Most beautiful places to visit in Idaho

Top 20 Beautiful Places To Visit In Idaho

21 mins read

Although it’s sometimes overlooked in favour of neighbouring Montana and Oregon, I personally think Hemingway’s favourite state is home to a serious amount of beauty.

It’s hard to know where to start on such a list, but here are my favorite spots that I think are worth exploring…

1. Boise

Boise Idaho - great cities

This capital city is also known as the city of trees! Named by the 19th-century French Canadian trappers, this wooded river became a distinct landmark due to the oasis dominated by cottonwood trees.

A nature lover’s paradise, I love spending time here among rivers, mountains, canyons, deserts, and lakes with recreational activities.

Also a great place to go sightseeing, the bustling downtown is a cultural epicentre with the Idaho State Capitol and the Classic Egyptian Theatre and is home to many small businesses. Full of incredibly welcoming people, chic cafes, and quirky shops, this mid-sized city retains the charm of a small town.

My highlights…

  • Visiting the popular River Greenbelt Park to stroll through the tree-lined paths and scenic views.
  • Taking part in a scavenger hunt, which was a fun way to explore the city’s landmarks and find some hidden gems.
  • Checking out the art museum filled with contemporary art and creative exhibitions.

2. Sawtooth Mountains Sawtooth mountains Idaho

Sawtooth mountains Idaho

The rugged Sawtooth Mountains of the Rocky Mountains are rivaled for their size and beauty. Once home to Ernest Hemingway, this landscape offers miles of hiking trails, fast-flowing rivers, and pristine mountain lakes.

The most popular lakes in the wilderness include Alice Lake. Hike the serene Alice Lake to witness the true beauty of the Sawtooth wilderness. Another alpine Lake worth exploring is Redfish Lake. Whether leisure or adventure, this scenic lake has something for everyone.

The gateway to the picturesque Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho City. Once a populous city during the gold rush, today, it hosts historic structures, antique stores, and wooden sidewalks.

My highlights…

  • Kayaking on Redfish Lake and getting a different perspective of the spectacular surrounding landscape.
  • Going for a hike along one of the trails to discover Goat Lake, a favourite beauty spot of mine!
  • Taking a soak in natural hot springs.

3. Idaho State Capital BuildingIdaho state capital building

The beautiful landmark Idaho State Capital Building in Boise sits at the end of Capitol Street. Designed by John Tourtellotte and Fredrick Hummel, it was completed in 1920.

There’s a lot to take in, highly influenced by the U.S Capitol Building, the life-size Lincoln statue, and the Liberty Bell replica.

Within the beautiful sandstone walls, symmetrical wings, and Roman columns, several laws have been passed to safeguard citizens for nearly a century. Tour around to learn more about the state’s rich cultural history.

My favorite highlights…

  • Admiring the magnificent architecture both inside and outside of this grand building.
  • Wandering around the fascinating exhibitions located in the museum.
  • Going on a self-guided tour around this iconic landmark and learning about its history and facts.

4. Yellowstone National ParkYellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Park falls

One of the most famous national parks in the world is located partly in Idaho, so if you’re in the state, in my opinion this is a must-see attraction!

The area of truly extraordinary wilderness covers nearly 3,500 square miles and sits on a volcanic hot stop, too, hence the incredible hot springs and geysers – make sure you don’t miss the famous Old Faithful.

Other scenic highlights of the park include steep canyons, alpine rivers, thick forests, and wildlife, including bears, wolves, bison, elk, and antelope.

It’s also a great vacation spot, with a good range of accommodation options and a hub for many outdoor activities, including hiking, cycling, and climbing.

My highlights…

  • Visiting the magical waterfalls at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
  • Take a fun rafting ride down the river.
  • Going hiking through one of the popular trails for incredible views overlooking the area.

5. Snake River Canyon Snake River Canyon

Snake River Canyon Idaho

Formed along the Snake River in Southern Idaho, this scenic canyon stretches east and west on either side of Twin Falls City.

The Snake River, which spans 50 miles, cuts through and flows across ancient basalt lava. This scenic setting is ideal for hiking and boating. The Canyon features two major waterfalls and several springs.

The majestic Perrine Bridge along the canyon provides a striking view. On the northeast lies the city of Twin Falls, which is the alluring Shoshone Falls.

Often called the most charming waterfalls of the North American sub-continent, the Shoshone Falls is one of the largest natural waterfalls in the U.S. 

My favorite highlights…

  • Taking a boat out on the water and exploring the gorgeous river.
  • Hiking trails along the side of the canyon for truly breathtaking views.
  • Discovering the majestic waterfalls surrounding this location.

6. Idaho FallsBeautiful Idaho Falls

Encompassing the Snake River in eastern Idaho, Idaho Falls is widely known for its outdoor access. The beautiful Idaho Falls River Walk provides a five-mile scenic attraction on both sides of the Snake River.

The Greenbelt highlights some of the city’s spectacular scenery and is a favorite spot for cyclists, runners, and strollers.

A blend of art and culture, this city celebrates history with fine places like the Art Museum, The Museum of Idaho, and the Japanese Friendship Garden at Sportsman Park. World-renowned places like Yellowstone National Park and Jackson Hole can be reached easily from Idaho Falls. 

