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Many people associate Idaho with plains full of potatoes, and so did we until we visited this off-the-radar state.  Outdoor enthusiasts are in for an incredible surprise – this breathtakingly beautiful state has high peaks, rushing rivers and remote wilderness that offer endless adventure opportunities.  The state often gets overlooked by its more popular neighbors boasting National Parks.  Idaho doesn’t have any National Parks, but it is known as the wilderness state for good reason.  An astounding 60% of the state is public land and belongs to US citizens.

We recommend renting an RV for a complete Idaho outdoors adventure.  Idaho is one of the most RV-friendly states we’ve visited – they have tons of free camping, free dump stations, and uncrowded highways.  Here are 18 incredible Idaho outdoor activities for you to get out and explore our Idaho lands!

Mountain Biking Epic Singletrack

1. Mountain Biking Sun Valley

Sun Valley is the perfect adventure spot for mountain bikers of all abilities! Whether it’s your first time trying out this outdoor activity or you’re an experienced rider, Sun Valley has a trail for you! Check out our Sun Valley blog post to see our favorite trails in the area. We recommend renting your gear online with PK’s Bike Shop, they’re a local shop that offers a variety of bike options and all the necessary gear you’ll need. The best time to visit Sun Valley for mountain biking is absolutely during the summer months – summer is trail time!   ​Sun Valley has a regional airport in Hailey, 14 miles south of Ketchum.  It has daily service from San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA), Los Angeles (LAX), Salt Lake City (SLC), Denver (DEN), and Chicago (ORD), and you can easily take a connecting flight to these cities if needed.  Boise Airport (BOI / KBOI) is also an option at roughly a 3 hour drive or 150 miles away.

Sun Valley bike rental

2. Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route

Another superb option to mountain bike Idaho AND explore hot springs is to ride the 500 miles available on a bike loop known as the main route. This route offers a variety of dirt and paved roads that pass through the following areas: Idaho City, Placerville, Cascade, McCall, Stanley, Ketchum, and Featherville. This bike route features over 50 different hot springs – from remote natural pools to resort style springs. Do your research before planning to take on this trip.  You will need to plan your starting point, how long you want to ride each day, and where to camp along the way. We recommend going between June and September for the best weather. Depending if you want to take on the whole route or just ride one part from one town to the next and back, you can choose your starting point in the Central Idaho region. It’s even possible to start your adventure from Boise and then make your way along this loop!

sun valley bike rental

3. Biking in Coeur d’Alene

Explore the panhandle of Idaho by biking the beautiful Centennial Trail.  The paved trail follows along beautiful Coeur d’Alene lake and can be ridden all the way to Spokane WA. It’s a great way to take in the downtown area, as the trail passes through McEuen Park, City Park and even the Coeur d’Alene Resort. Four hours is the perfect amount of time to take it all in, including a stop for a drink or a bite to eat.

4. Mountain Biking Victor, Idaho

Victor is a delightful town in Teton West between Driggs and Teton Pass (Jackson Hole is on the other side) which offers some of the most diverse trail systems within the valley. Known as the ‘wild west’ of mountain biking, the trails start near town and stretch into the Big Hole mountains.  The Big Holes offer a ton of varied riding opportunities and are known for their wild, rugged nature.  Jackson Hole Airport is located just 30 miles from Victor.

victor idaho mountain biking

5. Mountain Biking Moscow, Idaho

Moscow Idaho is a fantastic location for mountain biking with over 70 miles of trails on Moscow Mountain. While many people might use Moscow as a stopover town between the Coeur d’Alene area and Boise, we highly recommend spending a day out on the trails. While you’re enjoying the fast descents and fun climbs, make sure you’re careful and keep watch on the trail as there are moose in the area! Summer is the best time to visit. To get to Moscow, ID you can fly into Pullman–Moscow Regional Airport (PUW) or Spokane is around 1.5 hours away.

Skiing or Snowboarding Idaho’s Snowy Peaks

6. Skiing or Snowboarding Sun Valley Resort

Sun Valley is an incredible destination for outdoor enthusiasts all year long. The winter months bring lots of snow to Idaho, and Sun Valley ski resort is one of the top ski resorts in the country. Sun Valley boasts over 3,400 vertical feet and more than 2,000 acres of varied terrain.   Rent your skis and snowboards online with PK’s Ski Shop or Black Tie Ski Delivery and hit the slopes with the latest gear.   The easiest option to get to the slopes is Sun Valley’s regional airport (SUN) in Hailey, 14 miles south of Ketchum.

