The Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary

Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary

I’ve had many people reach out to me on Instagram asking for southern Idaho road trip itineraries. In Idaho, we are lucky to have many different landscapes like stunning mountain ranges, hot springs, beautiful lakes and rivers, and fun scenic byways to explore.

Plus, there are tons of outdoor activities to experience, and a road trip is a perfect way to come across them! In Southern Idaho, expect to see a high desert landscape full of rolling hills, cascading rivers, deep canyons, volcanic formations, and some pretty amazing geological sights.

I personally grew up in Southern Idaho in the town of Twin Falls. So trust that this Idaho road trip itinerary comes from a local and was made with Idaho love!

While we’re at it, let’s be friends on Instagram and Tiktok!

The Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary

Southern Idaho Weather

Southern Idaho can offer you all four seasons! From colorful fall foliage to warm summer days. It truly has something for every traveler. This area has quickly become a fun summer destination because it is located in the high desert. That means most of the time, you’ll experience a semi-arid climate and will most likely get quite a bit of sun.

The summers range from 57° F – to 90° F and can be pretty dry and hot. The winter brings a cooler temperature with an average of 21° F – 38° F. Beautiful falling snow can be a frequent scene in the colder winters. This means Southern Idaho provides the best of both worlds!

Best Time to Visit Southern Idaho

The best time to visit Idaho will depend on what you are seeking for your road trip itinerary. If you want beautiful fall foliage, then hit the road in the autumn months. Winter should be on your bucket list if you want colder air and falling snow! You can also enjoy the springtime flowers starting in April too. Want to hike your day away? Summer may be the season for you.

I recommend going on your Southern Idaho road trip in late spring, summertime, or early fall to get the most out of your experience. Winter is also beautiful in Southern Idaho but can also limit the amount of swimming, camping, and hiking availability. Remember that some locations are closed in the winter, and roads can become icy. Make sure you are comfortable with winter driving conditions if you plan to visit in the winter.

How to Start a Southern Idaho Road Trip

There are a few ways to get to Southern Idaho, from planes to long drives. Boise, the capital of Idaho, is technically located in Southern Idaho and is the most convenient option. I recommend starting your trip here as it’s the easiest place to fly into within the state of Idaho. If you can find a flight into Twin Falls, that will work too, but sometimes those are less frequent and can be more expensive.

Roadtripping is another great way to access this part of the state, especially if you are coming from the Pacific Northwest. 

The Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary

What To Pack For A Southern Idaho Road Trip

Idaho is an outdoorsy state; honestly, anything goes in terms of clothing for dining or nights out. The majority of the state has a laid-back, outdoorsy vibe. Knowing what to pack in detail will depend on the season, but here is a quick packing list to get you started! Also, this is a good resource as well!

Hiking Boots

Proper footwear for outdoor adventures is so important (if that’s what you plan to do)! Sneakers or flats with slippery or low grip bottoms can ruin your day in the forest. Do yourself a favor and invest in a good pair of boots or shoes with proper grips. These are my favorite at the moment.

Layers

Being over-prepared with layers can make or break your trip. Mornings can be cold in the mountains with crisp air in both summer and winter. You can start your day with a base layer and a jacket but end your day in a T-shirt. This is normal for states that are at higher elevations. Bringing multiple layers to switch out throughout the day will keep warm.

Jackets

If you are visiting in the winter, be sure to bring a heavy coat that is snow resistant. A jacket that can withold anywhere from 0 to 20 degrees will keep you warm and cozy in the winter. If you are heading out in the Spring or Summer, a light rain jacket or jean jacket will work. Rainstorms can sometimes appear out of nowhere in Idaho, so ensure you have your jacket with you at all times. This will allow you and your clothes to stay dry during those random and sometimes refreshing storms.

Microspikes

Fall and winter hiking can bring icy trails or roads to Idaho. Sometimes ice can be common well into Spring or at least until it warms up. Microspikes are the hidden gem in being able to conquer trails without slipping or falling. The best part is, they are pretty cheap! Some only being twenty dollars on Amazon. It is a must-have when adventuring to new areas at high elevations.

Regular Clothing

Like I said before, Idaho is pretty laid back, so whatever you’d wear at home, you can get away with it here. Jeans, shorts, tops, sweaters, jackets, tank tops, sneakers, sandals, boots, you name it, and anything goes! Also, summertime can get up to 110 with dry heat, so if you visit in the summer be sure to prepare for that. 

The Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary

Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1 & 2: Boise

Maybe I’m biased, but I live in Boise and strongly believe you should spend about two days here, at least. You can add your time here at the beginning or end of your trip, so please feel free to plan how you want!

Boise Food and Drink

Spend some time in downtown Boise! Visit 8th street, which is known for its delicious restaurants and fun bars. Afterward, grab a drink on 6th street, the city’s fun and lively bar (and somewhat younger crowd) bar scene. Some local favorites are Humpin’ Hannah’s, Dirty Little Roddy’s, Pengilly’s, and Tom Grainey’s.

For a more grown-up nightlife scene, try the speakeasy, Thick as Thieves, the many breweries in town, or a cocktail bar like Water Bear Bar or Press & Pony. My current favorite spot for grab-and-go breakfast is Certified Kitchen, sit-down is Goldy’s, and lunch is Lemontree or Wylder. For dinner, I also love Wylder or The Lively. Looking for great coffee? Check out one of these favorite Boise coffee shops.

Boise Activities

Hyde Park, located in the popular North End, is a cute street with a lively scene and dining options. It is also close to a beautiful viewpoint up Camel’s Back Park. Take advantage of the Camels Back Trails Loop, which is only 1.6 miles long. Here are some other great hiking options near Boise.

Boise itinerary
The Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
Hyde Park Idaho

Another fun thing to do in Boise is float down the river, depending on what time of year you visit. You can rent tubes or rafts from Boise River Raft & Tubes in the summer. If water isn’t your thing, bike down the infamous Greenbelt. You can rent both e-bikes and regular bikes from Pedego Boise. End your ride at one of the local breweries or bars along this route. I recommend checking out Yardarm, Telaya Winery, and Western Collective brewery. Here are the best breweries in Idaho

If you’re a wine fan, you can also take a day out on Idaho’s wine region, The Sunnyslope Wine Trail! Here are my favorite wineries to hit up on your southern Idaho road trip if you choose to go!

Where to Stay in Boise

Here’s a great list of my favorite Airbnbs for you to choose from in Boise! Unfortunately, we don’t have many cute boutique hotels for me to recommend, but the Inn at 500 Capitol (my review of it here) or The Modern are fun ones to try, although I do think the design is much better at these Airbnbs. Traveling with your pet? Here are some of the best pet-friendly hotels in Boise

Read more:

The Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
The Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
The Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary

Day 3: Bruneau Sand Dunes & the Big Idaho Potato Hotel

The Big Idaho Potato Hotel

It is time to leave Boise and head on the rest of your Idaho road trip. Only a thirty-minute drive from Boise is the famous Idaho Potato Hotel, a funky Airbnb lover’s dream! It’s located in Mountain Home and is technically not a hotel. Don’t let the name or maps fool you. Google Maps doesn’t give the best instructions, so just be sure you’re going to the one near Mountain Home and not the one that says it’s in Boise.

This is the only true potato hotel in the United States. It also used to be the potato that the Big Idaho Potato Truck would use on their famous Idaho potato tour of the USA. Even if you don’t stay the night, it’s a fun one to drive by and look at. Just be aware, it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere, but it is worth going just to feed Dolly the cow on-site!

Potato Hotel
Bruneau Dunes State Park

From the Idaho Potato Hotel, you will continue onward to Bruneau Dunes State Park, which is only a quick 50-minute drive. You can even spend your full day at the State Park before spending the night at the Idaho Potato Hotel.

Bruneau Dunes State Park is one of the most unique spots we have in Idaho! It is sprawling land with huge sand dunes in the middle of the desert.

Bruneau Sand Dunes | Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
Bruneau Sand Dunes | Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary

Many people love to bring sandboards and board down the dunes. Others chose to camp here or just hike around the dunes. I recommend going to the visitors center to figure out your options and then hiking up the small dune for some great views.

There is also an amazing place to stargaze and see the Milky Way at the Bruneau Dunes Observatory. The observatory is open to the public from early April through mid-October on Friday and Saturday nights only.

Bruneau Dunes State Park | Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary

Day 4: Thousand Springs

Only an hour south of Bruneau Dunes State Park is the hidden gem of Thousand Springs Reserve. Thousand Springs Reserve is one of those places that you just can’t forget. Enjoy the crystal blue springs from kayaking to camping. It is a destination for all of those outdoor enthusiasts who want to spend some time in the beautiful nature of Southern Idaho.

I recommend camping here in the summer and then kayaking to Blue Heart Springs and Ritter Island from there. In this Thousand Springs guide, you’ll find my recommendations for what to do in Thousand Springs and why it’s so special.

