A Western Wilderness

Sometimes the things we associate most with a place come to define it, but it’s important to have an open mind when exploring new areas. Every Idahoan knows the true beauty of this western state lies in its top-notch agriculture and pristine outdoor wilderness—however, to unfamiliar visitors, Idaho isn’t exactly known as an adventure-seeker’s paradise. With a change of pace for every season, the outdoor scene in Idaho is indeed significant. Whether you’re an adventure junkie, a camping enthusiast, or someone who simply enjoys a day relaxing in the sun, Idaho is a place for a jam-packed, fun vacation.

AN UNFORGETTABLE ADVENTURE

Head to Twin Falls, Idaho, to explore around the Snake River Canyon—an ancient canyon that includes numerous springs, making for a picturesque escape. Better yet, for extreme adventurists, the Snake River Canyon offers an abundance of outdoor options, including BASE jumping from Perrine Bridge (open year-round), snowmobile trails for the winter months, a breathtaking waterfall trail, and white rapids for rafting and kayaking. The Snake River Canyon is mostly all natural as well, so even guardrails are hard to come by along the paths. It’s important to adhere to safety precautions while partaking in the various adventures throughout the canyon, but it’s well worth it for the memories made.

Also consider stopping at St. Anthony Sand Dunes (about three hours northeast of Twin Falls), where you’ll stumble upon nearly 11,000 acres of pure white quartz sand, which makes this a unique sight to behold. It is recommended that travelers visit in the spring or fall—as temperatures can reach over 100 degrees in the summer. Explore on horseback, foot, or via off-road vehicle for once-in-a-lifetime memories.

To the north, deep in the Lewis-Clark Valley, is where you’ll find North America’s deepest river gorge: Hells Canyon. This area includes scenic places perfect for fishing, swimming, white-water rafting, jetboating, and other wilderness activities. It also includes ample trails for both avid hikers and beginners who are looking for a low-impact daytime hike. The landscape offers some of the best views and backpacking conditions in the state. Creeks along the way provide plenty of fresh water, though using a filtered water bottle is recommended.

Running through the center of the state is another national treasure: the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, which flows through a designated wilderness that rivals even the wilds of Alaska. Famous for its white-water rafting experience, the Middle Fork is perfect for those who want to spend copious amounts of time on the water. Over 10,000 people float down this stretch of the river each year, and after one look at the 104-mile-long rapids, you’ll understand the appeal. The area also presents hiking trails and camping grounds to the avid adventure-seeker.

A FAMILY-FRIENDLY GOOD TIME

White-water rafting, BASE jumping, and advanced-level hiking aren’t meant for everyone choosing to vacation in this magnificent state. But don’t worry; Idaho is all-encompassing adventure-wise, with options for people of all skill levels and interests. Something that provides a much-needed getaway is camping, and Idaho offers an abundance of ideal locations for this outdoor pastime.

Redfish Lake is one of the state’s most popular destinations for camping, so reservations are suggested if this is your go-to destination. Located in the Sawtooth National Forest (three hours from the state’s capital, Boise), Redfish Lake provides a total wilderness immersion for campers. Hiking is available for all skill levels, and the area also provides an ideal atmosphere for fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding. The Sawtooth Range as a whole has activities for both the extreme sport lover and the scenic photographer guru, with the jagged peaks testing even the most experienced hiker. Eye-popping lookouts provide the ultimate photo opportunity, too, and a mental image to last a lifetime. Or spend a day paddling on the alpine waters, soaking up the Idaho sun. An eighteen-mile trek along well-maintained trails leads to Alice Lake, a spectacular backpack trip into the Sawtooth Range.

If your agenda includes city adventures, consider the Springs, which is located about forty-five minutes north of Boise, in Idaho City. This popular hot springs retreat is perfect for those who want to unwind, and reservations are required to guarantee a soak here. The nearby natural hot springs feed into its luxury pool, providing a secluded and authentic experience. The Springs also has yoga classes and massages available before or after a dip. The retreat limits the number of people who can reserve a spot per hour, making the experience as exclusive as possible.

Arts and culture are a large part of Idaho’s cities. In northern Idaho, experience the beauty that the small city of Coeur d’Alene has to offer. (The lake of the same name has stunning beaches and water activities for those who still want outdoor options.) Coeur d’Alene offers a downtown Art Walk and a Wine Extravaganza—with the latter boasting dozens of wines to enjoy. Although Coeur d’Alene is relatively quaint, the public art scene is one of the most prominent features and will make your stay all the more memorable.

Finish your trip in Boise. The art museum is a must-see, with interactive exhibits and diverse galleries. Another cultural highlight is the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, with its Quote Wall, which features 180 feet of inspirational messages from some of the most important minds in history. Other entertainment options in this metropolitan city include the Ballet Idaho, the popular performance art company LED, the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Boise Philharmonic, and a variety of other attractions and museums that celebrate Idahoan arts and culture.

Whether you’re escaping to Idaho for its abundance of outdoor adventure or simply for a family vacation, this western state has it all. It’s a scenic place full of excitement, unique excursions, and breathtaking natural landscapes. When dreaming up your next vacation, put Idaho on the list. This state can provide you with that much-needed time away immersed in the best that nature has to offer.