Looking for the Best Places to Get Outdoors in Idaho?
If you think all that Idaho has to offer is potatoes, think again. The Gem State is full of precious and semi-precious gemstones, yes, but it’s also overflowing with gems to discover when it comes to places to visit. With stunning lakes, rivers, gorges and falls, Idaho is truly a state you should add to your itinerary if you’re an avid outdoorsman or woman. Here is a list of our favorite places to get outdoors in Idaho.
Lake Coeur d’Alene
If you’re going to make one stop in Idaho, Lake Coeur d’Alene would be the place to go. This lake stretches for 26 miles in northern Idaho amidst serene mountain scenery. Even with its popularity as a vacation destination, it still feels like a peaceful escape from reality. On the lake, you can participate in your favorite water sports or take a sunset cruise. For a truly luxury experience, visit the iconic The Coeur d’Alene Resort. Here, you’ll find lakefront rooms and dining, watercraft rentals and what’s been voted as the World’s Most Romantic Spa by MSNBC. The property is also home to the famous C’oeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course which boasts the world’s only floating green. You’ll have to take a boat to get to it!
Middle Fork of the Salmon River
For the truly adventurous traveler, there’s incredible whitewater rafting on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. This 100 mile rafting route is whitewater almost the whole way through, so it’s truly a thrilling ride. Not only will the rafting itself be exhilarating, but the sights will be as well. Along the way, you’ll pass Native American petroglyphs, mining ruins and the granite walls of the Impassable Canyon. You’ll also be able to take a rest in several hot springs to wrap up your days on the water. If you’re an expert rafter, go in the early season when the water levels are highest and the river is at its most aggressive. For less experienced rafters and families, go around August when the river flow is a bit slower and easier to navigate.
Idaho is a hotbed for rafting and Hells Canyon is another can’t-miss rafting spot. This river gorge is the deepest in the United States – yes, even deeper than the Grand Canyon by almost 2,000 feet. The Snake River that separates Idaho from Washington and Oregon runs through the canyon and holds the largest whitewater rapids in the Pacific Northwest. Idaho’s Seven Devil’s Mountains decorate the Idaho side of the canyon and like in the Salmon River, you’ll find Native American petroglyphs and abandoned mines here as well.
Sawtooth Scenic Byway
For a beautiful drive in the RV, take the Sawtooth Scenic Byway through the Sawtooth National Forest and “America’s Alps,” the Sawtooth Mountains. Not only will you enjoy the ride, but you’ll find several places along it that are worth stopping for. If you’re up for a rewarding hike, check out the mystical Black Magic Canyon. You’ll feel transported to another world as you explore its bizarre lava rock sculptures. They were carved by the Big Wood River.
Just be sure to do your research before visiting. The canyon is sometimes flooded by water and home to rattlesnakes. For an easier scenic view, stop at the overlook at Galena Summit, where you can see the Sawtooth Mountains and the headwaters of the Salmon River. Idaho’s most iconic skiing destination, Sun Valley, is along the Sawtooth Scenic Byway. Redfish Lake is worth the drive as well, where you’ll find plenty of boating, fishing and beautiful vistas.
These stunning falls are truly an under-appreciated destination. Known as “The Niagara of the West,” the Shoshone Falls are actually 45 feet taller than Niagara on the New York/Canada border. The falls cascade over a basalt canyon on the Snake River in Twin Falls, Idaho. What makes the falls truly remarkable are the multiple tiers of falls that flow down into the main falls. When the snow from the surrounding mountain ranges is melting in the spring, the roaring falls are a powerful sight to see. There is a viewing platform to see the falls, but you can also experience them with nearby hiking trails and kayaking below them in the Snake River.
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Head south of the Sawtooth National Forest to find these bizarre lava fields between the towns of Carey and Arco, Idaho. The Craters of the Moon National Monument is aptly named with its other-worldly feel. The craters and caves were formed by an ancient molten lava field. The massive park is almost the size of Rhode Island. The hiking is plentiful here, and each view feels like you’re looking at a different planet. Head down into the “lava tubes” to explore caves and discover lava tube beetles that can’t be found anywhere else. You can also enjoy the park by car (or RV) with a drive around its 7-mile scenic loop road.
Best Places to Get Outdoors in Idaho
Idaho is a must for any outdoors-loving traveler, yet it rarely gets the attention it deserves. Splurge on a posh vacation at Lake Coeur d’Alene,. Get out in the wild with Idaho’s top-notch rafting and skiing. Whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong.
Has our list of the best places to get outdoors in Idaho gotten you interested in traveling there? Get inspired for more trips with more of our favorite RV destinations!