Best Things to do in Idaho

The 25 Best Things to do in Idaho

Considered the gem of the Northwest, Idaho is an underrated outdoor destination in the United States. Home to ski resorts, hiking trails, and majestic lakes and rivers, this scenic state offers a long list of activities to keep you busy. 

From the capital city of Boise to charming small towns, Idaho offers a taste of the West’s vast landscapes. Pack your itinerary with adrenaline-pumping adventures such as skiing, jet boat tours, and whitewater rafting, or get off-the-beaten-path and discover hidden hot springs and road trip-worthy byways. 

There are so many unique activities to add to your Idaho bucket list, including exploring its sand dunes, lunar-like landscapes, and the “Niagara of the West.” With so many adventurous options in Idaho, you might not know where to begin. So, we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in the Gem State for you. 

This list of attractions in Idaho is the best of the best, from its top-rated outdoor adventures to its family-friendly destinations to its historical sites. There’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring one of the most beautiful destinations in the American West.

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25 Cool and Unique Things to do in Idaho

1. Hit the Slopes at Sun Valley Resort

Unique Things to do in Idaho: Sun Valley Resort
Images courtesy of Sun Valley Resort

Winter sports enthusiasts will most likely already have Sun Valley Resort at the top of their Idaho bucket list. Not many resorts can compete with its rich history. It is actually the first destination ski resort in the US and it is where the idea of the ski vacation was born!

Located in southern Idaho and surro unded by Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain, it attracts skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts from around the world who want to take advantage of its world-class facilities. There are 2,000 acres of skiable terrain here, including 65 named runs, 13 chairlifts, and a gondola. 

If you love winter sports and want to try something new, head to the Nordic Center to check out the cross-country skiers and snowshoers. Adrenaline-seekers can also test their bravery with heli-skiing, while kids will love the outdoor ice skating rink. 

In the summer, the resort offers a wealth of outdoor recreation. In addition to its scenic hikes, mountain biking, swimming, and golfing are available. There are also plenty of on-site dining options available, from family-friendly options to fine dining. 

If you’re a fan of Ernest Hemingway, make sure to book an overnight stay at the Sun Valley Lodge. Not only does it offer a long list of luxe amenities, but it was an old haunt of his! 

Book a Stay at Sun Valley Resort


2. Explore Idaho’s Most Charming Small Town

Fun Things to do in Idaho: Stanley

Stanley might be a small town in Idaho, but it packs a punch when it comes to outdoor adventures and attractions. It’s one of the most beautiful small towns in the United States and one of the country’s best-kept secrets. A trip to Stanley offers incredible scenery without the crowds. 

From hiking to horseback riding to fly fishing, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to outdoor recreation. Photographers and nature enthusiasts won’t want to miss Redfish Lake, a gorgeous alpine lake framed by the Sawtooth Mountains. 

Situated over the Idaho Batholith, Stanley is surrounded by hot springs where you can enjoy a soak after a long day of adventure. Basin Creek Hot Springs, Boat Box Hot Springs, and Sunbeam Hot Springs are some of the most popular. 

If you’re looking for memorable views, opt for a day hike to the picture-perfect Sawtooth Lake. The 9.5-mile trail rewards hikers with beautiful mountain ridge vistas. Bridal Veil Falls and Fishhook Creek are alternative options.  


3. Take a Hike in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area

Must do things in Idaho: Sawtooth National Recreation Area

One of the best things to do in Idaho if you’re an outdoor lover, Sawtooth National Recreation Area offers over 750,000 acres of scenic mountain landscapes. With 700 miles of trails, it’s a hiker’s paradise!

The park offers incredible scenery around every corner, as it’s home to 40 peaks that rise over 10,000 feet and more than 300 high mountain lakes. Outdoor adventures abound in this gorgeous area and camping, fishing, boating, canoeing, and rafting are all popular pursuits. 

