Central Idaho is a winter paradise. From snowshoeing to skiing, ice skating to sleigh rides, the list of outdoor activities is endless. So here’s a list of ten of Central Idaho’s most famous scenic byways, mountain sights and attractions to tackle on this three-day itinerary.
What to Do
Tackle Two Mountains
- Phone: (888) 490-5950
Every winter an estimated 60 to 100 million people around the world take to the slopes with a snowboard or pair of skis. One of the most sought-after destinations happens to be here in Idaho in Sun Valley. Vitamin D is plentiful here with over 120 bluebird days per season. This sun-kissed ski area boasts scenic terrain that makes riders of all skill levels drool with excitement at first sight. With two mountains to play on and excellent restaurants ranging from casual to swanky, you have yourself the perfect family getaway.
Nothing quite compares to getting above the valley fog on top of Bald Mountain for sunny views. With over 2,000 acres of varied terrain on 3,400 vertical feet, Sun Valley gives family boarders and skiers unbeatable trails and backwood adventures they won’t soon forget. The little brother, Dollar Mountain, is a winding sun-soaked paradise for newbies looking to hone their skills, and the big bro Baldy is the less forgiving mountain tailored towards the intermediate to expert crowd.View Full Adventure
Shops, Snacks, and Seriously Good Sustenance
Set out to explore Sun Valley and Ketchum, two towns brimming with local coffee and pastry shops to kick-start your morning. After you’ve fueled up and fed the kiddos, walk around the snow-laden towns and discover fun and funky antique stores, upscale outdoor recreation shops and restaurants featuring everything from fresh sushi to football-sized Idaho potatoes and steak.
To keep the troops entertained, swing by the Sun Valley Bowling Alley and Game Room. The bowling alley boasts six regulation length lanes, endless amounts of video games, and a bar with some delicious food options.
Get Exploring at Galena Lodge
- Phone: (208) 726-4010
Set out on an adventure to Galena Lodge, a day-lodge nestled in the Rocky Mountains just 23 miles north of Sun Valley. This family-friendly lodge serves lunch, specialized dinners, and acts as home base for families wanting to explore the 31 miles of expertly groomed Nordic trails. You can visit Galena Lodge online here to view their Nordic map, grooming report and other winter adventures offered out of the lodge.
Snowshoe at Craters of the Moon
- Phone: (208) 527-1335
The winter landscape at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve will take your breath away. The site of a dormant volcano, the dark, jagged rocks spread throughout the park are covered with pillowy layers of snow - only the mammoth lava mounds protrude through the thick layer of powder. Nordic skiing and snowshoeing are free here during the winter and the gentle, mostly level, 7-mile Loop Drive is groomed for cross-country skiing. Check the park's website for maps of the ski and snowshoe trails and additional information on rentals.View Full Adventure
Hot Chocolate and Hot Springs at Mountain Village Resort
Mountain Village Resort in Stanley is one of Idaho’s unique hot spring destinations. The hot spring itself rests about a quarter mile from the lodge in an old barn next to the river. It has a truly rustic feel that will provide an unforgettable family experience - you can even open the barn doors for a spectacular view of the Sawtooth Mountains frosted with snow. Make a thermos of hot cocoa before heading down to the the hot spring and enjoy a cup with the kiddos as you soak in the tub and the views. This whimsical hot springs experience in only available to Mountain Village Resort guests, so be sure to call ahead to make a reservation. You can visit the website for further details here.
Sun Valley Sleigh Rides
Take a trip back in time through the snow-laden hills of Sun Valley during this sleigh ride. You'll soar across postcard perfect scenery and powdery landscapes to a rustic winter oasis. Experience the warmth of Idaho's hospitality firsthand as you savor the delicious local cuisine or bundle up to just enjoy the scenery.View Full Adventure
Relax at Frenchman’s Bend Hot Springs
Take a 10-mile drive down Warm Springs Road outside of Sun Valley to Frenchman's Bend Hot Springs. This hot spring tucked up against a pile of large boulders is a relatively popular spot, which means if you aren’t up for a long hike into the cold wilderness, this spring is the perfect option for you and the kids.
Additional Central Idaho Adventures
If you’re looking to stay in Central Idaho for a few more days, check out this list of more winter activities:
Option 1: Blades of Glory at Sun Valley Outdoor Ice Rink
The Sun Valley Outdoor Ice Rink is the training ground for Olympic and world-class skaters and is one of the few year-round outdoor ice rinks in the country. Brush up on your skills, take a lesson, or watch amazing athletes up close. Rentals are available for all ages and further details regarding hours and location can be found here.
Option 2: Soak it Up
Head north up Highway 75 from Stanley for about three and a half miles. Once you pass through Lower Stanley and a few campgrounds you’ll reach a small pull-off on the right side of the road. Hop out of the car here and get ready to soak! At Boat Box Hot Springs (also known as Elkhorn Hot Springs), the water flows from pipes into an old mining cauldron that fits roughly three to four people (or four to five kids). Look for a white bucket next to the cauldron and use it to transport cold river water into the cauldron until the water temperature is just right.
Option 3: Snowshoe Through the Wood River Valley
One of the best ways to get out and explore nature with the kids in the Wood River Valley is by foot. Trek through glistening fields of snow and alongside meandering ice-covered rivers. Warning: impromptu snowball fights are common here. To pick your trails and to learn about rental options, visit Sun Valley online.
How to Get Here
Sun Valley is served by Hailey's Friedman Memorial Airport (SUN). The airport is easily accessible from the gateway cities of Portland (PDX), San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA), Los Angeles (LAX), Salt Lake City (SLC) and Denver (DEN). All of these cities are served by most major airlines and are met by Sun Valley’s connecting carriers: Alaska Airlines, Delta Connection, and United Express.
If your family is headed to Central Idaho from Montana take the Salmon River Scenic Byway. If you are coming from the west, you’ll journey over the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway, and if you’re headed up from the south, you’ll have the option of taking the Sawtooth Scenic Byway or the Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway. Before driving through this area be sure to check the Idaho 511 app for road conditions, as this region of Idaho can get large amounts of snow at the flip of a switch. For additional directions, visit Sun Valley online here.
What to Pack
- Bring lots of layers!
- Comfy Footwear (and extra socks).
- Eyewear (sunglasses or goggles).
- Camera to capture family fun.
- Binoculars to spy on Idaho wildlife.
- Water bottle to stay hydrated.
- Sunscreen and lip balm.
- Safety gear if you don’t plan on renting.
- Lots of snacks for the kiddos!
- A small first-aid kit catered to your personal needs.
- Download the 511 app or call 5-1-1 while traveling for the latest information on Idaho winter road conditions.
Where to Stay
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