Looking for fun and exciting things to do in Idaho?
You’ve landed on the right page because I’ve compiled a list of cool activities that will make your visit or road trip to Idaho unforgettable.
Idaho will appeal to everyone – from hiking in the Rockies to kayaking in glacial lakes and soaking in natural hot springs.
Idaho is home to mind-blowing scenery with towering mountains, rushing rivers, pristine lakes, and abundant outdoor activities and adventures. But it is also an up-and-coming mecca for foodies and art lovers in Boise.
There is definitely no shortage of hiking trails and ski resorts with an abundant choice of mountain ranges.
In short, it’s a paradise for any nature lovers.
This Western state is also full of scenic highways, especially through the jaw-dropping Sawtooth Mountains, with Red Fish Lake or Salmon river byway.
Other natural wonders include Hells Canyon and the Craters of the Moon, while the Salmon River is great for whitewater rafting.
And you’ll also eat well here! The fresh trout is superb, and the state is known for epic craft breweries, juicy huckleberries, and, of course, delicious potatoes.
Ready to discover more about the amazing things to do in Idaho, USA? Let’s get into it.
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My Top Picks for Things To Do in Idaho
- Soak in natural hot springs
- Bike the route of the Hiawatha Trail
- Whitewater raft or kayak in Cascade
- Hike in the breathtaking Sawtooth Mountains
- Discover the unspoiled alpine beauty of Red Fish Lake
- Ski or Snowboard at Sunvalley ski resort
- Rent a Snowmobile in McCall & Go on a Ride to Burgdorf Hot Spring
- Trip Around Downtown Boise, ID
- Try Ice Cream Potato at Westside Drive-In, Boise
- Take a Ride up to Bogus Basin for Skiing in Winter and a Mountain Roller Coaster in the Summer
- Admire Mesmerizing Shoshone Falls, a.k.a Niagara of the West
1. Soak in Natural Hot Springs
If there is only one thing you’ll do in Idaho, it should be soaking in one of the hundreds of backcountry hot springs. They’re insanely beautiful, and many of them are wild and easily accessible.
Here are my top picks for hot springs in Idaho:
- Kirkham (wild, gets crowded)
- Trail Creek (wild)
- Pine Flat (wild)
- The Springs (resort hot spring)
- Snakepit (wild)
2. Bike the Route of the Hiawatha Trail
Another Idaho highlight is hiking or biking the Route of the Hiawatha Bike Trail, which is open from late May to late Sep.
The former fifteen-mile rail line between Roland and Pearson runs through ten tunnels and over seven high trestles. The best part of the trail is St. Paul Pass tunnel.
It’s a truly unique biking experience that is not to be missed. You don’t have to worry if you’re not super fit, as the trail is mostly downhill. There is also a mountain bike rental and shuttle service between Pearson and Roland.
Side note: The equally spectacular Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes runs from Mullan to Plummer.
3. Whitewater Raft or Kayak in Cascade
Whitewater rafting or kayaking in Cascade, Idaho, is an exciting outdoor activity.
Have a blast and get your heart rate up as you navigate through Idaho’s rushing rivers and spectacular sceneries.
The whitewater rafting season runs from April through September but varies according to specific rivers and spring runoff conditions.
I recommend booking a whitewater rafting trip from Cascade Raft and Kayak, which has stellar reviews.
You can enjoy whitewater rafting on the Payette river, the Middle Fork of Salmon, or the Snake River through Hells Canyon.
4. Hike in the Breathtaking Sawtooth Mountains
Surprisingly, The Sawtooth mountains are still relatively unknown outside of Idaho, making it one of the USA’s best-kept secrets.
With hundreds of miles of hiking trails, pristine rivers, and over 400 alpine lakes, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area rivals the most beautiful National Parks in the United States.
There are countless adventure possibilities for you to explore – from hiking and taking a dip in Redfish lake to fly fishing on the Salmon river, relaxing in Boat Box Hot Springs, and epic horse riding.
