Idaho, in the Winter, is a magical place. While I love Idaho in most seasons, you can’t beat the magic of the winter months. Yes, it can be cold, but it’s also incredibly beautiful, with rugged mountains and snow-capped peaks.
With Idaho holding the highest average snowfall in all of the Northwest region, it truly becomes a winter wonderland. Indulge in skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and so much more.
You can even enjoy non-winter sports and activities, such as nestling up with your favorite book in a snowy cabin. If you think this is an absolute dream like I do, then Idaho in the winter is for you!
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Getting to Idaho
If you’re from out of state, you’re probably driving here or flying. Road conditions in Idaho in the winter can sometimes get a bit hairy, especially if you’re driving through the mountains. Because of this, I suggest 4-wheel drive or chains if you’re heading out on passes or into higher elevations.
Flying here is pretty easy, though, with direct flights from most West Coast cities. If you’re exploring a lot of Idaho in a short window, I recommend renting a car and then stopping in different towns along your route. You can even check out my Idaho Roadtrip ideas for different places you can stop along the way to Idaho.
Why Visit Idaho in the Winter?
Winter in Idaho is one of the most magical times to visit. The mountains get plenty of gorgeous snow, perfect for any winter activity you could imagine!
Idaho is also significantly less crowded during ski season than many of the surrounding states, making it the perfect place to enjoy public lands and the relaxing beauty!
Best Things to Do in Idaho in the Winter
1. Soak in some hot springs
Have you soaked in a piping hot natural spring with the snow falling all around you? It is truly a magical winter escape. Idaho has many natural hot springs, and most have gorgeous mountain views for you to enjoy, with most being located in the Central Mountains.
Kirkham Hot Springs is located in the Boise National Forest and is one of Idaho’s most sought-after hot springs. The size of the pool is what makes this place so great. No matter how crowded it is, there is normally enough space for everyone. There are main pools and even a few hidden pools at the back of the campground.
For easy access, try going to Gold Fork Hot Springs or The Springs at Idaho City. If you really want to go off the beaten path, visit the Jerry Johnson & Weir Creek Hot Springs in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest. These hot springs are only accessible by taking on a one-mile hike through the forest. It is a hidden treasure for those looking for more of an adventure.
2. Go tubing or sledding at Bogus Basin
Sledding and snow tubing after a snowstorm brings me back to my childhood. Hitting the fresh snow at high speed while being all bundled up in your winter clothes. Luckily, Idaho lets you enjoy the same adrenal rush at any age!
Head over to the Bogus Basin local ski hill. It is about sixteen miles away from Boise and becomes a local hot spot during the week and weekends. They even have a conveyor lift that will bring you back to the top of the hill so you can hit it all day long!
3. Snowshoe in the Coeur d’Alene National Forest
There is nothing better than a peaceful day out in the forest. Add in snow-covered trees on a quiet winter day, and you will feel like you are in heaven.
The Coeur d’Alene National Forest offers a variety of snowshoeing trails for those wanting a winter escape.
Try the snowshoe trails at Silver Mountain Resort; it is only $10 for a full-day pass and provides a network of trails for you to try. If someone at your party does not want to get out in the winter cold, they can stay behind! The resort offers plenty for them to do.
4. Attend McCall’s Winter Carnival
Every year in the heart of winter, the McCall Winter Carnival kicks off! A state favorite and also a very popular winter carnival in general.
The carnival has so many events for you to enjoy over their one-week festival.
This includes the local snow sculpture viewing, which showcases huge snow sculptures from local artists. Be sure to check out my Weekend Guide to the McCall Winter Carnival to ensure you see everything!
5. Visit Idaho City
Only an hour away from Boise is the hidden gem called Idaho City. This quaint Ghost Town is located in the stunning Boise Basin.
Idaho City was the largest city in the whole northwest over 150 years ago. It was full of miners who were seeking gold.
After the Gold Rush, the city was abandoned, but luckily it still stands today. Marvel at the old storefronts while admiring the old architecture.
A quick escape back in time, packed with a day full of Idaho history! Don’t forget to check out the Springs at Idaho City as well!