As one of the most impressive ranges in the US, it makes sense to plan a hiking excursion in Sawtooth. Bridal Veil Falls is a moderate 7.9-mile round-trip hike accessed from a trailhead on Stanley Lake, offering beautiful waterfall vistas. 

The easier Fishhook Creek Trail is 4.4 miles round trip where you can marvel at Heyburn Peak, while the 10-mile Sawtooth Lake trail caters to avid hikers and rewards you with incredible views of Sawtooth Lake and Observation Peak. 

Hike to Goat Lake to admire the beautiful alpine lake and Goat Falls, the biggest waterfall in the Sawtooth Range. Alternately, a hike to Imogene Lake offers plentiful options for camping and boasts inviting emerald-blue waters in the warmer months. 

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4. Explore the Caves at Craters of the Moon National Monument

Best Things to do in Idaho: Craters of the Moon National Monument

One of the most unique things to do in Idaho, Craters of the Moon National Monument boasts lunar-like landscapes created by lava flows. It offers an otherworldly experience for nature lovers, who marvel at the cinder cones, lava tubes, tree molds, lava rivers, and lava beds, which stretch as far as the eye can see. 

Start your journey of this geologically active area at the visitor center to wander around the exhibits highlighting its history and pick up a cave permit. Next, follow the seven-mile loop for a scenic drive. You can stop for a hike, explore a cave, or enjoy the many photo opportunities. 

The family-friendly 0.2-mile Inferno Cone hike is steep but rewards you with panoramic views of the Monument, Snake River Plain, and the Pioneer Mountains. See lava up-close around the spatter cones or hike the 1.8-mile Broken Top Loop Trail to see unique volcanic features.

There are also five caves available to explore at Craters of the Moon, four of them found along the Caves Trail. Climb down into the tunnel and discover its underground world of lava tubes. In winter, you can go skiing in the groomed park blanketed in snow.


5. Take a Drive-Thru Wildlife Tour at Yellowstone Bear World

Unique Things to do in Idaho: Yellowstone Bear World

No vacation to Idaho is complete without an up-close animal encounter at Yellowstone Bear World. This unique drive-through park offers a chance for prime wildlife watching. It’s possible to spot Rocky Mountain elk, bison, whitetail deer, mule deer, Rocky Mountain goats, moose, American black bears, grizzly bears, and gray wolves.

Located five miles south of Rexburg, you’ll be surrounded by free-roaming wildlife at this must-see attraction. Your admission price also includes a petting zoo, amusement park rides, and unlimited drives through the park. 

Kids will love the once-acre petting zoo, where they can say hello to barnyard animals such as deer, goats, pigs, ducks, and geese. You can also add a little excitement to your trip on the kid-friendly rides, which include a Circus Trail, Baja Buggy, Huckleberry Bounce, and Log Roller Coaster. 

Other unique experiences include a chance to bottle feed cubs on a behind-the-scenes tour and feed nectar to hundreds of exotic butterflies at Butterfly Haven. Sign up for the Wildlife Excursion to learn more about the animals and get photos of the Rocky Mountain elk, American bison, black bears, and grizzly bears.


6. Enjoy Outdoor Adventures on The River of No Return

Best Things to do in Idaho: River of No Return

Dubbed the “River of No Return,” Idaho’s Salmon River is a hotspot for adventurous travelers. For an up-close look at some of its most jaw-dropping landscapes, book a guided excursion along the wild and scenic river. 

Whitewater enthusiasts flock here from across the globe to enjoy its challenging Class III-IV rapids and to pass through the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, one of the largest wilderness areas in the US at two million acres. 

You’ll find a wide range of ways to explore this natural wonder, including river rafting, kayaking, canoeing, and jet boating adventures. Fishing is available year-round, while hiking and mountain biking are also popular. 

