16 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Idaho

Jul 22, 2021

This western state in the lower forty-eight states of the United States of America is much smaller in size than neighboring states like Wyoming, Nevada, and Montana, but no less attractive for sightseers. It offers a wide diversity of cultures, scenic landscapes, fascinating historical sites, and even a quaint mountain town to get acquainted with.

Idaho has not only that, but it also boasts a smaller-sized budget, making it one of the best places to visit in the lower forty-eight states of the United States of America.

Here are the top places to visit in Idaho.

Sun Valley

Photo of Sun Valley, Idaho
Sun Valley, Idaho: en.wikipedia.org

Sun Valley is part of the United States, but is located within the borders of Idaho. It was originally settled in 1910 and named after the lodge built at the site of the first sawmill. During the 1920s, the development of Sun Valley as a popular ski resort started, and today, it's one of the largest and most popular ski resorts in the country. Year-round activities include hiking, horseback riding, boating, golfing, mountain biking, and fishing. Things to see in Sun Valley include the Izaak Walton Lodge and the resort's main attractions, Sun Valley Resort, and Sun Valley's downtown area.

Shoshone Falls

Photo of Shoshone Falls
Shoshone Falls: en.wikipedia.org

Shoshone Falls is one of the most breathtaking places in the United States. Described as a collection of seven separate waterfalls totaling nearly 500 meters in length, this is easily the most spectacular series of waterfalls anywhere. The Shoshone Falls State Park features a viewing platform with some information on the falls and, more importantly, the area's ecosystem, including the endangered Shoshone Falls Butterfly. Located about 100 miles east of Boise in the rural town of Kellogg, it is also close to some major cities such as Idaho Falls and Twin Falls, making it well-connected to the state's population centers.

Ketchum

Photo of Ketchum, Idaho
Ketchum, Idaho: en.wikipedia.org

The original purpose of the Ketchum Gulch Vineyards, the only winery in Idaho, was to produce wine, but they chose to go "upscale" in 1996 and offer visitors a delicious glass of fresh air during a trip to Idaho. Winemakers make all of the fruit and flavor syrups and are careful to source only the finest ingredients. Each wine is chosen for its aromas and the terroir of the region and is sold in a tasting room that resembles an old western saloon. It's often hard to find parking in the downtown Ketchum area and visitors can opt to stay in one of the nearby guesthouses or take a tour on horseback to a nearby winery.

Bonners Ferry

Photo of Bonners Ferry, Idaho
Bonners Ferry, Idaho: en.wikipedia.org

Bonners Ferry is a pretty town at the end of the Lake Pend Oreille, an arm of Lake Coeur d'Alene. A popular vacation destination in summer and fall, the town has several of the other attractions found in similar lakeside settings, including a marina, two golf courses, a general store, and a gas station. Where to eat is one of Bonners Ferry's attractions. At Bonners Ferry Diner, try one of the local specialties, such as chili cheese fries or pizza. At No Frills, you can try barbecue ribs or stir-fry chicken, but the dishes may not be quite as authentic. Ice Cream Sundae Café offers ice cream and treats such as frozen yogurt.

Hells Canyon

Photo of Hells Canyon
Hells Canyon: en.wikipedia.org

Hells Canyon is one of the most remote and spectacularly beautiful landscapes in North America. Situated on the edge of the central Rocky Mountain Range in southern Idaho, the 16,000 square-mile Lake Owyhee and its surrounding area is one of the few places where you can see the Continental Divide. The Canyon itself was created by lava flows, and more than 35 lakes, valleys and wide river drainages mean there are as many as 200 places to explore for hikes, picnics and river fishing. The best access to the Canyon is by taking a seven-hour round-trip road drive from Idaho Falls, or a 10-hour hike from the town of Fredonia. During spring, summer and fall, you should be able to drive the narrow, winding road, called The Salmon River Road, to the northern rim of the Canyon, but be prepared for a bumpy ride.

