For those of you new to my site, I grew up in Idaho and currently live in San Francisco. I’ve lived here for 5 years, but frequently daydream about the beautiful state I was lucky enough to grow up in.
I ALWAYS miss the laid back atmosphere, the people, and the ease of getting to lakes, rivers, and mountains.
Because I love Idaho so much and want everyone to get a chance to visit in their lives, I’ve created a list of the best places to visit in Idaho in hopes you’ll get to go one day!
*These are in no particular order*
This probably goes without saying based on my previous posts, here and here, but I’m in love with this mountain town on the Payette Lake. It’s small enough to feel like you’re in your “own private Idaho”, but big enough to have enough to do that you’re never bored. Summertime calls for water sports, huckleberry picking, hiking and tons of other outdoor activities. In winter you can go to the famous ski lift, Brundage Mountain, cross country ski into a yurt, or go snowmobiling. It has something for everyone.
READ MORE: My Favorite Place to Go in Idaho
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2. Sun Valley
This is a special little mountain town very close to the Sawtooth Mountains and my hometown, Twin Falls. It’s known as the resort town of Idaho with celebs flocking here every summer and winter season. A lot of people don’t know this, but Sun Valley was the first resort to build a chair lift for skiers! It’s a great town for winter skiing (Bald Mountain), summer hiking/biking and is known as one of the most outdoorsy towns in all of Idaho. The SV restaurant and bar scene is a lot of fun too. Be sure to look out for celebrities…they are all over the place! I’ve seen my fair share at the restaurants and coffee shops downtown. Also check out the Sun Valley Lodge and walk through downtown Ketchum. Nothing is better than a day hike and getting a beer and burger on the deck at Lefty’s Bar & Grill.
3. Coeur d’ Alene
Coeur d’ Alene or CDA for short is in the skinny panhandle part of Idaho. It’s one of Idaho’s larger towns and is situated right on a massive lake (Lake Coeur d’ Alene). While McCall is more of a vacation lake town, lucky CDA dwellers get to live here all year round! CDA has a great downtown vibe with fun restaurants and bars and they’re also about a 40 min drive from Spokane, WA and about an hour from another great lake town in Idaho, Sandpoint. The ski mountain Schweitzer is close by as well if you’re into winter sports. If you’re staying in CDA I recommend staying at the Coeur d’Alene Resort right on the water and participating in a cruise on the lake or any of the many water sports the lake has to offer!
4. Shoshone Falls
Right outside of Twin Falls is the largest waterfall in Idaho, Shoshone Falls. This waterfall is higher than Niagara Falls! Can you believe it? It’s gorgeous, loud, and spits out TONS of water. It’s fun to drive down the canyon in Twin Falls and see the snake river as you’re heading down.
READ MORE: 9 Things to Do in Twin Falls Idaho
5. Bruneau Sand Dunes
The first time I visited Bruneau Sand Dunes, I couldn’t believe I was in Idaho. If you haven’t been to sand dunes before they’re essentially mountains made of sand…and that’s pretty cool. You can bring a snowboard and board down them or you can camp and hike them. Definitely worth a visit if you want to feel like you’re in a different country! Bring water cause it gets hot!
6. Craters of the Moon
I was fascinated with this place when I first went. It’s a huge area filled with lava from some really ancient volcanos. I recommend getting a tour and going on a mini hike. It’s interesting to learn about the different types of lava and crawl through the caves. It looks like you’re walking on the surface of the moon.
7. Thousand Springs
Thousand Springs is a large area with the clearest, cleanest springs and rivers I’ve ever seen in my life. Some of my favorite things to do here are hike through Hardy Box Canyon Springs Nature Preserve and stand up paddle board/canoe along the rivers. AHHH they are so amazing I wish I was there right now!
9. Rolling Hills of the Palouse
The photos below should say it all. The rolling hills of the Palouse are incredible. They roll into Washington and take a good chunk of Idaho as well. Driving through makes you feel like you’re under huge waves because the wheat fields go on and on. It’s fascinating!! If you’re driving on your way to the Palouse from the south of Idaho you’ll drive through Camus Prairie. If you want to stay in the most unique hotel ever, check out the famous Dog Bark Inn. Also, my alma mater, University of Idaho is situated right in the heart of the Palouse in Moscow, Idaho about 8 miles from Washington State University. If you want to check out two schools at once and hit two states in the span of 8 mins, here’s your chance!
READ MORE: 8 Things to Do in Moscow Idaho
The state capital of Idaho is a wonderful city that keeps growing and growing. Known as the “City of Trees”, Boise has become a cultural hub for young professionals, families and outdoorsmen and women. With great restaurants, night life and amazing outdoor activities like hiking, river activities, bikes along the green belt and Bogus Basin ski mountain, it has something for everyone! Boise is also very central and easy to get to most places in Idaho.
11. Sawtooth Mountains
Half of Idaho is covered in National Parks and a big chunk of that is the Sawtooth National Forest. If you like hiking or backpacking through wildflower meadows to secluded lakes with barely anyone else around, then this is for you. I just got back from a 4 day backpacking trip through the Sawtooths and it was one of the best trips I’ve ever been on! You can easily start hiking the Sawtooths starting in Sun Valley.
12. Hells Canyon
This canyon is on the Oregon and Idaho border. Go here for some great camping, fishing, hiking, rafting, and exploring. The closest towns to Hells Canyon are Riggins and Grangeville, Idaho if you need to get some gear for your excursion!
Most of my top attractions in Idaho are outdoorsy spots, but that’s Idaho for you! Strap on your snow gear, hiking shoes and water-skis and get ready for a blast traveling through the Gem State!
I hope you enjoyed my list of the 12 Best Places to Visit in Idaho!
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