8 Best Idaho Road Trip Stops for Outdoor Adventure

Discover the best Idaho road trip stops for epic outdoor adventures including hiking, hot springs, lava tubes, and more.
A woman hikes the Bench Lake Trail with her dog near Stanley, Idaho

Idaho is home to endless outdoor recreation from jagged mountain peaks, pristine blue lakes, hundreds of hot springs, and epic paddling and whitewater opportunities. I grew up in Idaho and have spent a lot of time exploring the state, even after I moved away. I’m sharing my favorite Idaho road trip stops below to help you plan your trip. Trust me, I think you’ll be blown away by all the state has the offer!

Here are 8 epic stops for your next Idaho road trip.

Important Reminder: As it goes in all of the destinations we share, please practice good trail etiquette and remember to Leave No Trace. This means packing out all of your garbage (including toilet paper) and following the established rules.


Idaho Road Trip Map

If you’re going to be camping on your road trip, get a FREE 30-day membership to The Dyrt PRO, one of our favorite apps for finding campgrounds (use the code “Bearfoot” if you’re signing up on mobile!). You can read reviews, view photos, save campgrounds you’re interested in, view maps offline, use road trip planning tools, and more!


Sun Valley & Stanley

Growing up in Idaho, the towns of Sun Valley and Stanley have a special place in my heart. Known for the jagged Sawtooth Mountains and the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, these towns are a hub for outdoor enthusiasts looking for adventure and jaw-dropping views.

Sun Valley is home to the first chairlift in the United States, so ski culture is big here. However, there’s also tons of epic outdoor recreation in the summertime too. If you’re visiting Stanley, the hike up to Sawooth Lake is a must. If you’re looking to spend a couple of nights in the backcountry, we recommend planning a backpacking trip to Baron Lakes.

A woman hikes the Norton Lakes Trail in Sun Valley, Idaho overlooking the half-frozen lake and a partially snow-covered trail
Norton Lakes Trail in Sun Valley

McCall

McCall is one of my favorite mountain towns in the West – I’ve thought about moving here more than once! With hundreds of lakes and some of the best whitewater in the country, there are countless ways to get your adrenaline pumping. McCall is only 2 hours from Boise and the drive is incredibly gorgeous through the mountains and along the Payette River. McCall also has awesome hot springs, mountain biking trails, hiking trails, lakes, and more. I’ve spent a lot of time in McCall over the years and it’s one of my favorite off-the-beaten-path Idaho road trip stops!

woman sitting on a rock overlooking a lake at Ponderosa State Park in McCall, Idaho
Ponderosa State Park

Cascade

Cascade is a quiet Idaho town that most people pass through driving from Boise to McCall. It’s easy to just continue driving along Highway 55 without batting an eye, but we recommend you stop and check out Cascade because it’s full of hidden gems. There are at least 7 different hot springs in Cascade, tons of lakes for swimming and paddling, and awesome hiking opportunities.

A woman sits in a natural hot spring near Cascade, Idaho
Natural Hot Springs

Twin Falls

Twin Falls is located in southern Idaho and has tons of outdoor recreation available. Twin Falls is home to the famous Shoshone Falls, also known as “the Niagara of the West” because it’s one of the largest natural waterfalls in the US (and actually taller than Niagara Falls). There are several places to view Shoshone Falls from above, but we recommend heading to Centennial Park and renting a stand up paddleboard or kayak to see the falls up close. Along the way, you’ll also pass Pillar Falls.

*Note: Paddling to Shoshone Falls is 8 miles round trip and the journey can take up to 6 hours.

Shoshone Falls large waterfalls in Twin Falls, Idaho at sunrise
Shoshone Falls

Boise

I grew up in Boise and it’s changed a lot over the years – in a good way! Boise has become the kind of place where you can go mountain biking, fishing, or climbing within minutes of downtown and finish off your day with delicious food, live music, and local shops. There is epic mountain biking less than an hour away at Bogus Basin, the Boise River runs right through town (perfect for paddle boarding or floating in a tube), and the Boise Greenbelt stretches 25 miles through town providing paved walking and biking paths along the river. Be sure to check out Freak Alley, an incredible street art project in the heart of downtown.

