27 Best Things To Do In Idaho: Bucket List Experiences

If you’re looking for the best things to do in Idaho, then you have come to the right place because you are going to be getting the inside scoop from an almost local!

Best Things To Do In Idaho

An almost local? Ha! What’s that? Fortunately for us we are lucky enough to live near Idaho’s border over in Eastern Washington so Idaho has become our stomping grounds over the last several years.

Since it is our FAVORITE destination, we’ll take any excuse to visit. Whether it’s Memorial Weekend, Fourth of July holidays, summer vacation, or a ski trip, you’ll more than likely find us in the Gem State! We even once spent three months roaming around the entire state in our campervan.

Every chance we get to visit Idaho we take. And I’m going to share some of the incredible things to do here so that you can see why you need to visit too.

What is so special about Idaho? Idaho is a place with an abundance of natural beauty; from its least visited unspoiled forests in the panhandle, sparkling alpine lakes, and colorful wildflower-filled meadows in the central parts, to the dramatic canyons and dusty deserts in the south, this state will constantly surprise you with its variety of pristine landscapes.

Idaho is truly under-appreciated but this is probably what has kept it such a special and surprising place to visit.

Map Of Things To Do In Idaho

And it’s not just the landscape that is beautiful here, but the residents too. Idaho has some of the friendliest and welcoming people in the country, and we have made some lifelong friends here just from camping trips or visiting a local bar.

If you’re looking for a state that can offer adventurous activities, Idaho is the perfect place for you. There are endless hiking, mountain-biking, horseback riding, fishing, and white-water rafting opportunities to name a few.

Would you prefer to take it easy? Then you’ll be pleased to know there are numerous lakes to relax by, incredibly beautiful campgrounds, and hot springs galore!

Anyway, let’s get to this list of things to do in Idaho. It has been broken up into things to do in Southern Idaho first, followed by things to do in Central Idaho, and then things to do in Northern Idaho so you can skip to the section you plan to visit.

Best Things To Do In Southern Idaho

Visit Shoshone Falls

Shoshone Falls In Twin Falls, Idaho

Shoshone Falls might just be Idaho’s most famous and loved attraction. This waterfall is synonymous with the Gem State, a little bit like how Yosemite Falls is akin to California, how Multnomah Falls is analogous with Oregon, or how Havasu Falls comes to mind when people think of travel in Arizona, and well, you get my drift.

The impressive waterfall might even be one of the most visited places in Idaho probably because it is located just off Interstate-84 between Salt Lake City and Boise therefore a popular detour for motorists heading north to Portland or south to Utah.

So what makes Shoshone Falls so special? Well, Shoshone Falls is the largest waterfall not only in Idaho, but one of the largest waterfalls in the United States. This waterfall is actually higher than Niagara Falls and even referred to as the Niagara Falls of the west!

Shoshone Falls is one of the top places to visit in Idaho and a great introduction to the southern part of the Gem state. You can visit Shoshone Falls at Shoshone Falls State Park or if you are the adventurous type and happen to be visiting during summer, you can kayak or paddleboard to this waterfall from Twin Falls.

Hike Down To Box Canyon and Take A Dip In The Cool Blue Water

Box Canyon State Park In Idaho

Hidden amongst the flat farmland and dairy pastures just outside of the city of Twin Falls is a secluded canyon where crystal clear water seeps from rock walls into a brilliant blue pool.

The color of the water is truly magical and really must be seen to be believed! What’s even more impressive is that this spring-fed pool sits at the bottom of a wide chasm surrounded by lush vegetation which is in stark contrast to the featureless farmland above.

The sparkling pool is a result of spring water discharged from the Snake River Plain Aquifer. This spring flows at a rate of 180,000 gallons per minute making it the 11th largest spring in the USA.

While it is incredible just to see the beautiful pool from above at the canyon overlook, it is even more satisfying to hike down into Box Canyon where you can swim in the crystal clear pool and stream that flows out to the Snake River. There is even a secret waterfall that you will stumble upon along the hiking trail.