The 162-mile Salmon River Scenic Byway is worth driving along and boasts several pull-offs with incredible views. The charming Downtown Salmon area is a great place to take a break. You find boutiques, galleries, and restaurants selling antiques, craft items, and local artwork along Main Street. 

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7. Relax at the Picture-Perfect Goldbug Hot Springs

Fun Things to do in Idaho: Goldbug Hot Springs

Idaho is full of natural wonders and one of its most beloved is its collection of hot springs. The state’s unique geological location means you’ll find countless geothermal pools to choose from, where warm waters pair perfectly with Idaho’s postcard-worthy settings.

For one of the most scenic soaks in Idaho, head to Goldbug Hot Springs. Nestled in the mountains 30 minutes south of Salmon, the picturesque pools tumble down a notch in the mountainside. There’s a reason these hot springs are among the most popular in the state – the setting is stunning!

To reach the Goldbug Hot Springs, you’ll have to hike for about two miles (one-way). You can make the trek any time of year, but if you opt for fall or winter, you’ll see far fewer visitors compared to the summer months. The trail is rocky, slippery, and steep in places so make sure you have good hiking boots, especially in the winter months!

The hike may be moderately challenging for some but it’s well worth the effort for the sweeping mountain views. Plus, you can soothe your aching muscles in one of the many pools at the top! 


8. Make a Pit Stop at the Abandoned Bayhorse Ghost Town

Idaho Things to do: Bayhorse Ghost Town

Thousands of people once flocked to Idaho in search of gold, hoping to make it rich. You can explore these former booming mining towns – which are now called ghost towns – and explore their unique Wild West history, tour their history museums, and even try your hand at panning for gold! If you only have time for one, a visit to Bayhorse Ghost Town is a must.  

Bayhorse is located near the Salmon River and was once a hotspot for miners collecting gold and silver. The town dates back to the 1870s and was abandoned when operations ceased in 1915. The tiny town of Bayhorse was home to 300 people at the height of its popularity!

It’s one of the best-preserved ghost towns in Idaho and features interesting sights, including charcoal kilns, cabins, a cemetery, and a saloon. But be sure to pay a visit to the Salisbury Stamp Mill, the most intact structure in town. This historic landmark was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976!


9. Celebrate the State’s Favorite Vegetable at the Idaho Potato Museum

Must do things in Idaho: Idaho Potato Museum
Images courtesy of the Idaho Potato Museum

If you’re a fan of all things potato, add a tour of the Idaho Potato Museum to your itinerary. It’s one of the coolest things to do in Idaho for food lovers. The museum offers a wealth of information on potato history, the growing and harvesting process, and educational facts. 

You’ll be immersed in the world of potatoes as you explore exhibits highlighting the history and evolution of this beloved vegetable. Located in the old Oregon Short Line Railroad Depot, the historic building dates back to 1912 and represents the significant ties between the railroad and potato industry. 

Keep your eyes peeled for the museum’s unique artifacts, including the world’s largest potato chip that is noted in The Guinness Book of World Records. The highlight of any visit to this museum, you’ll even have a chance to take a souvenir photo with the museum’s giant baked potato! 

After exploring the exhibits, stop by the Spud Seller Gift Shop for Idaho-themed souvenirs. You can also treat yourself to a hot baked potato, chocolate-dipped potato chips, and homemade fries at the Potato Station Cafe. 

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10. Marvel at Shoshone Falls

Idaho Bucket List: Shoshone Falls

If you’re a fan of natural wonders, then Shoshone Falls should be at the top of your Idaho bucket list. Dubbed “The Niagara of the West,” this must-see attraction is one of the largest natural waterfalls in the US. 

Located on the Snake River at the edge of Twin Falls, Shoshone Falls towers at 212 feet, which is actually higher than Niagara Falls. One of the best ways to appreciate this cascading beauty is by enjoying a picnic in the shaded, grassy areas, which offer an ideal vantage point for marveling at its grandeur. 