Craters of the Moon National Monument

Photo of Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve: en.wikipedia.org

Located in western Idaho, the Craters of the Moon National Monument is a dramatic volcanic landscape of craters, lava fields, and flow fields that is crisscrossed by trails that lead hikers through the park and allow them to take a short hike to reach views of the rugged lava formations. Geologically, the area is part of the Nampa Mountain Range and the Midas Tuff, an ancient, jumbled, tabular layer of basalt. The Midas Tuff may be up to 450 million years old and more than 65 million years older than the more widely known (and better-known) lava fields of Hawaii. Nearby Sun Valley is the host to a number of unique resorts and a major skiing area. The nearby cities of Boise and Idaho Falls are also close by and both feature fascinating museums.

Grand Teton National Park

Photo of Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park: en.wikipedia.org

Grand Teton National Park contains almost 110,000 acres of land and is the largest national park in the U.S. Tucked in a mountainous area, surrounded by dramatic canyons and close to Yellowstone National Park, it's a popular area for hiking and exploring its rivers and waterfalls. There are a number of sights to see, among them Jenny Lake, Jackson Lake, Yellowstone Lake, and Old Faithful. This is also an area where large scale conferences are held as the Jackson Hole, Wyoming, area has many luxurious hotels and vacation houses and the Grand Teton National Park is close enough for day-trippers from Las Vegas.

Kootenai National Forest

Photo of Kootenai National Forest
Kootenai National Forest: en.wikipedia.org

Kootenai National Forest is in the heart of Idaho's mountain country. Fittingly, its northern section is home to one of the great ranges of the Rocky Mountains, the beautiful Idaho backcountry and its rugged beauty. There are more than 100 public campgrounds in the forest, ranging from rustic full-hookup sites to upscale luxury cabins with views of the famous Blue Ribbon Basin. Although there are no paved roads in the forest, roads do lead to the peaks and the Rocky Mountain Trail, a 50-mile backpack trail which traverses the backcountry from Logan Pass on the Continental Divide to Blue Ribbon Basin, the longest path in the United States. A highlight of this trail is a three-day horseback trek to some of the highest elevations in North America, which makes an adventurous visit to the Kootenai's backcountry especially memorable. The lower end of Kootenai National Forest offers many more options for fun-filled activities. Visitors can canoe the glass-clear waters of the White Cloud River, fish for trout or camp out on one of the campgrounds. To access all the trails and public land in Kootenai National Forest, you must purchase an Idaho wilderness permit. Information and locations for each permit can be found online. If you are a resident of the Intermountain West, the deadline to apply for the Northwest Region hiking permit is March 15 and the Northwest Region snowmobile permit is December 15.

Lake Coeur d'Alene

Photo of Lake Coeur d'Alene
Lake Coeur d'Alene: en.wikipedia.org

Lake Coeur d'Alene is a huge, shallow, blue lake set on the northern edge of the Idaho landscape. Surrounded by forests and meadows and dotted with numerous lakes and coves, this wilderness refuge provides visitors with hiking and horseback riding options, as well as kayaking and canoeing. Fishing is also good and the weather can be almost perfect year-round. Downtown Coeur d'Alene has a museum, several coffee shops and shopping areas, a lakefront boardwalk and a tourist information office. The best hotel in the area is the Reiff Hotel. Among the restaurants is Concession Hall (with a no-smoking policy), serving a wonderful mix of Western and Asian fare.

Lake Pend Oreille

Photo of Lake Pend Oreille
Lake Pend Oreille: en.wikipedia.org

Hiking and bicycling are two of the most popular activities on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille, located in north-central Idaho. For outdoor enthusiasts, the lake itself provides opportunities for paddling, boating, kayaking, and water skiing. If you prefer a more relaxed stay, you can choose to visit the ghost town of Kahlotus, or try fishing, which is one of the main draws of the park. The High Desert Museum houses artifacts and exhibits found throughout the region and can be visited free of charge.

Jackson Hole

Photo of Jackson Hole
Jackson Hole: en.wikipedia.org

Jackson Hole, between the Teton Mountains in Wyoming and the Shoshone and Absaroka Mountains in central Idaho, is one of the most beautiful and romantic places in the U.S. For those wanting to visit the Rockies and the Tetons, it's a great place to head to. Mt. Teton is the highest point in Wyoming, topping out at 13,770 feet, and the Grand Teton, on the eastern edge of the valley, is the world's largest free-standing mountain, at 14,530 feet. Mountaineering in Jackson Hole is popular, with guides prepared to take people up both mountains. In the lower part of the valley, you can see hot springs and waterfalls and wander through ghost towns and towns now abandoned. To get here by public transportation, you'll need to take a bus from Cody to Jackson. Once in Jackson, follow signs to get to the resort.

