It seems like Idaho is the state you drive through to get somewhere else, and for the most part, that’s how we locals like it. But, just in case you’re coming to visit family here, or are on the hunt for hidden adventure, here are nineteen spots in Idaho that prove it’s the most underrated state.
Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.
Goldbug Hot Springs
Goldbug Hot SpringsSalmon, United StatesGoldbug might be the best of Idaho’s natural hot springs. Starting at the trailhead off highway 93 near Elk Bend, the 1.8 mile trail follows Warm Spring Creek from the Salmon River valley into a steep valley. There are multiple waterfalls and several pools that vary in temperature. Find the most comfortable and enjoy the view of the hills and valley below. Trail may be slippery in winter! It’s packed ice and has steep sections. #hiking #hotspring #extreme #nature
Snake RiverRiggins, United StatesBackpacking along the Snake River. This trail runs from Pittsburgh Landing out towards Kirkwood Ranch and much farther beyond. Watch out for snakes in the late summer. And bring your fishing pole!
#rivertrail #horsebackriding #hiking #camping
The Snake River originates in the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, snakes around southern Idaho, and then cuts north through Hells Canyon to Lewiston where it picks up the Clearwater River and continues on through Washington, finally pouring into the Columbia River near the Tri-Cities. There is no end to the adventure that can be had on this river. From the world famous fly fishing in Eastern Idaho to the white water rafting in Hells Canyon, it cuts through layers of geological history, forming the deepest canyon in the United States (yes, deeper than the Grand Canyon!). The river brought expeditions seeking water routes to the coast, fur trade, and settlers, so when you trace the Snake River, you trace the history of Idaho.
StanleyStanley, United StatesI don’t know why the Sawtooth area in Idaho isn’t a national park. This area is one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever been. Beautiful big mountains, famous river rafting on the salmon river (the longest undamned river in the country), hot springs, skiing in the winter, crazy amounts of wildlife, all american vibe. Right near the river of no return wilderness which is the largest wilderness with no roads into it in the lower 48. Needless to say there are an endless amount of things to do in this area. And since it’s not a national park, a lot of free places to camp! #hiking #extreme #snow #camping
Whether you’re coming from Boise or Twin Falls, Stanley, Idaho is only a three-hour drive. At the junction of State Highways 75 and 21, Stanley is the gateway to the Sawtooth National Forest, and the Salmon-Challis National Forest, and the Boise National Forest. If it’s Idaho wilderness you want, Stanley is the place to start. The town offers all the amenities you need ranging from camping to vacation homes making this the perfect place to experience the Idaho frontier in all its grandeur.
Stargaze YurtLowman, United StatesJust a 1.2 mile Nordic ski or Snowshoe trek from Highway 21, the Stargaze Yurt is the perfect winter base for night photography, telemark skiing, or snowshoeing around old forestry roads. The yurt is fully stocked with firewood, kitchen supplies, cards and board games. It sleeps 6, dogs are welcome, and there’s a big deck with a panoramic view of the Sawtooth Mountains and Payette River Canyon. Book through the Idaho Parks and Rec website. #snow #camping #extreme #winter #yurt #snowshoe #ski #stargaze
Sawtooth National Recreational Area
Sawtooth National Recreation AreaKetchum, United StatesSome amazing hiking on offer in the SNRA about 15 minutes north of Ketchum on highway 75. Look for the turn on your right. Lots of options! #hiking
Hiawatha Mountain Bike TrailMullan, United StatesYou can buy tickets and rent a bike from the Lookout Ski Pass Area, or drive on to Exit 5 in Montana to access the East Portal parking area. The Hiawatha Trail is a bike trail converted from an old railroad. The best part is that it’s a 15 mile, downhill ride through tunnels and across trestles. At the bottom a shuttle will drive you and your bike back to the parking area.
#biking #historical #rail-to-trail
Originally built by the Milwaukee Railroad Company to traverse the Bitterroot Mountains between Idaho and Montana, the Hiawatha Trail has since been converted into a 15-mile bike trail. Stop by Lookout Pass Ski Area off Interstate 90, exit 0 in Idaho to rent a bike and purchase a pass, or take exit 5 in Montana to reach the East Parking lot and pay cash for a ticket to ride if you have your own bike. The 1.66 mile long St. Paul Pass Tunnel, aka Taft Tunnel, will bring you back into Idaho, then it’s all downhill from there through 9 more tunnels and across 7 trestles. A shuttle will pick you and your bike up at the bottom of the trail and bring you back to the East Parking lot. For a greater challenge, you can always ride back up the trail.