If you want to see the waterfall at its most powerful, plan a trip here during the spring and early summer when water flows are high. While it’s a spectacular sight year-round, much of the upriver water is diverted for irrigation purposes by fall. 

It’s a family-friendly spot with plenty of recreational facilities, including playgrounds, hiking trails, and picnic areas. If you’re ready to explore more, there’s also a boat ramp, a swimming area, and a scenic overlook.

Waterfall enthusiasts who want to see more of Idaho’s natural beauty can also add the 100-foot-tall Mesa Falls in Caribou-Targhee National Forest to their list. The year-round Perrine Coulee Falls in Twin Falls is another favorite. 

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11. Go Rock Climbing at City of Rocks 

Unique Things to do in Idaho: City of Rocks

Featuring towering granite formations, the City of Rocks National Reserve is a popular spot for backcountry adventures in Idaho. Open year-round, this magnificent over 14,000-acre reserve is located at the south end of the Albion Mountains.

Internationally renowned for its rock climbing opportunities, climbers have been coming to the City of Rocks since the 1970s. With routes ranging in difficulty from 5.0 (least difficult) to 5.13 (most difficult), the area is designed for climbers of all skill levels. There’s even a first-time Climbing Experience program for beginners. 

If rock climbing isn’t your thing, you can also enjoy hiking, mountain biking, and bird watching in this expansive park. There are over 22 miles of trails ranging from easy to strenuous which lead to unique arches, windows, and dramatic overlooks. 

In the winter, snow sports enthusiasts can enjoy snowshoeing, skiing, and snowmobiling, while ice climbing is ideal for experienced climbers. Campsites are also available and offer the chance to admire the star-studded skies. 


12. Marvel at Massive Sand Dunes at Bruneau Dunes State Park

Must do things in Idaho: Bruneau Dunes State Park

Thrill-seekers will love all of the outdoor adventures at Bruneau Dunes State Park. Not only is it home to the tallest freestanding sand dunes in North America, but it offers one of the most unique things to do in Idaho. Reaching up to 470 feet in height, both kids and kids at heart can climb up the dunes and enjoy an exhilarating ride on a rented sandboard to the bottom. 

You’ll find plenty of other exciting excursions to enjoy in this park as well, including a chance to stay overnight in the campsites or cabins. Bruneau Dunes State Park has one of the longest camping seasons in the Idaho Parks system and is available year-round.

Adventurous travelers can also hike the surrounding trails, while fishing for bluegill is popular in the lakes at the foot of the dune. For a different perspective, sign up for a horseback ride through the desert. 

Offering a chance to marvel at the celestial skies, the state park is also home to Idaho’s only public observatory at Steele Reese Education Center. You can take a tour of the Bruneau Dunes Observatory and then enjoy stargazing through one of their specially adapted telescopes. 

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13. Take an Eerie Tour of the Old Idaho Penitentiary

Fun Things to do in Idaho: Old Idaho Penitentiary
Images courtesy of the Old Idaho Penitentiary

For a unique insight into Idaho’s history, plan a trip to the Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historic Site. A state prison in Boise for more than 100 years, this National Register landmark is now a history museum. 

Dating back to 1872, around 13,000 prisoners were held here and 215 were women. It was also home to some of the most notorious criminals, including the man dubbed “Idaho’s Jack the Ripper” and an alleged member of Butch Cassidy’s gang. 

Operated by the Idaho State Historical Society, you can come here to learn about its history. Hear about the more than 500 escapes and get an up-close look at the solitary confinement area, the cell blocks, and the gallows. 

You can also wander through the 30 historic buildings and special rotating exhibits. The J. Curtis Earl Memorial Exhibit is a favorite, featuring a collection of weaponry, historic arms, and military memorabilia. To explore the stories of people of color and various religions, visit the Face of the Idaho State Penitentiary exhibit.  

You can also sign up for one of the Old Idaho Penitentiary’s events, including yoga sessions and scavenger hunts. Ghost tours are also popular, as the site is said to be haunted! 