A man sits on a mountain bike at Bogus Basin near Boise Idaho on the Around the Mountain Trail
Around the Mountain Trail at Bogus Basin

Route of the Hiawatha

With beautiful and rugged mountains, 9 train tunnels, and 7 trestles suspended over the forest, the Route of the Hiawatha is one of the most scenic and unique biking trails in the country — and certainly one of the best in the Bitterroot Mountains. The Hiawatha Bike Trail runs 15.1 miles from Pearson, Idaho to East Portal, Montana along an abandoned railroad trestle, and you can buy your tickets and rent bikes, helmets, and everything you’ll need to complete the ride at Lookout Pass Ski Area. If you’re a biker, this is an Idaho road trip stop you won’t want to miss!

Image: Isak Kvam

Craters of the Moon National Monument

Craters of the Moon National Monument is one of the most unique Idaho road trip stops and perfect as a day trip from Sun Valley. Formed by molten lava, this national monument is blanketed with black rocks, sagebrush, and cinder cones. There are above-ground trails such as the Spatter Cone Trail, or you can get a free cave permit from the Visitor’s Center to explore the 4 lava tube caves in the park. All of the caves can be accessed from one trailhead, and the Indian Tunnel is the most popular. We recommend packing a headlamp to explore the caves.

Spatter Cone Trail

What other Idaho road trip stops have you been to or would recommend for an itinerary? Leave a comment below!

Written by Kristen Bor

Hey there! My name is Kristen, and this is my outdoor blog. I discovered the power of the outdoors in my 20s, at the time I needed it most. Now 15 years later, prioritizing that critical connection with nature continues to improve my life. My goal at Bearfoot Theory is to empower you with the tools and advice you need to responsibly get outside.

7 comments on “8 Best Idaho Road Trip Stops for Outdoor Adventure

  1. Hi Kristen,
    I enjoyed your article on the Boise area. I would like to invite you to the Idaho Panhandle. We have Spokane airport only 70 miles away, on the I-90 and more trees, lakes, rivers, hiking, biking, history, berry picking, festivals, sporting events and easy laid back relaxation than you can pack into 1 week.
    Here in the Silver Valley we have the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, the Old Mission State Park (oldest standing building in Idaho), Silver Mountain and the longest straight line gondola, museums, breweries, and more.
    Thank you and I would love to hear from you.
    Have a great day.
    Colleen Rosson
    Historic Silver Valley Chamber of Commerce
    208-784-0821

    1. Hi Colleen – Thanks for reading my article. I would love to come see you in the Panhandle. I visited Coeur d’Alene once as a kid. I remember it being beautiful, and I would be thrilled at the opportunity to come back! I will contact you directly via email. Thanks again! -Kristen

  2. Yep idaho/boise is the best! I rode when there on a work trip the foothills you show! Keep up the site. Looks awesome.

  3. Having thousands of river miles under my Teva’s I’m making a case for the Middle Fork of the Salmon River being one of the top five river trips, anywhere. The whitewater is challenging, but not (except in high runoff flows) heart stopping (though the scenery often is 😉 ) You might think of making a dedicated trip to the Sun Valley area. There is no Off-Season there 🙂

    1. Scott – I actually grew up in Boise and visited Sun Valley often as a kid. I’ve also done the Middle Fork twice as well as the Main twice, and you are right! The river running is absolutely unparalleled, along with the beach camping on those trips. I’m definitely headed home for a bit this summer and am working on some concrete plans for my trip. Stay tuned!

  4. Love your site and your style. Big cheers for your new custom Sprinter. I am just putting paces on my 2016 4WD Sprinter XL (just about 24′) with plenty of room for my better half and 2 dogs. Good luck and happy trekking in these amazing machines!
    We are headed Saturday from Bend OR via 26 and 30 (I think) to Stanley and a week on the MF of the Salmon. We have three nights for boondocking (off grid) or for the right campground this Saturday-Monday nights, a busy weekend for sure.
    Any chance you could recommend a memorable place or two, hopefully with brook, stream, river, pond or lake nearby, where we can find some solitude and wildness? Thanks very much for any suggestions.

  5. I went to research Skinnydipper hot springs and found out it will be closed for 5 years since June 2016. I also saw BLM records of trash throughout the site and it made me so sad to see a few extreme cases. I understand and support the closure so that the land can be healthy again.
    I’m driving through Idaho next week and have been surfing your site for amazing outdoor places to see. I need to go to at least one hot spring!

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