Idaho day trips from towns to close-by points of interest add a special flair to vacation plans. Travelers could be in a car, truck or recreational vehicle. These side trips give driving tourists flexibility.
Along the Lake Coeur d‘Alene Scenic Byway - Photo courtesy of the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD)
Unlike travel by other means, driving travelers can stop when they want to admire or photograph surroundings, when they want to eat or shop, when they want to rest, and when they want to overnight.
On a road trip vacation to Idaho, you'll enter from six bordering states or from Canada. These 6 bordering states are Nevada and Utah to the south, Oregon and Washington to the west, and Montana and Wyoming to the east. From Canada, you can enter Idaho from the province of British Columbia.
Once here, Idaho day trips to near-by sights of interest can be overlooked, without some preplanning. For example, how about a round of golf, an afternoon at a local museum, a tour of a winery or an evening at a casino....
There are visitor centers throughout Idaho to help you with local planning to add what-to-see ideas to your trip, or to help you with shopping ideas or lodging and dining suggestions. For a listing of locations and telephone numbers of these information sources,
see the list here.
If your plans are to drive into Idaho, or if you plan to rent a vehicle once in Idaho, consider these interesting Idaho day trip you may not want to miss while visiting the highlighted list of Idaho cities and towns:
IF YOU FIND YOURSELF IN BOISE....CONSIDER:
1. Boise to Lucky Peak Reservoir - 8 miles east of Boise via State Route 21. Lucky Peak State Park has 4 units. At the Spring Shores Unit you can rent a watercraft. Have your own watercraft? There are launch ramps, a full-service marina and a convenience store. Enjoy the day boating, fishing, water skiing or jet skiing. Information: (208) 334-2432
2. Boise to Western Heritage Historic Byway - Drive west on Interstate Route 84 to Meridian, Idaho. Take exit 44 off Interstate 84, Hwy. 69, to E. Avalon Ave. in Kuna. Turn south on Swan Falls Road and continue to the Snake River. This route takes you across southern Idaho farmland to the Snake River Canyon, Swan Falls Dam and the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation area. Other points of interest include a pioneer cemetery near Kuna, Initial Point, and Dedication Point, which you can climb for a breathtaking view. Driving time: 1-1/2 to 2 hours each way. Information: (208) 922-9254
3. Boise to Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge - Drive west from Boise on Interstate 84 to Nampa, Idaho. Take exit 35 off I-84. Turn north toward sugar factory. At light, turn left on Karcher Rd. (Hwy. 55). After about 4 miles turn left on Lake Ave. After 3 miles, follow Lake to left. Turn right onto dam. Follow signs to Visitor Center. This refuge encompasses over 11,000 acres with both lake and river sectors. The Lake Lowell sector is a great birding spot with over 200 recorded species. Spectacular concentrations of birds can be seen on the lake during peak migration periods. Shorebirds occur in large numbers in August when low water levels expose mudflats. Waterfowl occur in large numbers in fall and winter. Information: (208) 467-9278
4. Boise to Bogus Basin or Sun Valley or Brundage Mountain Resort - This is a “take your choice” day trip threesome. All are ski resorts in the winter, and provide hiking and biking opportunities plus other outdoor pursuits in the off-season. Bogus Basin Mountain (Information: (208) 332-5100) is 16 miles north of Boise on Bogus Basin Road. Famed Sun Valley (Information: (208) 622-4111) is located 3 hours from Boise near Ketchum, Idaho, and Brundage Mountain (Information: (208) 634-4151), 8 miles north of McCall, Idaho, about 2 hours from Boise.