14. Explore Idaho’s Gateway to Yellowstone National Park (Island Park)

Best Things to do in Idaho: Island Park

With dramatic scenery, pristine lakes, and renowned hot springs, Yellowstone National Park is one of the best destinations for outdoor enthusiasts in the United States. While the majority of the park is located in Wyoming, there are still a few spots to visit in Idaho. 

Located 30 minutes away, Island Park offers an ideal base for visiting Yellowstone. It also boasts its own set of outdoor attractions! 

Before you embark on a journey to Yellowstone, spend a few nights exploring this region. You can drive to the summit of Sawtell Peak for incredible nature views or marvel at the cascading waters of Upper Mesa Falls. 

Island Park also has some of the best fly fishing in North America. Ice fishing is also popular in cooler months, while snowmobiling and ATVs are a great option for those looking to explore its beautiful mountains, parks, rivers, and reservoirs. 

Right on the border with Idaho is the Bechler Ranger Station, a lesser-known entry to Yellowstone. Much quieter than its more popular routes, it offers easy access to the park’s backcountry trails and boasts more streams, creeks, lakes, and waterfalls than any other area in Yellowstone. 


15. Go Horseback Riding at Linn Canyon Ranch 

Best Things to do in Idaho: Linn Canyon Ranch
Images courtesy of Linn Canyon Ranch

You can saddle up for an adventure of a lifetime for a chance to explore Idaho’s remote wilderness by horseback. Expert guides lead the way at many of the state’s top guest ranches and offer the perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. 

Located in eastern Idaho, Linn Canyon Ranch is one of the state’s most popular options. Sitting at the base of the Teton Mountain range, you can trot along the area’s scenic foothills and wilderness trails. Overnight options are also available! 

The ranch offers a variety of horseback riding experiences to suite all levels. For a romantic excursion, you can embark on an hour-long sunset dinner ride, which takes you through aspen groves and fields of wildflowers. Afterward, enjoy appetizers with a view on the farmhouse porch and dine on a gourmet meal in the rustic lodge. 

If you’re looking for a more adventurous option, you can book a guided Off-Site Wilderness Ride. This tour takes you deep into the Jedediah Smith Wilderness to verdant canyons, babbling creeks, and stunning overlooks!  

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16. Browse Exhibits at the Museum of Idaho

Unique Things to do in Idaho: Museum of Idaho
Images courtesy of the Museum of Idaho

One of the most notable museums in Idaho, the Museum of Idaho features internationally and nationally acclaimed permanent and traveling displays that cover a range of topics. Located in Idaho Falls, this family-friendly attraction offers a full day of exploration. 

You can learn about atomic history or walk through Idaho’s most notable historical events. If you love adventurous tales, don’t miss the fascinating collection of Lewis and Clark memorabilia. 

The museum is home to more than 25,000 artifacts. Way Out West is a popular exhibit and highlights the story of Idaho and its first inhabitants. You’ll also find preserved specimens to help learn about how animal bodies work at the Body Worlds exhibit, which features giraffes, squid, and bulls. 

Kids will have plenty of room to play and explore at this museum, as its Discovery Room offers hands-on and interactive fun. They’ll be engaged as they climb mountains, crawl through a bear cave, or role-play in an early pioneer cabin. 


17. Cycle the Boise River Greenbelt

Cool Things to do in Idaho: Boise River Greenbelt

One of the top attractions in Boise, the 25-mile Boise River Greenbelt offers a tree-lined pathway for cyclists and pedestrians. It follows the river through the heart of the city and boasts scenic views and access to popular riverside parks. 

Linking over 850 acres of parks and natural areas along the Boise River, this year-round attraction is popular with nature lovers. Wildlife viewing is best in the early morning or late afternoon nearing sunset. You’ll have the chance to spot songbirds, ducks, Canada geese, great blue heron as well as bald eagles in the winter.

