Of all of the states in the US, Idaho is not typically the first one that comes to mind. The state is best known for its contributions to the mining and potato industry, so it doesn’t scream vacation destination upon first impression.
However, Idaho is full of many tourist attractions beyond farmland and caves. Below, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite places to visit in this gorgeous state; there’s something for all types of travelers and budgets!
15 of the Best Places to Visit in Idaho
Without further ado, here are the 15 best places to visit in Idaho.
First off, we have McCall, Idaho. McCall is a small town located right by Payette lake. This gorgeous lake town features many summer activities, such as boating, hiking, and even huckleberry picking.
While small towns in Idaho are no strangers to outdoor activities, McCall stands out by having a clean and spacious lake right next to the town.
The lake is lovely because it is big enough to support all the people in it while remaining small enough not to attract too much outside attention. Beyond the summer luxuries, this town is next to the Brundage Mountain ski lift for winter fun.
Take a trip to the top and soak in nature as you glide your way toward the bottom of the summit. Adventurous tourists can even rent a snowmobile for riding during this time of year.
2. Shoshone Falls
Shoshone Falls is a beautiful waterfall in the Snake River Canyon by Twin Falls. This Idaho treasure is home to more water and a higher cliff than even Niagara Falls.
Vacation-goers may enjoy this tourist attraction through the view on the shore or by taking a boat ride near the falls. This one-of-a-kind natural marvel is a unique experience you won’t want to miss. It is only one of the many natural beauties found throughout Idaho.
3. Town of Stanley
Stanley is a rural town located in central Idaho. This town is tiny, having a population of fewer than 100 inhabitants. The small-town aesthetic of Stanley makes it a terrific stop for those looking to get away.
City dwellers and suburbanites alike can get sick of a concrete jungle. They may be looking to spend some time in a more localized environment. The town is located at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains, making it a terrific place to take a hike or a bike ride.
4. Sun Valley
Sun Valley is another town right by the base of the Sawtooth Mountains. This town features all of the usual outdoor activities found in Idaho but with more popularity than other locations. Sun Valley is one of the most popular spots in Idaho because of its resort and location.
Travelers will find celebrities visiting the mountain town year-round as they enjoy a luxurious resort stay. Adrenaline enthusiasts may also find Sun Valley to be a good location to visit. Sun Valley is an especially excellent ski spot.
On top of being located next to a mountain, Sun Valley holds a lot of skiing history, as the town was the first to build a chair lift for skiers. Many local athletes flock to the town for skiing events during the winter months.
5. Bruneau Dunes State Park
The Bruneau Dunes State Park is a fun deviant from the typical outdoor activities in Idaho. While much of Idaho boasts mountainside hikes and lakeside swimming, the Bruneau Dunes are unique in providing more of a desert landscape to explore.
The dunes found in this state park are essentially a collection of sandy hills. While this might not sound like much to those from coastal cities, many travelers from inland might want an opportunity to check out this unique landscape.
One thing to beware of, however, is the heat. It can be easy to get lost in all the fun at this park, and there are not a lot of accessible resources nearby. This means travelers should take caution and prepare by bringing proper sunscreen and water before arriving.
6. Coeur d’Alene
Coeur d’Alene, or CDA, is a northern Idaho town located right by a lake of the same name. This town is one of the state’s more populated areas, so travelers who want a bit more to do will find their money’s worth here.
This town is home to many campgrounds, downtown bars, and The Art Spirit Gallery. Outside the town is the nearby CDA lake for water sports, and Schweitzer Mountain is only a short drive away.
While this town won’t give you the most metropolitan experience in the world, it is a nice change of pace from the many small rural towns in its vicinity.
7. Thousand Springs State Park
The Thousand Springs State Park is another Idaho staple for outdoor recreation. This park is home to several rivers and springs, allowing for easy water sports access. While traditional activities such as boating and swimming can be found here, the park shines during its incredible tours.
Travelers may opt to tour the springs on a kayak, where the guide will walk tourists through the area’s rich history and landscape. This state park hosts some of the clearest water in the country, so nature lovers won’t want to miss this one-of-a-kind spot.
8. Rolling Hills of Palouse
The rolling hills of Palouse are an interstate set of hills found in both Idaho and Washington. These hills hold an uncanny shape as they weave up and down at such smooth and exciting intervals. Inside this set of hills is the Dog Bark Park Inn.
This little tourist attraction allows travelers to stay overnight in a giant beagle. Inside, visitors will find plenty of beagle merchandise and knick-knacks littering the place. There is even a Dog Bark Park shop located right outside for souvenirs.
Whether you choose to stay at the Dog Bark Park Inn or not, these rolling hills are worth a drive for anyone interested in natural phenomena. Be warned. However, those prone to car sickness may be at risk while in this hilly zone.
