserve trails (e.g. the short walk to Window Arch)
Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve trails (including hiking down into lava tubes)
Gooding City of Rocks, BLM land

The highpoint of Idaho is Borah Peak (12,662'). A difficult hike and rock scramble (class IV) is required to reach the summit (12,662'). Many people will turn around when they reach the famed "Chicken-Out Ridge".

To find more hikes in Idaho or to learn more about the hikes I've listed above, I recommend purchasing hiking guidebooks on Amazon (or from your local retailer). Another option is using alltrails.com, but you have to be very careful when using that website as its information is often wrong or incomplete. Published hiking guidebooks will likely always be significantly better than the information you find online.

BEST BACKPACKING TRIPS IN IDAHO



Idaho offers several amazing backpacking opportunities. Some of premier backpacking routes in Idaho include:

Alice Lake-Toxaway Lake Loop, Sawtooth National Recreation Area
Big Boulder Lakes, Salmon-Challis National Forest
Boulder Chain Lakes, Sawtooth National Recreation Area
Hells Canyon-Snake River Trail, Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and Hells Canyon Wilderness
Lost River Range Traverse, Salmon-Challis National Forest
Sawtooth Lake, Sawtooth National Recreation Area
Seven Devils Loop, Hells Canyon National Recreation Area
Ship Island Lake, Frank Church-River Of No Return Wilderness
Standhope Peak, Salmon-Challis National Forest
Thompson Peak, Sawtooth Wilderness
White Cloud Peaks Loop, Sawtooth National Recreation Area

CLASSIC OUTDOOR ADVENTURES IN IDAHO



Idaho offers many excellent adventures, including these classics:

Backpacking in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (e.g. Alice-Toxaway Loop)
Backcountry skiing in the Sawtooth Mountains
Backcountry skiing near Sun Valley
Base jumping off Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls
Bouldering the Channel
Bouldering Dierkes Lake in Twin Falls
Cross country skiing starting from one of the state's "Park N' Ski" locations
Cross country skiing the North Valley Trails system
Cycling the Route of the Hiawatha
Cycling the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes
Day hiking Alice Lake
Day hiking Borah Peak - Idaho state highpoint; a challenging day hike with class IV scrambling is required (e.g. "Chicken Out Ridge")
Day hiking Sawtooth Lake
Day hiking Thompson Peak
Exploring lava tubes in Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve
Jet skiing on Lake Coeur d'Alene
Mountain biking the Eagle Bike Park
Mountain biking the Galena Grinder - designated by IMBA as an "epic" mountain biking trail
Mountain biking the Silver Mountain Bike Park
Mountain biking the Tamarack Bike Park
Para-sailing on Lake Coeur d'Alene
Rock climbing in Castle Rock State Park
Rock climbing in City of Rocks National Reserve
Rock climbing Dierkes Lake in Twin Falls
Rock climbing Elephant's Perch
Rock climbing the Fins
Rock climbing in the Sawtooth Mountains
Rock climbing the Shoshone Lava Tubes
Tubing the Boise River
Tubing the Portneuf River
Tubing the Warm River
Whitewater rafting the Bruneau River
Whitewater rafting the Clearwater River-Middle Fork
Whitewater rafting the Lochsa River
Whitewater rafting the Moyie River
Whitewater rafting the Payette River-South Fork
Whitewater rafting the Salmon River
Whitewater rafting the Selway River
Whitewater rafting the Snake River/Hells Canyon
Whitewater rafting the St. Joe River River

IDAHO TRAVEL TIPS



For offbeat and unique Idaho attractions, visit one or both of these amazing websites: Atlas Obscura and Roadside America

UNIQUE / SPECIALTY FOODS TO TRY IN IDAHO



Here are some unique / specialty foods to try while you are in Idaho:

basque dinner
finger steaks
giant potatoes
huckleberries (e.g. huckleberry milkshake)
ice cream potato
potato fudge
potato vodka

For a list of unique foods and mom-and-pop type eateries and restaurants in Idaho (or any other U.S. state), visit the Roadfood.com website.
For a list of unique foods to try in each of the 50 U.S. states, click here.
For a list of the top-rated beers to try in Idaho (or any other U.S. state), visit the Beer Advocate website.

OTHER KEY IDAHO INFORMATION



Capital = Boise
Major airports = Boise; many people will fly into Salt Lake City, UT or Spokane, WA and then drive into Idaho
Largest cities = Boise (241,686), Meridian (126,143), Nampa (103,928), Idaho Falls (66,418), Caldwell (62,748)
Primary U.S. interstates = I-15, I-84, I-86, I-90
State highpoint = Borah Peak (12,662'); a very difficult hike and class IV rock scramble is required to reach the summit
Professional sports teams = none

Take note that in general this travel guide intentionally excluded restaurants, lodging/hotels, breweries, wineries/vineyards, and certain other types of attractions (like arcades, ax-throwing, bowling alleys, and escape rooms). These types of places tend to come and go, and keeping up with that would be too challenging. I encourage you to use Google Maps, Tripadvisor, Yelp, and other travel sites that have reader reviews to find the latest and greatest places that I haven't covered here.


dirt road near City of Rocks National Reserve, Idaho
dirt road near City of Rocks National Reserve, Idaho

Shoshone Falls, Idaho
Shoshone Falls, Idaho

Window Arch in City of Rocks National Reserve, Idaho
Window Arch in City of Rocks National Reserve, Idaho

Castle Rocks State Park, Idaho
Castle Rocks State Park in southern Idaho

City of Rocks National Reserve in southern Idaho
City of Rocks National Reserve in southern Idaho

hot spring in Idaho
one of many natural hot springs in Idaho

Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot, Idaho
Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot, Idaho

Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho
Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, Idaho

exploring lava tubes in Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho
exploring lava tubes in Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, Idaho

views from a trail above Sawtooth Lake in Idaho
views from a trail above Sawtooth Lake in Idaho

Upper Mesa Falls, Idaho
Upper Mesa Falls in Caribou-Targhee National Forest, Idaho

Perrine Bridge in Jerome, Idaho
Perrine Bridge in Jerome, Idaho

MORE U.S. STATE TRAVEL GUIDES



Did you enjoy this travel guide? If so, here are links to more U.S. state travel guides:

Alabama  |  Alaska  |  Arizona  |  Arkansas  |  California  |  Colorado  |  Connecticut  |  Delaware  |  Florida  |  Georgia  |  Hawaii  |  Idaho  |  Illinois  |  Indiana  |  Iowa  |  Kansas  |  Kentucky  |  Louisiana  |  Maine  |  Maryland  |  Massachusetts  |  Michigan  |  Minnesota  |  Mississippi  |  Missouri  |  Montana  |  Nebraska  |  Nevada  |  New Hampshire  |  New Jersey  |  New Mexico  |  New York  |  North Carolina  |  North Dakota  |  Ohio  |  Oklahoma  |  Oregon  |  Pennsylvania  |  Rhode Island  |  South Carolina  |  South Dakota  |  Tennessee  |  Texas  |  Utah  |  Vermont  |  Virginia  |  Washington  |  Washington DC  |  West Virginia  |  Wisconsin  |  Wyoming

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