Best Idaho Airbnbs: 12 Unique Places to Stay in Idaho

If you’re looking for some places to stay in Idaho while you’re traveling around the state on a road trip, we’ve got you covered with this post!

There are some really great Airbnb options in Idaho all over the state, and we’ve tried to spread our picks for where to stay in Idaho in Airbnbs all around the state.

From Teton County at Grand Teton’s backdoor to quirky picks in the capital city of Boise to houseboats on Lake Coeur d’Alene and luxe cabins in McCall, and oh yeah — a giant potato — here are the most lovely and unique Airbnbs in Idaho!

The 12 Best Airbnbs in Idaho

Idaho Homes in Teton County

Teton Valley Cabins

Image courtesy of the property

This gorgeous Idaho cabin takes glamping to the next level in a location near Grand Teton National Park on the Idaho side of the border.

The interior of the cabin is adorable, with lots of exposed wooden detailings and comfy wooden beds that positively invite you to sleep and have the sweetest dreams.

It is quite a cozy place, just 16.1 km from The Grand Targhee Ski and Summer Resort.

An oversized hot tub is offered for guest relaxation, which seems like the perfect place to enjoy the views thanks to the ample windows.

Each of the few cottages on the property offer ski storage as well as a kitchenette for you to prepare and enjoy your meals.

You can enjoy a picnic area with an outdoor volleyball court is on-site at this family-friendly lodge. The cabins also feature horseshoes, barbecues, and a fire pit.

Book this Idaho home!

Teton Teepee Lodge

Image courtesy of the property

If you’re looking for a colorful and quirky home in Idaho near Grand Teton, Teton Teepee Lodge is a perfect choice!

It combines comfort, color, and location to create the perfect summer stay on a reasonable budget given all the amenities and location.

The units are spacious and comfortable, fitting a large queen bed, a comfortable sofa with colorful throw pillows, a coffee table, and even a full bathroom with a shower.

Available for guests, there is a tennis table while the area is also popular for horse riding. In the surroundings, guests can enjoy cycling and fishing too.

Victor is 11 miles from Teton Teepee Lodge, while Jackson Hole is 19 miles away.

Book this teepee on Booking!

Northern Idaho Airbnbs

The [email protected]

Photo courtesy of the property

This gorgeous mountain cabin is the perfect tiny house Idaho escape. It’s definitely a comfortable and up-to-date place to stay in the mountain surrounded by national forest, 3/4 of a mile on up the mountain!

This cabin is outfitted for people looking to escape to the mountains and relax, and still located only 15 minutes from Bonners Ferry and 30 minutes from Sandpoint.

This cute cabin features a bedroom with a comfy queen bed and a living room with a sofa bed. There is also a wonderful deck with a grill and the most amazing views around.

In the area, you can choose different hiking trails and snowshoe trails right outside your door or watch eagles right from your deck. Schweitzer Mountain is a mere 30 minutes away and Cross Country Skiing is only 10 minutes away!

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This is a great getaway for couples looking to get away from it all, as it’s far from virtually all civilization.

The place also offers a fire pit, gas BBQ grill, a hot tub, a large yard with plenty of seating, an outdoor movie theater seasonal (shared), a private gym, kayaks, bikes, golf clubs, fishing equipment, snowshoes, and a bunny farm! Kayaks, bikes, and golf clubs have a rental fee.

In the winter months, 4WD or AWD is necessary to access the cabin. Should guests not feel comfortable driving up the mountain, the hosts will be happy to shuttle guests up and down. There is private parking at the top and the bottom of the mountain.

That said, couples or friends (or hell, even indulgent solo travelers looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life!), though, this place is a paradise where you can cook elaborate meals, wake up to views of the beautiful forest, and sit in a secluded hot tub watching forest wildlife go about their business.

The property allows pets between May and October only and in the dog kennel which offers 2 dog houses $25 per pet per night.

Book this Idaho home!

Couer d’Alene Houseboat

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This lovely houseboat on Lake Couer d’Alene is the perfect Idaho Airbnb for people who not only want to be one with nature, but literally in nature!

This houseboat is great for groups of families as it is able to sleep six. There’s a bathroom on the boat that’s fully connected, including a shower, and there is a full kitchen so you can have a delicious cookout on the lake – preferably with fresh-caught fish from the lake!

There’s also a spacious outdoor area as part of the houseboat that’s a private deck for you to enjoy, a great place for a meal on a warm summer evening.

There is a comfortable master bedroom, a smaller lofted room with two twin beds (perfect for kids), and the dining/living area converts to fourth bed if needed to sleep six.

Just be aware that this is a houseboat on a lake, and as a result, there may be some movement — so if you have severe motion sickness, this is not the best Idaho Airbnb to choose! Do note, though, that the boat is moored and you’re unfortunately not allowed to take it for a spin.

The area is absolutely fantastic for outdoor activities! You can birdwatch and keep an eye out for bald eagles — CDA has one of the largest populations of bald eagles in the United States!

There are also water toys available for use, such as a water trampoline, launch pads, standup paddleboards, inflatable rafts, kayaks, and canoes. Just note that these are shared with cabin guests so you may not get. your pick of exactly what you want, but they are available.

There’s also a picnic table, BBQ area, and firepit available to use on the beach of the lake. This is the perfect Idaho Airbnb if you want your home to be the ultimate getaway and not need to travel far for anything once you arrive!

Book this Idaho Airbnb!

Crystal Peak Lookout

Photo courtesy of the property

This ultra-cozy vintage cabin offers the ultimate experience in the woods for those eager to remain in close contact with nature during the whole length of their stay!

If you’re looking for an Idaho cabin where you can indulge in sweet solitude here you will certainly be sharing the land only with starry skies, owls, bluebirds, and the occasional moose — plus whoever you bring, of course.

This small but outfitted cabin in its own bit of paradise. The place is only 3 miles away from town but still maintains an authentic rural atmosphere.

Deer, pheasants, turkey’s, walk through the yard often. fishing and hunting easily accessed. Rivers and lakes are in all directions for spring rafting and summer fun! Mountains surround area [three mountain ranges, Selkirk, Percell and the Monarchs] The hiking is endless.

Deer, pheasants, turkeys walk through the yard often, besides, fishing can be easily accessed. Rivers and lakes are in all directions for spring rafting and summer fun! Three mountain ranges surround the whole area, Selkirk, Percell, and the Monarchs, so hiking possibilities are virtually endless.

The cabin has a cozy covered porch, a separate bedroom, and a twin bed in the main room. The kitchen is small but well-equipped with a NuWave stovetop with pans, electric stainless skillet, microwave, electric kettle, and crockpot. Heating can be with is wood or infrared electric heat.

Starting around late October, snow can make the roads impassable. You’ll need to go by snowmobile or you can hire the property vintage 1960s Snowcat with a driver for $100 for the day, who will take you all over the snow-covered forest and take care of transporting luggage and food.

It’s also possible to have a free sled and snowshoes to enjoy exploring the area! For top comfort and homely feeling, the hosts will bring some gourmet hot cocoa (with or without Baileys!) and you can enjoy the wood-fired stove and a wood sauna to warm up in — before jumping on the snow to cool off!

One thing to note is that the lookout doesn’t have a bathroom in the lookout itself but rather an outhouse nearby, so if you’re unable to handle lots of stairs (or don’t want to handle navigating stairs at night for a middle-of-the-night pee), this may not be the Idaho Airbnb for you!

Book this awesome Idaho place on VRBO!

Idaho homes in McCall

Upscale Lodge with Two Hot Tubs

Image courtesy of property
  • 16 guests
  • 3 bedrooms (14 beds)
  • Prices from $580/night
  • Check listing on Booking and on VRBO for more details

This is the absolute ultimate Airbnb in Idaho for large groups: this monstrous cabin near McCall, Idaho can fit a whopping 16 people and sleep them well, spread across 14 beds to choose from!

This is great for groups of friends as well as several families traveling together, and when you have a nearly full group, the price tag can be quite reasonable for the property.

There are so many rooms of the cabin that it’s almost overwhelming! There is a large living room with a gorgeous fireplace surrounded by plush leather couches, the perfect place for watching movies on the flatscreen TV over the crackling fire or having drinks around the fireplace at night.