5. Discover the Unspoiled Alpine Beauty of Redfish Lake
The alpine Redfish Lake in the Sawtooth Mountains, named for the color of the sockeye salmon, is a sight to behold. Picture crystal-clear water, snow-capped mountain peaks, and pine trees bordering the lake.
You can take a guided sunset cruise around the lake on a pontoon boat with hearty appetizers, cocktails, and a chatty local captain.
June to September is the best time for comfortable temperatures, but spring brings wildflowers, and fall has fewer visitors. Also, keep in mind that lodging shuts down from October to April.
6. Ski or Snowboard at Sun Valley Ski Resort
Are you looking for the best places to ski or snowboard in Idaho? Then look no further than Sun Valley, Idaho’s world-class ski resort.
With over 2000 acres of skiable terrain, there is plenty of powdery snow to go around.
Sun Valley Ski Resort is based around Bald Mountain in southern Idaho, with a whopping 9100ft peak, making it ideal for advanced skiers.
Nearby Dollar Mountain, with its 6600-foot peak, is better suited for beginner skiers. You can also set off on cross-country trails.
After a day on the slopes, you can explore Ketchum, a vibrant little town with plenty of accommodation.
Sun Valley is also great for families with kids, as the resort has an extensive ski school and Alpine Au Pair services.
There are many other popular ski resorts in Idaho, such as Schweitzer Mountain Resort.
The skiing season runs roughly from late November to April.
Fun fact: The world’s first chairlift was built in 1936 in Ketchum, part of Sun Valley Resort.
Fun fact 2: Ernest Hemingway, an American novelist, and outdoor lover, was a big fan of Sun Valley and visited it frequently.
7. Rent a Snowmobile in McCall & Go on a Ride to Burgdorf Hot Spring
How about an exciting snowmobile adventure in McCall, Idaho?
Burgdorf Hot Spring is only accessible by snowmobile in the winter, making it a unique experience you won’t find easily anywhere else.
The hot springs are deep within the Payette National Forest and are renowned for their stunning alpine scenery.
Between June to October, the hot spring can be accessed by car via Warren Wagon Road.
8. Trip Around Downtown Boise, ID
No trip to Idaho would be complete without taking a stroll in downtown Boise and taking in the city’s vibrant urban atmosphere.
This laid-back city has a small-town feel and plenty of exciting tourist attractions, including historic architecture.
Check out Freak Alley, several blocks of funky street art, or have a picnic at Camel’s Back Park.
Downtown Boise is centered around the fountains at Grove Plaza square, where the annual “Alive after Five” concert series with various food and drink vendors (June–August) take place.
Boise is also unique in having the largest Basque population in the world outside of the Basque community in Spain and France.
You can visit the Basque Block to explore more about Basque cultural heritage, have a delicious bite to eat, and drink some local craft beer.
Or check out the historic buildings and museums, like the Old Idaho Penitentiary and the Basque Museum & Cultural Center.
Another of Boise’s highlights is the Greenbelt, a 25-mile bike path and hiking trail stretching along the Boise river in the heart of the city.
Side note: Top golf is opening soon in Meridian, just outside Boise, so you can enjoy a round of golf while also enjoying the fantastic views.
9. Try Ice Cream Potato at Westside Drive-In, Boise
Idaho has the nickname ‘potato state.’ It’s because Idaho is one of the largest potato producers in the States.
They love potatoes so much here that they have an entire museum dedicated to potatoes, potato ice cream dessert, and even a giant potato Airbnb!
So what exactly is potato ice cream? You may be asking.
This dessert looks like a potato, but it’s much more.
It’s a big serving of vanilla ice cream, molded into the shape of a baked potato and covered in cocoa, whipped cream, peanuts, and cookie crumbles.
Simply put, it’s delicious.
You can get the famous Idaho ice cream potato at Westside Drive-In in Boise. It’s a classic pink 50s-style diner that has been operating since 1957.
10. Take a Ride up To Bogus Basin for Skiing in Winter and a Mountain Roller Coaster in the Summer
Bogus Basin is a mountain biking hot spot in the summer and a wonderland for skiing and snowboarding in winter.
