Super useful & totally free Idaho travel guides, written by locals who love Idaho
Why We Love Idaho — Idaho’s diverse landscape offers impressive mountain ranges, alpine lakes, and national forests. Boise is a growing capital city with easy access to miles of trails, parks, and a rich downtown food scene. The Gem State is dotted with natural hot springs, quaint mountain towns, local vineyards, and ski resorts galore. Find everything from relaxing getaways to thrilling adventures in Idaho.
Best of Idaho
🏙️ Idaho Destinations
Idaho has plenty of incredible travel destinations, making it easy to see something new each time you visit. Some of the most popular destinations in Idaho include:
- Boise – Idaho’s capital city is home to world-renowned restaurants, outdoor activities, and plenty of fun things to do in Boise.
- Sun Valley – The top ski town in Idaho and the favorite travel destination of many celebrities. An easy drive to the Sawtooth mountain range.
- Twin Falls – This high-desert town nestled along the Snake River is home to the “Niagara of the West.”
- McCall – Enjoy a weekend in this tiny mountain lake town. Be prepared to share with hundreds of friendly deer.
- Coeur d’Alene – This idyllic resort community is nestled in the northernmost part of Idaho and is ideal for a relaxing vacation.
✨ Things to Do
Idaho is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, offering something for adventure-seekers of any skill level. Here are the top must-do activities:
- Go Hot Spring Hopping – You have plenty of hot spring options in Idaho, with over 130 soakable hot springs throughout the state.
- Explore the Sawtooth Range – Explore 350 miles of trails in the Sawtooth Wilderness or drive to pristine mountain lakes.
- Go Whitewater Rafting – Take a multi-day rafting trip through Hells Canyon or spend a thrilling day on the Payette River.
- Go Skiing or Snowboarding – Check out one of our many ski resorts for a winter activity. You can even try snowshoeing!
- Go Backpacking or Camping – Book a spot at an established campsite in a national forest or set out on an overnight backpacking trip.
- Take a Scenic Drive – Pack your camera and head down a scenic highway or byway to get a unique perspective of the state.
- Visit Craters of the Moon National Monument – Miles of lava flows, unique caves, and incredible stargazing make this a must-visit.
- Explore Downtown Boise – This lively downtown offers plenty of nightlife, restaurants, and culture.
🗺️ Where to Stay
Deciding where to stay in Idaho can be difficult, but there are many incredible things to see no matter where you choose.
- Boise – There are tons of fun day trips from Boise, making it a great home base to explore much of southern Idaho.
- Coeur d’Alene – This relaxed tourist city fits the bill for northern adventures. Plus, it’s just 2 hours to Canada!
- McCall – This mountain town is a great place to stay in summer or winter, having several vacation rentals and hotels.
- Sun Valley – Enjoy easy access to ski resorts, the tiny town of Stanley, and plenty of outdoor fun.
- Twin Falls– This is a great stopping point if you’re headed north through Idaho and want to check out the Snake River.
🛎️ Best Hotels
Idaho offers a wide array of accommodations, from luxury lakeside resorts to quirky boutiques and upscale ski chalets. There’s something to suit every traveler and budget.
- Shore Lodge – This luxury lodge is situated on the shores of Payette Lake and is within walking distance of most things to do in McCall.
- The Coeur d’Alene Resort – Another lakeside hotel with impressive views and tower suites for an upscale experience.
- The Anniversary Inn – A unique bed and breakfast experience with individually-themed rooms, such as an enchanted forest.
- The Grove – This sophisticated hotel provides a top-notch stay in the heart of downtown Boise.
- Sun Valley Resort – This resort is an upscale favorite with plenty of amenities and easy access to the famous ski resort.
🚗 Best Road Trips
See the best of Idaho by taking an epic road trip along one of the many scenic byways. Choose one route or combine them for a multi-day adventure.
- Sawtooth Scenic Byway – This 115-mile road trip takes you through some of the most stunning mountain passes in Idaho.