There’s a gourmet kitchen and a large dining area perfect for group dinners, and my favorite feature, a large game room with all sorts of activities available for the group to avail themselves of, including pool, ping-pong, foosball, and shuffleboard!

There’s also an entire theater room for watching movies with your group, cinema-style, with a 75″ TV!

Of course, there’s also the gorgeous outdoor Idaho surroundings to enjoy no matter the time of year. There are several porch areas with chairs to enjoy watching the snowfall or the stars above.

There is also not one, but two, hot tubs to make use of — one for 8 people as well as a private 2 person tub off the master bedroom — as well as fire pit for gathering around and toasting s’mores and enjoying drinks no matter the time of year.

Book this McCall Idaho cabin!

Custom Built Luxury Cabin with Hot Tub

Image courtesy of the property

For the ultimate group getaway in Idaho, this delightful Idaho cabin in McCall ticks all the boxes.

It’s incredibly spacious and its setting right off of Payette Lake in McCall means that while you could certainly enjoy your Idaho Airbnb for your entire stay, there’s a whole host of natural activities just beyond your fingertips.

The interior of the cabin is delightfully rustic in a way that just screams “cabin vibes only”. It’s done in a log-cabin style, yet a lot of the fixtures are extremely modern, so nothing feels dated and you won’t lack for any creature comforts.

There are two bedrooms but also an additional lofted area with plenty of extra beds so every member of the family or group can have their little corned carved away to enjoy.

The property also has plenty of amenities to enjoy on the property itself, including a heated hot tub perfect for enjoying in any season and a BBQ grill perfect for summer cookouts (or winter grill sessions, if you’re brave!).

There’s also WiFi and a home office to use in case any member of the group needs to catch up on some work while enjoying some time out in the country, so you’re not off-grid!

Book this charming Idaho cabin on Booking!

The MacCall Escape

Image courtesy of the property

For a cozy to stay in McCall, this great place is conveniently located two blocks from downtown McCall but with private seclusion.

The McCall Escape offers access to all that embodies McCall, whether walking to Payette Lake or heading across the street for the Harshman Skate Park & McCall Skills Pump Park or the 6 mile North Valley Rail Trail that connect to them. And, with ample parking, there is plenty of room for a big family.

The property features an enclosed yard, a nicely-stocked kitchen that includes basic cooking essentials and appliances such as toaster, blender, mixer, mixing bowls, baking pans/sheets, griddle, crockpot, waffle maker, and coffee maker. The washer and dryer are available for longer stays.

The master room has a smart television that allows for access to movie streaming via Prime Video or Hulu.

And, for those who can’t leave work at home, the office area has a desk with a 27″ monitor and HDMI chord for hookup to your laptop. Bedroom spaces are cozy. The low-sloped ceilings in the upstairs bedrooms make a fun place for kids (but maybe a little tight for taller adults).

Book this home in Idaho!

Idaho Airbnbs in Boise

1940’s Remodeled Bungalow with Private Backyard

Image courtesy of the property

This unique 1940’s property is the perfect offbeat place to stay in Boise, Idaho for a group of up to four people looking for a unique place to stay.

The home is cozy and traditional with lots of fun colorful elements and a beautiful yard with barbecue facilities.

This single-level home comes equipped with WiFi, so you don’t have to fully disconnect to enjoy a slice of the nomad life!

This home features 2 comfy bedrooms and a beautiful kitchen with a granite kitchen with hardwoods throughout. The kitchen is fully equipped to accommodate any meal with a microwave, stove, oven, refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher, and many other items that you may need during your stay.

The living room is furnished with a comfy sofa and armchair & desk to enjoy the smart TV enabled with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc.

There’s also a private backyard with a flagstone patio, chiminea fireplace & BBQ. Pets are allowed with an additional charge ($25/per pet/per stay).

For long-term stays, guests can enjoy the comfort of having a washer/dryer.

The place is in the heart of South East Boise. Minutes from Boise State, Boise River, Greenbelt & Downtown Boise. It’s close to restaurants, shopping places, and a gym.

Two bicycle cruisers are provided for you to explore the local area or enjoy the 25-mile Boise River Greenbelt that runs through the entire city.

There is plenty of parking with an off-street driveway, and street parking out front.

Book this Idaho home in Boise!

Big Idaho Potato Hotel

Image courtesy of Airbnb. This photo and photos below are credited to Otto Kitsinger/AP Images for Idaho Potato Commission

Have you ever found yourself wishing, gee, I wish I could spend the night in a potato? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

It may not be something that was on your Idaho bucket list beforehand, but come on, there’s something delightful about getting to say yes, I spent the night in a giant 6-ton Idaho potato on an actual farm, and it was surprisingly stylish and dare I say, even hip?

The outside may be delightfully kitschy and rural, but the interior is utterly modern, with an almost Scandinavian sensibility in its color palette and pared-down design elements, enlivened by a bit of mid-century modern touches.

Really, who knew potatoes could be straight up elegant?

If you’re wondering where that Idaho potato Airbnb fits a bathroom… well, it doesn’t, but there’s an outhouse in a converted grain silo just a few feet away. And trust me, it’s a lot more luxurious than it sounds (though I guess that wouldn’t be hard).

The bathroom is just as chic and design-focused as the interior of the potato, with a soaking tub, sculptural chandelier elements, and lots of greenery to make the bathroom feel like a little spa on your Idaho farm.

Plus, the benefits of being on a farm is that you can say hello to all the cute animals on the farm, including the pet cow Dolly: her kisses come included!

Book this Idaho potato Airbnb!

Stay 208

Image courtesy of the property

Forget everything about hotel rooms, this is one of the prettiest places to stay in Boise, Idaho!

This is simply the most perfect little Boise getaway! Located only minutes from downtown Boise and conveniently near the Boise Depot, this completely renovated space offers a private yard, outdoor spaces, a fire pit, plenty of parking, and more.

And the most unique feature? The super edgy Espresso bar…

The property features also bikes, spa-like bathrobes, and more!…check! With an emphasis on style and comfort, this place is a must-stay for your Boise trip.

The kitchen is delightfully large for such a small space, and the colorful cabinets bring a spark of joy to the otherwise rather neutral color palette of white and wood details.

A small dining nook makes enjoying a romantic meal for two a breeze in this charming Boise Airbnb.

Meanwhile, the bedroom space is lush and inviting, with tons of soft blankets and pillows that practically beg you to curl up for an afternoon nap.

Book this Idaho farmhouse!

Southwest Idaho homes

The Ranch

Image courtesy of the property

If you have someone in your life who loves life at a ranch (or you’re that someone and you’re looking to treat yourself) — this is the perfect Idaho home overlooking lake Lowell!

It’s also a great choice for a group of friends or two or more families, as well as for those who are a little old-fashioned or into history.

This beautiful Country Home is located in the heart of Wine Country and close to Town and it’s just a perfect option for family & friends gatherings.

The Ranch House grants an unparalleled Southwestern Idaho experience. It’s just 10 minutes from Caldwell, on the edge of Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge, which overlooks the beautiful Lake Lowell and Treasure Valley. The place is framed by acres of picturesque farmland and surrounded by the nearby scenic Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway.

The beautiful country setting is in the heart of the Snake River Valley AVA, and Sunnyslope Wine Trial which features 15 wineries and vineyards, award-winning wines, and unique dining experiences and tasting rooms.

Almost 6,000 square feet of living space, four bedrooms, four bathrooms, two family rooms, a large dining room, pool room, and a heated outdoor pool with plenty of room for everyone to spread out and play games, watch movies or just relax inside or outside.

Guests can also sample and enjoy local, ranch-raised Black Angus beef and lamb meat. Historic downtown Caldwell and Indian Creek Plaza are minutes away.

Book this Idaho ranch on VRBO!

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Your Perfect 10 Day Idaho Road Trip Itinerary

We’ve covered a few special spots around Idaho before, like the best Idaho hikes and hot springs.

This time, we’ve pulled them all together in a collective Idaho itinerary which helps to highlight the unique characteristics of each place as well as the shared natural beauty consistent throughout the Gem State.