Bogus Basin’s highlight is a ride on the historic mountain roller coaster.
What’s a mountain roller coaster?
In short, it’s over 4000 feet of twisting, turning, and (let’s face it) screaming and adrenaline as you ride through the trees with stunning mountain scenery.
The mountain roller coaster is located just east of Simplot Lodge.
11. Admire Mesmerizing Shoshone Falls, A.K.a Niagara of the West
Located in Twin Falls, Shoshone Falls are one of the most impressive natural wonders in Idaho and one of the largest waterfalls in the US.
Also known as the ‘Niagara of the West,’ these stunning cascading waterfalls are 212 feet high and stretch 900 feet across the Snake River.
Most people walk a few feet from the car to the observation deck, but there are other waterfall viewpoints, such as Canyon Rim Trail (mostly flat and moderately challenging).
Some other great attractions in the area include the Perrine Bridge, Thousand Springs, and the beautiful city of Twin Falls.
Other Fun Things To Do in Idaho
- Enjoy All Things Potato at Idaho Potato Museum
- Take a Jet Boat Ride in Hell’s Canyon
- Explore the Surreal Landscape of Craters of the Moon National Monument
- Go Sandboarding or Stargazing in Bruneau Dunes State Park
- Have a Blast at Lake Coeur D’Alene
- Get Your Adrenaline Boost at Silverwood Theme Park
- Travel Back in Time to Old West on Oregon Trail
- See Bears Up-Close in Yellowstone Bear World
- Fall in Love with Aviation at Warhawk Air Museum
- Cuddle with Alpacas at Seven Stars Alpaca Ranch
- Camp at City of Rocks National Reserve
- Rock climb the Black Cliffs
- Spend a Relaxing Day at Payette Lake
- Visit a Quirky Museum of Clean
- Check Out Idaho Craft Breweries
- Spend Action Packed Day at Schweitzer Mountain
- Discover Local Gem – Ferragut State Park
- Unwind at Sandpoint City Beach
12. Enjoy All Things Potato at Idaho Potato Museum
If you love potatoes, Idaho is the place for you! Not only does Idaho have one of the largest potato productions in the United States, but it also has a museum dedicated to everyone’s favorite tuber – the Idaho Potato Museum.
The museum is located in Blackfoot, Idaho, and celebrates all things potato.
You can learn about the history of potatoes, see how they are grown and processed, grab snacks at Potato station cafe and buy potato-themed souvenirs.
They even have virtual reality headsets that allow you to see a potato harvest.
So if you’re ever in the area, check out this quirky little museum for a fun and tasty learning experience.
13. Take Jet Boat Ride in Hell’s Canyon
With an average depth of 5500ft, Hells Canyon is the deepest river gorge in North America.
The most exhilarating way to experience Hells Canyon is via a jet boat ride.
This adventure ride will take you over all the key stops, including Kirkwood Historical Ranch Museum, Sheep Creek Cabin, and the Indian Petroglyph writings. You’ll also get lunch at the Dam Visitor Center.
You won’t easily forget the soaring cliffs, whitewater rapids, bald eagles, black bears, and stunning scenery.
Heaven’s Gate Overlook has the best view of the canyon.
14. Explore the Surreal Landscape of Craters of the Moon National Monument
Craters of the Moon National Monument is a vast and unique landscape located around 90 miles west of Idaho Falls.
It’s one of the most unique sights in the state.
You’ll feel like you’ve landed on the Moon, walking through surreal dark fields of volcanic lava. The lava field is a maze of tubes and crevices created by a series of eruptions throughout the millennia.
The park offers miles of hiking trails and interesting geologic features.
Craters of the Moon is full of surprises. Highlights include the trail past hollow tree molds with craggy holes, the steep trek to the top of the Inferno Cone, with beautiful views of the region, and the Wilderness Trail, which leads deep into Echo Crater.