The Ribbon of Jewels is a series of parks located along the Boise River Greenbelt. Parks along the Boise Greenbelt include Barber Park, Municipal Park, Julia Davis Park, Ann Morrison Park, and Kathryn Albertson Park. Each park offers a variety of recreation activities for visitors.

Don’t worry if you don’t have your own equipment, as there are plenty of local vendors with bike rentals nearby. If you prefer to get out on the water, you can also rent a stand up paddleboard or other watercraft to use at Boise Whitewater Park. 


18. Check Out Funky Art at the Freak Alley Gallery

For a dose of local culture in Boise, add Freak Alley Gallery to your itinerary. This downtown attraction has been a city landmark since 2002 and is the Northwest’s largest open-air, multi-artist mural gallery. 

What began with a painting on a single alley doorway is now a one-of-a-kind attraction that features multiple murals, graffiti, and public art pieces. Stepping outside of the confines of a traditional gallery, it’s a place for visual artists to create and display their art in a new and unique way. 

The constantly-changing outdoor space typically transforms with new murals and works of art in August every year. So you can make an annual trek to this attraction to see what’s new! There’s also an indoor gallery to explore, which highlights art in motions, artists’ work, and official Freak Alley Gallery swag.

Entirely donation and volunteer-driven, the attraction is family-friendly, free to visit, and available to view anytime. You can find the artwork between 8th and 9th streets and Bannock and Idaho streets.

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19. Paddle Around Lake Coeur d’Alene

Fun Things to do in Idaho: Lake Coeur d’Alene

A scenic city with outdoor activities and family-friendly attractions, Coeur d’Alene is located at the southern end of the Idaho Panhandle. Lake Coeur d’Alene is its biggest attraction and offers a beautiful backdrop to the city’s downtown district. 

It’s the largest natural body of water in Idaho, boasting campgrounds, scenic hiking trails, and beaches lining its picturesque shoreline. With over 30,000 acres of water to explore, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy a self-guided or guided kayak or paddleboard excursion along its secluded coves. 

You’ll find plenty of other water-based recreation to choose from at Lake Coeur d’Alene, as jet skiing, fishing, kite surfing, and boating are all popular activities surrounding the lake. If you visit in the winter, keep your eyes peeled for the hundreds of bald eagles that fly in to feed on salmon. 

Afterward, you can also stroll through the charming downtown area of Coeur d’Alene and explore its specialty boutiques, art galleries, and antique shops for unique souvenirs. Families love taking a break at the lakefront Coeur d’Alene City Park, which features a beach, green space, and a children’s playground.


20. Explore Hells Canyon National Recreation Area

Known for its natural beauty and endless outdoor activities, Hells Canyon National Recreation Area hugs the borders of northeastern Oregon and western Idaho. Offering the perfect blend of remote wilderness and dramatic natural landscapes, it’s one of those must-do things in Idaho if you’re an adventure-seeker. 

Home to North America’s deepest river gorge (deeper than the Grand Canyon!), this remote region boasts over 650,000 acres of land. In addition to scenic vistas, you can enjoy world-class whitewater boating, guided fishing trips, and wildlife watching opportunities.  

Hikers can journey on the moderate Snake River Trail, one of the most well-known paths in the park. It winds its way across rocky slopes and granite outcroppings, past steep drop-offs plunging towards the river. Keep your eyes peeled for herds of elk, deer, sheep, mountain goats, and bald eagles along the way. 

For accessible views of the wilderness, follow the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway and stop at various lookout areas on the way. Or, opt for a boat excursion on the Snake River or Salmon River for a chance to marvel at historic sites and the deepest points along the canyon. 


21. Go on a Jet Boat Tour of Snake River

Fun Things to do in Idaho: Snake River

One of the most adventurous activities at Hells Canyon is joining a jet boat tour of Snake River. The powerful flow cuts through the rock to create the canyon and is renowned for big waves and powerful whitewater rapids. 