Starting from Boise and working your way counterclockwise around the state to some of the best outdoor spots makes for one memorable Idaho road trip.

Follow along for an epic Idaho road trip through Ketchum, Stanley, Salmon, Missoula (a little side trip to Montana), Coeur d’Alene, and McCall.

The full road trip route can be covered in just over a week in Idaho, but you’re better off with 10 days in Idaho to maximize your trip time and spend more time enjoying and less time driving.

There are also options to pare down for a two to three-day excursions from Boise. Check out the previous post on Idaho hikes and incorporate some of those along the way.

Alternately, you can plan your itinerary around hitting up some of the best, most unique Airbnbs in Idaho — I’ll also include suggestions throughout this post for accommodations, both traditional and unique.

PLANNING FOR IDAHO AT A GLANCE:  

When to Go: Idaho is beautiful all year round but since this itinerary involves a lot of hiking and other outdoor activities, the best months to go are between June and late September since some roads and trails are inaccessible during the winter months. 

However, if you want to go hiking in the best conditions, then July and August are the best months for your Idaho road trip but if your road trip involves seeing the stunning Idaho fall foliage, then I recommending going in late September.

Where to Stay: For this itinerary, you'll have sleepovers in Boise, Ketchum/ Sun Valley, Stanley, Salmon, Coeur d’Alene, and McCall.

For your first sleepover in Boise, I recommend staying at The Modern Hotel & Bar, a stylish boutique hotel, Inn America if you're on a budget, or this loft if you want a homey feel. 

And while in Ketchum, I recommend staying at Hotel Ketchum, a contemporary boutique hotel, Wood River Inn & Suite for budget travelers, or this Barnhouse if you want something less traditional.

For Stanley, I recommend staying at this tiny house if you ever dreamt of staying in one or this Redfish Riverside Inn (Lodge). 

Salmon has several accommodation types but I suggest staying at this tiny converted wagon trailer if you want something unique or at this log cabin for a homey and cozy feel.

Since you'll have a number of nights in Coeur d’Alene, I recommend choosing a comfortable place to stay and in that case, I suggest Greenbriar Inn a cozy Inn, this houseboat if you want to be right on the lake, or this cowboy cabin for a western-themed stay.

And for your last overnight stay in McCall, I recommend staying at this McCall cabin if you're traveling as a group/family, or Scandia Hotel for a Nordic Inspired comfort.

How to Get Around: You're definitely going to need a car while road tripping Idaho. If you don't know where to rent one from, you can compare car rentals and prices from here. Alternately, you can rent an RV or campervan via RVShare and save on accommodations.

3 Things Not to Forget to Pack:  A sturdy pair of hiking boots will serve you well -- I love my Ahnu boots. A dual purpose phone mount and charger will come in very handy and you'll be happy to have a roadside emergency kit should your car break down while road tripping.

Road trip pro tip: Purchase an annual pass (AKA the America the Beautiful Pass) to save money on the entrance fees for the multiple locations in this itinerary run by the NPS!

How This Idaho Road Trip Itinerary Works

An open road with yellow grass on the sides of it, a barn on one side of the road, and mountains with some snow lit up orange by the sun.

This Idaho road trip departs and leaves from Boise, Idaho, which has the main airport with service from several major cities in states all over the country, as I figured this would be the most useful departure point for most travelers.

This Idaho road trip follows a loop, starting and ending in Boise, which means that you can also start at any other point along the loop and follow it from there, just reorganizing the stops on this itinerary to make the road trip work for you personally.

However, if you are traveling from a neighboring state, you may want to treat this road trip itinerary a little differently. For example, if you are based in Tacoma, Washington, you’d most likely want to start this Idaho road trip in Couer d’Alene and make a loop from there, as it would require the least backtracking.

This Idaho road trip is also focused on covering all the best natural beauty there is in the state as opposed to covering city and town travel. You’ll find plenty of beautiful hikes and outdoor activities to indulge in, but we won’t be stopping at too many larger cities and towns, although there is an exception for Boise and a quick side trip to Missoula, Montana, which is an easy addition to an Idaho road trip.

This Idaho road trip is structured to cover 10 days at a leisurely pace without too many long driving days without interesting stops in between. However, you could easily parse it down to 7 days by cutting out a few destinations or spending less time in each destination. If you have to cut anything, I’d suggest cutting Missoula from your plan, as hey — it’s not even part of Idaho anyway!

The Best Time of Year for an Idaho Road Trip

Autumn is the best time for an Idaho road trip: yellow trees, green evergreens, and orange mountain tops on a partly cloudy day.

This Idaho road trip itinerary, including suggested roads and activities, is best taken between June and late September, as some road and trail conditions are inaccessible during winter months. 

For the best hiking conditions, July and August are the banner months, as the snowmelt on the highest altitudes we’ll cover here should definitely be gone by then.

However, if you want a chance at some beautiful Idaho fall foliage, I’d suggest timing your Idaho road trip to begin in late September.

While foliage does reach its peak around mid-October, you’ll also have to potentially contend with early snowfalls and inclement weather, so late September is a safer bet in terms of not having to reroute or skip parts of this Idaho itinerary.

Meanwhile, starting this Idaho road trip in May or June means you’ll have the peak wildflower season on your mountain hikes, as the wildflowers are at their best shortly after the snow melts, so truly any season is a great one for this road trip!

We don’t recommend this exact Idaho itinerary for the winter time because many of the hikes are not possible and some roads may not be passable, leading to time-consuming re-routes.

However, there are definitely some great things you can do in Idaho in the winter, such as creating a skiing and hot spring-themed road trip — check out these Idaho hot springs for inspiration around planning a winter road trip!

Renting a Car in Idaho

Sepia-toned photo which shows the back of a car approaching a sign which says "welcome to Idaho" on an Idaho road trip with a field in the background.

If you’re planning on driving into Idaho from a neighboring state like Washington or Montana, feel free to disregard this section!

But if you’re flying in and planning to rent a car in Idaho, I suggest picking up at the Boise Airport.

It’s the easiest airport to get to in Idaho, and for that reason, it’s both the starting and ending point of this itinerary. It’s also where you’ll find the cheapest car rental prices in Idaho — smaller airports tend to have pricier rentals.

Not sure where to get the best deal on your rental? I’ve rented cars dozens of times through various search engines and have settled on RentalCars as the best site to rent with in the USA – it searches dozens of rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare car rentals for your trip here!

When renting a car in Idaho, be sure to purchase the proper car insurance coverage unless your credit card covers those for you.

You don’t want to be on the hook for damage to your car, especially as this Idaho road trip is rather adventurous and involves some gravel roads and other conditions that may give your car a bit of wear and tear if you’re not careful (gravel + windshields do not mix — I learned this lesson well in Iceland!).

Your Perfect Idaho Road Trip Itinerary

Boise (Day 1)

View of downtown Boise with lots of buildings and a busy road in the autumn as the colors change on the fall trees,

Distance: Minimal — from the airport to downtown & any hikes you want
Driving Time: 15-30 minutes

Boise is an easy and logical place to begin and end your Idaho road trip. Boise International Airport offers multiple flight options to connecting cities, is centrally located to all things downtown, and is near some of the best local trailheads for a quick hike upon your first day’s arrival. 

Boise is also a pretty feasible day drive if you are based in the Pacific Northwest and are not planning to fly to Idaho. It’s just about 6.5 hours from Portland, 7.5 hours from Seattle, 5 hours from Salt Lake City, and 10 hours from the Bay Area.

Similar to other cities in the Northwest, Boise’s backyard is full of hiking, skiing, and mountain biking trials with the accompanying park infrastructure to make it both accessible and enjoyable.

The city and its suburbs have seen huge population growth in the last few years. The downside of this is you may experience higher traffic on some of the shorter trails closest to town, especially during weekend days. The upside of the growth is the increased number of new boutique hotels, restaurants, and coffee shops at manageable prices.

Upon arrival, check in to The Modern Hotel & Bar on West Grove Street, four miles from the airport. Vogue magazine describes this hotel as “a seedy motel-turned-stylish boutique hotel, [with] one of the buzziest bar scenes in town.”