This hidden gem is a favorite among locals but hard to find much information on outside of local knowledge so I have written a guide to where you can find Box Canyon, how to hike down, and where to swim. See the link below if you are interested in visiting this natural Idaho wonder.

>>Read: How To Hike Down To Box Canyon & Where To Swim

Spend A Weekend In Twin Falls

30 Best Things To Do In Idaho

Twin Falls has become one of our favorite destinations to visit in Idaho. It has come as a complete shock to my husband and I that we would love this place so much, especially considering we both grew up on the coast and never imagined we could enjoy anywhere not near the ocean.

While you won’t find any beaches, mountains, or even forests in Twin Falls, what you will find are a plethora of hidden natural wonders that will have you wondering how the heck is this in Southern Idaho!

I’m talking about impressive canyons, soothing hot springs, and waterfalls the color of ice blue glaciers.

There are so many waterfalls you can find near Twin Falls that you could spend an entire day visiting them.

Perrine Waterfall In Twin Falls

Besides natural attractions, the city of Twin Falls has plenty of great restaurants, a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and styles of travel, and best of all, super friendly locals that will make your stay a delight.

We have visited Twin Falls numerous times and usually stay at this hotel in Jerome or camp at Banbury Hot Springs.

In my opinion, spending an entire weekend in Twin Falls is necessary if you want to see all of this destination’s highlights, or at the very least, try to dedicate an entire day to exploring Twin Falls and the surrounding area.

>>Read: 20 Really Cool Things To Do In Twin Falls, Idaho

Walk Across The Perrine Bridge

Snake River In Twin Falls, Idaho
Overlooking the Snake River in Twin Falls

The Perrine Bridge is the star attraction in Twin Falls. If you only have time to visit one thing in Twin Falls, make sure you stop by to see this man-made wonder!

At 68,000 feet tall, the Perrine Bridge is one of the highest bridges in the United States. Visiting the bridge is one of the top things to do in Twin Falls and I would say worthy of being on every Idaho bucket list.

Not only is the steel structure itself very cool to see, but the views of the Snake River Canyon seen from on the bridge are nothing short of spectacular.

Yes, pedestrians are allowed to walk across the bridge to take in the views, however I must say, walking across this bridge was a somewhat terrifying experience for me as someone who is afraid of heights. The bridge literally shakes every time a vehicle rolls across it which makes walking across an even more scary situation.

You needn’t walk across the bridge to enjoy the views of the Snake River Canyon though as there are viewing platforms from both sides of the bridge.

There is a Visitors Center adjacent to the Perrine Bridge that has all sorts of information about attractions in Twin Falls and the surrounding area.

Drive Thousand Springs Scenic Byway

Malad Gorge State Park
Malad Gorge In Southern Idaho

Thousand Springs Scenic Byway is an idyllic stretch of road that follows the Snake River through south-central Idaho leading motorists through farmland, small towns, and some incredible geological features.

Some of the places we thought were impressive to see on this road trip was Malad Gorge, a chasm with multiple waterfalls, and Ritter Island which is a wetland oasis where you can swim and picnic.

There are also opportunities to hike (although not that much) and kayak or canoe on the Snake River.

Malad Gorge In Idaho

We loved this drive and were surprised by how much there was to see in such a small area. The byway is only 67 miles and while the drive time is less than two hours, you should set aside approximately four to five hours to visit all of the highlights on this road trip.

>>Read: Thousand Springs Scenic Byway – Road Tripping Through Southern Idaho

Explore Craters Of The Moon National Monument

Hiking To Inferno Cone Summit At Craters Of The Moon National Monument In Idaho

Craters Of The Moon National Monument is Idaho’s most well-known federally protected destination notable for its strange moon-like landscape.

The entire national park is a vast ocean of lava flows and random cinder cones so it isn’t quite what the typical idea of beautiful is, however this place is still lovely, just in a very unusual way.

The best way to explore the park is along the scenic 7 Mile Loop Road which will lead you to many of the park’s best attractions such as Devil’s Orchard and Inferno Cone.

