A new year means making resolutions to help you live your best life—whether that’s committing to healthier choices, spending more time with family and friends, saving money, traveling more or all of the above. January is also the month for National Plan for Vacation Day, which is all about encouraging Americans to plan their time off for the rest of the year. To honor this special day, you’ll find tips below to help you plan a memorable Idaho vacation that achieves your New Year’s goals.

Resolution 1: Try Something New

night sky
Hell Roaring Lake, Sawtooth National Recreation Area, near Stanley. Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism.

Horseback Riding at a Guest Ranch

Idaho is home to several all-inclusive guest ranches, where visitors can fill their days with horseback riding, archery, swimming, hiking and biking, family-style meals, campfires under the stars and sleep it all off in cozy lodges or rustic cabins. 

Stargaze in a Dark Sky Reserve

Did you know more than 80% of people in North America live in urban areas where light pollution has depleted the starry night sky? That’s a lot of folks who will never experience the Milky Way in all its sparkling glory. Fortunately, the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve—a 1,416 square-mile area encompassing the Sawtooth National Forest and the communities of Stanley, Ketchum and Sun Valley—is home to one of the last large pools of natural nighttime darkness left in the U.S. So, load up the car and treat the family to an unforgettable starry-skied experience in central Idaho.

Experience Boise’s Basque Culture

Idaho lays claim to the largest population of Basques per capita in the U.S., and when it comes to celebrating their rich heritage and culture, there’s no bigger party than Jaialdi (pronounced hi-ALL-dee). Held every five years in Boise, Jaialdi is a six-day festival packed with authentic Basque food, music, games, performances, dancing and more. Be sure to book your accommodations well in advance, as lodging fills up fast.

Learn to Fly-fish in Pristine Waters

Idaho is home to several prized fly-fishing locations where you can enjoy the zen-like experience of fly casting on your own or as part of a guided trip. The Henrys Fork, a tributary of the Snake River in eastern Idaho, is one of the country’s top blue-ribbon trout streams. Other favorites include Silver Creek, Big Wood River, Teton River, Henrys Lake, the South Fork of the Snake River and the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River.

Resolution 2: Be Less Stressed

Rocky Canyon Hot Springs, Near Cascade. Photo Credit: Dusty Klein
Rocky Canyon Hot Springs, Near Cascade. Photo Credit: Dusty Klein

Soak Away Stress in Idaho’s Hot Springs

There is no better way to soothe your soul—and travel-weary muscles—than a bubbling, geothermal soak. Thanks to its unique geological location, Idaho is home to 130 soakable hot springs—meaning they are natural and easily accessible (sometimes with a hike), or they have been developed into pools of varying temperatures and include modern amenities like changing rooms and food service.

Find Your Path to Wellness

The key to reducing stress involves learning how to nourish your mind, body and soul, so why not seek education in a splendid mountain setting at the Sun Valley Wellness Festival or be surrounded by spring-fed hot pools known for healing a variety of ailments at the Lava Hot Springs Wellness Festival? 

Pamper Yourself In Idaho

Taking some much-needed “me-time” is critical to getting some true rest and relaxation while on vacation. Thankfully, Idaho offers a variety of luxurious resorts and spas in spectacular settings. Check out the posh assortment of spa packages and stunning settings at the Coeur d’Alene Resort, Teton Springs Lodge & Spa, The Cove at Shore Lodge, Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel or The Harkness Hotel. 

Explore Your Creativity

Discovering or enrichening a creative outlet is a wonderful way to unwind from the demands of everyday life. The Atlanta School offers summer workshops in art, crafts, writing and music to those looking to hone their skills in a quiet, scenic refuge. Or, if developing a deeper connection with nature through art in a stunning, serene setting is more your style, sign up for an artist residency at the Monastery of St. Gertrude, or attend one of their retreats.

Resolution 3: Unplug in Nature

Purlple wildflowers in a green meadow with mountains in the distant background
Wildflowers along Highway 21 near Stanley. Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism

Take a Scenic Drive

One of the best ways to experience Idaho’s natural beauty is with a drive on one of the state’s 31 scenic byways. Wind through mountain passes, dense forests, high deserts, and past rushing rivers and sparkling lakes as you experience some of the same scenery encountered by Lewis and Clark and droves of pioneers. Pro tip: May through mid-June is the best time to catch the abundance of colorful wildflowers that take over the state’s valleys, meadows and mountainsides.

Camp in a Sky-High Lookout Tower

For a truly rustic experience offering fantastic 360-degree views above the tree line, consider camping in one of Idaho’s fire lookout towers. Set atop mountains or other high vantage points, there are nearly a dozen towers that can be reserved July through September at recreation.gov, including Arid Peak, Bald Mountain and Castle Butte. Lookouts typically have sleeping spaces for a few people and a propane stove, so campers must pack in all other supplies and comforts, including sleeping bags and drinking water. Others are available as vacation rentals.

Hike Among Idaho’s Giant Trees

Idaho is home to multiple groves of thousand-year-old cedar trees well over 100 feet tall and ranging 5 to 20 feet in diameter. Situated among streams and waterfalls and accessible via maintained trails, Hobo Cedar Grove, Settlers Grove, Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars and the Giant Red Cedar National Recreational Trail make for great hiking and picnic day trips or a place to simply enjoy some tranquility in nature.

Resolution 4: Spend Less & Save More Money

Riding over a trestle bridge on the Route of the Hiawatha
Riding over a trestle bridge on the Route of the Hiawatha. Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism

Visit Idaho’s Amazing Waterfalls

Idaho is home to 63 named waterfalls. Plunging 212 feet into the Snake River, Shoshone Falls is one of Idaho’s most iconic natural landmarks and is considered the “The Niagara of the West.” Other must-see falls include Mesa Falls and Fall Creek Falls.

Bike Through Tunnels & Over Trestles

The Route of the Hiawatha in the Bitterroot Mountains of northern Idaho is considered the crown jewel of rail-to-trail rides in the U.S. and is an experience suited for all ages and abilities. You can rent a bike or bring your own for this 15-mile downhill ride that takes you through eight decommissioned railroad tunnels and across seven ski-high trestles with breathtaking views.

Discover Idaho’s History

Learn about Idaho’s natural, cultural and military past at one of over 100 affordable museums and historic sites around the state. From Native American artifacts, the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the Idaho Gold Rush to World War II fighter planes and how the french fry came to be, you’ll encounter historic towns, interpretive sites and interactive exhibits that put the Gem State’s deep-rooted history on full display.

For more ways to find adventure in the new year, check out the Official Idaho Travel Guide.

Updated on December 14, 2022
Published on January 17, 2020