The mid-century modern renovations and minimalist interiors are a nice change-up from your run of the mill hotel and you get a distinct Austin, Texas vibe (though not overkill) as you drive in.

The Modern Hotel is a great option if you roll into town on the later side as Txikiteo, the on-site restaurant (pronounced “chee-kee-tay-o”), serves up pasta, tapas, gourmet sandwiches, and cheese boards. Enjoy a drink by the outdoor fire pit before turning in for the evening.

The Modern Hotel is conveniently located near Hulls Gulch Reserve, the nearest of Boise’s main hiking trailheads. Access to Hulls Gulch Trail, the most popular in the reserve, is two miles from the Modern Hotel off North 8th Street and behind Camel’s Back Hill.

View of a hiking trail near Boise with lots of yellow grass and trees, in the distance you can see the buildings of the Boise skyline at sunset

This is a well-traveled, moderate hike with views of the city which ends at a scenic waterfall. Out and back is 6.3 miles with a total of 1,131 feet in elevation gain. Hulls Gulch Reserve has suitable terrain for trail running, but the trail gets direct sun and summer months can be hot. Plan for about 2.5 hours. 

Also near the Modern Hotel is road access to Bogus Basin, another popular hiking and activity destination in Boise sure to make your Idaho road trip itinerary.

This ski area doubles as lift-accessible hiking terrain during spring and summer. Located about 40 minutes from Boise, Bogus Basin has several trail options, including a 7-mile loop around the winter skiable acreage. Check out Bogus’ summer schedule for free activities like Yoga on the Mountain. 

Regardless of your plans in and around Boise, Neckar Coffee should be your first stop of the morning. Conveniently located near the Modern Hotel, and on the way to the above recreation areas, Neckar has quality lattes, pour overs, and pastries. A crowd favorite is the pain au chocolat.

Where to Stay

View of a spacious modern Airbnb loft with kitchen equipment, table for two with blue chairs, and a couch seating area with white walls and modern design.
Image provided by Airbnb

LOFT | If you prefer the cozy touches of an Airbnb, this chic loft in the lovely Hyde Park neighborhood of Boise is affordable, cozy, and well-styled. It’s affordable but has all the creature comforts you’d want from a home away from home| Book on Airbnb

UNIQUE | How much more Idaho does it get than sleeping in an actual potato? Yes, really: a 6 ton potato you can stay in, right on a farm outside of Boise! Believe it or not, the interior is ultra-chic (think mid-century modern meets Scandinavian minimalism) and cozy, and best of all, there’s a friendly pet cow on the farm!| Book on Airbnb

BOUTIQUE | We suggest the Modern Hotel, which is a great choice for travelers on a mid-range budget who want a cool, personality-packed hotel in the hip Linen District which is great walking distance to all attractions. | Reserve on Booking.com | Reserve on Hotels.com

BUDGET | If money is a concern, Inn America is a well-reviewed option at a fair price that won’t break the bank, though it’s not quite as cool or, well, modern as the Modern! | Reserve on Booking.com | Reserve on Hotels.com

Ketchum / Sun Valley (Day 2-3)

Grass with purple flowers sprouting up like wildflowers in it on a sunny day.

Distance: 153 miles
Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes

Next up on your Idaho itinerary is the Wood River Valley, 2.5 hours due east of Boise. 

The Wood River Valley is home to the Sun Valley and Ketchum area, widely known for its winter sports infrastructure and ski resort.  It’s an easy drive along I-84 then US-20 through the Camas Prairie.

If you plan the timing of your trip just right, you may be able to catch the Camas lilies blooming between late May and mid-June. Many of the lilies are in fields outside Fairfield. It is a spectacular sight to witness and a common stop for many painters and photographers looking to capture the mature blooms.

Fairfield’s Wrangler Drive-In, featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, is a good lunch stop for burgers, patty melts, and ice cream. If you have time for a hiking detour here, head towards Soldier Mountain Ski Area. The family-oriented ski hill is 11 miles north of Fairfield and has a few short but steep hiking trails and a new mountain bike trail system for summer months.

The Ketchum / Sun Valley area is another 40 minutes past Fairfield. The resort town is full of top-notch restaurants, an intricate and well-maintained trail system, and fishing access. Your best and priciest hotel options of your Idaho road trip will be in Ketchum, but with amenities (think spa services) to match.

Ketchum has become something of a campervan pit stop because it is an ideal place to grab supplies before setting out toward the Salmon-Challis National or Sawtooth National Forests.

A building which reads "the higher you get the higher you get" on the roof top, a popular site near Ketchum in the Sun Valley, with mountains and trees in the distance.

Apart from notable summer hikes like Warm Springs and Pioneer Cabin, attractions to explore include the Roundhouse Express Gondola on Bald Mountain, golf at one of the local courses, or camping just outside town near Trail Creek or Cathedral Pines.

There are several alpine lake hikes do-able in under 3 hours’ time and any activity near Ketchum gives you the best of two worlds, easily accessible nature and fine dining in town!

If you need a day off from longer trail hikes you will be quite content walking or biking along the Wood River Trail, a 20-plus-mile paved, multi-use path which spans between the communities of Bellevue and Sun Valley.

Yellow trees in autumn surrounding a blue river, with a person standing in the middle of the river fly fishing.

Much of the trail follows abandoned Union Pacific rail lines which were originally used to help settle and grow the valley.

No matter where you stay in the Wood River Valley you will be near an entrance to the trail, locally known simply as ‘the bike path’. It is a friendly trial and always filled with other people making it a nice choice for those who may be traveling alone.

Look into Hotel Ketchum, Limelight, or the Sun Valley Lodge for accommodations and Pioneer Saloon (steak), Rickshaw (Southeast Asian), or Cookbook (Italian) for fare.

Hank and Sylvie’s makes the best coffee and pastries to get you started for the day. There is more than enough to do in Ketchum to warrant extending your stay one or two days if you’re looking for a more leisurely pace to your Idaho road trip.

Finally, if you’re down for a little extra driving, you can head to Shoshone Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Idaho, which is an hour and 40 minutes south of Ketchum.

Where to Stay

View of a red barn available for rent as an Airbnb.
Image provided via Airbnb

BARN | Yes, you can stay in a beautifully renovated barnhouse property while you’re visiting Ketchum, rented out via Airbnb! This stunning property gives off all the cozy vibes you can imagine, and the price is more than fair, great for budget travelers who want to stay in something a little less traditional. | Book on Airbnb

BOUTIQUE | For a contemporary, chic place to stay in Ketchum with great amenities like a fitness center, hot tub, and large spacious rooms, Hotel Ketchum is a fantastic choice. It’s a little pricier than other options in Ketchum, but it’s definitely the coziest. | Reserve on Booking.com | Reserve on Hotels.com

BUDGET | Accommodations in Ketchum generally run on the expensive side, being a ski resort town, so if budget is a concern, I suggest moving 15 miles outside to Hailey, ID, which has a better range of accommodation options such as the well-reviewed Wood River Inn & Suite. Enjoy a hot tub, heated indoor pool, fitness center, and complimentary breakfast. | Reserve on Booking.com | Reserve on Hotels.com

Stanley (Day 4)

A yellow field next to some evergreen trees with several mountain peaks in the background on a clear day.

Distance: 62 miles
Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

You really start to see the changes in scenery about 40 minutes due north of Ketchum as you’re en route to Stanley, as softer rolling hills quickly transition to the more rugged side of Sawtooth Mountains.

The drive is beautiful, and you will want to appreciate it during the day. Don’t let Stanley’s year-round population of 69 people fool you. During summer, the surrounding campgrounds, rivers, and lakes swell with visitors, but you are always able to find a (somewhat) secluded spot even in the height of tourist season, as long as you steer clear of the Redfish Lodge.

Stanley is the best town on your Idaho itinerary to try your hand at fly fishing. There are several access points along the Salmon River for trout fishing but if you are new to the area or fly fishing in general, price out one of the guide services to help you maximize your experience. Sawtooth Adventure Company can place you with an experienced guide who knows the waters.

View of a river with mountains surrounding it on a clear sunny day.