Inferno Cone Hike At Craters Of The Moon National Monument
Hiking to the top of Inferno Cone at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho

There are many opportunities to pull over and view or photograph the park, and if you would like to get some physical activity in, there are several easy to moderate hiking trails that can be found along the way.

Another unique feature of Craters Of The Moon is its caves which were formed by underground rivers of lava. Visitors are allowed to explore some of these caves, however you will need to obtain a permit from the Visitor Center beforehand.

>>Read: Best Things To Do At Craters Of The Moon National Monument

Go On A Foodie Crawl Through Boise

Westside Drive In, Boise
Westside Drive-In in Boise, Idaho

If you are a foodie then you will no doubt love Boise because this city has a thriving culinary scene with lots of great restaurants to explore. The restaurants in Boise have a farm to table emphasis with menus that are creative and experimental.

Eating out in this city is always an exciting ordeal, and a good opportunity to sample authentic northwest fare if you’re not from these parts.

What is northwest fare you ask? Dishes that include trout, salmon, mushrooms, asparagus, berries, and basically any ingredients that are local to the area.

>>Read: 12 Best Places To Eat In Boise: Ultimate Foodie Guide

Explore Boise’s Brewery Scene

Payette Brewing In Boise, Idaho

While Boise doesn’t yet have a reputation as being a beer destination like Milwaukee, Portland, or Bellingham, that might change soon as dozens of breweries have popped up here over the past several years.

The lineup of breweries in Boise is quite impressive, and so far there are at least seven of them in just the downtown area alone. Some of the breweries in downtown include 10 Barrel Brewing, Woodland Empire Brewery, and Boise Brewing. If you enjoy sour beers though, you should head to Barbarian Brewing.

Our favorite brewery in Boise is Payette Brewing who offer a nice range of IPAs, stouts, porters, and seasonal beer. My personal favorite here is their Mexican chocolate stout which is absolutely delicious!

One advantage Boise has over other cities is that the downtown area is quite small so it is relatively easy to visit multiple breweries in one day without having to drive between all of them.

Visit Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park

Here’s a little fact most people are unaware of – Idaho holds the record for having the tallest sand dune in North America! Yep, there is a mammoth-sized sand dune that towers 470 feet above the desert floor in the state of Idaho. It is bigger than the sand dunes in Death Valley and the massive beach dunes on the Oregon coast.

You can see this record holding sand dune at Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park which is only an hour south of Boise. At the state park you can not only climb the sand dunes, but also rent a sandboard from the Visitor Center and ride down them too!

Besides sandboarding you can hike, fish, swim, or camp, here. Another cool experience you can have at this state park is being able to star gaze using the onsite Observatory’s collection of telescopes.

The star gazing program is available on Friday and Saturday nights throughout summer. Tickets are limited to the first eighty people so be sure to arrive early on the weekend as it is first come first served only. Programs begin at 9pm with an indoor presentation followed by telescope viewing.

Since Bruneau Sand Dunes are located only an hour from Boise, this place makes a great day trip from Boise or a fun detour if your driving between Salt Lake City and Portland, Oregon.

Best Things To Do In Central Idaho

Visit Pettit Lake

Pettit Lake In Idaho

Pettit Lake is a stunning alpine lake that sits at the foot of the impressive Sawtooth Mountains. This pristine lake is the perfect destination for you if you’re looking to go off-grid for a few days since the area is undeveloped and offers a more peaceful camping experience than other lakeside destinations.

There is a first-come first-served campground at the north end of the lake and it is very popular during the summer. If you have your heart set on camping here, you should plan to arrive early in the morning to increase your chances of getting a campsite!

The Tin-Cup Trailhead located next to the campground is a popular jumping off point for backpacking trips into the Sawtooth Wilderness. From this trailhead you can also hike to two very beautiful lakes; Alice Lake and Toxaway Lake. Or if you’re up for the challenge, you can hike to both lakes on the Alice and Toxaway Loop Trail, but keep in mind this is a very long day hike!