- Hells Canyon Scenic Byway – Travel 22 miles along this scenic byway and stop to take in the deepest gorge in North America.
- Lake Coeur d’Alene Scenic Byway – Road trip from one side of the state to the other along this winding scenic route.
- Teton Scenic Byway – Experience incredible views of the Teton mountains along this stretch of road in eastern Idaho.
- Thousand Springs Scenic Byway – Travel through farmland to hidden waterfalls and crystal springs.
🥾 Best Hikes
You’ll never run out of trails to hike in Idaho. There’s always something new to explore, from impressive peaks in the Sawtooths to hidden gems in the Boise foothills.
- Borah Peak – This grueling summit up Idaho’s tallest peak isn’t for the faint of heart. But the expansive views and sense of accomplishment are well worth it.
- Sawtooth Lake – Hike this 10-mile trail to the pristine Sawtooth Lake for a unique perspective of these incredible mountains.
- Stack Rock – This trail is a great way to beat the summer heat in the city and enjoy some forest scenery close to Boise.
- Scotchman Peak – You might see a wild mountain goat at the top of this stunning trail if you’re lucky. Remember to stay at a safe distance.
- Pioneer Cabin Trail – You’ll be rewarded with a historic cabin and breathtaking views at the end of this challenging trail.
♨️ Best Hot Springs
Relax in one of Idaho’s hot springs for a spa-like experience with a dash of adventure. Always remember to pack in, pack out and leave no trace.
- Kirkham Hot Springs – Idaho’s most popular (and busiest) hot spring. Soak in one of the many pools or take a hot spring “shower”.
- Goldbug Hot Springs – Hike the 2-mile trail to this mountain oasis. It’s easy to plan a sunrise soak with camping options nearby.
- Boat Box Hot Springs – This unique hot spring is a cauldron-like tub suitable for about three people at a time.
- Frenchman’s Bend Hot Springs – Be sure to check out this natural spring after a day spent on the slopes in Sun Valley.
- Trail Creek Hot Springs – This easy-to-access spot is a local favorite outside Cascade, Idaho.
Idaho Travel Advice
🗓️ Best Time to Visit
The Gem State is worth a visit any time of the year, but you’ll want to pay attention to seasonal closures and plan your visit accordingly.
- 🌞 Summer – Summer is the best time of year to visit this incredible state, having long days and mostly blue skies.
- 🍂 Fall – Fall is a spectacular time for hot spring hopping and hiking popular trails with fewer crowds.
- ❄️ Winter – Break out your cold gear and hit the slopes. Idaho is a great wintertime destination for those who enjoy winter sports.
- 🌼 Spring – Blooming trees along the Boise River Greenbelt and green mountains make spring a popular time to visit.
🚌 Getting In & Around
Exploring by car is the best way to experience all that Idaho has to offer. Alternative modes of transportation include:
- ✈️ Airports – Most visitors to Idaho will fly into the Boise Airport (BOI). Spokane (GEG) is the closest major airport for northern travel.
- 🚗 Driving – A rental car is essential for any travel outside the immediate Boise area.
- 🚇 Public Transit – Public transportation is available in Boise and larger cities in Idaho, but don’t plan on it in small mountain towns.
- 📲 Ride Share – Uber and Lyft are available in most cities throughout Idaho. However, many towns don’t have rideshare options, so do your research.
- 🚴♀️ Biking – Idaho is great for road and mountain bikers alike, with plenty of rugged trails and bike lanes.
- 🛴 Scooters – Rent electric scooters and take them for a spin in downtown Boise.
- 🚶♀️ Walking – Most small towns in Idaho are walkable. Boise is an excellent city for walking, with easy Greenbelt access from many locations.
👉 Tips & Things to Know
- 💨 – Weather is Unpredictable – Don’t count on the weather forecast or past temperatures when planning outdoor adventures. Have a backup plan.
