When people think about incredible nature in the U.S. states like Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Montana, and California often come to mind. But Idaho is an underrated state in terms of natural beauty, as there are plenty of awe-inspiring things to see in Idaho.
31 Best Things to See in Idaho in 2023
Idaho has many wonderful things to see, especially when it comes to nature. Visitors can enjoy mountains, lakes, waterfalls, rivers, gardens, canyons, hot springs, and more.
In addition to naturally occurring wonders, there are also museums, zoos, discovery centers, galleries, and water parks throughout the state. Below, we’ve listed 31 of the best things to see in Idaho for your visit to the “Gem State.”
1. Shoshone Falls Park
Shoshone Falls Park, located in south-central Idaho, is a massive, 212-feet-high and 1000-feet-wide waterfall. It’s hard to singularly call it a “waterfall,” as it looks like a collection of dozens of waterfalls, which is extremely visually appealing.
Getting to this waterfall is a bit of a drive no matter where you’re coming from, but it’s worth going for the spectacular views. There is a Shoshone gift shop where you can pick up something to remember the waterfall if taking photos isn’t enough!
2. Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve
Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve is a U.S. National Monument and national preserve located in central Idaho, near the town of Arco.
This monument was established in 1924 as protection for the unique geological features, including lava flows, cinder cones, and crater craters. Visitors appreciate the Visitor Center, as it provides helpful, detailed information about the site.
Numerous hiking trails go through the lava flows, which is an impeccable experience. People also go camping, as there are campgrounds in the area.
3. Silver Mountain Resort
Silver Mountain Resort is the place to be for skiing, snowboarding, or simply relaxing in the hot tub to stunning mountain views! What makes this ski resort especially unique is the inclusion of a full waterpark, a mountain bike park, and a golf course.
Tubing is another fun activity to do at this resort, and given its popularity, you should reserve it well in advance.
4. Silverwood Theme Park
If you and your travel team are adrenaline junkies looking for a thrill-filled day, check out Silverwood Theme Park in Athol, Idaho. This family-friendly amusement park has more than 70 rides, shows, slides, and other attractions.
It also features an adjacent water park called Boulder Beach, where people love to chill out in the lazy river or hit the wave pool. Given all there is to do, adults tend to have just as much – if not more – fun than the kids!
4. Boise Art Museum
The Boise Art Museum, aka BAM, is the perfect place to enjoy some art while in Idaho. It’s not a large museum physically but has a lot to offer within its walls.
BAM has a collection of around 4,000 works, including paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, video, mixed-media, ceramics, and more.
In terms of themes, the permanent collection includes American art, Northwest Art, Native American art, and Asian art.
5. Farragut State Park
If you’d love lake activities, visiting Farragut State Park while you’re in Idaho is an excellent idea. Water activities such as swimming, water sports, boating, and fishing are popular at Farragut, which is located on the tip of Lake Pend Oreille.
Additionally, you can camp at one of the clean and well-appointed campsites, set up picnics, go hiking, ride your mountain bike, play disc golf, try archery, and even go horseback riding.
6. Idaho Botanical Garden
Idaho Botanical Garden is a 50-acre garden located in Boise, Idaho, and it is a lovely place to stroll through and relax.
The gardens featured include a Rose Garden, Idaho Native Plant Garden, Meditation Garden, Herb Garden, and a Waterwise Garden with water-conserving plants.
People love visiting this “living museum” to appreciate the diversity of flora and fauna, as well as view the beautiful Christmas light decorations in the wintertime.
7. Thousand Springs State Park
Thousand Springs State Park comprises numerous state parks, all located near the southern end of the Snake River. Hiking, picnicking, camping, fishing, bird watching, and visiting waterfalls are some of the many activities you can do at this state park.
And one of the best activities for pictures at Thousand Springs is taking a scenic drive or bike ride along the canyon.
8. Freak Alley Gallery
If you’re a fan of intricate street art and painted murals, you’ll be a fan of the Freak Alley Gallery in Boise. The Freak Alley Gallery is considered an outdoor gallery featuring a unique range of graffiti and painted wall art.
It’s an excellent alley to walkthrough if you’re in the Boise area and appreciate talented street art.
9. Idaho State Museum
The Idaho State Museum is a great place to learn about the history, natural resources, and people of Idaho. It’s located in Julia Davis Park, which is also home to the Boise Art Museum, Idaho Black History Museum, and Discovery Center of Idaho.
The museum has several interactive and hands-on exhibits, as well as a planetarium. Additionally, the ISM is open year-round, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
10. Hells Gate State Park
If taking a canyon jet boat trip sounds like an excellent day to you, visit Hells Gate State Park. In addition to that popular trip, you can camp, fish, swim, and have picnics in this state park.
Guests appreciate the cleanliness, spaciousness, and friendliness of the environment at Hells Gate.
11. Kirkham Hot Springs
Kirkham Hot Springs is a group of hot springs located in the Boise National Forest. These springs are perfect for a relaxing soak, especially after a day of hiking or skiing in the nearby mountains.