>>Read: Best Lakes In Idaho For A Summer Vacation or Camping Holiday

Tour Yankee Fork Gold Dredge

Yankee Fork Gold Dredge In Idaho

Yankee Fork Gold Dredge is one of the best preserved gold dredges in the United States! It is located in the central mountains of Idaho on the Yankee Fork River, a tributary of the beautiful Salmon River.

This gold dredge was built in 1940 by a company from New York who after surveying the area, was told there was an estimated eleven million dollars of gold in their five mile claim.

The gold dredge was in operation until 1953, but sat lonely and abandoned after that when the company ran out of their mining claim. Vandals began destroying the dredge by breaking its windows and stealing anything they could.

Fortunately in 1966, the gold dredge was donated by the owner to the U.S. Forest Service who made the necessary repairs to save the dredge from deterioration. The gold dredge is now open to the public and visitors can exlore the Yankee Fork Gold Dredge on self-guided tours.

>>Read: Visit Yankee Fork Gold Dredge: One Of The Best Preserved Gold Dredges In The United States!

Custer Ghost Town

Custer Ghost Town In Idaho

Custer Ghost Town is one of the most popular ghost towns in Idaho to visit on a road trip. This abandoned mining town is one of the best preserved ghost towns in the United States and a place that needs to be on your Idaho bucket list!

Custer was established in 1879 after the discovery of gold at the General Custer Mine, the mother lode of the Yankee Fork. This mining district hit its peak population in 1896 but when the easy gold began to dry up, residents of Custer started leaving until there was noone left by 1910.

If you’d like to experience what life was like in a 19th-century prospecting town, a visit to Custer will certainly give you some insight. This ghost town is filled with clues of its former activity. You’ll find rusted mining equipment and machinery scattered throughout the old mining district.

Several of the buildings have been restored to their former glory such as the schoolhouse, the Empire Saloon, and a few private cabins. During the summer, volunteers from Friends of Custer Museum are onsite to provide visitors with historical information.

>>Read: Visit Custer Ghost Town: The Most Popular Ghost Town In Idaho

Find A Hot Spring

Goldbug Hot Springs In Idaho
What hot springs in Idaho look like.

Most people are unaware that Idaho is littered with hot springs. Seriously, there are hundreds of hot springs in this state. If you enjoy soaking in natural warm springs then Idaho is the perfect place for you!

Whether you prefer soaking in springs at developed facilities, or prefer natural surroundings, more than likely a hot spring won’t be too far from wherever you plan to visit in this state.

The largest concentration of hot springs can be found in Central Idaho. Some of the coolest hot springs in Idaho (or should I say hottest?) include Mountain Village Hot Spring and Kirkham Hot Springs.

Visiting hot springs in Idaho is something you can do at any time of the year including summer. Since the weather in Idaho can still be quite cool in the evenings even during July and August, soaking will not be an uncomfortable experience.

>>Read: 5 Awesome Hot Springs Near Stanley, Idaho

Hike In The Sawtooth Mountains

Idaho holds some of the most majestic mountain scenery in the country, a fact most domestic and international travelers are unaware of.

Although there are several mountain ranges in the state of Idaho that are contenders for the title of most beautiful like the White Clouds or the Pioneer Mountain Range, in my opinion the Sawtooth Mountain Range is the clear winner!

In fact, I would even go as far as to say they easily rival the beauty of the mountains found in Glacier National Park or Grand Teton National Park.

The Sawtooth Mountains actually look very similar to the Tetons yet lack the huge crowds that the national park status draws so if you’re looking for somewhere outdoors to escape the crowds, plan a visit to this wilderness area.

You can view the Sawtooth Mountains along the Sawtooth Scenic Byway but the best way to get acquainted with the beauty of these mountains is to hike among them!

Some of the most popular hiking trails around here include the hike to Sawtooth Lake and the hike to Alice Lake which are both quite challenging but really worth the effort.

Take An Epic Central Idaho Road Trip

Salmon Scenic Byway In Idaho

The best way to discover Idaho’s stunning landscape is via a road trip. And since Central Idaho is the most beautiful region in the state (in my opinion anyway), driving through this area should be at the top of your list of things to in Idaho.