6. Check out downtown Boise
Boise is known for being a lively city in the colder months. With decent snowfall, it truly thrives on being a go-to winter getaway.
Aside from its endless list of winter activities, downtown Boise has a list of things to do!
Take advantage of the restaurant scene, or cozy up in a fun cocktail bar. There are wine-tasting rooms and hot specialty coffee shops as well! Try a homemade black forest truffle at the locally owned hot spot, The Chocolate Bar.
Downtown Boise is a great place to escape the frigid cold days, all while filling your stomach and tantalizing your taste buds.
Here’s a great list of things to do in Boise and here’s a great list of things to do in Boise in the winter!
7. Visit the Idaho Botanical Gardens
Visiting a Botanical Garden in the winter may seem odd at first, but it has become an Idaho favorite. Located in Boise, Idaho, is this gorgeous fourteen-acre garden, The Idaho Botanical Garden, that is transformed into a dreamy winter light show.
There are over 550,000 energy-efficient lights that are used to decorate the gardens.
The gardens serve piping hot chocolate for you to enjoy while strolling the grounds. You can even grab some delicious local food at one of the ever-changing food trucks.
It is a great place to explore with friends and family.
8. Go nordic skiing
Nordic Skiing, also known as cross-country skiing, has overtaken the United States. Originally from Norway, this adventurous sport has gained popularity in the western hemisphere over the past decade.
Many groomed trails are offered in Idaho, especially at the Sun Valley Resort. It is around $30 for a half-day pass during peak season. You can also rent the skis directly at their center for an average daily rate of $30.
Never tried cross-country skiing but want to give it a go? Book a private lesson directly at The Sun Valley Nordic & Snowshoe Center!
Nordic Skiing is a fantastic workout in addition to a fun winter hobby.
9. Visit a ski resort
Idaho is known for its breathtaking ski resorts. A destination for both locals and travelers from all over the world.
Due to the heavy snowfall in the winter, most resorts are known to have anywhere from 100-150 skiable days.
Sun Valley is a popular destination for hitting the slopes. The resort has two mountains, Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain. This resort is ideal for intermediate to advanced skiers and has open bowls, glades, and steep chutes. It’s located about 2 hours and 30 minutes west of Boise.
If you would rather visit Northern Idaho, stop by Schweitzer Mountain Resort. It is Idaho’s largest ski resort, with over 92 named runs on 2,9000 acres. They have wide-open bowls and an expert glade area. Try out their night skiing every Friday and Saturday night during the peak season to ski under the stars.
Check out the 10 best ski resorts in Idaho here.
10. Go ice fishing on Lake Cascade
Lake Cascade is one of the more famous lakes to fish on in Idaho. In fact, they have a competition every year! It’s a unique way to go fishing with family and friends throughout the winter!
Another fun option is ice fishing at Warm Lake. Learn more about ice fishing in Idaho here.
11. Attend the Sun Valley Music Festival – Winter Season
Enjoy live music this winter by attending the Sun Valley Music Festival. Hosted in late winter each year (check the site for exact dates) is this unique music experience at the Argyros Performing Arts Center in Ketchum.
The festival changes annually, featuring a mix of grammy-nominated jazz composers, pianists, brass, and percussion musicians.
The best part is that admission is free! You do need to make reservations online to ensure they have enough space—a fun way to take in the musical performances during those colder winter months.
12. Stay in a backcountry yurt
Spend some time in the Boise National Forest near Idaho City. But instead of a day trip, make it an overnight one by staying in one of the Idaho City yurts.
These unique overnight accommodations will keep you warm and cozy while still being out in nature.
The yurts offer a warm fireplace and kitchen and your own deck to stargaze on. Six backcountry yurts are available year-round, making it a special winter destination for the adventurous.
Check availability on this once-in-a-lifetime experience here.
Many yurts are scattered around Idaho, so be sure to check Airbnb for other options like the Silver Fox yurt we stayed at below.
13. Go dog sledding
Located in Eastern Idaho is the small town of Ashton. This adorable little town is known for its history of dog sledding. In the early 1900s, the Union Pacific Railroad expanded and so did the need for supplies. That is when the local mushers and dogs delivered the supplies via sled.