The springs are open year-round, but be careful on the icy roads if you choose to go during the winter.
12. Sawtooth National Forest
The Sawtooth National Forest is a protected forest that covers over 2 million acres of land. It’s located in Idaho and includes parts of the Sawtooth, White Cloud, and the Boulder Mountains.
There are several different recreational activities you can do here, including camping, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and mountain biking.
13. City of Rocks National Reserve
If you love rock climbing or hiking, you’ll want to check out the City of Rocks National Reserve. This reserve comprises giant granite boulders, some of which are over 500 million years old.
Additionally, this reserve has historical and cultural experiences, such as learning about American Indian tribes and the California Trail Era. There are several different climbing and hiking trails throughout the reserve and a few campgrounds.
14. Bruneau Dunes State Park
Bruneau Dunes State Park is the perfect place to experience the desert landscape of Idaho. This park has the tallest single-structured sand dune in North America, which is over 470 feet tall.
In addition to hiking and sand sledding, you can also go camping, bird watching, and stargazing in this state park.
15. Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument
History buffs and archeology lovers will both enjoy a visit to the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument. This monument boasts a vast array of plant and animal fossils, even before the ice age.
The area is 4,351 acres, so there is a lot to explore. We recommend stopping by the visitor center to get some background information first, which will help you understand what to look out for.
16. Idaho Potato Museum & Potato Station Café
Beyond scenic landscapes and recreational fun, Idaho is arguably most well known for its potatoes. So it shouldn’t be surprising that there’s an Idaho Potato Museum, which is educational and fun for all ages!
The Idaho Potato Museum is an engaging place to learn about the state’s potato industry, uncover facts about potatoes themselves, and, of course, buy potato-related items from the gift shop!
17. Upper Mesa Falls
Upper Mesa Falls is perhaps less famous than some of the other natural attractions in the state, but that doesn’t make this attraction any less beautiful or worth going to.
This waterfall is located in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest and is about 114 feet tall. The best time to visit Upper Mesa Falls is during the spring when the runoff from the melted snow is at its peak.
18. Ponderosa State Park
If you’re visiting Idaho with a group of individuals interested in varying outdoor activities, Ponderosa State Park is the place to go. Located in Valley County, Idaho, this state park offers an assortment of activities from biking, guided walks, hiking, wildlife watching, and more.
In the winter, people enjoy skiing and snowshoeing, and in the summer, people can enjoy the beaches. It’s truly a “best of all worlds” type of place!
19. Camel’s Back Park
Camel’s Back Park is a playground and outdoor gym perfect for family trips to Boise. Go there and climb to the top of the highest hill to get an excellent view of the valley.
You can also bring lunch to eat at one of the picnic tables, play around in the outdoor gym area, or simply rest in one of the hammocks.
20. Lake Coeur d’ Alene
Lake Coeur d’ Alene is in Northern Idaho, in the Pacific Northwest region of the States. The lake is expansive, about 26 miles long, and it includes an even more expansive 135 miles of shoreline, which is perfect for camping, hiking, and other activities.
People can enjoy jet skiing, boating, fishing, and viewing wildlife in this beautiful area of the state.
21. Boise River Greenbelt
If you’re in Boise and want a bit more nature than what the local eateries and shops can provide, make your way to the Boise River Greenbelt.
This is a nice trail that connects Boise’s riverside parks, making it all the more splendid for walking or biking. It’s not the most naturally scenic place in the state, but it’s a refreshing break from the more urban areas of Boise.
22. Salmon River
The Salmon is a magnificent river in Central Idaho. The most popular activities on the Salmon River include whitewater rafting, whitewater kayaking, and canoeing.
It’s nicknamed “The River of No Return,” but don’t let that scare you. It was nicknamed that at a time when boats could go down but could not get back up the river due to the heavy stream.
Nowadays, jet boats can come back up the river. And if you want to go canoeing, kayaking, or rafting, you’ll start at one end and exit from the other end. Travel with a knowledgeable guide if you have any worries or concerns!
23. Pebble Creek Ski Area
Pebble Creek Ski Area is a small family-friendly ski area located in southeastern Idaho near the town of Inkom. Pebble Creek is a fun place to ski or snowboard if you’re not interested in the large, crowded ski areas.
Pebble Creek Ski Area has a variety of terrain, from beginner to advanced, so it’s perfect for skiers and snowboarders of all levels.
24. Perrine Memorial Bridge
The Perrine Memorial Bridge is a pretty neat bridge located in Twin Falls, Idaho. It’s the only bridge in the United States that you’re allowed to BASE jump from without a permit!
Of course, this is only for experienced BASE jumpers – don’t attempt this if you are not a highly skilled jumper.
If you are not, try to catch sight of other people diving into the water instead. And if that doesn’t sound interesting to you, there’s also a fantastic hiking trail underneath the bridge.
25. Payette National Forest
Payette National Forest is a 2.3 million-acre forest located in West-Central Idaho. There is plenty of recreational fun you can have here, such as camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, etc.
Payette is a great place to come if you want to escape the heat of the summer – the higher elevations offer cooler temperatures.