My highlights…

  • Admiring one of the city’s most beautiful buildings, the Idaho Falls Temple, which sparkled in the sunshine.
  • Taking a stroll along the riverwalk and greenbelt and discovering several art installations, historic sites and incredible scenery.
  • Exploring the charming city at a fast pace by hiring a bike.

7. McCallMcCall and Lake Payette Idaho

McCall Idaho

If you’re looking for a perfect family vacation spot in summer and winter, head for the underrated resort town of McCall.

Located on beautiful Payette Lake, just 2.5 hours north of Boise, this is a wonderfully peaceful, scenic destination where you can relax or indulge in many activities, such as boating, kayaking, or hiking. 

In my opinion, the town is charming, with great places to shop, visit, and stay. Walk along the waterfront and then swim or go for a cruise instead. In the winter, there are seasonal events, including ice sculpture displays.

My highlights…

  • Visiting the farmers market (held twice a week) and sampling some local delights.
  • Going rock climbing to reach spots where you can witness spectacular views.
  • Going on a fun ziplining tour and soaring above the beautiful landscapes!

8. Sandpoint Sandpoint - beauty spots in Idaho

Sandpoint Idaho

Nestled between three mountain ranges on the splendid Lake Pend Oreille, Sandpoint is buzzing with various outdoor sports, cultural events, and some of Idaho’s best scenery. Situated in Bonner County, this city is a real gem in the lap of the Mountains.

Home to Idaho’s largest ski resort, Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Sandpoint provides excellent ski slopes and terrain parks. Climb the nearby Selkirk and Cabinet mountain ranges or trail through Lake Pend’s skirt.

Sandpoint was once named the nation’s most beautiful small town and I’m a huge fan of this gorgeous spot!

My favorite highlights…

  • Checking out Schweitzer Mountain Resort’s fantastic slopes.
  • Taking a cruise along Lake Pend to explore the beauty of the lake and landscape.
  • Seeing magnificent views overlooking the surrounding areas and water whilst hiking the Mickinnick Trail.

9. Shoshone Falls  Shoshone Falls Idaho

This spectacular beauty along the Snake River is located on the edge of Twin Falls. Falling off at a marveling height of 212ft, the Shoshone Falls is about 45ft higher than Niagara Falls. Formed around 14,000 years ago, it was a vital fishing and trading place for Native Americans.

With the alluring basalt spectacle and multiple viewpoints, visitors can see the dramatic features of the Snake River on the constructed platform that extends over the water.

Pack your lunch and enjoy the natural scenery in Shoshone National Park—this is a stunning spot to explore in Idaho. 

My highlights…

  • Having a picnic and spend some time relaxing at the waterfalls overlooking the beautiful views.
  • Grabbing some Insta-worthy shots of the incredible falls, also known as the Niagara of the West.
  • Going for a swim in the waters! 

10. Craters of the Moon National Monument and PreserveCraters of the Moon National Monument

Craters of the Moon National Monument Idaho

Step into the mystical and surreally beautiful terrain of the Moon in Central Idaho. Located on the Snake River plain between the small towns of Arco and Carey, the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is one of the country’s historic national monuments.

The surface of this worldly wonder, which resembles the surface of the Moon, is filled with scattered islands, cinder cones, lava tubes, and volcanic bombs.

The desolate yet sublime landscape was formed by molten lava fields nearly 15 million years ago. Whether you want to observe the iconic wildlife or camp out under the twinkling stars, this surreal place with a quirky landscape is worth a visit.

My highlights…

  • Exploring through one of the naturally formed caves around this interesting landscape.
  • Wandering along the 7-mile Loop Road trail and admiring the scenery.
  • Stopping by the visitor center to grab some maps of the area and check out the exhibitions. 

11. Thousand Springs State Park Thousand Springs State Park

This state park is a public recreation and nature preservation area in Idaho. It is full of beautiful wonders.

Created in 2005 by merging four existing state parks of the Hagerman Valley, the park brims with picturesque landscapes like the Malad Gorge, Kelton Trail, Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon Springs Nature Preserve, Billingsley Creek, Ritter Island, Niagara Springs, and Crystal Springs.

Watch the beautiful falls and springs cascading right out of the canyon walls and enjoy wandering the grounds; this place will amaze you.

12. Lake Coeur d’ Alene 

Lake Coeur d'Alene

Lake Coeur d' Alene Idaho

Enveloped in the enchanting mountains, Coeur d’Alene Lake is the second-largest lake in northern Idaho. It covers an area of 26 miles and is primarily fed by the St. Joe and Coeur d’Alene rivers. The lake has shorelines, parks, campgrounds, trails, and beaches.

The pristine blue waters and small beaches have some of the best water activities. At its northern end is the beautiful city of Coeur d’Alene. This mountain town with a floating boardwalk hosts many places to eat and drink.

Take a walk around the stunning lake or indulge in water adventures. Your Idaho trip is incomplete without stopping by this scenic lake.