Just a word of warning. Don’t stray from the paths, as the rocks are razor-sharp and can reach oven-like temperatures.
15. Go Sandboarding or Stargazing in Bruneau Dunes State Park
Bruneau Dunes State Park is Idaho’s desert. It features the tallest single-structured sand dune in North America and will blow your mind.
The park also has a beautiful lake and miles of trails to explore. It’s perfect for wildlife viewing and birdwatching.
You can even rent a sandboard and try sandboarding on the dunes. Prepare for some humorous falls because sandboarding can take a while to get the hang of.
But the absolute highlight is stargazing. When the stars come out in the desert, it’s truly magical.
The park is one of the few places in the United States without light pollution, so that you can see an incredibly clear sky full of stars at night.
You can also head to Bruneau Dunes Observatory. There are telescopes to help you see far into space.
16. Have a Blast at Lake Coeur D’Alene
Idaho’s Lake Coeur D’Alene is a summer playground for all. The lake is perfect for swimming, boating, fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, or simply relaxing. You can also enjoy the beauty of the lake’s sparkling waters by renting a pontoon boat, speedboat, or jet ski or going on a beautiful scenic cruise.
It’s the perfect place to cool off on a summer day.
After a fun-filled day, you can enjoy a romantic dinner with a glass of wine overlooking the lake at Beverley’s restaurant.
17. Get Your Adrenaline Boost at Silverwood Theme Park
Silverwood Theme Park, near Coeur D’Alene, is great for the whole family to have fun. This amusement park has it all – from wild roller coaster rides to children’s rides, enjoyable scenic train rides, water slides, and comedy shows.
Some highlights include thrilling roller coasters like Aftershock and vintage wooden coasters like Timber Terror. They also have a variety of child-friendly rides.
Besides roller coaster rides, there are plenty of water attractions at Boulder Beach Water Park.
And best of all, the park offers a wide variety of dining options so you can enjoy some delicious food while taking in the action-packed fun.
18. Travel Back in Time to the Old West on the Oregon Trail
If you’re a fan of the American Old West, then you’ll love exploring the Oregon Trail in Idaho.
The Oregon Trail was a route used by pioneers, explorers, trappers, fur traders, Native Americans, gold seekers, and common folk to travel from Missouri to the Willamette Valley in Oregon and further to California. The trail goes through Idaho and is full of historical landmarks and sites.
You can check these places:
- Fort Hall Replica – This fort was built in the 19th century and acted as a trading post for pioneers on their way to Oregon.
- National Oregon/California Trail Center – This museum features fascinating exhibits and interactive displays that tell the story of the pioneers who traveled on the trail. You’ll be able to experience a simulated pioneer trek along the Oregon Trail and buy provisions at a gun shop while guided by a wagon master.
- Massacre Rocks State Park – This park is home to a historical site where a Native American tribe massacred several pioneers traveling in wagons through Oregon Trail. The park also offers hiking trails, campgrounds, and stunning views of the Snake River.
- City of Rocks National Reserve – This natural reserve with beautiful rock formations used to be part of the Oregon Trail. Today, it’s mostly used for hiking, camping, and rock climbing. You can still find some emigrants’ names carved on the rocks along the trail within the reserve.
- Silver City Ghost Town – You can travel back in time and explore Idaho’s mining history at Silver City. This town was once home to bustling communities of miners searching for silver and gold. As the mining played out, it became an abandoned ghost town. The place still looks and feels like the 1880s. Keep in mind that besides seeing the historic buildings, artifacts, and an antique store, there isn’t much to do, but it’s an interesting quick stop.
19. See Bears Up-close in Yellowstone Bear World
Yellowstone Bear World allows you to have an up-close and personal encounter with bears. This drive-thru wildlife park is home to more than 45 black and grizzly bears.
You can watch bears roam free and cuddle with deer during your visit. There are also opportunities for bottle-feeding bear cubs. The park offers both guided and self-guided tours to explore at your own pace.
Besides bears, you can see elk, bison, moose, mountain goat, and deer. It’s especially a lot of fun for kids.