If you are unfamiliar with a guided fly-fishing day by raft, or a “float”, they come highly recommended. The guide ratio is typically one for every two guests and half day floats start in early morning or early afternoon. All needed equipment is provided, like nets, rods, reel, and flies.

Guides also come in handy for learning a bit of casting technique or for telling you where the best fishing spots are along the river. More times than not, the local guides are pretty fun and make for a better outing than hitting it solo or with your own group.

There are only a handful of accommodations in Stanley and they are typically booked well in advance during summer months. However, the camping is so good in this area it would be a shame to stay inside anyway.

Alturas, Lake Stanley, Salmon River, and Casino Creek Campgrounds take reservations but at a minimal cost. They each are primitive campgrounds and have bathhouses onsite. Look to the National Forest Service website for campground locations and pertinent information.

A lake with a perfect reflection on the evergreen trees and mountains in the still water, some yellow and orange fall foliage in the left corner.

Of course there is good hiking near any of the campsites you select, particularly around Lake Stanley.

Restaurants to pay attention to in town are Stanley Baking Company, Luce’s, Peaks and Perks, and Scoops for an ice cream dessert. 

Stanley Baking Company will likely have a decent wait time for breakfast but it is well worth it if you can hang around. Popular plates include a pancake plater and a classic egg breakfast or hearty sandwiches for lunch. The restaurant also has coffee and homemade pastries to go if you don’t feel like waiting for a table or prefer to take you treats on a hike. Peaks and Perks is a walk-up window for to-go coffee and it’s your best option if in a hurry to get on the road.

If you have 30 minutes to spare before leaving town lookout for Boat Box Hot Spring on your right as you drive from Stanley to Salmon. A small turnout from the Highway 75 along the Salmon River is 4 miles north of town and a path leads to a small tub with hot water piped in.

If you chose not to fly fish this go around, you can relax in the tub and watch boats quietly float by. The hot spring is best in the early morning hours around sunrise.

Where to Stay

A tiny house with a small kitchen, small coach, and large windows overlooking a nature landscape.
Image provided by Airbnb

TINY HOUSE | Have you ever wanted to stay in a tiny house? In Stanley, you can see what it’s like by renting one easily via Airbnb! There are 4 similar tiny house properties to choose from, but this one is my personal favorite for its great full-windowed views and spacious layout that belies its small size. | Book on Airbnb

LODGE | For a lovely but no-frills typical lodge in Stanley, check out the Redfish Riverside Inn. This place has all the amenities you’d need at a fair price, perfect for if you’re not quite into the camping scene and prefer a bit more luxury where you lay your head down each night. | Reserve on Booking.com

Stanley to Salmon (Day 5)

A woman in a blue bathing suit with white stars sitting in a hot spring with a mountain valley landscape behind her.

Distance: 116 miles
Driving Time: 2 hours 15 minutes

This section of your Idaho road trip is the time to explore natural hot springs like Goldbug Springs near Salmon in the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

A gravel road at mile marker 282 off Highway 93 (the road between Stanley and Missoula) will mark your turn off. From there, both trailhead and trail are well marked. The springs are accessed by a steep 2-mile trail climb.

Goldbug is a perfect choice if you want to pair your hot springs outing with a bit of physical exertion. After hiking up to the springs and soaking for a while, leave enough time to exit back via the hiking path before following Highway 93 along the Salmon River to the town of Salmon where you will find a quaint, main street feel.

Try the Junkyard Bistro (tapas, sandwiches, salads, and wraps) or Last Chance Pizza for dinner before turning in for the night at the Stagecoach Inn or Syringa Lodge.

Where to Stay

A green wagon-style tiny house converted into an Airbnb in a forest with trees and plants.
Image provided by Airbnb

RIVERSIDE WAGON | For a unique place to stay, this tiny home slash converted wagon trailer is a great place with epic views of the Salmon River. It’s so cozy inside and the views of the river are absolutely unbeatable. What other chance like this do you get? | Book on Airbnb

CABIN | For a more spacious stay, this cozy log cabin gives off all the old school vibes, and the interior is lovely and warm with all you need to host up to 3 guests| Book on Airbnb

Coeur d’Alene via Missoula, MT (Day 6)

A sunny view of the sun setting below Missoula mountain ranges with some buildings on one side, the river in the middle, a bridge crossing the river, and trees on the other side of the river.

Distance: 305 miles
Driving Time: 5.5 hours

Driving from Salmon to Coeur d’Alene via Missoula, MT makes for a long day on the road (5.5 hours) but ensures you experience the northern parts of the state.

From Salmon you navigate through the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness (National Forest lands) towards Missoula.

With plenty of eatery options near the University of Montana campus, Missoula should be your planned stop for lunch. The campus is easily accessible as you enter downtown and sits along the Clark Fork river.

Scotty’s Table, Catalyst Café, and Hob Nob are three restaurants near the riverfront that continuously have good reviews.

Their locations on the river are also in close proximity to Brenan’s Wave, Missoula’s manmade wave installation in the Clark Fork River. It is an entertaining spot to watch surfers and kayakers take on a brief rapid.

From your pit stop in Missoula, take I-90 towards Coeur d’Alene for your next road trip stay. You’ll be staying here for several nights, so pick where you want to stay carefully.

Where to Stay

Image provided by Airbnb

COWBOY CABIN | The well-named ‘cowboy cabin‘ offered on Airbnb is a great place to stay for couples looking for a cozy, Western-themed stay. The cabin has all you need for several nights of a cozy stay, including a full kitchen, and the surrounding Ponderosa pines and the location walking distance to town and a short drive from the lake make this a fantastic and budget-friendly choice. | Book on Airbnb

HOUSEBOAT | If you want to be right on the lake… literally… then it doesn’t get better than this Coeur d’Alene houseboat which sleeps six right on the lake. With several comfortable beds, a full kitchen and bathroom on board the boat, and an epic patio area to enjoy lake sunsets, it doesn’t get better than this. | Book on Airbnb

OLD FASHIONED INN | For a lovely, cozy inn with traditional B&B vibes, head to Greenbriar Inn for a vintage yet budget-friendly stay. The inn dates back to 1908 and rooms have all sorts of lovely touches like clawfoot tubs and four-poster beds. An outdoor gazebo is the perfect place to relax and take in the views of the inn in all its glory. | Reserve on Booking.com | Reserve on Hotels.com

BUDGET CHAIN | There are a number of budget-friendly chain hotel offerings in Couer d’Alene which offer plenty of standardized comfort but not necessarily unique charm or offerings. The best reviewed is the Quality Inn & Suites, which is loved for its tasty included breakfast, hot tub, kids play area, and location just 3 miles from the lake. | Reserve on Booking.com | Reserve on Hotels.com

Coeur d’Alene (Day 7-8)

View of the boat houses on the lake at Couer D'alene: two rows of teal-roofed boat houses on a still lake with a dock.

Coeur d’Alene (CDA) is located in the northwest corner of the state and just 30 miles from neighboring Spokane, Washington.

It is known as a hub of watersports and lake view scenic hiking as the city rests on the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene.

It is also a spot of a popular Ironman event so you can imagine there are ample running, swimming, and cycle opportunities around the area. The town has a deep history as a fort settlement and has hosted large Fourth of July festivities on the holiday for many years.

If your travels have you in Idaho during early July, you should schedule around CDA for the 4th. The holiday events include ample street vendors and massive amounts of fireworks, depending on national forest fire conditions of course.

With such beautiful lake scenery, it would be a shame to hike without making the lake views a central theme. Popular hikes include Mineral Ridge Trail and Tubbs Hill Park.

Mineral Ridge is 11 miles east of CDA proper and has well-labeled parking with restroom access and picnic amenities. Estimate about 1 hour for the 3.3-mile loop.  If you feel like taking a break halfway, there are plenty of benches and rest areas to fit your needs.

Calm, blue water surrounded by a road on one side and mountains covered in trees on the other on a sunny day in Couer d'Alene, a muston any Idaho road trip.

Tubbs Hill is a 120-acre park which borders the city and is closer to downtown attractions. The park features a moderately rugged 2.5 miles of trails with views of the lake and city.