The Garnet Cafe
The Garnet CafeCoeur d’Alene, United StatesI love this breakfast cafe. For its atmosphere, for its food, for the friends I always seem to run into whenever I’m here.
#breakfast #pancakes #waffles #mimosas #coffee #farmtotable
Breakfast in Coeur d’Alene is defined by The Garnet Cafe. Hidden behind Syringa Sushi on Walnut Ave, The Garnet is easy to overlook when you’re cruising for pancakes, so if you miss them come back for lunch. They’re open from 7:00 AM to 2:00 PM, Tuesday through Sunday. Formerly owned by the couple who run Syringa’s Sushi, what makes them special goes beyond their comfortable, edgy atmosphere straight to their stuffed waffles and mimosas. The best part is that a majority of their food comes directly from the new owners’ own organic farm just outside of town, The McLane Farms. It doesn’t get any more fresh than this.
Heart Lake in the Mallard Larkins Pioneer Area
Heart LakeClearwater County, United States#camping #hiking #lakes
While Heart Lake is accessible from Isabella Landing, that Trail is steep and not maintained. Coming in on the Smidge Ridge Trail is more common.
This is Heart Lake reflecting on the waters in the morning light.
Heart Lake is the largest of 38 named lakes in the middle of 260,000 roadless acres known as the Mallard Larkins Pioneer Area between the St. Joe and North Fork Clearwater Rivers. The third of four lakes along the Smith Ridge Trail, Heart Lake can be reached on looped trails from either the north or the south.
Wolftrack Brewing and Tasting Den in Cottonwood
Wolftrack Brewing CompanyCottonwood, United StatesLocated on King Street right across from City Hall, the Wolftrack is the quintessential small town Idaho brewery. On Thursdays they have Lady’s night, when the gals get a dollar off a pint, or you can sign up for one of their group painting sessions. My favorite brew is their Kilted Krout, a Scottish Ale with hints of chocolate.
#casual #brewery #beer #community
When you think of microbrews in the Pacific Northwest you probably don’t think of Cottonwood, Idaho. You may not be thinking of Idaho at all even though Visitidaho.org lists 45 Idaho breweries, and one of those is a good reason to pull into town on your way to Boise. Located on King Street right across from City Hall, the Wolftrack is the quintessential small town Idaho brewery giving Oregon a run for its hops. Join them on Thursdays for Lady’s night, when the gals get a dollar off a pint, or sign up for one of their group painting sessions. Whatever you do, you gotta try a pint of their Kilted Krout, a Scottish Ale with hints of chocolate.
The Kirkwood Ranch
Kirkwood RanchLucile, United StatesThe hike into Kirkwood Ranch from the upper Pittsburgh Landing parking area is a gorgeous 5 mile stretch along an old pack trail. It doesn’t run down on the river shore but up along the hillside, affording long views up and down the river.
You can make the hike in and back out in one day, or camp out in the old sheep fields. Camping is recommended because it gives you more time to explore the old Ranch, the museum, the Carson Mansion upcreek, or continue on down the pack trail for another 40 miles! About a mile or so past the Ranch is an excellent viewpoint. #hiking #camping #exploring #learning #history
The Kirkwoods started the ranch in 1885 with two cabins. After they left, the ranch went through various owners, including Len and Grace Jordan who rode out the Great Depression raising sheep here. Len would eventually become Governor of Idaho and a US Senator. Today, the Kirkwood Ranch is a Historical Landmark as well as a great place to take the family in the summer. It’s easily accessible by trail from the Pittsburg Landing, by ATV from Lucile, Idaho, or by boat on the Snake River. You can camp out in the old sheep field, walk through history in the museum cabin, or wander up to the Carson “Mansion” just upstream from the farm house.
McCall Winter Carnival
McCall Winter CarnivalMcCall, United StatesWe try to get down to the McCall Winter Carnival each year. McCall is well know for its summers on Paulette Lake, but this Winter Carnival is a blast, too! There’s snow sculptures all over town, activities for the kids, parades, vendors, sledging, and more.