Today, the American Dog Derby is held on the third weekend of February every year. It is the oldest dog sled race in all of the United States. The first one was held in 1917 all the way from West Yellowstone, Montana to Ashton, which is a distance of 55 miles.
A truly historic place that still takes pride in mushing and the adorable dogs. If your timing is right, you can attend the event in person and meet the pups for yourself.
14. Visit the border of Wyoming and Idaho – Wydaho
Get ready to explore the eastern city of Driggs, Tetonia and Victor, Idaho. Snowy mountain towns that are near the border of Idaho and Wyoming.
These small towns make the perfect location for a trip to Grand Teton National Park, which offers some majestic snowshoe trails, such as Jenny Lake, in the winter.
Driggs is located only 55 minutes away from the Grand Teton Entrance.
It brings you on a dreamy mountain drive on WY-22 E through the Teton Mountains. Driggs also has some delicious dining options, unique shops, and rooftop bars for you to indulge in.
15. Chase some winter waterfalls
In summer, waterfall hikes can be a rewarding destination. Nothing is better than feeling the cool mist on a hot summer day. Surprisingly, winter waterfall hikes can be an even more rewarding outcome.
Enjoy the sometimes frozen waterfalls with white snow surrounding them in many Idaho State Parks. It is a fun place for photographers to get their winter wonderland photos as well!
Ross Falls is a winter favorite and is an easy waterfall to get to. It is a quick 0.4-mile hike near Twin Falls, Idaho. The icy moss and snowy mountains make this little trek worth it!
16. Enjoy a snowmobiling adventure
Snowmobiling is an extremely popular activity in the mountains of Idaho. I love going near and around the McCall and Cascade. With the snowmobiling diversity in the area, you can find 300+ miles of groomed trail network and challenging backcountry terrain if you’re more advanced.
A fun outing is renting snowmobiles from Cheap Thrills in McCall and going out to Burgdorf Hot Springs for the day!
You can even spend the night out there in one of their cabins. In Cascade, I recommend renting your snowmobiles next to Tackle Toms and then heading up to the Warming Hut up West Mountain!
17. Take a lake cruise on Lake Coeur d’ Alene
In the winter months, Lake Coeur d’Alene Cruises does a Journey to the North Pole lake cruise where you can view the lights on the shore and feel the holiday magic!
You’ll see over 1.5 million twinkling lights, see a fire-breathing dragon and visit Santa at his workshop. It’s truly magical and fantastic for all ages! The cruise typically lasts 40 mins. See the dates and grab your tickets here.
18. Experience a horse-drawn sleigh ride
If you want a truly magical experience during the winter in Idaho, try out a horse-drawn sleigh! You can check out Idaho Sleigh rides through a winter wonderland in Garden Valley or check out Western Pleasure Guest Ranch or Hap and Florence!
The Sun Valley also does a wonderful horse-drawn sleigh out to Trail Creek Cabin, where you can grab dinner and then head back to Sun Valley on the sleigh.
19. Take a fat bike out for the day
Fat bikes are bikes with large wheels that are much heftier and allow you to cross snowy terrain. You can rent fat bikes all throughout the state, and many Nordic centers allow them on their groomed trails.
There are fat biking trails at McCall’s Jug Mountain Ranch, Schweitzer Mountain, Stanley, and Sun Valley Nordic center to name a few!
20. Visit the LaBelle Ice Palace
In Eastern Idaho near Rigby you’ll find a magical place, the LaBelle Lake Ice Palace! This is a great attraction for the entire family.
There are photo options with characters dressed from the movie Frozen, and you can take a sleigh ride to a sledding hill. Check out their website to see when they plan to open this year!
21. Spend time on the ice rink
Idaho has plenty of options for ice skating around the state. Manchester Ice and Event Center in McCall is a great rink, and the rink at Indian Creek Plaza is also a hit during the Christmas season! One of my favorites is the Christina Potters Ice Rink in Sun Valley, ID. It just can’t be beaten!
As you can tell, Idaho is a dream location in the winter, with plenty of activities to keep the winter depression at bay! What is your favorite Idaho winter activity?
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