Apart from Ketchum’s Wood River Trail, the Centennial Trail outside of CDA is one of the best places to cycle on this Idaho road trip.

The Centennial Trail in CDA runs 23 miles from the Idaho / Washington border to Higgins Point on Lake Coeur d’Alene. A longer 72-mile paved Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes creates a longer route for more seasoned cyclists.

If you do not have a bike with you there are several places to rent a bike in town, like Coeur d’Alene Bike Company, as the activity and trial are quite popular with tourists.

Near the midway point of the Centennial Trail is Coeur d’Alene Resort, a good location to grab a meal or happy hour libation post-ride. The Coeur d’Alene Resort offers wonderful lakeside accommodations but there are several alternate options, including campsites outside of town, if you are not looking to splurge.

There are also miles of world-class mountain biking trails at Silver Mountain Resort and on the Canfield Mountain Trail systems if you’d prefer a little more intensive bike action.

McCall (Day 9-10)

A view of the small marshy lakes and larger lake in the background in McCall Idaho on a cloudy, overcast day.

From Coeur d’Alene, head south for 5 hours along US-95 to the city of McCall. McCall sits on the edge of Payette Lake and the Payette National Forest.

Similar to Coeur d’Alene, the area is perfect to explore the water (lake and river activities) as well as head out hiking for a day.

Save McCall for whitewater rafting on this Idaho road trip. Several outfitters in town provide multi-day, full or half-day adventures. Multi-day outings are fully catered experiences.

Whether you hit Hells Canyon or other areas of the Snake or Salmon Rivers, you are in for a blast. Check out Salmon Raft or Canyons River Company to show you the way.

There are several lodging options lakeside, such as Shore Lodge, which offers amenities like lakeside pool areas and boat rentals.

A small lake at the base of a rocky mountain covered in pine trees.

Two of the best hikes from the McCall area are Bears Basin and Louis Lake Trails. Louie Lake Trail is 2.6-mile moderately rated trail that rewards hikers with an alpine lake and dramatic views at the hikes mid-point.

You can also opt for a 7-mile loop to nearby Boulder Lake if you feel like a longer trip. The total time for the main trail is about 1 hour but plan for 4.5 to 5 hours if you try the Boulder Loop.

Bear Basin Trail system is easily accessible by hiking or by bike from downtown McCall along the Bear Basin Connector Trail. The trail system allows for multiple variations and most follow through a mixture of wooded areas and meadows with excellent views of the surrounding lakes and mountains.

The upside of the trail system is you can mix and match trails for the exact distance you feel that particular day. The downside is you need to watch out for mountain bikers!

Where to Stay

A well-lit small cabin with an armchair, kitchen with island and stools, and wood details and white walls.

MODERN CABIN | For a cabin that’s distinctly modern and good for groups (it can hold 4 guests in two bedrooms), this McCall cabin is a great choice. The design is modern and spacious yet comfortable, and the location is hard to beat. The kitchen is a dream to cook in, which is great for people trying to save on food costs while road tripping!| Book on Airbnb

NORDIC INSPIRED COMFORT | For the ultimate in Scandinavian design and comfort, check into the boutique Scandia Hotel, which draws its inspiration from Swedish and Finnish design elements. Think white walls with textured wood elements and lots of plant life and detail to bring in greenery and life to the rooms. It’s an incredibly comfortable and stylish place to stay in a small town, so book ahead if you want to splurge on an extra comfortable stay for the final night of your Idaho road trip | Reserve on Booking.com | Reserve on Hotels.com

Back to Boise (Day 10)

Yellow trees with a few red trees showing fall foliage, in front of the downtown Boise skyline with buildings rising above the tree tops on a sunny fall day.

Wrapping up your Idaho trip, returning to Boise is just over 2 hours due south on ID-55.

While the trip was outlined counterclockwise, it works just as well in the opposite direction.

Eight to ten days in Idaho can be a lot to spare, so if you don’t find yourself with that much time away from your home base, try pairing down this itinerary down to either the Boise-Stanley or Boise-Coeur d’Alene routes.

How to Extend This Idaho Road Trip

The waterfalls of Shoshone Falls cascading in a horseshoe shape over a large cliff edge, tumbling into a pale green pool of water below, surrounded by a rocky landscape.

This Idaho road trip does make a few notable omissions in order to create a road trip that makes sense and doesn’t backtrack too much. The most obvious omission is Shoshone Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in all of Idaho.

If you want to add that to your itinerary, add it after your trip to Ketchum and Sun Valley, but be prepared to spend more time getting back to your next stop, Stanley, if you do so.

If you have more like two weeks in Idaho for a road trip, you can add on Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve (a stunning lunar-like landscape) on your way back from Shoshone Falls, or you could also head to Idaho Falls, a fun and funky city located along the Snake River. From Idaho Falls to Stanley, it’s 3.5 hours, where you can continue this itinerary.

What to Pack for an Idaho Road Trip

Interracial couple (white woman and Black man) sharing a thermos of coffee while pulled over on the road while wearing cold-weather clothing, sitting in the back of their car.

I’ve created a full packing list for a USA road trip here, which you may want to peruse before heading out on your trip!

Travel guides

I’ve packed this Idaho road trip itinerary with so much practical information but sometimes travel guides provide deeper insights than I put in one article since they dedicate more time and resources to research. That being the case, I recommend combining my first-hand experience and the information in this Moon Idaho guidebook and I guarantee you’ll have an amazing time road tripping this beautiful state.

Phone Mount & Car Charger

You will use up your phone battery fast while road tripping in Idaho, or anywhere, so it’s essential to have a car charger. And for navigating, a phone mount is clutch and takes the pressure off of your front-seat passenger. Personally, I can’t imagine road tripping anywhere without this dual purpose phone mount and charger!

Snacks

There’s a funny road trip quote about buying snacks… I don’t know who said the quote originally, but it goes something like this: “It doesn’t matter how old you get, buying snacks for a road trip should always look like an unsupervised 9-year-old was given $100.”

I’m not sure who originally said it, but it’s true. Nothing ruins a road trip faster like hanger… so be sure to avoid it! Have a good mix of snacks — and not just sweet ones. Too many sweets on an empty stomach = major headaches. Likewise, too many salty snacks and not enough water will also do you in!

Rehydration packets

Impromptu hikes, the lack of a predictable schedule, random meal times, overly salty snacks, days exploring out in the hot sun, hangovers from celebrating after your driving duty is done: there are many reasons why it’s so easy to get dehydrated while road tripping.

I always pack some rehydration packets with me on my road trip travels as I’m prone to getting dehydrated, and when I’m dehydrated I get nasty headaches. Rehydration packets are a lifesaver: I recommend these ones.

Bug spray and after-bite care.

Nothing ruins a scenic sunset hike or lakeside lay-out worse than being besieged by bug bites! For a natural DEET-free solution, try this lemon eucalyptus-based mosquito repellent. It works surprisingly well on even the most persistent mosquitos!

Unfortunately, some bites are inevitable no matter how diligent you are with bug spray and reapplying it periodically, especially if you have sweet blood that attracts mosquitos like crazy like I do! Keep itchiness at bay with an After Bite itch eraser, which instantly soothes any bug bites. It’s a must-have for any summer road trip.

Sunscreen

Did you know you should always wear sunscreen while driving? The windshield doesn’t protect you against all UV rays — while they protect against UVB rays (which cause sunburn), most do not block UVA rays, which cause aging and skin cancer.

Plus, you’ll want it for hikes, days out in the sun, beach days, and that sort of thing. This is the sunscreen I use on my face daily (to prevent breakouts — my skin is very sensitive to chemical sunscreens, so I need something gentle). Meanwhile, I use a cheaper basic sunscreen for my skin.

No matter what your skin tone or race, you need to wear sunscreen daily, whether you’re white and pale AF like me, or whether you’re Black, Latinx, or Asian — sun cancer doesn’t discriminate based on skin tone, so always lotion up!

If you’re hiking, don’t forget about your scalp either — I often end up with a burned scalp and it’s no fun, often leading to headaches. Buy a special sunscreen for hair and scalp to avoid this!

Rain jacket

Even the best-laid plans can be felled by rain! While Idaho isn’t extremely rainy, it’s definitely a possibility during your trip, and you’ll want to be prepared.

