Buckle up for rowdy whitewater, big hikes, a heaping dose of history and a to-die-for dish that will have you making plans to linger a little longer in Idaho.
What to Do
Start your journey at Bruneau Dunes State Park near Mountain Home. Not only does this park tout the largest single-structured sand dune in North America, but it also offers insane sand sledding and boarding. Stop by the Visitor Center to rent a sandboard (think snowboarding meets sand dune) or a sand sled (which you can sit on), then head out for a big climb and an even bigger rush on the way down. Make sure to stick around after the sun goes down as this park is home to an observatory that allows visitors to view planets, nebulas, and far-away galaxies with a massive telescope. Check out one of the star parties at the park March through October for all the astronomical intel.
Hit the road and head for Boise to continue your journey. Get the blood flowing in those road-weary legs by exploring Boise’s Ridge to Rivers Trail System. This system offers more than 190 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails that weave throughout the foothills overlooking Idaho’s capital city. Then head into the heart of downtown Boise to experience Basque culture and cuisine on the Basque Block as Idaho has one of the largest Basque populations in the U.S. Make sure to check out The Basque Market for Paella on the Patio. This traditional Basque dish combines an array of colors and flavors in one mouthwatering meal. If you have time, cross the street to the Basque Museum and Cultural Center to learn more about Basques in the American West.
The history highlights continue with a visit to the Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa. This museum features historic warbirds, warplanes, and personal memorabilia from World War I and II along with historic archives from the Iraq War, Persian Gulf War, Vietnam War, Korean War, and the Cold War. The aircraft in this museum certainly bring the wow factor, and the personal stories will captivate any history buff for hours.
Cap this trip with a jet boat ride in America’s deepest river gorge: Hells Canyon. Don’t let the name scare you. This stunning canyon can be accessed from several parts of the state (from the south at Hells Canyon Dam, and from the north at White Bird or Lewiston) so find out which entry point lines up best with your travels and then book a trip with one of the expert outfitters who run this stretch of the Snake River. You’ll be treated to jaw-dropping scenery, bouncy rapids and will likely spot bald eagles, brown bears and bighorn sheep along the way. Elevate your experience by hiking this treasured landscape. Outfitters like Hells Canyon Adventures offer a shuttle service for ambitious hikers to access locations like Sheep Creek Ranch where you can pack in your gear for an overnight stay in this wilderness wonder and then hike out in the morning. The terrain is tough at times, and the temperatures can climb in the summer months, but the views are hard to beat. If an extended experience doesn’t fit your schedule, don’t worry. Half and full-day jet boat trips are available.