5. Boise to Owyhee Uplands Back Country Byway - This scenic loop drive begins 80 miles from Boise, near the town of Grand View, Idaho. Take I-84 southwest out of Boise to State Route 51 at Mountain Home, Idaho. Follow SR 51 to the town of Bruneau, Idaho, then follow State Route 78 to Grand View, where the Byway begins. It ends 101 miles later in Jordan Valley, Oregon! To return, take U.S. Route 95 to I-84 and back to Boise. This route takes you into the remote high desert of Owyhee country past expanses of sagebrush, gnarled stands of junipers and the sheer red cliffs of river canyons. Highlights include the Owyhee River and an overlook at North Fork gorge. This gravel road is often closed by snow in winter. Complete services are available in Mountain Home and Jordan Valley with partial services in Grand View and Bruneau. Be sure to bring your camera on this all-day trip. Information: (208) 384-3300
6. Ride the Thunder Mountain Line - Slow your pace and travel the rails of the past on one of the four trips offered on the Thunder Mountain Line. These train rides provide amazing scenery as the trips wind their way along the beautiful Payette River, through pristine National Forests, across mountain meadows, and by brush-covered hillsides. Trips begin at the town of Horseshoe Bend, about 30 minutes from Boise. Take State Route 44 west toward Eagle, then State Route 55 (Horseshoe Bend Road) north to Horseshoe Bend. For details, see www.thundermountainline.com and for information or reservations, call (208) 793-4425
7. A Rest Day in Boise - Tired of traveling? Spend the day at Ann Morrison Park! This 145-acre urban park is located near downtown on the Boise River. The park features a fountain and reflecting pool, gardens, a playground, tennis courts and a picnic pavilion (bring your mid-day lunch!). You’ll also find an 18-hole disc golf course, horseshoe pits and restroom facilities. The Boise River Greenbelt, a pathway for pedestrians and bicyclists, runs along the park. River floaters end their run here at the pick-up point for a bus to transport them back to Barber Park during rafting season.
Information: (208) 384-4240
IF YOU FIND YOURSELF IN COEUR D'ALENE....CONSIDER:
1. Coeur d’Alene to Silverwood Theme Park - Located 15 miles north of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho on U.S. Route 95, Silverwood is the largest theme park in the Northwest. The park features over 50 amusement rides and attractions including the Boulder Beach water park, the Tremors roller coaster, Timber Terror and Thunder Canyon rides as well as games, restaurants, ice and magic shows. Open Jun.-Aug., daily; May, Sept to Oct 8., weekends only. Fees: General admission, $32.99, Seniors and children 3-7, $19.99. Information: (208) 683-3400
2. Coeur d’Alene to Emerald Creek Garnet Area - Take Interstate Route 90 southeast from Coeur d’Alene, then State Route 3 south to St. Maries, Idaho. Continue to Primary Forest Route 447 (Emerald Creek Road) at Fernwood, Idaho. Visitors will take garnet-bearing gravels from a stockpile to one of the two sluices where they will wash and screen the gravels for garnets. All equipment is provided. This trip is for those who are active, curious and don’t mind getting dirty. Idaho and India are the only two places in the world where the rare Star Garnet can be found, from gravel to golf ball size. Good luck! Information: (208) 245-2531
3. Coeur d’Alene to St. Joe River Scenic Byway - Southwest from Coeur d’Alene on Interstate Route 90 to State Route 3 to St. Maries, Idaho. From St. Maries at the junction of Idaho 3 and Forest Hwy 50 (FS 50), east along the St. Joe River for 75 miles. At the junction with Road 218, FS 50 heads north (left) and climbs 14 miles to the Idaho-Montana border. The drive is 89 miles. Allow 2.5 to 3 hours one way. At Marble Creek interpretive center tour the logging display, in Avery stop in and see and fish the rainbow trout pond. Visit the historic railroad depot and the refurbished sleeper/dining car. Information: (208) 245-2531
4. Coeur d’Alene to Lake Coeur d’Alene Scenic Byway - Begins at the junction of Interstate Route 90 and State Route 97 and follows SR 97 south and east along Lake Coeur d’Alene to State Route 3. The 36 mile route travels south along the eastern shoreline of Lake Coeur d’Alene, home to bald eagles and the largest population of nesting osprey in the Western states. Take a break and stretch your legs on the Mineral Ridge Trail, which offers panoramic views of the lake, as well as several learning stations describing the area’s botany and animal life. The route continues through gentle hills and dense forests to the charming town of Harrison. This byway ends where it meets the White Pine Scenic Byway. Information: (208) 765-7223
5. A Rest Day in Coeur d’Alene - The Coeur d’Alene Parkway State Park, a 34-acre public park along the north shore of beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene is a restful area to spend a day at the lake. The Parkway is located adjacent to Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive and may be accessed either by taking Exit 15 (Sherman Ave) from Interstate 90, or from the Coeur d’Alene city center by going east on Sherman Avenue and turning right onto Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive. The park features an exercise course, a roadside picnic area (bring your lunch!), restroom facilities and benches for those who wish to enjoy the lake view. Information: (208) 699-2224
