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Idaho Travel Guide: Plan Your Perfect Trip

Written by Brad Lane
Updated Sep 24, 2021

Idaho is a hidden gem for great vacations and extended travels. Uncrowded mountains and dramatic natural spaces define many of the state’s landscapes, punctuated by scenic small towns and bigger cities. And whether you're looking for postcard-worthy outdoor pursuits or taking a road trip to catch the full range of Idaho culture, PlanetWare can help you plan the perfect travel experience. With our guides to the state’s best adventures, attractions, and cities to visit, planning an Idaho vacation has never been easier.

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Inspirational Ideas for a Trip to Idaho

Sawtooth Mountains
Sawtooth Mountains

Idaho is a big state with several different regions to explore. From the northern forested Panhandle to the Snake River slithering down south, it helps to know everything the state offers when planning a trip. Our guides to the top attractions, state and national parks, and picture-perfect places offer a broad overview of things to check out.

Best Time to Visit Idaho

Autumn colors on the Big Wood River in Sun Valley, Idaho
Autumn colors on the Big Wood River in Sun Valley, Idaho

Summer: Every month of the year offers memorable Idaho adventures, but many agree that summer is the best season to visit. The sunny weather and long days entice several types of vacations. High-alpine areas for backpacking and horse riding open during this time of year, and the state's many lakes tempt a visit. Other activities like mountain biking, boating, and camping are also popular. Summer is also the time for several annual events, like The Festival at Sandpoint, which always draw a crowd.

Fall: September and October are excellent months to visit Idaho. A crisp air accompanies the morning and evenings, and several natural spaces take on a new shade of color. Many of the same summer activities are still accessible in fall. Some of these pursuits include hiking, camping, and fishing. Come October, higher elevations in the state get their first snow, ushering in a new recreation season.

Winter: Winter is a very active time in Idaho. Much of the landscape receives abundant snow that caters to excellent skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling. World-class resorts, including places like Sun Valley, are spread across the state. Other popular activities this time of year include ice fishing, cross-country skiing, and dogsledding.

Spring: The spring ushers in an exciting season in Idaho. Alongside productive fishing, March and April herald all types of warm-weather activity. Expect chillier temperatures and abundant sunshine in the forecast, as well the occasional rain or late-season snow. The high-alpine environments of Idaho stay covered with at least a coat of snow through spring, while the valleys melt off to reveal some color.

Visitors Guide to Boise

Mountain biking above the Boise skyline
Mountain biking above the Boise skyline

Boise is the capital of Idaho and the largest city in the state. The population of Boise is just over 226,000 residents and growing. The city is home to Boise State University, and the sprawling Boise National Forest backdrops the downtown skyline to the north. This combination of younger demographics and easy access to the outdoors lends to a vibrant community that loves to get out into nature.

Other Idaho Cities and Small Towns

Coeur d'Alene
Coeur d'Alene

Idaho is filled with other fun cities to explore. And thanks to the wide variety of outdoor landscapes defining the state, every small town offers a different flavor of fun and things to do. From the central and northern mountain towns to the waterfall-influenced communities down south, every small town and city offers a unique vacation experience.

Exploring the Idaho Outdoors

Shoshone Falls on the Snake River
Shoshone Falls on the Snake River

For many visitors, it’s the outdoors that beckons in Idaho. The outdoors and dramatic landscapes of the state are almost unrivaled throughout the rest of the country, from world-renowned mountain ranges like the Sawtooths to Wild and Scenic Rivers like the Salmon. Adventure in Idaho tops the chart. Other landscapes to explore include giant dunes, 1,000-foot-deep lakes, and a National Monument best described by its name: Craters of the Moon.

Interesting and Fun Facts about Idaho

Potato field in Idaho
Potato field in Idaho

What is Idaho Known for? Idaho is known for many attributes, but the first thing that often comes to mind is its potatoes. As seen on the state’s license plate, Idaho’s “famous potatoes” receive their notoriety much in thanks to their abundance. The state unearths approximately a third of the nation’s potato supply.

But Idaho is also known for many other things. The state’s nickname, The Gem State, comes from the wide variety of gems found underground. Thanks to its less crowded but destination-rich status, it may also be called the Gem State when comparing it to more populous neighboring states like Oregon and Washington.

And while the crowds aren’t as prevalent, the state’s dramatic landscapes also lend Idaho its outdoorsy reputation. Big mountain scenes and wild rivers lace the state, as well as unique landscapes like a City of Rocks and Craters of the Moon. The state is also home to some of the largest lakes, river canyons, and wilderness areas in the nation.

Population of Idaho: The population of Idaho is nearly 1.8-million. The state is growing every day, with potential residents searching for big mountain environments and wide-open spaces. Still, geographically, Idaho is one of the larger states in the country and inversely the least populous. This lack of density also draws new residents to the state.

State Flower of Idaho: The state flower of Idaho is the Syringa, sometimes known as the Mock Orange. This perennial shrub only grows in the Pacific Northwest. It has a waxy, white petaled bloom that gives off the aroma of oranges (thus the nickname.) Visitors to Idaho will find the Syringa in full color between late May and late June.

Other interesting state symbols of Idaho include the mountain bluebird (state bird), cutthroat trout (state fish), and the huckleberry (state fruit). The state fossil, the Hagerman Horse, is on full display at Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, 30 miles northwest of Twin Falls.

What Sports Teams are in Idaho? Idaho does not have any professional sports teams. However, cities like Boise offer high-caliber sports competitions. The city is home to minor-league baseball, hockey, and basketball leagues that offer fast-paced play. The city is also home to Boise State University, home of Broncos football and fervent gameday action.

The Deepest River Gorge in North America is in Idaho: Straddling the Oregon and Idaho border, Hells Canyon is formed by the Snake River carving its way through the landscape. The canyon is more than a mile deep in some areas and more than a thousand feet deeper than the Grand Canyon by comparison. A National Recreation Area encompasses a large swath of the canyon and is one of the best places to explore.

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