7. Skiing or Snowboarding Schweitzer Resort in Sandpoint

Schweitzer Mountain in Sandpoint is another fantastic ski resort offering winter adventures for both skiers and snowboarders. Schweitzer has something to offer for everyone – with a good variety of green, blue and black downhill runs and over 30 trails for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. It’s magnificent location in the panhandle of Idaho overlooking Sandpoint Lake provides one of the most scenic backdrops of any ski resort. Weather permitting, most of the slopes open around early December. To get to Sandpoint you can fly directly into Sandpoint Airport, typically you will connect through Seattle.  Another option is to fly into Spokane, 70 miles away.

schweitzer skiing

Rafting Legendary Whitewater

8. Rafting the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Stanley

The Salmon River is the longest remaining free flowing river in the lower 48, and it has the perfect combination of crystal-clear water, calm sandy beaches, and rapids – making it a top rafting destination.  The Middle Fork stretch of the Salmon River has Class I to Class IV rapids. Rafting along the Middle Fork makes many people’s bucket lists because the area offers over 100 miles of nearly non-stop rapids – giving you the thrill of a lifetime! Book your rafting adventure with The River Company or White Cloud Rafting right downtown Stanley. Rafting along Middle Fork is only possible during the summer months between May and August, and stops in early September for the salmon run.  The best way to get here is flying into Sun Valley’s regional airport (SUN) in Hailey, and driving 75 miles north to this gateway to the Sawtooths.

rafting

9. Rafting the Salmon River in Riggins

Known as the Whitewater Capital of the Universe, Riggins is an amazing destination for rafting along the Salmon River. As the longest free flowing river in the lower 48, there are many options to raft along the Salmon – and Riggins should be a top pick. Despite being known also as the “River of No Return,” one visit to Riggins will make you want to keep coming back for more rafting adventures.  This section has lots of Class III rapids along with pools for relaxing. Rafting starts as soon as the rivers start flowing, typically outfitters raft here between mid-May until the end of September. To get to Riggins, the closest airport is Lewiston-Nez Perce County Airport (LWS / KLWS), 110 miles or 2 hours away.  Flying into Boise is also an option – Riggins is a 3-hour drive.

Paddling Alpine Lakes & Rivers

10. Paddling Redfish Lake in Stanley

There is nothing quite like padding through the clear waters of Redfish Lake surrounded by the jagged Sawtooth range just outside of Stanley, Idaho. Redfish Lake is a popular place in the summer for paddling, swimming, camping, hiking and biking.  You can rent kayaks or canoes right on the shore to explore this stunning mountain lake.  Summer is the best time to paddle along the lake, however even in the summer months the water can still be very cold – it’s snowmelt! Aside from paddling, there are also some great hiking trails circling the lake and extending up into the nearby Sawtooth mountains for those looking for a longer adventure. The best way to get here is flying into Sun Valley’s regional airport (SUN) in Hailey, and driving 75 miles north to this gateway to the Sawtooths.

Kayaking

11. River Surfing/Paddling Boise

Surfing in Boise?  Yes, even though Boise is landlocked, this quaint capital city offers river surfing opportunities for adventure seekers!  We recommended checking out the Boise Whitewater Park to start off your adventure. You can check out the current river conditions or watch their webcam before heading out. There are several shops near the river where you can rent gear.  Boise summers can get hot – and it’s the best time to get out on the water!

12. Kayaking or Paddling the Snake River in Island Park

Island Park, Idaho is a little gem on the eastern side of the state, not too far from Yellowstone National Park.  If you are wanting to see moose, look no further!  Island Park is the unofficial moose capital of Idaho, and the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River is an excellent place to spot them.  Start your kayak or SUP trip upriver at the Big Springs put in and paddle your way down to the bridge where you take out.  The adjacent Mack’s Inn rents kayaks, SUPs and tubes for your adventure.  While you are in the area, don’t miss out on a guided hike in Yellowstone!

