I’ve traveled all over the United States, visiting 43 states. Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite state is, I fervently reply, “Idaho”!
Idaho is so underrated and undiscovered by the general population. All most people know about Idaho is that it’s the potato capital of the world. But it is so much more, as you will soon see in this article!
Below, I’ll be sharing my top picks for interesting and beautiful places to visit in Idaho. Trust me – there is much more to this state than potatoes.
Looking for more US travel inspiration?
Check out these guides on the best places to visit in…
This capital city of Idaho couldn’t represent a state better. Great restaurants and even better outdoor spaces make this city one to put on your list.
Boise is the hub for all things outdoors. The Boise River Greenbelt is the fabric that binds this city together with its 25 miles of bike and walking paths that connect 850 acres of parks and outdoor recreation along the Boise River.
If your palette is craving local culinary perfection, stroll down 8th Street and choose from the many foodie hot spots that keep locals coming back time and time again. Start at Red Feather for dinner, dessert at Fork and then top it all off with a nightcap at Coiled Wine Bar. Boise knows how to please visiting tastebuds!
If you’re there in winter, drive twenty minutes to Bogus Basin and strap on your snowboard for some of the best kept secret powdery slopes in America. It’s also a non-profit mountain, which means 100% of the profits go back into equipment, facilities and education.
There’s nothing bogus about skiing at Bogus!
Driggs is at the top of my list because it is a virtually undiscovered ski town nestled into the Grand Tetons that gets no press. Therefore, you can ski and immerse yourself in the wonders of nature without having to wait in the unimaginably long chair lift lines that are on the other side of the mountain in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Imagine Mayberry with a ski resort.
In addition to this delicious image, there are vast expanses of farmland that all have a view of the Grand Tetons. The downtown area is as cute as can be with a soda fountain drug store, an amphitheatre for concerts and gatherings and even a few great restaurants to try.
Outdoor fun continues with a bike path that takes you from Driggs to its sister city, Victor which also has a few tricks up its sleeve.
Not to mention, the hiking is out of this world. Come to this part of Idaho and you won’t be bored, that’s for sure. Driggs has an activity for everyone!
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve was such a surprise for me and my family.
We were on our way to Sun Valley and stopped here for a night not thinking much of it. I had been busy and had not done my research, or I would have known how great this spot actually was.
As you approach the park, you can see the lava flows for miles and miles – 618 square miles to be exact.
Craters of the Moon was created over time by Mother Nature as she spewed and oozed her lava to the surface of the Earth where it cooled and created lava tubes, cinder cones and lava beds.
This is a work in progress and more lava will probably flow in the future… But for now we’ll just enjoy the playground that is here for the moment.
This was one of the most exciting things that I have done with my family. Walking through the tubes is a stunning stroll through time. Climbing down ladders into the bowels of the Earth and through the tubes and then climbing out of holes made by cooling lava… this is a unique experience that makes this area one of the top places to visit in Idaho!
A tip before you go: it’s best to go in the warmer months as snow and ice can force officials to close the lava tubes for exploring. Call before you go to get park conditions any time of the year, as this can be an ever changing environment. But, how exciting is that?
Stanley, Idaho is the Idaho you probably didn’t know existed.
Think Colorado with all the beauty of the wilds and mountains, but no crowds.
Where else can you sit in a hot spring in the Salmon River alone with your thoughts while bald eagles peer down at you? Stanley, is a snapshot of what the west was before anyone knew it was amazing.
Nestled in the Sawtooth Mountain Range, Stanley is a sportsman’s paradise. Anglers, hunters, hikers, bikers and kayakers all convene here every year during the warmer months to take advantage of what the unspoiled wilderness has to offer, and it doesn’t disappoint.
If you’re looking for a thriving downtown area with hordes of restaurants and a night scene, this is not it. But, downtown Stanley often has live music in the summertime and a few good places to have a steak or order a pizza. It also has a small town grocery, a post office and an ice cream shoppe.
However, what Stanley lacks in nightlife, it makes up in the wild.
There are so many hot springs to explore in Stanley. Sunbeam Hot Springs is my favorite and is so comfortable and clean. You can mix the cold Salmon River water with the steamy water heated from deep in the core of the earth to make the perfect temperature.
There are also many lakes to choose from if you want to boat or go for a swim. Redfish Lake, Lake Petit and Stanley Lake are all unimaginably beautiful. This is definitely one of the top places to visit in Idaho if you love the outdoors.
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Coeur d’Alene or CDA as the locals call it, has been called “the lakeside playground of Idaho”. The name is befitting because every road in town ends in a playground or park by the lake.
This picturesque setting is a great place to vacation for a week in the summer and enjoy the lake or visit in the winter when the landscape is converted to a magical winter wonderland.
Named after the Native American tribe that used to live in the area, Coeur d’Alene began its boom of sorts, in the early 1900’s, when the white pine that grows in the surrounding forests was found to be of great value for building.
The forests were then harvested and people came to see what CDA was all about. Word got out about what a stunningly beautiful place it was, and the people kept coming in droves. CDA has been a predominantly tourist destination ever since.
With three ski resorts, the winter time is an excellent time to visit as well. Come play at Schweitzer Ski Area, Silver Mountain or Lookout Pass for some fantastic Pacific Northwest skiing. You can also rent a cabin on the lake or stay in the popular Coeur d’Alene Casino. Nightlife and wildlife abound in this city.