There are a handful of local tour operators to choose from that cater to families and adrenaline junkies alike. Hells Canyon Adventures is one of the most popular and you can choose from half-day or full-day excursions. Each allows you to admire the scenery of this wild canyon and learn about its history while jetting through the rapids. 

Killgore Adventures is another local favorite, taking you to the deepest and most rugged part of Hells Canyon in the least amount of time. You’ll also get to see lots of rare wildlife most people never get to see, take a swim on a private beach, and enjoy a complimentary lunch and drinks. 

Snake Dancer Excursions also offers jet boat tours for the whole family and caters to visitors of all ages. In operation since 1970, the family-owned and operated company offers customized times and departure points and offers full narration along the way. 

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22. Make a Splash at the Kid-Friendly Silverwood Theme Park

Located near Coeur d’Alene, Silverwood Theme Park is the Northwest’s largest outdoor theme park. Featuring over 70 rides, as well as live shows, attractions, and roller coasters, this popular family attraction in Idaho was designed for fun-filled days. Best of all, you’ll get two parks for the price of one. 

Little ones will love the Flying Elephants, Steam Engine Trail, and Kiddie Copters rides, while thrill-seekers can get their adrenaline pumping on the Panic Plunge and Corkscrew roller coaster. Thunder Canyon is one of the most loved rides and features a fast, fun, wild trip down a whitewater river. 

You can also cool off at Boulder Beach Water Park, which features wave pools, a lazy river, and a kids’ splash area. Plunge down the water slide on a bouncy tube at Rumble Falls or test your bravery at Velocity Peak, a high-speed water slide where you can reach speeds of up to 55 mph.   

After your rides, you can catch a live show with the resident magician or opt for a sit-down meal at the pizzeria or barbeque restaurant. The 220-acre park is open daily from June through August and on weekends from May to September. 


23. Enjoy Wildlife Watching in Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge

Unique Things to do in Idaho: Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge

Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge is one of the coolest places in Idaho for wildlife watching. Nestled at the foot of the Selkirk Mountains, the over 2,700-acre refuge provides a habitat for over 300 species of wildlife, including 22 species of fish, seven species of amphibians, six species of reptiles, and 45 species of mammals.

The refuge is just six miles east of Bonners Ferry and features a visitor center, four hiking trails, and a 4.5-mile self-guided driving route. Along the way, there’s a chance you’ll spot moose, elk, deer, bears, otters, and bald eagles in their natural setting! 

If you’re a bird-watching enthusiast, there are 223 species of birds that make Kootenai their home – from tiny rufous hummingbirds to majestic bald eagles. Keep your eye out for migratory waterfowl such as mallards, northern pintail, and teal. 

Timing your visit is important, as there are specific seasonal changes happening in Kootenai. In the spring, you can watch a spectacular display of ruffed grouse “drumming” and occasionally black bears are spotted. Bald eagle nests can be observed from the Auto Tour Road in the summer, while the duck migration peaks in early November. 

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24. Get Your Heart Racing on a Mountain Biking Trail

Cool Things to do in Idaho: Mountain Biking Trail

Idaho has thousands of mountain biking trails to choose from and there’s always somewhere new and exciting to discover. Whether you prefer to explore the foothills of Boise or go deep into the wilderness, active travelers are spoiled with the state’s range of choices. 

The Route of the Hiawatha offers 15 miles of railroad track that has been converted into a beautiful downhill biking destination. Open from mid-May to mid-September, the trail starts at Lookout Pass Ski Area and features 10 tunnels and seven trestle bridges up to 230 feet high. 

Mikesell Canyon Trailhead in Victor offers a challenging single-track trail three miles up a narrow canyon, while the 5.6 mile Brush Lake Trail in Bonners Ferry loops through the foothills of Queen Mountain. In Coeur d’Alene, Beauty Bay Loop features 20 miles and beautiful views overlooking the lake. 