The closest airport to explore the Snake River is the Pocatello Regional Airport, or fly into Jackson, WY at Jackson Hole Airport and drive 2 hours to Island Park.  It’s a great stopover point between Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park!

island park kayaking

13. Teton River Kayaking or Paddleboarding in Driggs

The Teton River in Driggs is another great location in Idaho for kayaking and stand up paddleboarding. The shallow river offers astounding views of Tetons around every bend.  If you paddle in the mornings and evenings you are likely to be treated to the sight of moose munching on willows along the shore.  Driggs has a couple shops that you can rent a kayak or SUP from for your adventure (walk ins only).  The best way to get to Driggs is to fly in and out of Jackson Hole Airport (JAC), 40 miles away.

driggs idaho kayaking

Hiking & Backpacking Pristine Wilderness

14. Hiking Table Mountain 

While Table Mountain is technically located in Wyoming, the access point for the hike is from Driggs, Idaho. The 13-mile hike should take between 5-8 hours for an experienced hiker.  There are two different ways to scale the mountain – “The Face” is much more technical and steeper.  The jury is out on which way is better to go up.  Many recommend getting the more challenging “The Face” out of the way in the beginning and enjoying the longer but more placid Huckleberry Meadows on the way down. Either way, the views of the Tetons don’t get any better than at the top of this hike!  Table Mountain sits at an elevation of 11,106’ and the best time to hike it is during the summer months. To get to Driggs, you can fly into Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) a little over an hour away.

table mountain hike

15. Hiking in Ketchum

Hiking in Ketchum makes an excellent day trip adventure or multi-day backpacking trip.  Explore the lush green mountains filled with wildflowers by following the area’s spectacular winding trails. Explore the famed Sun Valley and the charming town of Ketchum.   You can hike to alpine lakes, scale a peak, or meander along one of the many glacial mountain streams. Ketchum has it all. We recommend going between May and October for the best hiking temperatures and summer scenery. The easiest option to get to Ketchum is flying into Sun Valley’s regional airport (SUN) in Hailey, 14 miles south of Ketchum.

ketchum hiking

16. Backpacking the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness

Backpacking is a great way to explore the beauty of Idaho’s wilderness.  The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness lies in central Idaho and encompasses nearly 2.4M acres making it the largest contiguous wilderness area in the lower 48.  With beautiful scenery, rich history, phenomenal hiking, and hot springs to explore, we highly recommend spending a few days backpacking here.  A popular backpacking route follows the Salmon River for a 100-mile stretch. The summer months are the best time to backpack this pristine wilderness. To get to the Frank Church, fly into Sun Valley’s regional airport (SUN) in Hailey, a 75 mile drive from Stanley.  Alternatively, the Boise airport is about 3 hours away from Stanley.  There are various entry points into the wilderness, some closer to Stanley and some closer to Salmon, Idaho.

17. Hiking the Sawtooth Mountains outside of Stanley

The Sawtooth Mountains offer a number of must-do hikes, each a different experience and different breathtaking view from the next. The Sawtooth Mountains are known as one of the most impressive ranges in the U.S. While some of the hikes are definitely challenging, the views are worth it. We recommend hiking in summer and early fall when temperatures are reasonable and the snow has melted. Our favorite hike is the Sawtooth and Alpine Lake hike.  Fly into Sun Valley’s regional airport (SUN) in Hailey, a 75 mile drive from Stanley.

hiking sawtooths idaho

Exploring Hidden Hot Springs

18. Natural Hot Springs 

Idaho is our favorite state for rustic hot springs.  There are literally hundreds across the mountain peaks of this state.  While in Stanley for hiking, mountain biking, or rafting, make sure to schedule some relaxation time.  Our favorite hot springs in the Stanley area are Sunbeam Springs.  You can choose from a number of primitive pools right along the Salmon River’s edge and soak for as long as your heart desires.  Don’t forget to enjoy the beautiful views!  You can even plan a biking or hiking adventure to explore a few different hot springs in Idaho. Most hot springs can be visited any time of the year!  The closest airport to the Stanley area is Sun Valley’s regional airport (SUN) in Hailey, a 75 mile drive from Stanley.

No matter where you recreate in Idaho, make sure you follow Leave No Trace principles, and recreate responsibly outdoors to ensure our wilderness areas stay pristine for generations to come.

 

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