There are quite a few incredible drives through Central Idaho that are possible depending on how much time you have and where you prefer to begin and end your road trip.

For example, you can take Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway from Boise to Stanley which offers lots of outdoor recreational opportunities such as hiking, hot springs, and camping, or take the Sawtooth Scenic Byway from Twin Falls to Stanley for awe-inspiring mountain views, gorgeous lakes, hiking, and fly-fishing.

If you happen to be on a longer road trip and traveling between Utah and Montana, consider getting off the Interstate and driving through Idaho’s glorious central region.

You can undertake this epic Central Idaho road trip like we did that combines the Sawtooth Scenic Byway and the Salmon Scenic Byway. This is the perfect driving itinerary for road trippers heading to or from Glacier National Park and Utah’s national parks.

Visit Bayhorse Ghost Town

Bayhorse Ghost Town In Idaho

Between Stanley and Challis are several ghost towns you can visit at Land Of The Yankee Fork State Park like Bonanza and Custer but our favorite along this stretch of road is Bayhorse Ghost Town.

Like many of the ghost towns in Idaho, Bayhorse was once a boomtown in the late 1800s for silver and gold mining. The first mineral deposit was discovered here in 1864 but it wasn’t until 1877 when a major lead-silver vein was uncovered that a rush to the area began.

Bayhorse reached its peak in 1888 but that would be the last year that the mines here would operate at full capacity. A number of tragedies occurred in 1889 including a fire which destroyed several buildings. This, coupled with the decline of silver and lead prices eventually lead to the closure of the Bayhorse mines in November.

At Bayhorse you can walk down the narrow, dusty main road through the town that once was and see historical buildings including the original mill which stands imposingly on a hillside.

One of the things that makes visiting Bayhorse so exciting is its location nestled inside a stunning canyon in the mountains. The drive out to this ghost town is quite spectacular so if you are driving through the area be sure to take the short detour to visit.

>>Read: Ghost Towns In Idaho Worth Visiting On A Road Trip

Go Horse Riding In The Sawtooth Mountains

Horse Riding At Redfish Lake, Idaho

If you’re looking for something memorable to do while you’re in Idaho, take a guided horse riding trip in the Sawtooth Mountains. It’s a fun way to explore Idaho’s majestic landscape and to see some beautiful destinations without having to hike to them!

Mystic Saddle offer several different trail rides for all skill levels from a two hour loop ride around Little Redfish Lake to all day adventures in the Sawtooth Mountain backcountry.

Every year we try to do a different trail with them and we are never disappointed with the places we have been taken to. So far we have done the ride to Little Redfish Lake, the four hour ride to Bench Lakes, and an all day ride to Marshall Lake.

Advanced bookings are recommended for all day rides but you can turn up to the Redfish Corrals at Redfish Lake for the two hour tours without a reservation and see if there is space.

Best Things To Do In Northern Idaho

Spend A Weekend In Sandpoint

Sandpoint is a beautiful city in the panhandle of Idaho. This place is a popular summer vacation destination with Idaho and Washington residents and it’s not hard to see why.

Situated on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille, Sandpoint offers stunning lake views and a ton of water activities. The whole area is surrounded by towering mountains so there are incredible views every which way you look.

The downtown area is filled with nice restaurants, cafes, and bars, as well as public art displayed on buildings.

There is a small city beach holiday makers can sunbathe and swim at, and if you are looking to get out on the water, a nearby marina provides boat rentals along with kayaks and paddleboards.

Many of the motels and resorts are located right on the waterfront which is only a few short steps away from the downtown area.

If you are looking for a relaxing place to spend a weekend getaway or scouting for future summer vacation destinations, Sandpoint might be the place you are looking for.

>>Read: These Affordable Lakeside Vacation Homes In Sandpoint Will Make Your Northern Idaho Experience That Much Better!

