5 Outdoor Idaho Adventures

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Outdoor Idaho adventures

5 Outdoor Idaho Adventures to Experience

Many people believe that Idaho is nothing more than potatoes and hicks, and many of the locals are perfectly happy with notion. It keeps the crowds at bay, leaving the 37 million acres of public lands open to explore. At the same time, Boise has recently blossomed into a very cool city with a vibrant local music scene, tons of bike trails, and new breweries, putting Idaho’s capital on the map as a new outdoor destination.

With a newly redesigned airport and an increasing number of direct flights, Boise is becoming more accessible every year. So when planning your next vacation, here’s a list of 5 activities that you can easily incorporate into an outdoor Idaho weekend.

1) Hot Springs

Idaho has more soakable hot springs than any other state, with approximately 130 natural pools that are just the right temperature. Near Boise, there are two types of hot springs. The first are wild, undeveloped hot springs on public lands, many of which require a short hike. These are generally free, except for a few springs where a small parking fee is required. Camping is also available at many of these hot springs. Popular wild hot springs within a 1.5 hour drive of Boise include Skinnydipper Hot Springs and Campground Hot Springs. For those willing to venture a little further, the Idaho Hot Springs website features soaks from all around the state. Just be aware that nudity at some (including Skinnydipper, as the name indicates) can be common.

Skinnydipper-hot-springs

Skinnydipper Hot Springs (Photo credit: Ben Amstutz)

If going all-natural isn’t your thing, then you should consider exploring the commercial hot springs around Boise. The newest commercial hot springs near Boise are The Springs in Idaho City. A quick 45 minute drive up beautiful highway 21 leads you to this geothermal hot springs retreat where you can relax in an outdoor spa-like atmosphere. There are a variety of pools ranging from cold to extra hot, as well as an aromatherapy steam room. And what’s even better is that they have pool side wait-staff serving beer, wine, and food, so no need to get out when you need a refill. An all-day pass costs $16, and if you aren’t up for the drive home, The Springs website provides a list of nearby lodging and campgrounds.

The Springs

The Springs (Photo Credit: Armstrong I The Springs)

2) Biking

Whether you are a road biker or a mountain biker, Boise has something for you. For those who prefer dirt, the Boise Foothills which overlook town have over 130 miles of trails to explore. Terrain varies and offers something for beginners to the most experienced mountain bikers, and many of the trails can be accessed by riding straight from downtown. The Ridge to Rivers program, a partnership managed by multiple outdoor Idaho agencies, has an excellent website with descriptions and basic maps of all of the trails, including these suggested mountain bike loops. You can also purchase a detailed map of the Foothill system at one of the many outdoor shops in town.

outdoor idaho bike trails

The Upper Hulls Gulch Trail in the Boise Foothills

If you are more comfortable on paved ground, spend a day exploring the Boise Greenbelt on bike. This 25 mile paved path follows the edge of the Boise River all the way across town, passing through some of Boise’s coolest parks, including Julia Davis and Ann Morrison Park, where you can rest, have a picnic, or even take a dip in the river. A map of the Greenbelt can be found here.

outdoor idaho bikingOne of the many bridges on the Greenbelt crossing the Boise River

3) Hiking

The Boise Foothills are also perfect for hiking, and it is not hard to find solitude. A short drive up Rocky Canyon Road leads to the Five Mile Creek Trailhead and the Orchard Gulch trailhead, which link together forming a nice loop.

If you are looking for something a little more challenging that will get you a bit deeper in the forest, head up Bogus Basin Road and hike up Freddy’s Stack Rock Trail to Stack Rock. Stack Rock, an outdoor Idaho icon, is a huge pyramid shaped granite rock that is so big it can be seen from town. Once you reach Stack Rock, kick up your feet for a while and enjoy the beautiful view of the valley below.

outdoor idaho hikingStack Rock

4) Rafting

Idaho has more miles of whitewater than any other state in the lower 48, and there is something for every comfort level. Cascade Raft and Kayak and the Payette River Company offer half and full day trips from the Boise area ranging from $45-110 per person.

outdoor Idaho raftingRafting on the Salmon River

If you prefer a lazier day, float down the Boise River from Barber Park to Ann Morrison Park. Rafts and inner tubes can be rented at Epley’s Boise River Rentals right at the put-in. Just keep in mind that alcohol is not allowed on the river, and people do get ticketed.

One last option for the birders out there. Just 20 miles south of Boise is the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. The region is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and is home to falcons, eagles, hawks, owls, and other large predatory birds. Idaho Guide Service offers one and two day float trips through this volcanic canyon with fantastic bird-watching opportunities. The best time of year is mid-March through June when the 800 pairs of raptors come to the area to mate and raise young.

5) Scenic drives

In less than a three hour jaunt from Boise, you can be in the heart of the Sawtooth Mountains. The site of the jagged craggy peaks are worth the trip alone. From Boise take Highway 21 north to the small funky town of Stanley where the outdoor opportunities are endless. Think world-class hiking, fishing, and biking. Or you can simply find a nice riverside spot to relax and take in the beautiful scenery.

If you have some extra time and want to make a weekend out of it, drive south from Stanley over Galena Summit to Sun Valley. Stop at Sun Valley’s famous Bald Mountain ski resort and ride the gondola up to the top to experience panoramic views of some of Idaho’s tallest peaks. Sun Valley also has some fantastic restaurants, such as the cozy Trail Creek Cabin, as well as fun nightlife, making it a great place to shack up for a night.

outdoor idaho scenic drivesView of the Sawtooth Mountains from Highway 21

This is just a sliver of what Idaho has to offer. If you have questions about any of the outdoor Idaho adventures mentioned here or if there is something I missed, please join the conversation by commenting below.

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There are 7 comments on this post.

About the author

Hi! I'm Kristen....blogger, hiker, sunset-watcher, and dance floor shredder. I feel most alive in the outdoors and created this website to help you enjoy the best that the West has to offer.

7 Comments on “5 Outdoor Idaho Adventures

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  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

      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

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

    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 🙂

      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!

    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.

    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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