- 🔥 – Pay Attention to Wildfires – Wildfires are a growing problem during the summer months. Check the air quality before recreating if there are wildfires in the area.
- ❄️ – Trail and Road Closures are Possible – High snowfall means some roads or trails are inaccessible well into spring.
- 🗒️ – Plan Early – Idaho is quickly becoming a top travel destination, meaning many hotels fill up early. Plan and book lodging as soon as possible.
- ⛽️ – Get Gas Before You Need It – You don’t want to be stuck on a mountain road without gas or cell service. Fuel up before you head out of town.
🧳 What to Pack
- 💧 – Water Bottle – Idaho is deceptively dry. Bring a reusable water bottle and stay hydrated.
- 🥪 – Lunch – Much of Idaho is rural, with gas stations and eateries few and far between. Pack food and snacks when road-tripping or exploring.
- 🥾 – Hiking Boots – You’ll want a good pair of hiking boots for most trails around Idaho. Bring a sturdy pair of sneakers if you don’t have any boots or hiking shoes.
- 🩱 – Bathing Suit – You’ll want to have your swimsuit handy for jet boat rides, floats down the river, and hot spring soaking.
- 🧴 – Sunscreen – Bluebird days on the slopes and summer afternoons on the water can spell a disastrous sunburn if you’re not careful.
🤓 Facts & Info
- Population – 1.9 million people
- Capital – Boise
- Largest Metro Areas – Boise City, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Falls
- Time Zone – Mountain Time (UTC -6 / UTC -7 during daylight savings)
- Airports – Boise (BOI), Idaho Falls Regional Airport (IDA), Friedman Memorial Airport (SUN)
- Colleges & Universities – Boise State University, University of Idaho, Idaho State University
- Nickname – The Gem State
- Demonym – Idahoan
- USPS Abbreviation – ID
- Governor – Brad Little (Republican)
- Country – United States of America
💵 Costs & Budgeting
- MERIC Cost of Living State Rank – 28th most affordable
- 3 Star Hotel Room – $150/night
- 1 Bedroom Apartment Rental – $80-$250/night
- Rental Car – $50-$70/day
- Public Transit Ticket – ~$2.50 ($1.50 to airport from center)
- Take Out Meal for Two – $20-30
- Sit Down Dinner for Two – $60-140
- Draft Beer – $6-11
FAQs About Visiting Idaho
Is Idaho safe for tourists?
Generally, Idaho is safe for tourists. Crime is relatively low in Idaho and there aren’t many natural disasters to worry about. Pay attention to wildfires and check air quality levels if there are active fires while you’re visiting.
What is the best month to go to Idaho?
August is the best month to go to Idaho. The summer season offers full access to hiking trails and all roads in the state should be passable at this time.
Is there anything cool to see in Idaho?
Some of the coolest things to see in Idaho include the Sawtooth Mountain Range, Hells Canyon, Shoshone Falls, and Craters of the Moon National Monument.
Where is the prettiest place in Idaho?
The Sawtooth National Recreation Area is generally considered the prettiest place in Idaho. The Sawtooths boast scenic mountain passes and hundreds of hiking and biking trails.
Meet Our Idaho Travel Expert
Taylor Ramsey is an Idaho-based freelance writer with a passion for all things adventure. She loves camping, hiking, backpacking, paddle boarding, and traveling to new and exciting places with her husband. If she’s not on a mountain somewhere, you can usually find her at a local coffee shop on an endless quest for the perfect chai latte.
📰 Idaho Travel Guides
There is so much to see and do in the Gem State that it’s impossible to include it all in one list. Here is an index of all our Idaho travel guides to help you plan the ultimate trip:
- 15 Best Hikes Near Boise in 2023 (By a Local)
- 29 Best Boise Restaurants (Where to Eat in 2023)
- Where to Stay in Boise (Best Places & Areas, By a Local)
- 27 Best Things to Do in Boise in 2023 (By a Local)
- 25 Best Day Trips from Boise in 2023 (By a Local)