I love the Marmot PreCip rain jacket (there’s a women’s version and a men’s version). I used mine for years doing all sorts of activities, from biking to hiking and traveling.

It always keeps me dry without making me too hot and uncomfortable like some other rain jackets can, due to the zippered arm-pits which provide ventilation. This is key if you plan to do anything active like hiking while it’s raining!

External batteries

The Anker external battery pack is a travel must. While you can charge your phone while driving, you may want to charge other devices — a camera, a drone, portable speakers, an e-reader — as well.

Or if you notice your battery is running low while you’re out hiking or sightseeing, you can just start charging right away without having to return to your car. It holds several charges on a single battery pack and will last days at a time.

Travel Insurance

Let’s be real: US health insurance sucks, and it can get complicated when you cross state lines to try to find in-network care in case of an emergency.

As long as you’re traveling more than 100 miles away from your home destination, World Nomads will step in where your insurance falters, and they make it super simple to purchase a policy for only as long as you’re traveling and not a bit more. Their policies are inexpensive and cover basically everything from theft to accidents to delayed baggage to trip cancellation and more.

I’ve been a happy paying customer of World Nomads since 2016 and have zero complaints about their service, interface, or claims process, and I’m happy to recommend them to any traveler I meet.

Get your free quote on World Nomads here

Idaho Road Trip Map

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USA Road Trips: 25 Incredible USA Road Trips to Add to Your Bucket List

Road Trip Packing List: 50 Essential Things Not to Forget to Pack for a Road Trip

Pin This Idaho Road Trip Itinerary!

7 Soothing Idaho Hot Springs Worth a Dip

Totaling 340 locations, Idaho has more natural hot springs than any other state. This, along with its rugged beauty, make for wonderful and relaxing soaking experiences.

The state’s mountainous terrain and proximity to tectonic plates offer an environment needed for natural geothermal activity and, while only 130 of the hot springs stay consistently at soakable temperatures, there are plenty of locations to enjoy for all.

Hot spring locations across the state are a mix of commercial and carefully curated backwoods pools. The public springs are typically located on National Forest Service lands and are maintained by caring patrons.

Commercial springs are larger and have accompanying built infrastructure like changing areas, showers, and other amenities but charge an entry fee. The fees vary location to location, around five to ten dollars, but are reasonable for the provided amenities.

Many of the springs explored here are easily accessible by small hikes from well-traveled roads. However, some springs are more remote, not covered by cell service, and winter roads can be dicey. Because of this you should be sure to grab GPS coordinates or well researched directions before heading out.

Fall is the most dependable time to visit the springs, especially when considering warm summer temperatures, spring thaws, and winter road conditions. But if roads are well maintained and conditions are safe, you can’t beat a winter dip when the snow is falling. Most commercial locations are open year-round and are the only options during spring thaws when river levels rise, flood pools or create muddy, runoff conditions.  

Best Hot Springs in Idaho

Goldbug Hot Springs

With an unbeatable view one of the most popular spots is Goldbug hot springs. It requires a bit of effort to get there but keep in mind a small hiking distance removes some of the expected crowds and makes the soak that much better.

Goldbug is located due south of Salmon, Idaho near the Salmon-Challis National Forest. A gravel road at mile marker 282 off Highway 93 will mark your turn off.

From there, both trailhead and trail are well marked. The springs are accessed by a steep two-mile trail climb. Goldbug is a perfect choice if you want to pair your hot springs outing with a bit of physical exertion. Leave enough daylight for the return hike plus time to drive back to Salmon or a campsite in the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

Launching to multiple hot springs from the Salmon-Challis National Forest actually makes for a great trip. It is centrally located to Goldbug, Sacajawea, Boat Box, Easley and Kirkham springs detailed here. Covered by six ranger districts the forest is home to 87 separate campgrounds, each offered on a first-come-first-serve basis.  

Want to get to Goldbug bright and early before others beat you to it? Stay nearby and glamp overnight! Gypsy Caravan Glamping is just 2 miles away from Goldbug and is an excellent place to spend the night.

Boat Box Hot Spring

After Goldbug, head south towards the town of Stanley (population 69). Stanley is small in area and population but swells with visitors in the summer months, particularly during fly fishing season.

It is a must stop for hikers, campers, and anyone planning to get out of the river for a full or half day professional or self guided trip.

About four miles north of town sits Boat Box hot spring. It’s just what the name connotates, a small “box” hot spring overlooking the Salmon River. The spring is man made by way of piped in hot water and sits about twelve feet above the river.

Stick to inviting only your closest friends as the tub comfortably fits about three people. Soaking early in the morning is ideal as you will see and feel steam rising off the river and can interact with the morning’s wave of fisherman on trout floats.

Facing south in the tub offers top notch views of the Sawtooth Mountain Range and Williams Peak. Access is directly off Highway 75 which follows the river.

Sacajawea Hot Springs

Due west of Stanley, on the backside of Williams Peak, hikers can gain access to Sacajawea hot springs. Sacajawea is nestled on the banks of the South Fork of the Payette River near Grandjean, Idaho in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and is characterized by rock-walled pools built up over time by different users.

These characteristics allow you to adjust the pool temperature by moving various rocks around to let in, or block off, cold river water. Consistent with other springs on riverbanks, the pool is submerged during the spring thaw so plan your visit accordingly.

The hot springs are directly off Grandjean Road half a mile west of Sawtooth Lodge. You can easily park in a pull-off area and will likely see cars already there so get ready to socialize!

There are several primitive camping sites nearby, including Grandjean campground, or you can book in a Sawtooth Lodge if you prefer cabin accommodations. The Sawtooth Lodge also has a commercial hot spring, similar to a swimming pool, on the property with water piped in from the same geothermal system as Sacajawea but visitors will prefer the natural, riverside pool much more.

Kirkham Hot Springs

Continue to follow the South Fork of the Payette River on Ponderosa Pine Scenic Route towards Loman, Idaho for access to Kirkham hot springs. Because the highway follows the river valley, Kirkham is also easily accessed without a hike. Visitors should prepare for a small parking fee at the Kirkham campground.

A staircase leads you on a short walk from the camp’s property to the springs. What separates Kirkham from other areas is a steam waterfall feeding several pools of varying temperature. The waterfall cascades over a high rock wall creating a natural warm shower and patrons can enjoy the peaceful sound of the Payette River in the background.

Loftus Hot Springs

Include Loftus hot springs in an Idaho journey if you are eager to experience more waterfall pools.  At about a two and a half hour drive, Loftus is one of the closest pools to Boise, Idaho’s largest city. Because of its proximity to the metro area it can be one of the more social hot spring spots, often leaning towards a party atmosphere.

Despite being relatively close to Boise, the hot spring maintains a remote feel and you won’t miss out on a dose of nature thanks to the surrounding Boise National Forest. Loftus boasts two pools maintained throughout the year by visitors, including one pool with a reinforced masonry wall.

The benefit of masonry work is the pool is not as flood-prone, however, you won’t be able to alter the water temperature as easily as other hot springs locations around the state.

Jerry Johnson Hot Springs

Also, within a striking distance to a metro area, but on the opposite side of the state, is Jerry Johnson hot springs.

Jerry Johnson springs are a one and a half hour drive through the Lolo and Clearwater National Forests from Missoula, Montana and are a good detour when traveling through Missoula, Whitefish, or Bozeman areas.

The Jerry Johnson pools are located on the banks of Warm Springs Creek, an offshoot of the Lochsa River, and consist of three sandy bottom soaking areas, one of which has a waterfall cascading into. Unfortunately, the waterfall pool is submerged from spring until the end of August, however, no matter what time of year you venture to the spot, at least two of the pools will be available for a soak.

Access requires a moderate one-mile hike from a parking area on Idaho Highway 12 at Warm Springs Trailhead. The hike in is one of the best parts of the trip, taking you over a footbridge which spans the Lochsa. The hike will feel quite secluded and remote but, similar to other hot springs spots in the state, if you follow the river’s path you will end up in the right location.

Easley Springs

While there are several commercial hot springs in Idaho, the best facilities by far are those at Easley springs outside of Ketchum and Sun Valley. 