Boise has over 150 trails alone and is a popular destination for mountain bikers. Table Rock Trail is one of the most popular starting at the Old Idaho Penitentiary, while Lower Hulls Gulch Trail and Polecat Gulch Reserve are also favored. 


25. Plan an Epic Road Trip

Must do things in Idaho: Road Trip

Taking a road trip through Idaho’s scenic landscapes is one of the best ways to explore the state. With 31 unique byways to explore, road trips in this state stretch through the picturesque mountains and valleys to friendly small towns.

The Sawtooth Scenic Byway is one of the most popular options for a road trip, traversing through the resort towns of Hailey, Ketchum, and Sun Valley. Along the way, you can stop at Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Redfish Lake, Sun Valley Resort, and Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve

For spectacular views of the Teton Range, follow the 70-mile trip along the Teton Scenic Byway. Marvel at beautiful vistas, rivers, and historic sites, while seasonal displays of wildflowers in spring and fall foliage make the route particularly photogenic.

Northwest Passage Scenic Byway is the state’s longest byway at 202 miles and follows the route Lewis and Clark took through north-central Idaho. However, for a rural escape, the City of Rocks Backcountry Byway is ideal for history buffs who want to explore Castle Rocks State Park, City of Rocks National Reserve, and Oakley Historic District. 

That’s it – 25 of the best things to do in Idaho! What’s your favorite thing to do in the Gem State?


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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best ski resort in Idaho?

Winter sports enthusiasts will most likely already have Sun Valley Resort at the top of their Idaho bucket list. Not many resorts can compete with its rich history. It is actually the first destination ski resort in the US and it is where the idea of the ski vacation was born!

What is the best hiking trail in Idaho?

One of the best things to do in Idaho if you’re an outdoor lover, Sawtooth National Recreation Area offers over 750,000 acres of scenic mountain landscapes. With 700 miles of trails, it’s a hiker’s paradise! As one of the most impressive ranges in the US, it makes sense to plan a hiking excursion in Sawtooth. Bridal Veil Falls is a moderate 7.9-mile round-trip hike accessed from a trailhead on Stanley Lake, offering beautiful waterfall vistas.

What is the best thing to do in Idaho with kids?

No vacation to Idaho is complete without an up-close animal encounter at Yellowstone Bear World. This unique drive-through park offers a chance for prime wildlife watching. Kids will love the once-acre petting zoo, where they can say hello to barnyard animals such as deer, goats, pigs, ducks, and geese. You can also add a little excitement to your trip on the kid-friendly rides, which include a Circus Trail, Baja Buggy, Huckleberry Bounce, and Log Roller Coaster.

What is the top attraction in Idaho?

If you’re a fan of natural wonders, then Shoshone Falls should be at the top of your Idaho bucket list. Dubbed “The Niagara of the West,” this must-see attraction is one of the largest natural waterfalls in the US. Located on the Snake River at the edge of Twin Falls, Shoshone Falls towers at 212 feet, which is actually higher than Niagara Falls. One of the best ways to appreciate this cascading beauty is by enjoying a picnic in the shaded, grassy areas, which offer an ideal vantage point for marveling at its grandeur.

What is the best route for a road trip in Idaho?

Taking a road trip through Idaho’s scenic landscapes is one of the best ways to explore the state.The Sawtooth Scenic Byway is one of the most popular options for a road trip, traversing through the resort towns of Hailey, Ketchum, and Sun Valley. Along the way, you can stop at Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Redfish Lake, Sun Valley Resort, and Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve.

What is the most unique attraction in Idaho?

One of the most unique things to do in Idaho, Craters of the Moon National Monument boasts lunar-like landscapes created by lava flows. It offers an otherworldly experience for nature lovers, who marvel at the cinder cones, lava tubes, tree molds, lava rivers, and lava beds, which stretch as far as the eye can see.


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