Cascade Mountains

Photo of Cascade, Idaho
Cascade, Idaho: en.wikipedia.org

The Cascade Range is located in western Montana and eastern Washington, running from Canada to the south to Oregon to the north. Starting at Canada and extending to the state of Oregon, it is more than 800 miles long, ranging in height from 6,000 to 12,000 feet above sea level. Many of the major river drainages that originate in the range drain eastward through the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean. Considered to be a major wildlife area, the Northern Rockies attracts thousands of bears, elk, mountain lions, and deer. Sightings of wolf packs are more than possible. Mountain bikers and hikers enjoy exploring the many lakes and mountains. Among the most popular hikes are those leading from Marias Pass, which can be reached by a 20-minute cable car ride from Hayden, Idaho, or Redfish Lake, both of which are located about 25 miles west of Marias Pass. These two lakes have a total of about 17 miles of shoreline and are popular among the residents of the vicinity.

Bonneville Salt Flats

Photo of Lake Bonneville
Lake Bonneville: en.wikipedia.org

Unlike most American deserts, the Bonneville Salt Flats of Idaho's sagebrush plain and briny lakes are not thirsty. This is the driest place on earth. It's all a hot dry wind, which scours the air of moisture, leaving nothing to make things grow. Until quite recently, it had never been crossed by humans, either on foot or by four-wheel drive. The planet that had been called the Salton Sea, a saline lake, was drying up.

Rose Garden

Photo of Idaho Botanical Garden
Idaho Botanical Garden: en.wikipedia.org

Once the exclusive domain of Idaho's Boise State University, Rose Garden is the state's oldest outdoor, open-air classical Chinese garden with a central mount and walls in the style of the original three-tiered garden in Suzhou, China. As with the campus itself, the garden is maintained by students. It is open to the public during the university's academic calendar with free admission. Because of the beauty of the garden and its contributions to higher learning, it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1991. The following points of interest include not only the walls, central mount and koi ponds, but also gardens built by Thomas Chote, the English gardener who moved to the United States in the early 19th century. The grounds are studded with blossoming spring flowers, including tulips, lilies, and irises, and feature a small number of sculptures that include Chinese calligraphy. The hill on which the garden sits is encircled by a roadway. With numerous parking areas in addition to walking paths, Rose Garden is an excellent place for picnicking or relaxing, and students flock here to socialize and study before and after classes.

Seattle Center

Photo of Boise, Idaho
Boise, Idaho: en.wikipedia.org

Seattle Center is a popular tourist destination and shopping area in Seattle, Washington. It is anchored by the 1,300-seat Paramount Theatre and the Seattle Center Art Gallery. This cultural center and arts district is home to a wide range of performance venues, shopping, and restaurants, which attracts nearly 1.5 million visitors to the Center each year. Seattle Center is just a short walk from the Seattle Center Arena, which hosts basketball games for the Washington State basketball team, the Seattle Storm. Although much of the center is underground, it does have elevated walkways and bridges that are popular for people watching. While in the center, try one of the many Seattle-style restaurants, sample a craft brew at one of the beer bars, or look for something unique at one of the specialty shops or boutiques.

Blackfoot

Photo of Blackfoot, Idaho
Blackfoot, Idaho: en.wikipedia.org

Blackfoot, a Native American settlement in Idaho, was one of the major stops on the Oregon Trail. Set in a beautiful valley north of the Snake River and its dams, Blackfoot offers a good selection of well-priced hotels, as well as basic motels and campgrounds, in the town center. This small town is the home of the eponymous Blackfoot tribe, which has its own tribal headquarters about 10 miles away on Route 140. The Blackfeet are perhaps best known for a 1972 peace treaty negotiated between them and U.S. government officials that resulted in the dissolution of the tribe. Today, Blackfoot is the headquarters for the Northern Rockies Native American tribe (NANOT), one of nine tribes to form the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation. The city's largest attractions are the Outdoor Museum and Great Falls Park, which are popular sites for hiking and rock climbing.