The location, a fifteen-minute drive north from Ketchum along Easley Creek and in the Wood River Valley, feels less like a campground and more like a rustic spa retreat. Amenities include showers, changing facilities, café and store and convenient campground are located next door if you chose not to stay in Ketchum or Sun Valley. 

Water for a large swimming pool, separate hot tubs, and showers are each supplied by local hot spring water and remain around 98 degrees year-round. Views of Boulder Mountain will top off your visit at Easley.

The only downside to the Easley springs, and common to all commercial facilities, is set hours of operation, so soaking under the stars on a clear night is out of the question. Easley’s proximity to Sun Valley’s ski slopes and the Blaine County Recreation District’s extensive Nordic ski and snowshoe trails make it a prime spot during winter months.

BONUS: Trail Creek Hot Springs

Editor’s Choice

Located near Cascade, Idaho off of Highway 55, this beautiful hot spring in Idaho requires basically no hike — it’s only a 0.1 mile short walk to the springs.

There are two rock pools perfectly suited for soaking if you’re not after a long hot spring hike. It can be a bit difficult to find, so the folks at Visit Idaho have given simple directions:

Turn east on Warm Lake Road just north of Cascade off Highway 55.  Around 19 miles in, look for a wide pullout on a left-hand corner. If you see a sign to Yellow Pine you’ve gone just a bit too far; turn around and the first pullout you come to is where you’ll need to stop.

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Whether you string together a journey covering several Idaho hot springs locations or select only one to visit, you will find a nature-filled, relaxing experience awaits in the Gem State.

Pin These Idaho Hot Springs for Later!

6 Incredible Hikes in Idaho Worth the Trip

If you are considering where to tackle some of best outdoor adventures in the Mountain West, Idaho shouldn’t be counted out.

The Gem State is a hotbed of easily accessible, rewarding, year-round hiking. Check out some of these top options for Idaho hikes!

Best Idaho Hikes

Pioneer Cabin Trail (Ketchum)

Pioneer Cabin Trail is a popular Idaho day hike about 10 minutes outside Ketchum. There are several overnight camping sites on the approaching Corral Creek Road but Pioneer’s proximity to town makes launching from Ketchum or the Wood River Valley easy. 

Hikers are rewarded with stunning views of the Pioneer Mountains and Sun Valley’s Trail Creek in the distance. Grabbing a picture in front of the cabin, with its painted roof reading “The higher you get, the higher you get” is a right of passage. Plan for a 6-7 hour outing.

The cabin was originally built in 1938 by the Sun Valley Company to make backcountry ski training more accessible for the ski school.  Many of its earliest visitors served in the famed 10th Mountain Division during WWII. After falling into disrepair, local volunteers worked on a substantial refurbishment project between 2016-2018.

The main trail section is a 3.6-mile out and back path covering 2,809 feet in elevation gain and best accessed late May through September. Additional trails connect to Pioneer’s main route making longer loops convenient to add on and creating multiple paths to reach the cabin. Each of the trailheads meet at a central parking area at the end of Corral Creek.

Much of the trail, including 23 switchbacks, is below a forested tree line but the upper portion opens up into a large alpine meadow making for great views when wildflowers are in bloom early summer. Waiting until higher elevation snow is fully melted makes for an easier hike.

Warm Springs (Ketchum)

Warm Springs Trail is located in Ketchum within the Sun Valley ski area boundary. Beginning at the Warm Springs base area and rising 3,479 feet to the summit of Bald Mountain, the Warm Springs Trail follows ski slopes and crosses maintenance tracks for a round trip of 7.8-miles up Bald Mountain and back.

While the resort gondola and some chair lifts do run in summer months, there is something rewarding about climbing the mountain under your own power. You are able to descend on the gondola if you don’t feel like the return journey though.

Before reaching the summit where you can grab well-deserved lunch at the Roundhouse Lodge, the trail wraps to the west side of the mountain for views of Bassett Gulch.  

The mix of open ski slopes and tree trails makes for a fun variation in trail type and more demanding sections intermixed with relatively intermediate ones. If you prefer to stay in the sun, you can opt for a steeper but shorter hike directly up the middle of the Limelight ski run. Pack sunscreen if you do. The valley is aptly named!

Louie Lake Trail (McCall)

Louie Lake Trail outside McCall is another of the state’s top hikes and particularly convenient if you’re coming in from Washington or Oregon.

 At only 813 feet in elevation gain, the moderately rated 2.6-mile trail has the most “reward to effort” ratio and ends at an alpine lake with dramatic views of the surrounding mountains.

Grabbing a quick swim in the lake during warmer days is well worth the hike in.  Much of the trail shares an access road with motor vehicles so make sure to watch for bikes and off-road vehicles. You can also opt for a longer 7-mile loop to catch nearby Boulder Lake and Twin Peaks Ridge without adding much more elevation. Total time for the main trail is about 1 hour but plan for 4.5-5 hours if you try the Boulder Loop.

Louie Lake Trail is best experienced in summer and early fall when the seasons’ colors begin to change. It is best to wait a few days after heavier rains as some of the water elements may be unpassable after swells or snowmelt.  Access is a bit tricky because the parking lot is unmarked.

 However, once on the trail there are plenty of helpful directional markers to reach the lake.  While the main trail and longer loop are great options for most hiking abilities there are a few creek crossings that are not maintained and shaded portions that may be icy during colder months making for some precarious spots.

Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail (Coeur d’Alene)

Another of the state’s best hikes can be found on the Panhandle at Mineral Ridge 11 miles east of Coeur d’Alene. Unlike other trailheads which are difficult to locate or navigate, access to Mineral Ridge is well labeled and includes a large parking lot, two picnic areas, drinking water and restrooms.

The 3.3-mile loop is well maintained by the Bureau of Land Management and sits on a bald eagle migration path.  Chances of catching a glimpse of the birds are best during winter months from November to February. 

Mineral Ridge is a great option for families with small children and hikers of all abilities, not only because of the trailhead amenities, but because multiple benches along the path offer a quick place to sit and rest.

It takes about 1 hour and, while there are a few switchbacks, they are neither steep nor lengthy. Hikers are rewarded with views of Coeur d’Alene and Wolf Lodge Bay. It’s worth timing your hike to align with the sunset as the view is spectacular.

Hulls Gulch Reserve (Boise)

If you want to stay close to the big city and catch skyline views from a different vantage point, Hulls Gulch Reserve near Boise is your best bet. The Reserve covers over 292 acres on the Northend and is well managed by the City of Boise Parks and Recreation Department. The Reserve was established in the 1990s to spare recreation area near the city from development and to offer ecological restoration for native trees, grasses, and shrubs. This foresight proved valuable as Boise now experiences one of the top population growth rates in the region. Access to Hulls Gulch Trail, the most popular in the reserve, is off North 8th Street behind Camel’s Back Hill. The well-traveled path is a moderately difficult and follows Hulls Creek for 3.1 miles to a scenic waterfall. Out and back is 6.3 miles of moderate hiking with a total of 1,131 feet in elevation gain. The easy pitch is ideal for trail runners but you’ll want to start early or head out later on in the evening as the path is in direct sun. Plan for about 2.5 hours.  

Sawtooth Lake Trail (Stanley)

Sawtooth Lake Trail is a 10-mile, in and out path, and one of the more difficult of Idaho’s best hikes.

The Stanley area is a mecca for hikes, camping, climbing, and especially fishing but due to its remote location, most who visit the Sawtooth Lake Trail are camping in the area for multiple days.

The trail is listed as accessible year-round but requires more technical skill, not to mention appropriate gear, during full snow cover. Even in summer, the higher altitude shaded sections will have snow patches and avalanches have been reported in some years.

The first 3 miles are relatively mellow and wooded with a few tree gaps for surrounding views.  The final 3 miles are the most advanced section. Total elevation gain is 1,873 feet and hikers are rewarded with views of Alpine Lake and McGowan Peak. Hike time without snow is about 4-5 hours.

Insider Tip: Don’t miss Stanley Bakery on your way to the trailhead. It’s a great option for breakfast or a paper bag lunch for your excursion.

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