9. Sawtooth Mountains
While we have mentioned several towns near these large formations, tourists should check out the mountains themselves. Located right in the heart of central Idaho, there is no better place for a scenic hike than the Sawtooth Mountains.
Explore the many wildflower meadows and mountainside lakes as you traverse the tall landscapes and wooded plains. Anyone interested in backpacking will do themselves a service by setting aside a few days to check out these mountains.
10. Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve
Craters of the Moon is a national monument found on the site of a previous volcanic landscape. The land was shaped by an ancient lava field carved into the ground with various streams.
This site gains its name from the otherwordly shape of the field. The lava that terraformed this monument made uncanny shapes not found in most parts of the world.
Craters of the Moon make for an excellent stop for a tour, as there is a lot of geological history to learn about at this site. Travelers may want to know more specifics about what happened and why so investing in a guide here is certainly worth investing in.
11. Boise River Greenbelt
The Boise river greenbelt is a pathway that links several riverside city parks together. This path runs twenty-five miles long and is designated for non-motor activities only. Enjoy the rich natural environment as you stroll down this path and relax.
Those who love an excellent scenic hike will adore this pathway, as it is all but boring. We recommend bringing a friend on this path, as the long walk is perfect for connecting with others and striking up a long conversation.
12. Hells Canyon
On the border between Idaho and Oregon, you will find Hells Canyon. Hells Canyon is one of the deepest gorges on the continent. This riverside locale features great hiking trails and a long rafting path.
While not the most historically relevant location on today’s list, Hells Canyon is a great outdoor location to get into nature and reconnect with your roots.
13. Salmon River
The Salmon River is especially lovely because of the many scenic landscapes surrounding it. While some rivers are bordered by flat plains or muddy wetlands, this river provides a bevy of trees and foliage for you to gaze upon.
The slow-moving current and delightful scenery make for a great tubing location. Travelers can enjoy a slow cruise down the river as they look out at all the excellent wildlife.
14. Idaho Penitentiary
While the appeal of an abandoned historical site might not be inherent to some, history lovers will gawk at any chance to see what life was like in the past. This prison was open from 1872 until 1973 and has since been turned into a public museum.
This abandoned prison is a reminder that solitary confinement and the gallows were standard practices not long ago. Those interested can find out more by taking a tour of the jail during their stay in Idaho.
15. City of Rocks National Reserve
Last but not least, we have the City of Rocks National Reserve. This steep and squared-off granite structure makes for a great rock climbing spot.
Adrenaline junkies looking for their next climb will love City of Rocks. Outside of the rocky structure itself, a nearby campground provides clean drinking water and toilets to those staying in the area.
Things to Consider
As mentioned before, Idaho is a hub for farmland. This means that even though there are many scenic landmarks for you to check out, there will be sections with many farms in between.
Make sure to use a GPS when traveling, as the many fields of crops do not make for suitable landmarks. Another thing to consider when traveling in Idaho is the weather. Idaho fluctuates a lot in weather, so it can peak as high as in the nineties or dip as low as 20 F.
If you want to avoid extreme weather conditions, try not to travel during July, August, December, or January. Last but not least, make sure you have reliable transportation while in the state.
Idaho is large, and much like much of the US, there is not much in the way of public transit. If you fly from out of town, make sure you can rent a car or borrow one, as you won’t be able to see much without driving.
Frequently Asked Questions
While much information was covered here, you may still have some questions about these Idaho sweet spots. Read below to see some of the most commonly asked questions about Idaho.
What is the most popular thing in Idaho?
As various media has hammered into us, Idaho is known for its potatoes. The potato industry is the state’s number one export and source of revenue.
Where do people vacation in Idaho?
While there are many great places to explore in Idaho, Sun Valley is the most popular location. The town features a vacation resort right by a nearby skiing mountain.
What is the best month to visit Idaho?
Fall time is the best time to visit Idaho. The temperature can be extreme during both the summer and winter months. Hence, September and October make for the best neutral climate.
What is the coldest month of the year in Idaho?
January is the coldest month of the year in Idaho. Boise, Idaho, has averaged a low of 25 F and a high of 38 F during this month.
Why do people visit Idaho?
The main reason people visit Idaho is to see the natural landscapes. The state is home to many scenic parks and bodies of water that vacation-goers enjoy visiting. The state is also famous for its potatoes, and travelers often seek to try some while there.
So, What Are the Best Places to Visit in Idaho?
We think the best place to visit in Idaho is Sun Valley. While many different natural landscapes are located throughout the state, there is only one major resort, and it is found in Sun Valley.
Our recommendation is to book a stay in this relatively famous town and drive out to some of the many hotspots found throughout the state. So what are you waiting for — book your trip to Idaho today!