It’s not about where you’re going or where you’ve been. It’s how you get there and who goes along for the ride. Here are Idaho fall experiences by road, foot, and water that you won’t want to pass up. From hiking and biking to vineyard tours and historical sites, there’s a variety of ways to enjoy Idaho this fall.
Explore the state’s 31 byways in the autumn to find beautiful fall colors.
- Pend Oreille Scenic Byway: Offering some of Idaho’s most spectacular water views, the Pend Oreille Scenic Byway meanders across farmlands, through river deltas, and along the rocky northern shores of – Lake Pend Oreille.
- Lake Coeur d’Alene Scenic Byway: This byway traverses an area where the lakes and mountains have made it one of the most famous destinations in the Pacific Northwest. In the fall, the vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows of the season line the lakeshore.
- Panhandle Historic Rivers Passage Scenic Byway: The Panhandle Historic Rivers Passage begins at the Washington state line and follows the northern shore of the Pend Oreille River through Oldtown and Priest River, ending in Sandpoint. This drive includes miles of scenic river views and numerous opportunities to spot wildlife.
Soothe your soul in Idaho’s hot springs. Fall is the perfect time to visit any of the developed hot spring sites, which feature hot pools with varying temperatures and modern amenities.
- Lava Hot Springs: The hot pools in Lava Hot Springs are sourced from natural underground springs. Over 2.5 million gallons of hot mineral water run through the five pools each day, and these waters lack the sulfur smell found at many soaking locations. The Lava Hot Pools are open 363 days a year and offer swimming suit, towel, and locker rentals.
- Downata Hot Springs: Relax and soak in one of Downata Hot Springs’ hot pools, which feature jets and other relaxing amenities. Add an overnight stay in one of the covered wagons (that sleep six!) for extra soaking opportunities.
- The Springs: The Springs features natural hot spring pools just a short drive from Boise. With the option of an evening soak, it’s a perfect location for stargazing or warming-up on a cool autumn night. Reservations are strongly recommended, as the number of guests is limited each day to provide the best experience. Extend your adventure and stay the night at the nearby Inn the Pines family hotel.
This fall, take time to slow down and visit these unique monuments and museums around Idaho.
- Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail: Today you can still experience the trail as Lewis & Clark’s expedition did. Hike Idaho’s Bitterroot Mountains and follow the centuries-old footsteps of the Salish, the Nez Perce, and the Corps of Discovery.
- Hemingway History: Sun Valley is home to several sites that commemorate Ernest Hemingway’s life. Start at the Sun Valley Museum of History, then head to the Ketchum Cemetery to visit Hemingway’s final resting place. Visit the Sun Valley Lodge to access a short path, which leads to The Hemingway Memorial.
- Old Idaho Penitentiary: The Old Idaho Penitentiary housed some of the West’s most notorious criminals for 101 years, from 1872 to 1973. Tour solitary confinement and cell blocks while walking through 30 buildings that are part of this experience. Hours vary depending on the season, but guided and self-guided tours are available year-round.
Hikes Featuring Fall Colors
The changing of seasons never deters Idaho explorers, so grab a jacket, like-minded adventurers, and enjoy a change of pace. Experience new adventures every step of the way.
- Fishhook Creek Trail: This family-friendly hike near Redfish Lake offers incredible views of the Sawtooth Mountains. Enjoy the changing colors of the trees that line the trail on your way to panoramic views of this breathtaking area.
- Bumblie Trail/Lost Arrow: The City of Rocks National Reserve is a “geological wonderland of granite domes, chiseled pinnacles, and towering cliffs.” In mid-to-late October, hike to the pinnacle-shaped Lost Arrow to see colorful aspens. Start the hike from the Flaming Rock Trailhead, connect to the Bumblie Trail, and follow the signs to Lost Arrow.
- Upper Palisades Lake Trail: The Upper Palisades Lake Trail is a popular out-and-back trail. This hike features lake views, incredible fall colors, and some of the best mountain views in the Swan Valley. The trail is best from June until October.
Beer, Wine, and Food
Idaho’s culinary scene is rapidly growing and is ready to surprise and delight your taste buds. From Idaho’s restaurant owners and culinary creators to brewery and winery proprietors, Idaho is passionate about what is plated and poured. Head to a table, taproom, or tasting event to experience Idaho’s unique flavors.
- Idaho Breweries: Idaho is home to over 50+ breweries and is 10th nationwide for breweries per capita. Take a tour of a brewing facility, spend some time in a local tasting room, and find your favorite local beer.
- Sunnyslope Wine Trail: The Snake River Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA), in particular, the Sunnyslope Wine Trail, near Caldwell is a must-sip wine destination. This trail showcases Idaho’s scenic vineyards and cozy tasting rooms. Schedule a tour or drop in for a tasting at one of the 15 wineries and vineyards on this trail. But don’t worry, if you can’t make a stop here, you’ll find wineries all over the state.
- Food Tour: Experience Idaho’s capital city culinary options in a new way, via a walking food tour. Join expert tour guides from Indulge Boise Food Tours for a culinary adventure as you sample some of the best dining in downtown Boise.
Biking enthusiasts have access to miles of stunning fall rides in Idaho. Explore spectacular forested paths, take advantage of the diverse trail options in the foothills surrounding Boise, or ride into Idaho’s national forests.
- Ridge to Rivers: The Ridge to Rivers system is an interconnected network of roads and trails that weave through the Boise Foothills. This trail system, offering over 180-miles of trails, links neighborhoods with public lands, parks, and other points of interest.
- Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes: Use your pedal power to cruise the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. This 72-mile paved path follows the original Union Pacific Railroad route in the Silver Valley and passes through historic towns such as Kellogg, Wallace, and Harrison.
- Redfish Lake Loop: On the edge of the Sawtooth Mountains, the Redfish Lake Loop has intermediate and advanced riding options that circle Redfish Lake. The views are spectacular, especially in the autumn months.
A seemingly endless number of rivers and lakes make Idaho a prime location for fishing, especially in the fall. Beginners can team up with a local guide to learn about the surrounding fishing holes, and more experienced anglers can try their hand on Idaho’s many blue-ribbon waterways.
Lake and River Cruises
Find a new way to experience Idaho’s dazzling fall colors by enjoying a lake or river cruise.
- Lake Pend Oreille: Experience Idaho’s largest lake, Lake Pend Oreille, with an exciting lake cruise adventure. Lake Pend Oreille Cruises offers a variety of cruises that allow guests to view fall foliage and watch for bald eagles from the comfort of a heated interior cabin. Excursions typically last between two and two and a half hours and run through the end of October. Reservations are required and cruises depart from East Hope in the fall months.
- Lake Coeur d’Alene: A unique way to enjoy Lake Coeur d’Alene is to take a cruise across its waters to discover Idaho wildlife, Coeur d’ Alene history, and important landmarks. The most popular option is a Daily Scenic Public Cruise, which last around 90-minutes but sunset and dinner cruises are also available. These Lake Coeur d’Alene cruises run through the end of October, but you can find a variety offerings year-round.
- Snake River: 1000 Springs Tours offers amazing views of the Hagerman Valley during a 12-mile cruise on the Snake River. Choose from scenic or meal cruise experiences. From September 15th through November 4th, take advantage of Oktoberfest-themed cruises.
Feature Image Credited to Idaho Tourism.
Published on September 3, 2019