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man wearing swim trunks jumping into a lake and a forest of trees in the distance
Payette Lake. Photo Credit: Marissa Lovell.

Payette Lake

McCall

Payette Lake is undoubtedly one of my favorite places in Idaho. The crisp air, sparkling water, towering Ponderosa pines and mountain views make Payette Lake one of the best spots to spend your time — whether that’s a few hours or a few days.

On Payette’s southern shore, the little lake town of McCall is your place to fuel up before heading out to picnic. Visit Stax for homemade soups, sandwiches and fresh salads. They make freshly baked bread from scratch every morning and use local ingredients whenever possible. Stax will also create complete “brown bag” lunches if you call ahead and can accommodate most dietary restrictions.

Once you’ve grabbed your grub, find a spot on the shore of Payette Lake. The lake stretches over 5,330 acres and has about 22 miles of shoreline, which includes all 1,515 acres of Ponderosa State Park. The state park is situated on a peninsula jutting out into Payette Lake and is a great place to spend a whole day. If you’re looking to picnic with fewer people and more pine trees, head out of McCall on Lick Creek Road and connect to Eastside Drive.

From there, follow the lake to North Beach. Keep your eyes peeled for places to access the lake — if you don’t mind a little hike in, you just may end up with your own private beach!

woman sitting on a rock looking at a tree-covered valley
Trail Creek. Photo Credit: Marissa Lovell.

Trail Creek Road

Sun Valley

One of my first thoughts when heading up Trail Creek for the first time was, “So this is why they call it Sun Valley.” On top of spectacular views, the sunny canyon has plenty of places to pull over and picnic and limited cell service, making it a fantastic place to spend a peaceful hour or two.

Stop by Perry’s on 4th Street in Ketchum before heading out of town. If made-from-scratch is your jam, Perry’s will not disappoint. The family-owned eatery has been serving locals and visitors for over 30 years. The eatery bakes all its bread and pastries fresh each morning and hand makes all salads and dressings from recipes that have been collected from family and friends over the years. Perry’s also offers make-your-own sandwiches as well as vegan and gluten-free substitutes.

Food in hand and gas in your tank, head out of Ketchum on Sun Valley Road. Once you pass Sun Valley Resort, the road will turn into Trail Creek Road. From here, your options for picnic spots are almost endless. Pull off and picnic next to Trail Creek on your right, or drive a little farther up the road and pull off in one of the meadows on your left and eat while overlooking the sun-drenched valley. Note that the pavement ends a few miles in and the dirt road will eventually become one lane until it reaches Trail Creek Summit and enters Salmon-Challis National Forest. The pass is gorgeous and the views are worth the drive, but you’ll want a vehicle with sturdy tires to make this full drive.

Teton Scenic Byway

Swan Valley to Ashton

There are countless breathtaking views in Idaho, but the Tetons are certainly one of the most awe-inspiring. Idaho’s Teton Scenic Byway is one of the best ways to see these massive mountains up-close.

The tiny town of Tetonia is your starting point for this picture-perfect picnic. Swing by the Grand View General Store for homemade sandwiches, snacks, sweets and drinks. If you want to try out a local restaurant, call in a takeout order from Badger Creek Cafe. The cafe serves a little of everything: breakfast, pastries, sandwiches, salads, burgers and hot dogs.

Once you’ve secured your picnic provisions, head out on the Teton Scenic Byway. Tetonia is technically in the center of the Byway — it spans 69 miles in total from Swan Valley to Ashton. The parking area just off the byway outside of Tetonia has awesome views of the mountains and rolling farmland in every direction.

Farragut State Park

Athol

A picnic in Northern Idaho just wouldn’t be the same without a waterfront view. Idaho’s panhandle is home to some of the most impressive lakes and rivers in the country, including Lake Coeur d’Alene, Priest Lake and Lake Pend Oreille, which is not only the biggest lake in Idaho, but one of the deepest in the entire nation.

Picnic prep begins with Little Town Market in Athol. This little grocery store has deli sandwiches and wraps, fresh produce and cold cuts, drinks, ice cream cones and more.

Just five minutes away, located on the south end of Lake Pend Oreille, Farragut State Park is a 40,000-acre area that’s perfect for a picnic. The park has more than 40 miles of trail, a disc golf course, campgrounds, a boat launch and multiple day-use areas.

Massacre Rocks State Park

American Falls

One of the coolest things about Idaho is its history, which is quite literally written on the wall in some areas of the state, such as Massacre Rocks State Park.

Your road to picnic paradise starts in American Falls with a visit to The Ranch Bakery. You’ll find comfort food like fresh-made sandwiches, homemade soups and BBQ-doused bacon on a stick, as well as picnic-perfect sides like fruit bowls, potato salad and tater tots. The Ranch’s sweet treats are out of this world — try the homemade Oreo cookies, gourmet cupcakes or The Ranch’s signature raspberry twist.

Ready to roll? From The Ranch, drive 15 minutes on I-86 W/US-30 W to Massacre Rocks State Park. The park is full of history and geologic wonders. There are miles of hiking trails, excellent wildlife watching, big rocks to climb on and great views of the mighty Snake River. The park also has a pretty awesome and challenging disc golf course.

There is a beautiful picnic area by Register Rock, a massive boulder where Oregon Trail emigrants signed their names as they traveled west, which makes for a great place to finally break out those homemade Oreo cookies.

Wherever your Idaho adventures may lead you, you can guarantee there is a terrific place to picnic nearby. Happy picnicking!

Get a Taste of Adventure and Local Cuisine, Plan Your Fall Picnic in Idaho!


Published on September 24, 2020