#kids #familyfun #winter #parades
McCall, Idaho is well known for its beautiful summer days on Payette Lake. You’ll have to book well in advance if you want a hotel room for the 4th of July. But one of Idaho’s best-kept secrets is McCall’s Winter Carnival that takes place at the end of January each year. What began in 1924 with 248 visitors to the Payette Lake Winter Games has grown into a ten-day carnival complete with activities, vendors, multiple parades, and incredible snow sculptures arranged throughout town. According to their website, over 60,000 people will pass through town for the event, many coming specifically to tour the snow sculptures.
Seven Devils Campground
Seven Devils CampgroundRiggins, United States#hiking #snow #camping
There’s a 26 mile loop around the Seven Devils that’s good for hiking and packing and hunting. Seven Devils is part of Hell’s Canyon, which runs along the western border of Idaho.
The Seven Devils Campground is not big with only ten sites, but it’s a fun place to take the family for the weekend. Enjoy fishing or playing in the Seven Devils Lake, or hike around the area for stunning views of the Hell’s Canyon region. Backpackers can also use this as a base camp for the twenty-seven mile Seven Devils Loop which circles the peaks with an elevation change of 5,000 feet. You can get to the Seven Devils Campground by taking Forest Service Road 517 out of Riggins, Idaho.
Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area
Craig Mountain Wildlife Management AreaLewiston, United StatesThe Craig Mountain Rec Area is 115,000 acres of hiking, hunting, camping, and even boating on two rivers and a couple of small lakes. There are even warming cabins dispersed throughout the area for winter activities.
#boating #snowmobiling #hunting #hiking #camping
Craig Mountain itself is rather unassuming, which is why it’s easy to miss the 115,000 acre Wildlife Management Area surrounding it. Bordered to the south by the Salmon River and to the west by the Snake River, the region stretches north to Waha and east to Deer Creek. Locals enjoy this area year round with hunting, camping, boating, hiking, snowmobiling, and more. There are even warming cabins distributed around the area for winter enthusiasts. Most of your activities will be at 5,000 feet or less, offering easy to moderate hiking and plenty of grand views of the Snake River.
Winchester Lake State Park
Winchester Lake State ParkWinchester, United States#camping #hiking
Winchester sits a little ways off Highway 95, out of view, so it’s easy to drive right past this State Park without evening realizing it. But it’s quite a gen with lots of camping, RVing, fishing, canoeing, and a hiking trail that circles the lake.
Winchester Lake State Park is the reason I buy the Idaho Parks Pass with my vehicle registration each year. Located just a short way off of Highway 95, this park has easy access and plenty of amenities to keep the whole family happy for days. Pull in an RV and hook up, or pitch a tent and rough it. Fish from the shore or cast from a boat on the lake. Enjoy hiking the easy trails around the lake, and watch the kids play on the playground while you host a BBQ under the gazebo. It’s the kind of place that reminds you why you live here (or why you’re visiting) without taking you too far off the beaten path.
Lake Pend Oreille
Lake Pend OreilleClark Fork, United States#camping #boating #canoeing #kayaking #fishing
This Lake is huge! It even has a submarine base on it. There is wilderness fun and resort lodging and camping all around Lake Pend Oreille. Schweitzer Mt ski resort is nearby, too.
Clearwater RiverCraigmont, United StatesThis is a shot of the Clearwater River between Kamiah and Greer, Idaho. The river was made famous (to settlers) by Lewis and Clark’s expedition west. They floated down this river on barges to what would one day become the city of Lewiston, Idaho. This river collects a lot of tributaries draining out of the Biterroot Mountains and carries that water all the way to sea. All along it’s banks you’ll find fishing, boating, swimming, camping, etc. As they say, it’s a great place to live and play!
#river #hiking #camping
Kirkhams Hot Springs
Kirkhams Hot SpringsLowman, United StatesThe Sawtooth National Forest is a beautiful underrated spot in the states. We went in early June and most of the hot springs closer to Stanley and closer to where we stayed were under water on the bank of a high river. This one was perfect though! There’s a waterfall of hot spring water you can sit under next to a refreshing cool river. It’s on state route 21 and it’s easy to access from a campground of the same name (there’s plenty of better free camping within the sawtooth area though) #camping
Kent PeakChallis, United StatesTop of 11,664 ft. Kent Peak in the boulder mountains north of Ketchum Idaho. The approach is a long one during the winter as the SNRA road is closed to all motorized traffic. We skied the west face which was holding some great snow even in late April. The south face is also a classic line at its best during a solid spring corn cycle.