Marked by mountainous landscapes, hot springs, deep canyons and otherworldly landscapes, Idaho is the place for thrill-seeking, adventure-hunting travelers. Located in northwest USA and dubbed “The Gem State,” Idaho is home to more than two dozen state parks and countless hiking trails.
For an unforgettable experience, explore the Craters of the Moon National Monument or soak in the Lava Hot Springs. To get your adrenaline pumping, go white water rafting on Snake River or snowboard down sand dunes. Travelers looking for a more relaxing getaway can have a picnic overlooking Shoshone Falls or tour the Museum of Idaho.
Cruise through Idaho on your next road trip and check out the state’s countless tourist attractions. Since we can’t list them all, here’s our list of the top 14 fun things to do in Idaho.
1. Traverse the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is an absolute must-see if you’re driving through Idaho. This national park in the southern part of the state spans 343,000 acres and resembles the surface of the moon. The park’s otherworldly appearance is the result of volcanic eruptions that occurred more than 15,000 years ago.
Cinder cones, the smallest type of volcano, speckle the otherworldly landscape. For a panoramic view of the park, hike one of several trails that leads to the top of a cinder cone. Alternatively, visitors can venture below-ground into one of the park’s many caves, which are hollow lava tubes. A permit is required to enter the caves, but this can be found at the visitor center.
In the winter, the park is covered in a blanket of snow and visitors may explore the park on skis or in snowshoes. The park is also home to campgrounds for those looking to stay overnight and stargaze. Before you explore the area, stop in at the visitor center to learn more about the park.
Read More: Fun Things to do in Idaho Falls
2. Relax at Lava Hot Springs
Lava Hot Springs is a small city located in the Portneuf River valley. The city is a popular resort location due to the area’s natural hot springs, which are said to have healing properties. These springs can get up to 112 degrees Fahrenheit and the water is clean and odorless.
Resorts, hotels and water parks are built around these natural springs. Packed with water slides, saunas, and outdoor pools, Lava Hot Springs is a super family-friendly location.
In addition to soaking in the hot springs, visitors can go zip lining or fish in the Portneuf River. In the winter months, there’s ice fishing and opportunities to go snowmobiling, cross country skiing or snowshoeing.
3. Spend a day at Lake Coeur d’Alene
The National Geographic once called the Lake Coeur d’Alene one of world’s most beautiful lakes. This lake in northern Idaho boasts more than 190 miles of shoreline, making it is one of the biggest lakes in the state.
A popular tourist destination, the lake and the surrounding area offer is countless outdoor activities. Relax at the beach, go boating, fish in the lake or spend the day hiking. Nearby rental companies offer jet skis, stand up paddleboards, kayaks, sailboats and more.
If you’re looking for nearby accommodations, consider the Coeur d’Alene Resort. This luxury waterfront hotel has a golf course, spa, and a variety of dining and nightlife options.
4. Visit Yellowstone National Park
Though Yellowstone National Park is primarily located in Wyoming, parts of the park also cut through Idaho. Forests, active geysers, canyons, alpine rivers and hot springs span this nearly 2.2 million acre park.
With more than 900 miles of trails, Yellowstone is best explored through hiking. These trails pass through mountains, valleys, and canyons. They’re also a great way to see the park’s iconic geysers. Don’t forget to pack a camera to photograph the park’s abundant wildlife, which includes grizzly bears, badgers, bobcats, cougars, wolves, elk and moose.
5. See Shoshone Falls
Known as the “Niagara Falls of the west,” this 212-foot waterfall is one of Idaho’s most breathtaking destinations. Shoshone Falls is located northeast of the city of Twin Falls on the Snake River and is a popular roundtrip stop.
The waterfall is best viewed from one of three scenic overlooks. When you’re not enjoying the view, explore the area’s other amenities, which include a swimming area, a playground, picnic areas and a park.
6. Stroll down the Boise River Greenbelt
This 25-mile-long walking and biking path snakes along the Boise River and is lined with trees. The Boise River Greenbelt connects the Lucky Peak Dam and Eagle Island State Park, while passing through a variety of parks and neighborhoods.