The park is open on weekends from mid-April to mid-October.
If you’re in the area, take advantage of exploring Yellowstone National park. It’s one of the most popular national parks in the USA.
Fun fact: The part of Yellowstone National park that belongs to Idaho is called the Zone of Death. Forming a jury for a crime committed inside this area is impossible, so you can hypothetically get away with murder when you’re here. Hence the name Zone of Death.
20. Fall in Love With Aviation at Warhawk Air Museum
Attention aviation and war history lovers! Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa, just a 20 min drive outside Boise, is home to an extensive military aircraft and equipment collection.
The main part of the museum features stories, posters, and gear used in the military from WWI to Vietnam.
21. Cuddle With Alpacas at Seven Stars Alpaca Ranch
At Seven Stars Alpaca Ranch, you can enjoy interacting with friendly and cute alpacas. They also have other wonderful animals, including llamas, cattle, goats, horses, chickens, and donkeys.
After hanging out with animals, you can buy souvenirs and warm clothing items made from alpaca fur in their country store.
This family-owned ranch also provides accommodation in their charming 100-year-old private cottage.
It’s a lovely place to visit, plus it feels good to support a local family business.
22. Camp at City of Rocks National Reserve
Whether you’re an experienced climber or just looking for a scenic campsite and pleasant walk, the City of Rocks National Reserve is a must-visit.
You can spend a night camping surrounded by massive granite rock formations and starry skies, making it a wild geologic adventure.
City of Rocks is a beautiful remote location with gorgeous campsites. There are many campsites to choose from, equipped with picnic tables, fire rings, clean vault toilets, and easy access to hiking trails and vistas.
Just keep in mind that for backcountry camping, you’ll need a permit.
On top of that, rock climbers rank the City of Rocks National Reserve among the country’s top rock climbing sites.
The history of this place is also rich and worth mentioning.
The City of Rocks went by many names in the past, such as Goblin City, Chapel Rocks, Pyramid Circle, and Ancient City.
The City of Rocks was also part of the Oregon Trail. The emigrants came through the area on their way to California, looking for a better life, and the rock formations were a perfect landmark for them to use. Many of them left their signatures on some of the rock formations, which you can still see today.
23. Rock Climb the Black Cliffs
Besides the City of Rocks, the Black Cliffs is another popular rock climbing spot in Idaho. This rock face made of volcanic basalt resembling black pillars is a challenging and rewarding climbing experience.
You can book an introductory class to rock climbing with Idaho Mountain Guides. It has natural handholds and footholds, making it suitable for any rock climbing level.
It’s a perfect natural climbing wall.
24. Spend a Relaxing Day at Payette Lake
With sparkling glacier waters, sandy soils, pines, and lush Douglas firs, Payette lake in McCall is a fantastic place to unwind on a sunny day.
It has spectacular sceneries and a vast array of year-round recreational fun for all ages. You can take a dip in a lake, hike along the trails or take your kayak out for a paddle.
In winter, it’s an excellent spot for ice skating.
Payette lake has numerous islands, such as Cougar Island, which is inhabited and totally off the grid.
The town of McCall is also worth the visit. It’s filled with cafes and restaurants, unique shops, and other random fun things to do. I suggest including the colossal scoops in Ice Cream Alley and treating yourself to a spa day at the McCall resort. You won’t regret it!
Fun Fact: There is a legend of a Loch Ness-type monster named Sharlie that lives in the lake and hides in the volcanic tubes of this alpine lake.
25. Visit the Quirky Museum of Clean
This unique museum in Pocatello, Idaho, showcases products, techniques, and tools used for all things cleaning – from old toilets and brooms to carpet cleaners.
Many humorous interactive displays leave you wondering just how anyone managed to have a clean house before vacuum cleaners and modern plumbing.
Exhibits portray the evolution of cleaning over time (100+years) and current innovations in cleaning technology. The museum not only teaches you how to clean but also shares the value of cleanliness.