IF YOU FIND YOURSELF IN LEWISTON....CONSIDER:
1. Lewiston to Hells Gate State Park - Hells Gate State Park is called the gateway to Hells Canyon and Lewis and Clark country. The park is located 4 miles south of Lewiston, Idaho on Snake River Road. Shady campsites along the Snake River make comfortable base-camps for exploration of the surrounding area. Jet boat excursions into Hells Canyon leave on a regular basis from the park's docks. The Nez Perce National Historic Park is only 30 minutes away (U.S. Route 95, 13 miles E. of Lewiston at Spalding). Information: (208) 799-5015
2. Lewiston to Dworshak State Park - Located on Dworshak Reservoir, this park is can be found by driving east of Lewiston on U.S. Route 12 to Orofino, Idaho, then northwest to the park entrance. Dworshak is an 850-acre facility located among trees and meadows on the western shore of Dworshak Reservoir. The park is comprised of three units - Freeman Creek, Three Meadows Group Camp, and Big Eddy Lodge and Marina. Camping, boating, fishing, swimming, hiking and water-skiing are some of the activities for visitors. There is a boat ramp and handling dock. Information: (208) 476-5994
3. Lewiston to the Nez Perce National Historic Park - Take U. S. Route 95 for 13 miles along the Clearwater River. At the fork (U.S. Routes 95 and 12), stay to the right on 95. You’ll find the park on your left shortly after the fork. For thousands of years the valleys, prairies and plateaus of north central Idaho and northeastern Oregon have been home to the Nez Perce people. Today's Reservation is located in north central Idaho. The visitor center has brochures, museum exhibits, a film, bookstore and Ranger-led programs daily at 10, 12 and 2:00 in the summer. Picnic grounds are available on the Clearwater River below the Visitor Center. Information: (208) 843-2261
IF YOU FIND YOURSELF IN MCCALL....CONSIDER:
1. McCall to Ponderosa State Park - Just two miles northeast of McCall’s city center off State Route 55 on Primary Forest Route 21, this 1,000-acre park sits on a peninsula on scenic Payette Lake. The overlook at Osprey Point offers a spectacular view of the lake. The park offers hiking and biking trails, guided walks with park naturalists and evening campfire programs. The North Beach Unit has a beach and picnic area. The topography ranges from arid sagebrush flats to dense forests. Wildlife that can be viewed at the park include Canada geese, osprey, bald eagles, wood ducks, mallards, songbirds, deer, moose, beaver, muskrats and even bear. Winter activities include Nordic skiing on one of two USSA-certified cross-country courses.
Information: (208) 634-2164
2. McCall to Brundage Mountain Resort - From McCall, drive about 5 miles north on Hwy. 95. Turn right at Brundage Mountain Road. The parking lot is about 4 miles up the road. This is a top-notch ski resort in the winter months, offering a full range of winter activities. In the summer months, it is a premier biking location. Mountain biking at Brundage is becoming increasingly popular. July through Labor Day you can ride the Blue Bird chairlift to the top of the mountain and enjoy over 20 miles of trails. Most are hand-built single-track trails providing unrestricted action down the hill. There are trails for every level of expertise, offering the opportunity for either a leisurely ride or more extreme fun. Open Fri, Sat, Sun - July and August. Information: (208) 634-4151
IF YOU FIND YOURSELF IN POCATELLO....CONSIDER:
1. Pocatello to Craters of the Moon National Monument -Take Interstate 15 north to Blackfoot, Idaho, then turn west on U.S. Route 26 to Arco, Idaho. The 750,000-acre monument is located 18 miles southwest of Arco on Hwy. 20/26/93. It was established in 1924 to preserve the unique volcanic features of this enormous lava field, a diverse array of volcanic features including volcanic rifts, cinder cones, spatter cones, shield volcanoes and lava tubes (caves). A surprising number of plants and animals have adapted to live in the harsh volcanic and high desert environment. It is an excellent site for hiking, bird watching, photography, backpacking and caving. Information: (208) 527-3257
2. Pocatello to Lava Hot Springs - Drive south on I-15, then turn east on U.S. Route 30 to the town of Lava Hot Springs. For centuries, many Indian tribes gathered at these natural hot water springs, calling them the healing waters. Geologists theorize that the water has been a consistent 110 degrees for at least 50 million years. Today, the State of Idaho maintains this world-famous resort complex year-round. The facility offers hot mineral baths that are sulfur and odor free. Nearby activities in the town of Lava Hot Springs include fishing, golf, biking, horseback riding, camping, and winter recreation.
