Beyond its stunning vistas, Idaho offers deliciously unique experiences, such as the otherworldly rubble of the Craters of the Moon National Monument or the rolling sand formations at Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park. The Gem State is also home to dramatic geographic scope: at nearly 8,000 feet, Hells Canyon is deeper than the Grand Canyon, and Shoshone Falls is higher than Niagara Falls.
Eastern Idaho, also known as the Yellowstone-Teton region, opens up to Yellowstone National Park, and much of the unique terrain that makes up the legendary national park snakes its way into this part of Idaho.
The region also serves as a gateway to Grand Teton National Park, and tucked away on this quieter side of the Tetons, you’ll find the small towns of Driggs, Tetonia and Victor. Hiking, boating and fly-fishing are big here, as are snow sports, given the areas averages about 500 inches a year.
The northern half of Idaho narrows into a skinny panhandle as it shimmies up toward Canada between Washington and Montana, but the shockingly beautiful terrain more than makes up its for its narrow dimensions. Think jagged mountain peaks, bright blue meandering rivers brimming with trout, and many – many – lovely lakes, including Lake Coeur d’Alene, Priest Lake and Lake Pend Oreille. Bikers adore this area, making short work of the state parks and scenic byways that wind their way through the region.
The dramatic Hells Canyon, North America’s deepest river gorge, is bucket list material for adventurous souls – offering world-class whitewater rapids and vast swaths of remote wilderness.
Southwest Idaho surrounds Boise with a dizzying array of outdoor experiences, from hiking and biking trails to rushing rivers, natural hot springs and peaceful lakes. Fly fishing is life here, and you can drop a line in any number of lakes and rivers stocked with trout; or head to Boise’s Whitewater Park, where rock formations create surfing waves. You can climb the enormous sand dunes (the tallest in the country) at Bruneau Dunes State Park, or rent a sandboard for quick trip down.
Did someone say drama? Central Idaho has the good kind, with majestic landscapes that will have you reaching for your camera time and again. Surrounded by Sawtooth, White Cloud, and Lost River ranges, the cool little town of Stanley is a great place to set up camp to enjoy some of the best hiking and rock climbing the state has to offer. The town’s solid trail system sends you fanning out to hundreds of crisp blue glacier and granite walls in the area.
Hikers and climbers have their pick of gorgeous vistas in this region to cover by foot – from Idaho’s tallest mountain, Mount Borah, to the Sawtooth Basin, dotted with mountain lakes. Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley all offer skiing and hiking, as well as mountain biking and charming downtowns. Stargazing gets a starring role in Central Idaho, with 14,000 square miles between Ketchum and Stanley designated as an International Dark Sky Reserve.
Moving south, you’ll find two extraordinary experiences in Craters of the Moon National Monument and Shoshone Falls. The first is an otherworldly landscape in Arco, Idaho, formed by volcanic eruptions. You can hike it in two hours or drive the seven-mile scenic loop in under thirty minutes. Shoshone Falls (pronounced “show-shone”) offers a stunning 212-foot waterfall – afterward, you can take a dip in one of the hidden canyon lakes, or grab a legendary fish sandwich at Twin Falls Sandwich Co.