Take A Ski Trip To Schweitzer Mountain

Schweitzer Mountain In Idaho

If you are planning a winter trip to northern Idaho, you simply must visit Schweitzer Mountain! In fact, even if you aren’t planning a trip to Idaho in the winter, it is something you may want to consider doing if you enjoy skiing or snowboarding.

Schweitzer Mountain is Idaho’s premier ski destination and offers all of the first class amenities of the top ski resorts in other states but with MUCH LESS visitors.

27 Best Things To Do In Idaho

This mountain is huge with lots of terrain and it often feels like you have many of the runs all to yourself. This almost certainly will be the case if you can plan a trip mid-week.

Even if you don’t ski or snowboard, it is still worth the drive up the mountain for the outstanding views of Lake Pend Oreille in winter. There are a number of nice restaurants and shops on Schweitzer Mountain as well as slope-side lodging.

Camp At Farragut State Park

Farragut State Park is a peaceful destination located on the southern tip of Lake Pend Oreille near Athol. It is situated between Coeur D’Alene and Sandpoint so it makes a good place to stop and break up the drive but is also somewhere worth considering if you are looking for a beautiful place to camp.

The 4,000 acre state park offers a range of outdoor opportunities like hiking, mountain biking, swimming, fishing, and boating. Other watersports such as kayaking and paddle-boarding are also possible however you would need to bring your own equipment.

We haven’t had time to do much hiking here but have strolled along a portion of the lake’s shoreline which was very scenic. There is also a road that travels through the park right beside the lake which offers spots to stop and enjoy lake views.

Along this road we noticed that there were many vacation homes overlooking Lake Pend Oreille including houseboat rentals and thought it would be so nice to be able to rent a place around here the next time we come back.

You may want to keep this area in mind if you are looking for somewhere nice to stay while you explore northern Idaho.

Visit Wallace

Wallace is a charming town that we had the pleasure of stumbling upon during a road trip between Spokane and Glacier National Park. As we were driving along the Interstate 90 we first noticed the Victorian homes perched on the side of the mountain and then the quaint downtown area beside the freeway and made a last minute decision to take the exit and explore.

What we found was a place full of colorful history and handsome buildings dating back to the late 1800s. There were a number of really cool boutique stores, cute cafes, and several museums.

The Wallace District Mining Museum looked interesting as we walked by so we decided to pop in and see what it was all about. We ended up leaving with so much knowledge about the fascinating history of Wallace thanks to the informative exhibits and the very friendly and knowledgeable volunteer staff.

We learnt that Wallace was a hard-drinking, brawling mining town that was, and still is, the biggest producer of silver in the United States, and that the entire town was almost demolished to put in the Interstate freeway if it were not for the passionate local residents who fought hard to get Wallace listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This destination should be on the top of your list of places to visit in Idaho because it is such a unique place and unlike anywhere else you’ll find in the U.S. or around the globe.

While one day is enough to see the main downtown area, a whole weekend in Wallace would be much better so you can explore the numerous outdoor attractions nearby.

Spend The Day At Silverwood Theme Park

Silverwood Theme Park in Northern Idaho is one of the biggest and best amusement parks in the Pacific Northwest! This amusement park has several high intensity rollercoasters that thrill seekers will enjoy including two old-school wooden rollercoasters.

The scariest rollercoaster of them all is the Aftershock, a rollercoaster that stands 191-feet tall that will take you forwards through a cobra roll and inverted loop, and backwards as well!

There are plenty of family-friendly rides too such as a ferris wheel, carousel, merry-go-round, bumper boats, whitewater rafting boat rides, and many more.

In addition to the rides, you’ll also find a waterpark here called Boulder Beach. The waterpark features several waterslides, two huge wave pools, and a lazy river. Admission to the waterpark is included with your entry ticket to Silverwood.

There is certainly enough entertainment here for the entire day so if you think you might want to visit Silverwood Theme Park, be sure to plan for an overnight stay in the area.

Fortunately there is an RV Park and Campground adjacent to the amusement park that is open from May through September. If you would prefer to stay in a hotel room or vacation home, you’ll need to look for lodging in Bayview, Sandpoint or Ponderay.

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