From bundling up and bombing down slopes to watching the snow fall from the steaming, soothing confines of a hot springs pool, winter’s return is a cause for celebration and recreation in Idaho.
Festivals & Events
Take a journey to the North Pole at Coeur d’Alene Resort’s Holiday Light Show, where the whole family will enjoy a short lake cruise to greet Santa and his elves hard at work. For a dazzling display of over 400,000 lights in a beautiful garden setting, check out Boise’s Winter Garden aGlow.
Sleigh rides, holiday light displays, musical performances, scavenger hunts and hot cocoa are all part of the fun at Sun Valley’s Winter Wonderland. Nothing will get you into the Winter Spirit like a festive display of more than 500,000 lights along the streets of historic downtown Lewiston or the million twinkling lights along Indian Creek Plaza in Caldwell. For a one-of-a-kind New Year’s Eve experience, check out the giant, glowing Idaho Potato Drop in Boise, Sugar Beet Drop in Rupert or Cherry Rise in Emmett.
Gigantic snow sculptures, fireworks and parades pack the iconic, 10-day McCall Winter Carnival. At the Wild West Winterfest in Island Park, you’ll encounter a torchlit snowmobile parade down the country’s longest main street along with fireworks, a snowman-building contest, ice-fishing derby, dog sledding, a casino night and more. Rev it up for some classic snowmobiling action at the Vintage Snowmobile Races in Priest Lake.
February is the month for the unique and unusual. Fling ice balls from a catapult, take part in a polar river float, watch fire performers and more at the Fire & Ice Winterfest in Lava Hot Springs. The 10-day Sandpoint Winter Carnival is capped with the annual K-9 Keg Pull, featuring dogs of all sizes pulling everything from beer cans to full-size kegs along a snow-packed course. From a pub crawl and a beach party to skijoring, fat biking, live music and some never-before-seen races, you’ll find it all at the Stanley Winterfest.
Skiing & Snowboarding
With 28,000 vertical feet of terrain across 18,000 acres, Idaho’s 18 ski resorts offer wintery exhilaration for any type or level of skier or boarder. Take in a stunning summit view atop Tamarack Resort’s Upper Serenity run. Sun Valley Resort’s 2-mile-long Upper-to-Lower Warm Springs run is an infamous leg-burner. Bask in piles and piles of powder accented with a Teton-Range backdrop at Grand Targhee Ski Resort. Enjoy cross-country and skate skiing at Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area’s 37 km of Nordic trails. Not for the faint of heart, Schweitzer Mountain Resort’s heli-skiing lets you descend a heart-pounding 10,000-14,000 vertical feet. Experience backcountry beauty — and plenty of untouched powder — on a guided cat skiing trip at Brundage Mountain Resort.
Home to more than 7,200 miles of snowmobile trails and terrain, Idaho provides ample access for sledding adventurers to get their ride on. Carve through deep forest up to snowy bowls above the tree line along Priest Lake’s 400 miles of groomed trails. Wellington Snow Park, just south of Cascade, treats riders to 400 miles of trails (250 miles of challenging backcountry). Head off-road at Sawtooth Basin near Stanley, where you’ll encounter alpine lakes and jaw-dropping views of the Sawtooth Mountains.
Thanks to its unique geological location, Idaho is home to 130 soakable hot springs — meaning they are natural and easily accessible or have been developed into pools of varying temperatures and include modern amenities like changing rooms and food service. There is no better way to soothe your soul — and travel-weary muscles — than a bubbling, geothermal soak. Pine Flats Hot Springs, near Lowman, lets you marvel at jaw-dropping views of the South Fork of the Payette River as you enjoy the soothing flow of a hot, mini-waterfall over your shoulders. For a more luxurious experience, take a trip to The Springs in Idaho City, where you can book a soak and a massage and then dine in one of their heated pool-side yurts.
For a true backcountry Idaho experience in winter, there’s nothing quite like a yurt camping adventure. Yurts are circular, tent-like structures that comfortably sleep several people and come furnished with fireplaces, bunk beds, a propane stove, pots, pans and more. Idaho State Parks manages six backcountry yurts near Idaho City that are accessible year-round. Reserve a yurt at idahostateparks.reserveamerica.com.
Check out our Travel Tips for more winter fun.
Fall, when the temperatures cool and the leaves begin to change, is the perfect season for adventures in Idaho. Here’s a sample of some of our favorites.
Catch the fall colors – While difficult to predict, we can usually count on quality leaf peeping beginning in early October in the higher elevations and running through October in lower elevations.
Scenic Byway Road Trips – Travel any of Idaho’s 31 scenic byways through small towns, past mountain vistas and along tumbling rivers to see the fall colors. Make sure to stop at a hot spring along the way.
Bike or hike – With more than 19,000 hiking trails around the state, it’s easy to find the perfect beginner family trail, or one that will challenge the most avid hiker or biker. Favorites include the Ridge to Rivers Trail System, Route of the Hiawatha (best for biking), Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, and North Idaho Centennial Trail, as well as biking and hiking trails at several ski areas, state parks and along urban greenbelts.
Festival Fun – With Fall for History in Wallace, the Trailing of the Sheep Festival and Wagon Days near Sun Valley, Oktober Fests around the state and more, Idaho comes alive to celebrate the season.
Eats and Drinks – Idaho’s wine industry has experienced continued growth with 3 AVAs in the state and more than 50 wineries, most with vineyard or urban tasting rooms. Craft breweries are also on the rise – as the #1 producer of barley and #2 producer of hops in the U.S. and supply of clean mountain water, it’s no surprise Idaho is on the radar of beer lovers everywhere. There are also a number of cider houses and distilleries in the state. Great drinks demand great eats, and restaurants around the state pride themselves on using locally sourced products to create deliciously creative menus. From the tried and true steak house to a Basque tapas bar, or a culinary tour, tempting tastes await.