Idaho, known as the Gem State, is the 14th-largest state known for its gorgeous wilderness, big blue skies, state parks, sparkling lakes, and scenic mountain landscapes. It is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise that attracts thousands of backcountry skiers, mountain climbers, hikers who like adventure and outdoor recreation, and fearless kayakers. Keep reading this Idaho travel guide to learn more about this unique and beautiful state, Idaho tourism, and the places to visit in Idaho – whether you are traveling alone or with family and friends.
Best Things to Do in Idaho
1. Visit Yellowstone National Park
Yes, most of the famous Yellowstone National Park is located in Wyoming. However, a few beautiful, iconic spots with breathtaking scenery are still worth visiting in Idaho. One of them is the Bechler Ranger Station area – a quiet entry to the park that provides access to its backcountry trails.
This area also has more creeks, lakes, and streams than any other area in Yellowstone, so it is a must-visit part of the park for outdoor enthusiasts. One of the best hikes in the park, a nearly 17-mile round trip trek to Dunanda Falls, brings you to a natural waterfall hot spring. The Bechler Ranger Station area is open daily from 8 AM to 4.30 PM until mid-October.
2. Spend Time on Lake Coeur d’Alene
Lake Coeur d’Alene is the second-largest lake in northern Idaho. It is a great place to visit and spend a weekend, no matter the season. It was used to transport lumber in the past. Today it is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful beaches, breathtaking views, and plenty of outdoor opportunities for adventure tourism.
The North Idaho Centennial Trail runs along the lake’s shore, popular among hikers and joggers. If you are a fan of water sports, Lake Coeur d’Alene should be your destination. You can do sailing, fly fishing, kayaking, hunting, biking, river rafting, and boating in the lake’s crystal water.
Birdwatching is another popular activity. Hundreds of people visit Lake Coeur d’Alene to watch bald eagles in their natural habitat. The best months to visit Idaho for Coeur d’Alene are December and January, when eagles feed on lake-bound salmon.
3. Explore Idaho Botanical Garden
Idaho Botanical Garden is a nonprofit botanical garden located in Boise. It is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the state, the mission of which is to grow a local community by connecting people, nature, and plants. Over 150,000 people visit the garden every year. It is considered a living museum with educational programs for kids and adults, different cultural events, and a diverse botanical collection.
The garden features over 800 species that are planted in 14 specialty gardens. The most famous parks are the Water Conservation Landscape, the Meditation Garden, and the Lewis & Clark Native Plant Garden.
Idaho Botanical Garden is open year-round, but certain annual events are worth attention and should not miss. These events include Outlaw Field Summer Concert Series, Winter Garden eGlow, Fall Harvest Festival, Scarecrow Stroll, and the Great Garden Escape. You can always check the garden’s website and the calendar to know when these events are happening.
4. Discover Warhawk Air Museum
Do you want to learn more about American veterans and other contributors to American freedom? It would be best to visit the Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa, Idaho, which greets over 500,000 visitors yearly. In this museum, with a great collection of airplanes and equipment, you will have a unique opportunity to learn more about the history of World War II, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and other wars that impacted both the United States and the entire world.
The museum features fighter airplanes, historical memorabilia, personal stories, and military artifacts. The museum’s primary mission is to educate visitors about the cost of freedom that the county and its people had to pay.
5. Enjoy Your Time in Lava Hot Springs
Are you wondering what is a great summer destination in Idaho for your vacation? It would be best to consider visiting Lava Hot Springs – a fun summer town and one of the best destinations for solo travelers, couples, and families. This town offers many things: spend a day in an outdoor water park, go to the hot pools, try river tubing, river rafting, mountain biking, and boating, or enjoy camping at one of the campsites.
The town’s main attraction and the most visited place are large heated natural pools of water. There are five pools in Lava Hot Springs, with temperatures ranging from 102F to 112F. The best thing about these pools is that you can visit them any time of the year and soak in their healing water to eliminate everyday life’s stresses.
Where to stay in Idaho
If you are planning a trip to Idaho, you need to decide where you will stay. The good news is that this state has many accommodation options. In this official Idaho travel guide, we have created a list of the best places to stay in Idaho, so you can find the one that will address your needs and preferences.
- Limelight Hotel Ketchum – Ketchum
- Knob Hill Inn – Ketchum
- Hotel 43 – Boise
- Coeur D’Alene Casino Resort Hotel – Worley
- The Lodge at Bronze Buffalo Ranch – Victor
- Schweitzer Mountain Resort Selkirk Lodge – Sandpoint
- Sun Valley Resort – Sun Valley
- Triple Play Resort Hotel & Suites – Sun Valley
- Le Riz Hjtel and Suits Idaho falls
- Best Western PLUS Cotton Tree Inn – North Salt Lake
How to Get Around in Idaho
Unfortunately, the public transportation system in Idaho is not as developed as in some other states, including New York. However, the transportation system is well-balanced and modern in such big cities as Boise.
In metropolitan Boise, for example, the leading provider of mass transit service is Valley Regional Transit, which consists of over 20 bus routes. If you temporarily need a car in Idaho, you can use rental car services with RentalCars.com.
Major Airports in Idaho
Here is a list of the main airports in the state:
- Boise Airport – the most significant international airport in the state, located near the capital and city of Boise.
- Idaho Falls Regional Airport – a regional airport in Idaho that serves Eastern Idaho, Western Wyoming, and Southern Montana.
- Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport – a small regional airport located in the town of Lewiston
- Magic Valley Regional Airport – this airport is located only six miles south of the small town of Twin Falls and handles around 90,000 passengers annually.
- Pocatello Regional Airport – This is a midsized airport in Idaho located near Pocatello, Idaho.
Travel Tips Idaho
As mentioned above, Idaho is a picturesque state with beautiful scenery that attracts outdoor lovers and enthusiasts. It is a paradise for those who enjoy different outdoor activities and exploring new places.
However, if you are traveling to Idaho for the first time, it is important to research in advance and know where exactly you are going. We wanted to help you with that, and created a list of useful tips that will make your trip to Idaho more enjoyable and smooth:
Purchase Travel Insurance
When traveling in a place as wild as Idaho, many things can happen to you. Therefore, one of the best and most effective ways to protect yourself is to have proper travel insurance. Standard travel insurance covers flight cancellation, medical expenses, personal belongings, and document loss.
Have Proper Clothing and Equipment
If you go to Idaho, you will probably spend some time outdoors. For this reason, ensuring you have all the necessary clothing and quality equipment is important to make your trip and adventures more comfortable and safer. Make sure to have a quality backpack, waterproof jacket, hiking shoes or boots, and hiking pants.
Learn About Your Destination First
Collecting as much information as possible about the place you plan to visit is always a good idea. Today, in the Internet era, finding the information you need is easy. You can find websites with trusted reviews and contact visitor centers, read local newspapers, and check other Idaho travel guides.
Finding quality and comfortable accommodation is the most important aspect of any trip. You need to consider certain factors when looking for accommodation, including location, safety, level of comfort, and price.
Decide on the Season
Since Idaho has all four seasons, you must decide when to visit this beautiful state. Your choice should depend on the activities you want to do. For example, if you like camping, whitewater rafting, hunting, mountain biking, and staying outdoors as long as possible, spring and summer are the best seasons for visiting Idaho. If you are a snow, skiing, and winter sports fan, then December, January, and February are the best months to visit Idaho.