Information: (208) 776-5221
3. Pocatello to American Falls Reservoir - Located west of Pocatello near the town of American Falls, Idaho. Take Interstate 86 from Pocatello to the Dam and Reservoir. American Falls Reservoir, at 56,000-acres, is the largest reservoir on the Snake River. Highway 39 rides the top of the reservoir's 9-story-high dam for over half a mile and the lake can be seen stretching northeast as far as the horizon. There are three boat ramps at the southwest end of the reservoir, one north of the dam. Parking, docks and fuel are available at the Seagull Bay Boat. Information: (208) 383-2211
IF YOU FIND YOURSELF IN SALMON....CONSIDER:
1. Salmon to Lewis and Clark Back Country Byway - The byway is located 20 miles southeast of Salmon off State Route 28. Turn east at the Tendoy store. Stands of fir and pine trees, high mountain meadows and rolling hills look much the same today as when Lewis & Clark journeyed to the top of Lemhi Pass in 1805, where they unfurled the U. S. flag for the first time in the west. This 39-mile gravel road is usually closed from November to June and can be muddy in early summer. Allow 3 hours for the round trip loop from Tendoy. Full services are available in Salmon with limited services in Tendoy, Leadore and Lemhi. Information: (208) 756-2100
IF YOU FIND YOURSELF IN SANDPOINT....CONSIDER:
1. Sandpoint to Priest Lake State Park -Take U.S. Route 2 west out of Sandpoint then north on State Route 57 from Priest River, Idaho. Priest Lake is surrounded by the natural beauty of Northern Idaho and mile-high Selkirk mountains, Priest Lake State Park sits along the eastern shores of Priest Lake, a 19-mile long, over 300 foot deep lake. Visitors to the park will enjoy the dense forests of cedar, fir and tamarack and will be able to observe the park's year round inhabitants such as the whitetail deer, black bear, moose and bald eagles. Noted for its extremely clear water, fed by streams cascading from high Selkirk peaks, Priest Lake extends north nearly to the Canadian border. Information: (208) 443-2200
2. Sandpoint to Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge - This 2,774-acrs wildlife sanctuary is 5 miles west of Bonners Ferry, Idaho. From Sandpoint, head north on U.S. Route 95 and find Riverside Street on the south side of the Kootenai River. Take Riverside street to County Road 18 to the Refuge. Here, wetlands, meadows, forests and farm fields are interspersed in the valley bottom adjacent to the west banks of the Kootenai River. Wetlands include ponds, cattail-bullrush marshes, and bubbling creeks. The western portion of the refuge ascends the foothills of the Selkirk Mountains with stands of coniferous trees and tranquil forests. Information: (208) 267-3888
3. Sandpoint to Schweitzer Mountain Resort - Head north on U.S. Route 95 for 2 miles, then turn west on Schweitzer Mountain Road for 9 miles to the resort. Receiving some 300 inches of snow each winter, this expansive resort is a hit every year with skiers, snowboarders and others seeking winter activities. Then, in the spring through fall months, bike enthusiasts explore alpine meadows or the rugged mountain terrain by mountain bike on trails at Schweitzer Mountain. A vast trail system offers something for every ability level. Colorful hillsides explode with wildflowers and nearby Lake Pend Oreille becomes a sight to see. The high speed quad chairlift runs daily and lift tickets are available. Bike rentals are also available. Information: (208) 263-9555
IF YOU FIND YOURSELF IN STANLEY....CONSIDER:
1. Stanley to Salmon River National Scenic Byway - This historic byway (Lewis and Clark came this way in 1805) begins on State Route 75 in Stanley and connects to U.S. Route 93 at Challis, Idaho, heading north to the Montana border.