Thousand Springs kayaks
Thousand Springs | The Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
Thousand Springs Reserve | Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
The Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary

Spend the night at 1000 Springs Resort, it is a great location, and some camping spots are right on the water with docks so that you can drop your kayaks in right from your camping spot. Afterward, relax in their sizeable geothermally-warmed mineral water swimming pool! It’s not the nicest or most updated place so be prepared, but still a great spot to get near Blue Heart Springs and Ritter Island.

Nearby you’ll also find Hagerman Fossil Beds, where many fossils have been found from ancient plants, fish, and the famous Hagerman Horse. You can visit the visitors center to learn more about Hagerman. 

The Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
Blue Heart Springs | Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
The Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
Kayaking Blue Heart | The Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary

Day 5: Buhl, Balanced Rock, and Twin Falls

Get ready to drive to Twin Falls from Thousand Springs, which is only a forty-minute drive heading south. On the drive from Thousand Springs to Twin Falls, you might want to hit up Miracle Hot Springs or Banbury Hot Springs, located near 1000 Springs Resort. 

Buhl, Idaho

You’ll also pass through Buhl, Idaho, where you can stop at the famous CloverLeaf Creamery for ice cream! If you want to do a bit of a backtrack but go check out a famous landmark in Southern Idaho, go check out Balanced Rock for a fun photo op!

Twin Falls, Idaho

Next up on your southern Idaho road trip, you’ll be in Twin Falls, where I grew up! I’ll be honest, I didn’t think it was a very cool place back then, but now I appreciate it so much. It has plenty of things to do and endless scenery to marvel at.

First stop by the Snake River Canyon, which goes right through the town. Here there are amazing options for hiking, kayaking, and SUPing. You can also stop at the Twin Falls Visitor’s Center right on the canyon rim.

Just about 6 miles from downtown Twin Falls you’ll find the famous Shoshone Falls!

This monster waterfall is 212 feet tall and 900 feet wide and surpasses the height of the famous Niagara Falls. It’s now been coined the “Niagara of the West.” In the spring, the falls are huge and spew out tons of water, but you will need to time it right as the falls ‘turn off’ for irrigation and dry up in the winter.

Twin Falls views
Kayaking Twin Falls | Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
Hiking Twin Falls
The Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary

Some of the best viewpoints of Shoshone Falls are from above at Shoshone Falls Park, but you can also kayak or stand-up paddleboard to the Falls from Centennial Waterfront Park in the summer. I did it last summer, and it was awesome. Here’s my guide for kayaking to Shoshone Falls!

After a day exploring the area, check out the downtown area of Twin Falls. There are plenty of restaurants for you to dine at and shops for you to explore. I recommend having breakfast at Yellow Brick Cafe, lunch at Twin Falls Sandwich Company, and dinner at Milner’s Gate or Elevation 486 (beautiful views of the Snake River Canyon). You can also grab a beer at Koto Brewing! 

Check out my post here for a guide on what to do in Twin Falls.

A Guide to Kayaking to Shoshone Falls

Day 6: City of Rocks

From Twin Falls, head an hour and forty minutes northeast to the City of Rocks. This place is a must-see for those interested in camping and bouldering. Start by exploring the City of Rocks National Reserve, a 49-mile drive through gorgeous scenery.

This South Central Idaho area provides a huge reserve full of, you guessed it, rocks! Many rock climbers love this area because it’s like a huge desert with rocks everywhere. It truly is a sight to be seen. Check out this detailed list of campsites for those looking to stargaze at night.

City of Rocks

Day 7: Crater of the Moon National Monument

Get ready for a peaceful three-hour drive from City of Rocks to Crater of the Moon. If you want to take a detour on the drive, you can also stop over at the Shoshone Ice Caves! These are fun lava ice caves to explore in Southern Idaho, and inside the caves, the temp is always somewhere between 23 and 33 degrees!

Want to feel like you’re on another planet? Mars, perhaps? Continue your adventure at Craters of the Moon. It’s a National Monument and Preserves that are filled with ancient volcanic lava flows, cinder cones, and not-so-ancient sagebrush.

Craters of the Moon

I recommend getting a guided tour or just hiking around. Learning about the different types of lava and crawling around the cave formations is so interesting. It truly feels like you’re on a different planet!

Explore the park on foot by exploring one of the eleven hiking trails. The most popular is the North Crater Trail, which is a 3.5-mile out and back trail. This trail is recommended as one of the most exciting ways to explore the monument. There are no dull areas, leaving you fully engaged the whole hike!