My highlights…

  • Wandering along the trails surrounding the lake for beautiful views of the landscape and scenery.
  • Renting a jet ski and zoom across the pristine waters of the lake.
  • Taking a trip to the nearby Silverwood Theme Park and checking out the thrilling rides.

13. Lava Hot Springs

Lava Hot Springs Idaho

Lava Hot Springs Idaho

A small hidden gem in Bannock County, it is a tourist attraction due to its incredible mineral pools, which draw people from many other states. The pools also vary in temperature to suit everyone’s needs, but if you’re visiting in summer, it’s best to take a dip in the early morning or the evening.

Even though it still retains its small-town vibe, there are a few other things to do here, including outdoor activities such as hiking, zipping, and tubing down the river, which passes through the heart of the town from about mid-May to mid-September.

There’s also a gorgeous historic downtown area and a few great places to eat and stay.

My highlights…

  • Hiring a tube and floating down the Portneuf River.
  • Checking out the Olympic Swimming Pool and Waterpark, which features waterslides, splash pads, diving platforms, and pools.
  • Taking a dip in the pools filled with natural hot mineral water, with five to choose from there’s space for everyone to enjoy! 

14. Hells Canyon

Hells Canyon

Hells Canyon Idaho

Encompassing the remote region of Idaho and Oregon, the Hells Canyon was carved by the meandering water of the Snake River. Featuring dramatic terrains, elevation, and climate, this gorgeous landscape contains acres of beauty and adventure.

The protected area around the Hells Canyon, the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area was created in 1975. Hemmed by the jagged cliffs and snow-covered Seven Devils Mountain, the scenic wilderness is ideal for a hike or mountain bike ride.

My favourite highlights…

  • Going on a unique jet boat tour excursion, which takes you upstream and through the canyon.
  • Hiking to the Hat Point Overlook for a fantastic view of the canyon.
  • Checking out the exhibits and history of the canyon at the visitor center.

15. Sun Valley

Sun Valley = best places to visit in Idaho

Sun Valley Idaho

Be it skiing or summer fun, the lively Sun Valley offers many recreational activities in the majestic Rocky Mountains of Central Idaho.

While Bald Mountain offers steep and challenging runs for pro skiers and snowboarders, Dollar Mountain offers gentle slopes perfect for the novice.

Home to the world’s first chairlifts, Sun Valley’s Ski Resort is also a hotspot for some of the biggest celebrities. Warm up at the Sun Valley Heritage and Ski Museum and learn more about Ernest Hemingway’s time in the Sun Valley. 

My highlights…

  • Going skiing or snowboarding across the 2,400 acres of pisted terrain.
  • Going snowshoeing. 
  • Enjoying bowling, swimming and tennis. 

16. Wallace

Wallace Idaho

Wallace - pretty towns in Idaho

The timeless silver-producing mining town of Wallace is a registered National Historic Place. Located near the principal town of Coeur d’Alene, Wallace is the “Silver Capital of the World.” Today, the historic Wallace offers much world-class recreation along with the area’s colorful history.

Enjoy the underground mine tours, mine museums, logging, mountain bike, and snowmobile trails on the Forest Service roads against lush green forests.

I personally think this quaint, attractive town is perfect for history buffs and adventurists.

17. Silver Mountain 

Silver Mountain idaho

Silver Mountain Idaho

The Silver Mountain region is best known for its thrilling terrain, deep snow, and sunshine. Silver Mountain is close to Coeur d’Alene and offers excellent nature trails, biking, and skiing.

Home to some of the best skiing in Northern Idaho, the ski area is nestled in the mountains above the nearby town of Kellogg and is connected by gondolas.

A relaxing destination for families, the Silver Mountain Resort hosts North America’s longest gondola, Idaho’s largest indoor water park and many more attractions. 

18. Bruneau Dunes State Park

Bruneau Dunes State Park

Bruneau Dunes State Park

This unique spot is home to the tallest freestanding dunes in North America—the highest measures 470 feet.

There’s a small entrance fee, and it’s higher if you stay overnight, but it’s worth it, as the views are stunning. 

Located in Owyhee County in southwestern Idaho, you can hike, camp, rent a sandboard, or gaze at the stars in Idaho’s only public observatory in the park.

19. Stanley 

Stanley Idaho

Stanley - pretty towns in Idaho

It’s known that Idaho has a connoisseur of beautiful small towns to visit in America, and Stanley – a gorgeous hidden gem – is no exception.

Stanley is the ideal place for a quiet retreat in Custer County, Idaho. Secluded Stanley Lake is at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains.

Regardless of the season, there is plenty to capture in lovely Stanley. From the incredible sunset vistas and hot springs to the summer greenery and beautiful fall foliage, the tranquillity of Stanley Lake is a heaven for nature lovers.

20. Driggs

Driggs - small resort town in Idaho

Driggs Idaho

This is a beautiful small resort town that is pretty low-key (in comparison with other resort towns in Idaho), so it’s a perfect vacation destination if you want to get away from it all.

It’s the hub of Teton Valley, marking the crossroads to Grand Targhee Ski Resort, where you can go skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoe walking.

The town has some independent shops, eateries, and places to stay, and it is surrounded by plenty of endless mountain trails.

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