Top Things to Do in Idaho

Top Things to Do in Idaho

Idaho is an incredibly diverse and scenic state located in the Northwestern United States. With its stunning natural landscapes ranging from rugged mountains to rolling hills, there is no shortage of exciting activities to keep visitors entertained. From outdoor adventures like hiking, fishing, and skiing to cultural experiences like visiting museums and historical sites, Things to Do in Idaho have various attractions and experiences.

Outdoor Adventures

Hiking in the Sawtooth Mountains:

Located in central Idaho, the Sawtooth Mountains are a hiker’s paradise with over 1,000 miles of trails winding through rugged alpine terrain. Some popular trails include the Pettit Lake Trail, Mount Heyburn Trail and the Alpine Lake Loop. The views of jagged peaks and crystal-clear alpine lakes are breathtaking. Pack proper gear and supplies, as the weather can change suddenly at high elevations.

Whitewater Rafting on the Payette River:

The Payette River, located 1.5 hours north of Boise, is renowned for its consistent whitewater rapids ranging from class II to IV. Several outfitters like Rocky Mountain River Tours and Idaho River Adventures offer full or half-day rafting trips between April and September. It is an exhilarating way to experience the power and beauty of Idaho’s rivers up close. Experience is optional – they provide all the necessary equipment.

Skiing and Snowboarding in Bogus Basin:

Just 16 miles from Boise, Bogus Basin offers 2,600 acres of skiable terrain with varied trails for all skill levels. It receives an average of 500 inches of light, dry powder each winter. Rent equipment on-site or bring your own. Check online for weather conditions before heading up; visibility can drop suddenly. Enjoy breathtaking views of the Boise Valley from the mountain summit restaurant.

History and Culture

Touring the Idaho State Capitol Building:

Located in downtown Boise, the Neoclassical-style Idaho State Capitol building is well worth a visit. Free guided tours are offered daily, showcasing ornate architecture, historic paintings and the chambers of the House and Senate. Take advantage of the gilded dome or the law library with intricate woodwork—a glimpse into Idaho’s rich political history and development.

Visiting Old Idaho Penitentiary:

This former maximum-security prison in Boise offers chilling self-guided audio tours highlighting its dark past. Learn about infamous inmates and the harsh living conditions. See the execution chamber, solitary confinement cells and hospital ward. Come prepared – some areas are dimly lit with mannequins depicting disturbing scenes—a unique look at Idaho’s criminal justice system in operation from 1872 to 1973.

Touring the Basque Museum & Cultural Center:

Located in Boise’s historic North End, this museum showcases the proud cultural heritage of Basque immigrants who settled in Idaho in the late 1800s. Interactive exhibits highlight traditions in food, dance, sports and family structure. Take advantage of the documentary on their journey or the traditional txoko (kitchen) preserved from the original boarding house. A fascinating peek at European cultural influences in Idaho.

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Water Activities 

Water Activities 

Jet Boating on the Payette River:

Located just outside Banks, jet boat tours on the North Fork Payette River offer an adrenaline-pumping way to experience Idaho’s whitewater. Professional guides safely navigate the rapids, sometimes making dramatic spins and splashes to thrill riders. Hold on tight! Afterwards, relax at the riverside lodge.

Fishing on Priest Lake:

Nestled along the Idaho-Washington border, scenic Priest Lake is renowned for its excellent trout fishing. Cutthroat, rainbow and kokanee salmon thrive in its pristine alpine waters. Outfitters like Priest Lake Resort offer guided fishing excursions via boat or canoe from May through October. With over 100 miles of shoreline, anglers are sure to find their perfect fishing hole. Remember your license!

Paddling on Payette Lake:

Located in the scenic lakes area of McCall, stunning Payette Lake offers beautiful views of the surrounding Sawtooth Mountains. Rent a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard from a local outfitter like Rocky Mountain Paddleboards to leisurely explore the lakeshore. Keep an eye out for bald eagles, osprey and other wildlife. Paddle to scenic spots like Garden Valley Bay or Eagle Cove for swimming and picnicking. You may spot a playful river otter!

Winter Activities

Downhill Skiing at Tamarack Resort:

Nestled in the scenic Wood River Valley, Tamarack Resort features 2,800 skiable acres, three mountain peaks and a vertical drop of 1,500 feet – perfect for all ability levels. Enjoy groomers, glades, tree runs and wide-open bowls. Rent equipment on-site or bring your own. Afterward, warm up with hot cocoa in the outdoor firepits. Snow safety gear like helmets are strongly recommended.

Cross-Country Skiing on the Trail of the Coeur d’Alene:

This scenic paved Trail in the Silver Valley Region is a beautiful spot for classic, skate-style cross-country skiing. With 84 miles of groomed trails winding along forest roads and the South Fork Coeur d’Alene River, it offers something for beginners and experts alike. Rent equipment from local shops or bring your own. Dress warmly for changing weather conditions.

Snowmobiling in Stanley:

Located in the Sawtooth Mountains, the scenic mountain town of Stanley is a snowmobiling paradise in winter. Rent a snowmachine from Sawtooth Sledworks and explore over 300 miles of groomed trails winding through forests and high alpine meadows. Experience breathtaking scenery, and remember your camera! Guided tours are available for novice riders.

Food and Drink

Wine Tasting in the Snake River Valley:

Idaho’s wine industry is booming, especially in the Snake River Valley AVA region near Twin Falls. Stop by award winning wineries like Cinder Wines, Sawtooth Estate or 3 Horse Ranch Vineyards for tastings of aromatic whites and full bodied reds ideally paired with local cheeses. Many feature lovely mountain or vineyard views – the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Brewery Hopping in Boise:

Boise has emerged as a craft beer destination with over a dozen breweries downtown. Start at places like Payette Brewing Co, Woodland Empire Ale Works or Dick’s Brew Pub for a variety of IPAs, lagers, stouts and seasonal brews. Enjoy live music, food trucks and friendly vibes. Designate a driver or take advantage of rideshares.

Distillery Tour at Clearwater Canyon Cellars:

Sample small batch spirits and learn about the distilling process on a guided tour of this family owned operation near Lewiston. Sip handcrafted vodkas, gins and whiskeys ideally paired with appetizers made from local ingredients. After, relax on the scenic patio overlooking the Clearwater River Valley and Palouse Hills.

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Idaho’s wide open spaces, crystal clear rivers and friendly small town vibes create the ideal environment for creating lasting memories with family and friends. With its diverse landscapes ranging from high alpine to high desert, each region of Idaho offers a unique experience. Be sure to visit the volcanic Craters of the Moon, the steep canyons and rivers of Hells Canyon as well as the rolling hills and vineyards of the Snake River Valley. And of course, don’t forget the iconic potatoes – learn about their history at the Potato Museum in Blackfoot!

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