Day 8 and 9: Sun Valley and Ketchum

Sun Valley, Idaho, is a unique little mountain town very close to the Sawtooth Mountains. It’s also known as the resort town of Idaho and draws celebs from all over every summer and winter season.

Many 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 in the Bald Mountain Ski Area. In summer, hiking and biking are very popular. Sun Valley is actually known as one of the most outdoorsy towns in all of Idaho.

Sun Valley idaho

The Sun Valley restaurant and bar scene is a lot of fun too. Be sure to look out for celebrities, they are commonly spotted at restaurants and hotels here! 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. Many people get confused about the difference between Sun Valley and Ketchum, but Sun Valley is technically the resort, and Ketchum is the small town next to the resort. However, both are typically just called Sun Valley when referring to the area. Either way, nothing is better than a day hike and getting a beer and burger on the deck at Lefty’s Bar & Grill.

exploring Sun Valley
Sun Valley lodge | Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
Where to Stay in Sun Valley or Ketchum: 

I’d recommend staying at Hotel Ketchum for fun boutique hotel vibes in a great location. I also love staying at the Sun Valley Lodge or The Sun Valley Inn (part of the Lodge) to get more of the resort feel. There are also great Airbnb rentals in the area if you’d instead go that route!

Where to Stay in Sun Valley or Ketchum
Hotel Ketchum | Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
Ketchum sheep festival | The Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary

Day 10: Stanley, Redfish Lake, and the Sawtooth National Forest

From the Sun Valley area, continue on to the stunning mountain town of Stanley, Idaho. You’ll find Redfish Lake and the beautiful Sawtooth Mountains in the distance, only a few minutes’ drive away. 

The Sawtooth National Forest

The Sawtooth National Forest is an incredible part of Idaho. My favorite backpacking loop is the Alice Toxaway Loop. It’s gotten pretty popular over the years, but there are still plenty of incredible day hikes and backpacking trails in the Sawtooths. You can also take on the trails by going horseback riding at local stables in the area. The views truly can’t be beaten, and since you’re in Idaho, you won’t have as many people around as you would in crowded National Parks.

One of the most sought-after hikes in the area starts at Stanley Lake and brings you to Bridalveil Falls. This 7.3-mile hike brings you through the forest to the gorgeous waterfall of Bridalveil. A must-do when visiting the area!

Redfish Lake | Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
Stanley Idaho | Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
Stanley and Redfish Lake

Next on the southern Idaho road trip, head over to Redfish Lake. There is so much to do in this area between camping, hiking, rafting on the Salmon River, and more. You can even rent a boat at the Redfish Lake Marina. Or, simply hit the water by just swimming in the lake or relaxing on the sandy beaches.

In addition to the lakes, one of my favorite mountain towns in Idaho is Stanley, Idaho! Tucked up against the Sawtooth Mountains, it’s the perfect mountain retreat. You’ll find most of the activities to do here in the spring, summer, and fall. The town shuts down a bit as winter hits, but it’s absolutely incredible in the summer.

I recommend grabbing breakfast at the Stanley Baking Company and dinner at the Sawtooth Hotel Restaurant! Also, I stayed in this tiny home and loved it. They are perfect for a few-night getaway! There’s also the Mountain Village Resort (ask for an updated room), and they have a hot spring in a barn that is out of this world amazing!

Read Next: 16 Epic Things to Do in Stanley, Idaho

The Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
The Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
Stanley fields

Day 11 – Back to Boise, Stop in Idaho City

It is time to head back to Boise on this southern Idaho road trip. Get ready to enjoy the three-hour drive, which brings you through both the Sawtooth National Forest and Boise National Forest.

Detour through Idaho City, a ghost town that is only an hour away from Boise! Located in the stunning Boise Basin, this older town was once full of miners who were seeking gold.  The city then became abandoned after the Gold Rush ended. You can look at the old storefronts while admiring the old architecture, which is a quick walking distance from each other. A fun stop to learn all about Idaho History.

After stopping in Idaho City, make your way back to Boise. Spend the night here if you are still visiting and enjoy what this vibrant city offers! If you are looking for something else to do in Boise, read some of the other posts about the city below!

Ghost Towns in Idaho
Ghost Towns in Idaho

Wrapping Up

There are plenty more things to do in Southern Idaho, but this is a great place to start. After growing up in Southern Idaho for 18 years of my life and now living here as an adult, I can honestly say it’s a special place and I’m so excited to get to share it with you. 

Please write in the comments if you use this itinerary and feel free to share this blog with your family and friends!

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The Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
The Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
The Ultimate Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary

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