Idaho has endless adventures to offer visitors. Although it’s best known for its potatoes, the state of Idaho is a state full of mountains, lakes, and geothermal surprises. Wonders are tucked away between hills, and vast natural preserves call to the bold to pack up their gear and flee into the hills. Here are a few of the best attractions.
Yellowstone National Park
America’s oldest national park, and arguably the great gem in the nation’s crown, Yellowstone National Park is a vast preserve full of rare animals, stunning views, and geothermal attractions. Presentations, paved trails, and challenging hikes provide a blend fit for any adventurer. It’s also a camper’s dream with thousands of designated campsites.
Craters of the Moon National Monument
This National Monument and Preserve sits between two tectonic plates, and the violent interactions between them created a landscape like something from another world. Ancient lava flats have created an alien landscape. The Great Rift, Devil’s Orchard, and the North Crater Flow are not to be missed.
A skier’s dream come true, Bald Mountain has some of the best skiing conditions in the entire country. Its elevation keeps things cold year-round, making it possible to hit the slopes even in late spring. Skiing towns dot the area, most notably the resort town of Sun Valley, where enthusiasts can find everything they need before getting a ride up the mountain.
This picturesque tourism town sits on the coast of Lake Coeur d’Alene. It’s perfectly situated to grant visitors easy access to skiing, fishing, hiking, and other outdoor sports. Packed with cute shops and chic cabins, it makes a cozy escape. Nearby, Silverwood Theme Park draws younger crowds and families for a fast-paced day of thrills.
Bruneau Dunes State Park
Many visitors to Idaho are surprised to find a series of massive sand dunes in a state known for its skiing. While few choose to ski here, it’s a fantastic place for sledding and sandboarding. The state park is like an escape to the beach in the middle of the country. In addition to the sand, there’s plenty of water. Small lakes throughout the park are open to visitors. Horseback riding is another major draw, and miles of paths lead riders through the wildly varied biomes that call the park home.
Lava Hot Springs
Although it shouldn’t be a surprise considering Yellowstone is part of the state, many fail to realize the wonder of Idaho’s Lava Hot Springs. It’s a town and a series of natural hot springs. There are pools cool enough for a relaxing summer dip and others warm enough to keep swimmers toasty in the dead of winter. The natural wonders are open all year.
Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historic Site & Idaho Botanical Garden
The Old Idaho Penitentiary was the state’s first prison, and it grew from a single cell to a complex with over 10,000 inmates – primarily through the inmates’ own labor. Currently run by the Idaho Historical Society, the old prison is no longer in use by anyone expect tourists. Visitors can enjoy guided tours through the old facility, learn about remarkable inmates, and view preserved artifacts from those who lived and worked in the prison.
Visitors should visit the attached Idaho Botanical Garden. Where inmates used to grow crops, there’s a magnificent greenspace full of flowers and indigenous plants. It’s a fabulous refresher after the dark interior of the Penitentiary.
Hells Canyon National Recreation Area
Wilderness enthusiasts and fans of archeology will love Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. It includes 200,000 acres of sharp hills, rushing rivers, and stunning vistas. In addition to boating, hiking, and fishing, the area is well-known for archeology. The Hells Canyon Archeological District has hundreds of sites and structures, many of which are still being studied.
Best viewed in spring after snowmelt swells the Snake River, these tremendous cascades are Idaho’s version of Niagara. A small park surrounding the falls provides excellent vantage points for photography and sightseeing. Hikers can enjoy a series of trails as well, but the focus is understandably focused on grand series of waterfalls.
Idaho Potato Museum
Although it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, the Idaho Potato Museum deserves a place on this list. It is – unsurprisingly – entirely dedicated to the potato. Displays include everything from hard facts about Idaho’s potato industry to the world’s largest potato chip. The best part of the museum is that attached Potato Station Café which serves all thing spud. There are naturally baked potatoes and fries, but there is also potato bread, potato ice cream, and chocolate dipped potato chips.