This byway follows the course of the Salmon River between Stanley and the 6,995-foot Lost Trail Pass. On the route you can see the magnificent Sawtooth Mountains, the remains of the Sunbeam Dam, the Land of the Yankee Fork historical mining area near Challis and the historic town of Salmon. See wildlife along the route. Best traveled between April and November, it is 161.7 miles long and requires about 3.5 hours each way. Full services are available in Stanley, Challis, Salmon and North Fork. Information: (208) 774-3411
2. Stanley to Sawtooth Scenic Byway - Yeah, another scenic byway! Go south on State Route 75 from Stanley to Shoshone, Idaho. This is a 115 mile journey along the famous Sawtooth Mountains and down to fertile farm lands, the high desert and the Black Magic Canyon geological area. Highlights include Redfish and Little Redfish Lake, Galena Summit, and the Sun Valley Ski Resort (founded in 1936). For this Byway, figure 3 hours each way. Information: (208) 727-5013
IF YOU FIND YOURSELF IN TWIN FALLS....CONSIDER:
1. Twin Falls to City of Rocks National Reserve - Take Interstate Route 84 east, then State Route 77 south from Burley, Idaho to 2 miles west of Almo, Idaho. Travel time 1-½ hours each way. Enjoy grand vistas, hiking and world-class rock climbing within this 14,407-acre national site. Many of the granite rock formations that are the outstanding features of the Reserve are over 2.5 billion years old, some of the oldest found in North America. Some rock columns reach 60 stories tall! Take a walk to see inscriptions on the spires written in axle grease by pioneers traveling through on the California Trail. There is a visitor center at Almo. An interesting day trip idea. Information: (208) 824-5519
2. Twin Falls to Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon Springs Nature Preserve - One of Idaho’s newest parks, this is the site of one of the largest springs in North America, dumping 180,000 gallons of water per minute into the Snake River. To reach Box Canyon, take Interstate Route 84 northwest, then Hagerman Highway (Exit 155) north at Wendell, Idaho, then go 3.2 miles to 1500 East Road, then south 4.5 miles to the parking lot. Crystal-clear water and a 20-foot waterfall are highlights of the 350-acre site, still being developed by The Nature Conservancy and the State of Idaho. Some of the activities in this area include hiking, fishing, and biking. Information: (208) 837-4505
3. Twin Falls to Banbury Hot Springs - Take U.S Route 30 west from Twin Falls to 10 miles west of Buhl and follow the signs. These hot springs are located along the Snake River and the operation offers hot baths, jacuzzis, a campground with an outdoor pool, a boat launch and a picnic area. Open June through Labor Day. Information: 208-543-4098
4. A Rest Day in Twin Falls - Spend the day at the area around Shoshone Falls, just 3 miles east of Twin Falls on Falls Boulevard (follow the signs). Shoshone Falls is among the most spectacular of the natural beauties along the Snake River. Best viewed in the spring, the falls are higher than Niagara Falls at 212 feet! The site offers a unique blend of recreational facilities, including playgrounds and hiking trails, landscaped picnic areas, a boat ramp and swimming area, and a scenic overlook. The complex provides restroom facilities and visitor information For a nominal per-car entry fee, visitors can enjoy picnicking and relaxing in the shaded, grassy areas, which provide perfect vantage points for viewing Shoshone Falls. A day trip of relaxation. Information: (208) 733-3974
IF YOU FIND YOURSELF IN WALLACE....CONSIDER:
Wallace to the Route of the Hiawatha Biking and Walking Trail - Travel 12 miles east of Wallace on Interstate Route 90 to the Lookout Pass Ski area at the Idaho/Montana border. The Route of the Hiawatha trail is the crown jewel of all rail-to-trail projects in the country. Over 15 miles of railroad track has been converted into a beautiful biking and walking trail with a gentle 2 percent downhill grade. There are ten tunnels and seven trestle bridges up to 230 feet high. The 1.7 mile long St. Paul Pass tunnel is a highlight of the trail. Begin your ride at Lookout Pass Ski Area where mountain bike rentals, including helmets and lights, and an optional return shuttle service are available. Information: (208) 744-1301