Visiting the Museum of Clean will leave you inspired and motivated to give your house a good old clean.
26. Check Out Idaho Craft Breweries
Love craft beer? Then Idaho is the right place to be.
This state is the number one barley producer in the US and the second in hops. With over 55 craft breweries in Idaho, you will surely find a beer that will satisfy your taste buds.
Most breweries are in Boise, but you’ll also come across a few gems in other parts of Idaho. Some best places to enjoy a cold pint include Payette Brewery, Grand Teton, and Mother Earth Brewery.
Take a beer-tasting tour in Boise to make the most of Idaho’s craft beer scene and discover your favorite local beer.
27. Spend Action Packed Day at Schweitzer Mountain
Schweitzer Mountain is mostly known for fantastic skiing in winter, but this place is also an adventure playground in the summer.
You can purchase an all-day-fun pass that will give you access to rock climbing walls, trampoline, zip line, and ski chair lift.
To make your adventure really count, you can explore some hiking trails on horseback.
You can satisfy your cravings at Nest restaurant for amazing views and even better food.
28. Discover Local Gem – Ferragut State Park
If you want to enjoy Idaho’s nature without the tourist crowds, check out Ferragut State Park.
It’s located on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille, making it a popular spot amongst locals for all sorts of water activities – from swimming to boating, jet skiing, and wakeboarding.
If you like hiking, there are also lots of trails in this park that will lead you through dense forests and mountain valleys.
No matter what you decide to do, be sure to pack a picnic lunch and relax on the shores of the lake when you’re done exploring.
29. Unwind at Sandpoint City Beach
Looking for a relaxing summer day away from the hustle and bustle of the city? Head to Sandpoint City Beach.
This beautiful beach is the perfect spot to unwind in the sun and get some much-needed rest and relaxation.
Pack your swimsuit, sunscreen, and a good book, and spend the day soaking up the sun on the sandy lake shores. You can also enjoy a picnic or swim in the lake. There are plenty of boats available for rent.
30. Enjoy a Dude Ranch Vacation
The family-owned guest ranch has been living on the property since 1940, and the ranch is truly a family-run affair. Some of the evening activities include a horse-drawn wagon ride, cowboy cookout, archery, scavenger hunt, hiking, fishing, and so much more.
The accommodations and amenities on the ranch are stunning and authentic western ranch style. There is an outdoor hot tub, recreation room lodge loft, and great room for guests to relax and enjoy during their downtime.
Western Pleasure Guest Ranch is a perfect choice for dude ranch vacations if you are looking for an authentic and immersive children’s program during your stay.
31. Sunnyslope Wine Trail
The city of Caldwell is the gateway to Idaho’s wine region, specifically the Snake River Valley AVA. Here you’ll find a treasure trove of wineries along the Sunnyslope Wine Trail, a short drive from Boise.
This wine region is still in its infancy, but that is part of the appeal. Many wineries have a laidback and intimate atmosphere, allowing for conversation with the winemakers themselves.
Take your time to explore and taste wines at Ste. Chapelle, Williamson, Sawtooth, and Koenig Vineyards, where you can sample everything from Riesling to Syrah, and my personal Idaho favorite, Tempranillo.
For the perfect lunch stop on your winery tour, you must visit Peaceful Belly. It is a delightfully small seasonal restaurant with the most incredible plant-inspired menu options perfect for sharing. They specialize in ciders and serve local wines from neighboring vineyards.
What are your favorite things to do in Idaho?
I hope this travel guide inspires you to go on your own Idaho adventure.
There are many more fun things to do in Idaho and hidden gems waiting for you to uncover. But, no matter what you choose to do, be sure to enjoy the stunning natural beauty that Idaho has to offer.
Casandra Karpiak is a travel writer and the co-owner of Savoteur. A Toronto native with Danish roots currently residing in British Columbia, her travel writing has been seen on The Associated Press wire, MSN, CBS, NBC, Entrepreneur, 24/7 Wall St, Times Daily, and many more.
You can follow her travel adventures on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.