And in the winter, you and your friends can enjoy snow activities such as skiing and snowmobiling. There are also a number of hot springs located within the forest, so make sure to check those out too!
26. Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park
The Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park is a relatively small but mighty zoo located in Idaho Falls, Idaho. This Zoo is an educational place to take the kids.
There are 400+ animals to see, such as lions, penguins, tigers, zebras, giraffes, and more. There’s also a playground, a splash pad, and other fun things to do.
27. Roaring Springs Water Park
Roaring Springs is a fun, exciting, and even relaxing water park with seemingly endless activities. You can race down the slides, chill in the lazy river, or splash around in the wave pool.
That’s why visiting Roaring Springs is one of the best things to do in Idaho for family vacations. This water park is only open during the spring and summer seasons, so be sure to plan your trip accordingly if you would like to go!
28. Aquarium of Boise
The Aquarium of Boise provides a hands-on experience that’s typically hard to find at an aquarium, making it a fantastic place to bring your kids!
You can feed and touch some of the fish, which both children and adults tend to enjoy. If you bring children, just make sure they are being respectable and gentle with the animals.
29. Yellowstone National Park
People typically consider Yellowstone National Park a part of either Wyoming or Montana, which is true. However, part of the park extends into Idaho, so we wanted to include this incredible park on this list.
Former President Ulysses S. Grant established Yellowstone as the world’s first national park in 1872. Today, the park is best known for its vast array of wildlife and its spectacular geothermal features, such as geysers.
Read Next: Best Time to Visit Yellowstone Park
30. Kootenai National Forest
Last but not least, we have the Kootenai National Forest! This 2.2 million-acre forest is located in Northwestern Montana, Northeastern Idaho, and Southeastern British Columbia.
There’s a lot to do here, from camping and hiking to fishing and hunting. And in the winter, you can also enjoy snow activities such as snowmobiling, backcountry skiing, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, and ice fishing.
This is another excellent place in Idaho to go to if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and just enjoy the beauty of nature.
Things to Consider
Idaho is an adventurous, fun-filled state with many opportunities to explore. But there are a few key things to consider while planning your trip.
City Versus Nature
One thing to consider is whether you want to spend your time in Idaho exploring the great outdoors or if you’d prefer to stay in the city. There are benefits to both, of course!
If you’re someone who loves nature, then camping in or lodging near one of Idaho’s several National Forests, National Parks, or State Parks is an excellent choice.
However, if you’re more of a city person, staying in Boise, Idaho Falls, or Coeur d’Alene would be more your speed.
First, many Idaho activities (particularly in the summer months) will require sunscreen and hats to protect you from the sun.
Second, some areas of Idaho get quite cold in the winter, so if you’re visiting, be sure to pack warm clothes so you are prepared for any scenario.
Last, while most of Idaho is very safe, it’s always important to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions when necessary.
If you’re hiking or camping in a particularly remote area, for example, be sure to let someone know where you’re headed and when you expect to return.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you still have questions about what to see in Idaho? Here are five Idaho-related frequently asked questions that might help you out:
What is the number one attraction in Idaho?
This question is pretty subjective, as different people will have different opinions. However, some of the most popular attractions in Idaho include Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Sawtooth National Forest, the Idaho Potato Museum, and Ponderosa State Park.
What is Idaho most famous for?
Idaho is most famous for its potato industry and dynamic natural landscapes. If you want to create a trip that prioritizes what Idaho is most known for, make sure to visit Sawtooth National Forest, Craters of the Moon National Monument, and the Idaho Potato Museum.
What is the prettiest part of Idaho?
Idaho is incredibly pretty, given its natural beauty, striking landscapes, gorgeous lakes and rivers, and unique rock formations. The prettiest part will depend on your visual preferences. Still, people tend to enjoy driving down the Sawtooth Scenic Byway, boating down Snake River Canyon, or rafting the Salmon River.
Is there anything fun in Idaho?
Idaho definitely has its share of fun attractions and opportunities for a memorable adventure! Some popular activities in Idaho include hiking, swimming, cycling, whitewater rafting, skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, kayaking, fishing, camping, and visiting museums.
Where should I stop in Idaho?
If you are planning an extensive road trip through Idaho, you’re in luck! There are plenty of excellent areas to stop in Idaho for your scenic enjoyment. Some of the byways with the best scenes include the Lake Coeur d’Alene Scenic Byway, the Sawtooth Scenic Byway, and the St. Joe River Scenic Byway.
Things to See in Idaho: Final Thoughts
Idaho is a state with plenty to offer in terms of outdoor activities, stunning scenery, and rich culture.
Some of the best things to see in Idaho include Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Sawtooth National Forest, the Idaho Potato Museum, Ponderosa State Park, and the Idaho Botanical Garden.
Idaho is also an excellent choice for different types of travelers, including families, couples, and solo travelers.
There are romantic views, family-friendly water parks, courageous solo hikes, and so much more. No matter your interests, who you’re going with, or when you plan to visit, you’re sure to find something to love in Idaho.