Come for the many celebrations CDA has throughout the year. Enjoy the Mac and Cheese Festival where chefs compete to prepare the best of your favorite childhood dish. Additionally, don’t miss the Chocolate Affair in February, where all the businesses in downtown share their favorite version of this adored confection with the community. There’s always something going on in Coeur d’Alene.
This used to happen quite often in our travels across the U.S. We would be traveling along with a destination in mind, when suddenly we would come upon a stop so compelling, that we would have to pull over.
Shoshone Falls was one of those points on the map that I missed in my planning, but I am so glad we stumbled upon it, because it is definitely a gem.
A waterfall measuring 212 feet, Shoshone Falls is called “The Niagara Falls of the West”. It is really something to see and such an unexpected treat for me and my family.
There’s no shortage of other recreational activities here at the falls. You can hike, bike, boat and swim near the falls, which makes for an amazing afternoon.
If you are planning a trip to see Shoshone Falls, it is best to go in the spring, when the snowmelt is at full force. In the fall, water is diverted for irrigation purposes and the falls will be at minimal flow.
If you are planning a trip up to Stanley for the week, you’ll have to build in some time to stop at Redfish Lake. This is one of Idaho’s top lakes for rest and relaxation and it will prime you for an unforgettable vacation.
My family and I spent many days lounging around the lake, kayaking and visiting the lodge and the marina. Redfish Lake has it down when it comes to a fun summer atmosphere, with lawn games and live outdoor music. Such a fun place to be on a summer day!
Talk about beautiful!! This crystal clear lake will be a pleasure to kayak on or swim in as you gaze at the snowcapped Sawtooth Mountains.
Make sure you bring your tent, because the camping is fantastic! There are 45 campsites to choose from, but make sure you get there early to snag one on the lake with that million dollar view!
Located in Stanley, Idaho, the Salmon River is really what put Stanley on the map. Crystal clear, class three and four rapids await you on this gem of a river.
Don’t forget your fishing gear. For all of you anglers, this is a fisherman’s destination of a lifetime. Stanley and the Salmon River are one of the top spots in the world for serious fishermen, with all kinds of sportsman outfits that will be clamoring to take you out to get that prized Chinook Salmon.
Kayakers should also put the Salmon River on their bucket list. Not only does it have world class rapids, but you can soak your weary bones in the natural hot springs that dot the river at the end of a long day of fighting the rapids. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Bruneau Dunes State Park
Bruneau Dunes State Park is like no other place in Idaho. Most of Idaho is forested, mountainous or plains. Bruneau Dunes gives you a feel of the desert as you walk through its many arid valleys and peaks.
The sand dunes were formed in the last ice age about 14,000 years ago when the Bonneville Floods, inundated the area with water. The water brought sand and sediment to the valley.
Over thousands of years, the winds have brought the sand into the area of Bruneau where the sand dunes continuously form from the unceasing winds.
Today, Bruneau State Park is a playground for all and a destination for the sportsman. Bring or rent your dune buggy and have a blast motoring up and down the dunes all day. Don’t miss this fun place to go in Idaho!
Thousand Springs State Park
Thousand Springs State Park was the surprise of our visit to the Boise Area. It was as if we had temporarily stepped into Hawaii!
Waterfalls, canyons and rivers abound in this park. With six different areas that make up the park, there is an adventure for everyone in your group.
Start at Box Canyon and hike down to the waterfall and enjoy the sound of the rushing water as you picnic with your family. Then, take your fishing pole to the Billingsley Creek portion of the park. After that, you can cross the 175 foot, footbridge over the Malad Gorge.
Want to see what some of the first Americans saw on their way out west? Then, see the old Oregon Trail wagon ruts on the Kelton Trail.
Lastly, Niagara Springs will not be a sight you soon forget. Come see the 350 year old underground water as it emerges and tumbles 250 cubic feet per second down into the canyon.
At the end of the day, lay your head down on your pillow in a rented cabin on Ritter Island.
Make your visit in September and enjoy the Thousand Springs Festival. Artists from around Idaho bring their creations, yummy food and treats from all over the Pacific Northwest. Outdoor music, children’s crafts and wagon rides make this an event to pen on your calendar.
Idaho Falls River Walk
Idaho Falls is another destination that will be worthwhile on your travels and a great place to see in Idaho.
With the Idaho Falls Riverwalk anchoring the town, it’s sure to be a pleasure to walk down and sit in peace as you hear the water rushing through town.
Enjoy walking the 5 miles of trail that meander on both sides of the fabulous Snake River.
Want a coffee or a bite to eat? You’re in luck, because you don’t have to walk far from the river to find yummies and sundries in town.
You can find anything from pancakes to pizza near the Riverwalk. If you have time, check out the beautiful Tautphaus Park or stop by the city zoo right off of the Riverwalk.
Idaho might just be the perfect place. It has the draw of major cities with things to do and great things to eat and the raw beauty that you crave when you just need a minute to yourself. Do yourself a favor and get a taste of what puts the Pacific Northwest on the map.
Did we miss any of your favorite places in Idaho?
Let us know in the comments if there are anymore places in Idaho you’d like to see on our list!