In addition to hiking and biking, the Greenbelt is a great birding and fishing destination. Restaurants, shops and wineries along the way make for as great stopping point.
7. Check out the Museum of Idaho
To take a break from Idaho’s outdoor attractions and visit the Museum of Idaho. Located in Idaho Falls, this museum is jam-packed with fascinating rotating exhibits on the state’s history, culture, wildlife and nature.
Learn about how Idaho’s unique landscape was formed and hear the story of the Native Americans who first occupied the area. Try hunting a mammoth in the interactive Way Out West exhibit and dive into Yellowstone’s history. This kid-friendly exhibit also features a Discovery Room where kids can climb, read and do puzzles. The museum is open every day and admission is $13 for adults and $11 for students.
8. Have an outdoor adventure at Bruneau Dunes State Park
Visitors at Bruneau Dunes State Park will be greeted by 4,800 acres of rolling sand dunes. In fact, one of these dunes is the nation’s tallest single-structured sand dune, towering at over 470 feet. Experience the dunes by hiking, climbing or horseback riding. Thrill-seekers can even rent boards and go snowboard, or in this case sandboarding, down the dunes.
The park is also sprinkled with small lakes where visitors can go fishing. To check out the night sky, head to the Bruneau Observatory after dark or stay overnight while camping at the park.
9. Visit Sun Valley
This popular resort town in Blaine County serves two different ski areas: Dollar Mountain and Bald Mountain. This winter paradise invites skiers of all levels, even first time skiers who learn the sport on the more beginner-friendly Dollar Mountain.
But there’s more to Sun Valley than just skiing. Visitors can take a gondola up Bald Mountain, go ice skating at the Sun Valley Lodge, or try snowmobiling. In the summer months, the area offers opportunities for hiking, biking and even rafting. There’s also lots of shopping and delicious dining in Ketchum, a town located just down the street.
10. Explore Hells Canyon National Recreation Area
Home to the deepest river gorge in North America, Hells Canyon National Recreation Area spans more than 600,000 acres features a variety of terrains that attract hikers and bikers. This recreation area also straddles the Snake River along the Idaho-Oregon border. Here, visitors can cruise the river in a boat or go rafting.
11. Hike in the City of Rocks National Reserve
Outdoor adventurers can’t miss the City of Rocks National Reserve in southern Idaho, just two miles from the Utah border. Also known as the “Silent City of Rocks,” this state park is covered in large rock formations, including granite spires and monoliths, some of which are up to 600 feet high.
These formations which make the area particularly popular for rock climbing, but the national reserve also attracts hikers, hunters and campers. Before you explore the area, stop by at the visitor center in Almo to plan your visit.
12. Visit the Idaho Potato Museum
For a change of pace, hit the Idaho Potato Museum. This museum is all about, well, potatoes! Learn about the history of this root vegetable, it’s nutrition, and the growing and harvesting process. Before you enter the museum, be sure to pose with the giant potato sculpture outside the building.
The museum is open Monday through Saturday all year round, and on Sundays as well during the summer months. Adults enter for $6 and kids 5-12 enter for $3.
13. Get spooked in the Old Idaho Penitentiary
Completed in 1872, this historic penitentiary in Boise served as the state prison for more than 100 years. During that time, the prison was home to some of the West’s most notorious criminals. The building also saw witness to riots, prison breaks and other scandals that disrupted the facility’s order and ultimately led to it closing down.
Take a guided or self-guided tour of the prison and explore the dining hall, the women’s ward, the gallows, the solitary confinement cells and the maximum security area. The penitentiary is made up of more than 30 historic sites and hosts events including ghost tours.
14. Visit the Sawtooth National Recreation Area
This 756,000 acre recreation area in central Idaho was once covered in glaciers, which created the lakes, valleys and ridges that remain today. Located in the Sawtooth National Forest, the area features over 300 alpine lakes, four mountain rages and more than 700 miles of hiking trails.
Visitors will find no shortage of outdoor activities, such as mountain biking, camping, hiking, kayaking and climbing in this area. This recreation area offers an endless supply of breathtaking views, so don’t forget to bring a camera!