Idaho is one of the twenty least visited places in the United States, and it's time to change that sad fact. From top to bottom, the aptly named "Gem State" is full of unique and diverse treasures waiting to be explored by every type of adventurer. From desert oases to snow-capped mountain ranges, lush forests to raging rivers, the remarkable landscapes provide the ideal environment for a wide array of outdoor activities.
9 Backpack Through The Wilderness Of Craters Of The Moon National Monument & Preserve
As part of the larger Great Basin Desert, the terrain at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Reserve in southcentral Idaho is truly out of this world. Formed over millions of years by lava flows, the area is an arena of jagged rocks, volcanic cinder cones, and desert wildflowers. There are over 1,100 square miles encompassed in the preserve, which makes it the perfect place for backpackers. Only a small number of hikers obtain backcountry permits each year, making a trek through the reserve an admirable experience for adventurers.
8 Climb At City Of Rocks National Reserve
Two miles north of the border of Utah, the City of Rocks National Reserve does not disappoint. Tall rock spires reach skywards. The granite surfaces are ideal for climbers, who head to the area to scale a mix of traditional and sport routes with varying difficulty levels. Crack climbers will be in heaven ascending splits in the rock with only their fingers (and harnesses) supporting them. Climbers looking to stay closer to the ground have a variety of bouldering problems to choose from, but make sure not to forget your crash pad.
7 Raft Down The Selway River
The Selway River flows through the northern panhandle of Idaho. The name of the river is a little misleading. Meaning "smooth waters," rafting down the Selway is no lazy river ride. Adrenaline junkies seeking an aquatic adventure can spend an entire workweek traversing the entire 47-mile course. Less experienced rafters can take an express ride with a guide down a smaller portion.
6 Soak In Hot Springs
People typically associate United States' hot springs with places like Arkansas and Oregon, but Idaho is home to more soakable hot springs than any other state. There are over a hundred springs to steep in, spread over 5 distinct regions. They all have beautiful surrounding scenery in common. Every last one of them is a wonderful place to soothe the sore muscles you're sure to get from the more physically demanding activities in Idaho.
5 Sandboard At Bruneau Dunes State Park
It might be hard to believe, but there is plenty of surf, sand, and sun in Idaho. Bruneau Dunes State Park boasts the tallest free-standing sand dunes in North America. The mammoth mounds tower over the surrounding desert, but the strenuous hikes up are worth the smooth rides down. Sandboard rentals are available for $15/day at the visitor center, and the unique experience is definitely worth every grain of sand in your shoes.
4 Paddleboard At Redfish Lake
A long time ago, Redfish Lake was got its name because so many sockeye salmon inhabited its waters that the entire lake was tinted red. Although the fish are not as abundant as they were in the past, the lake is still home to plenty of aquatic life hoping not to get caught. For those who'd rather be one with the fish, paddleboarding is a great option. The surrounding mountains create a serenity that can't be beaten. When your arms get tired from all the rowing, lie on the paddleboard and aim your eyes to the sky to spot birds of prey on the hunt for their next meal.
3 Take A Dip In Fall Creek Falls
That's right - hot springs, dunes, and waterfalls. Most travelers opt for a view of Fall Creek Falls from above due to the challenging hike that leads to its base. The descent is short but sweet, colored by thick cottonwood meadows and an array of wildflowers. The mist of the falls on the way down is refreshing, but the short scramble to the main pool is even better.
2 Stargaze In The Sawtooth Mountains
With all the undeveloped land in Idaho, almost any place is a good place to see stars. But what could be better than a view of the Milky Way complemented by the shadowy silhouette of a mountain range? The Sawtooth Mountains offer otherworldly stargazing year-round, and they don't look too bad in the daytime, either.
1 Hike To The Peak Of Mount Borah
How many people can say they've been to the top of the tallest mountain in Idaho? Considered by experienced hikers to be a sort of rite of passage, the ascent to the peak of Mount Borah increases altitude by over 5,000 feet in less than four miles. The climb feels almost vertical at times, and during certain seasons it is highly recommended to bring walking poles to navigate the rocky terrain. Mount Borah tops out at an astounding 12,668 feet. That's almost two and a half miles above sea level! It's a long way to the top, but the view from the summit and the bragworthy accomplishment is worth the impending Epsom salt soaks. This trek isn't for beginners, so make sure to come prepared.
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