Top 10 Idaho Attractions

Idaho's best visitor attractions

Idaho's lakes, rivers, mountains, and forests are as gorgeous as you'll find anywhere in the world. About two-thirds of this land is owned by public agencies, with much of that set aside as wilderness and/or for recreation. All of this nature can be enjoyed by hiking, biking, or rafting, on a scenic driving tour, or by visiting a national monument visitor center.

Here are my picks for the top 10 Idaho attractions:

  • 01 of 10
    Sunset over Lake Pend Oreille © Angela M. Brown (2007)
    ••• Sunset over Lake Pend Oreille. Angela M. Brown

    The International Selkirk Loop covers 280 miles and passes through Idaho, Washington, and British Columbia. As the name suggests, this scenic drive loops around the Selkirk Mountain, passing through charming towns, past lakes and rivers, and sprouting a variety of side trips. The Idaho portion of the International Selkirk Loop travels US Highway 1 from the Canadian border down to US Highway 95, through the town of Bonners Ferry to Sandpoint, and then on to US Highway 2 to Priest River. With a plethora of outdoor recreation and attractions along the way, many people make touring the International Selkirk Loop a multi-day adventure.

  • 02 of 10

    Sun Valley

    Bald Mountain at Sun Valley
    ••• Bald Mountain at Sun Valley. Idaho Travel Council

    Sun Valley's year-round outdoor recreation and awesome mountain scenery draw visitors from around the world. Winter brings downhill and cross-country skiing, ice skating, and snowmobiling. Golf, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, and river rafting can all be enjoyed during the warmer months. Sun Valley hosts special events and festivals throughout the year. As a well-established mountain resort community, Sun Valley and nearby Ketchum offer great hotels and lodging along with all the services to support vacationers, including dining, shopping, and entertainment.

  • 03 of 10

    Located in North Idaho, Lake Coeur d'Alene is long and winding, with miles of forested shoreline, sandy beaches, and a myriad of coves and bays that provide a wonderful watery playground for boaters, fishers, and paddlers. The city of Coeur d'Alene sits at the north end of Lake Coeur d'Alene and offers fun shopping, great restaurants, unique lodging, and wonderful parks. Even if you aren't an overnight guest, take advantage of The Coeur d'Alene Resort's facilities and services, which include a full-service spa, a world-famous golf course, and a selection of restaurants.

  • 04 of 10

    The 115-mile Sawtooth Scenic Byway follows State Highway 75 through central Idaho. Along the way, you'll roughly parallel the ridge of the Sawtooth Mountains, passing through the towns of Shoshone, Hailey, Ketchum, and Sun Valley. Sights on the route include abundant wildlife, canyons, rivers, streams, and lakes. There are a number of attractions along the Sawtooth Scenic Byway that you'll want to stop and explore. These include Mammoth Cave, Sculptured Canyon, Galena Summit, and Redfish Lake.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10
    Panoramic View of The Coeur d'Alene Resort Golf Course ©Angela M. Brown 2009
    ••• Panoramic view of The Coeur d'Alene Resort Golf Course. Angela M. Brown

    Idaho's sunny weather and gorgeous scenery provide the perfect atmosphere for golf. The Idaho Golf Trail includes the best courses around the state, divided into four different loops with three to four courses each. Combine the local attractions and amenities of each region with play at one or more of these Idaho Golf Trail loops and you have all you need for a memorable golf vacation.

  • 06 of 10

    Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve

    Lava flows sprawl through the plains of central Idaho, creating unique and interesting scenery as well as a home for rugged plants and wildlife. Begin your visit with a stop at the Craters of the Moon visitor center, where you'll learn about the lava landscape through exhibits and film. A loop drive will take you through a portion of the national monument, with frequent places to stop and explore lava cones, craters, and caves on hikes ranging from 100 yards to 8 miles in length. The Craters of the Moon loop road and trails are popular in winter, offering terrain for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
  • 07 of 10
    Picture of Museum of Idaho in Idaho Falls

    You'll find an interesting variety of exhibits and activities at The Museum of Idaho, most involving history or science. The museum's permanent exhibits include "Eagle Rock," with artifacts and information related to regional life in the 1880s, and "Race for Atomic Power," which chronicles the region's contributions to the field of nuclear energy. The Museum of Idaho also offers an ever-changing series of special exhibitions, covering such topics as the human body, the Lewis and Clark expedition, dinosaurs, and insects.

  • 08 of 10

    Hells Canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America, can be experienced in a number of ways. Many people take it in by a Snake River jet boat out of Lewiston, or raft float trip out of Riggins or Cambridge. Others make their way in by trail on a hike, mountain bike, or horse. The Hells Canyon NRA lies in both Idaho and Oregon; the Snake River marks the state's border.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument

    The lands of Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument are home to a significant concentration of Hagerman Horse fossils. The Hagerman Horse, an Ice Age mammal, populated the grasslands of North America before going extinct approximately 10,000 years ago. Your visit should begin with a stop at the visitor center in the town of Hagerman, Idaho, located one hour southeast of Boise. Within the national monument land, which is bordered by the Lower Salmon Falls Reservoir, you can enjoy hiking, boating, hunting, fishing, and horseback riding.

  • 10 of 10

    Right in the center of town on the Boise River, Julia Davis Park offers a whole bunch of attractions and activities for visitors. There's the Boise Art Museum, Zoo Boise, the Discovery Center, and the Idaho State History Museum. For those looking for more traditional city park fun, there are riverfront trails, tennis courts, a rose garden, bocce ball courts, a duck pond, and a children's playground.