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Are you more than slightly envious of all the amazing trips your Facebook friends seem to be taking lately? These days, you can’t log into a social network without being bombarded by pictures of your friend’s latest life-changing escapades to jaw-dropping destinations like this:

A group of friends hiking along Fishhook Creek Trail near Redfish Lake.
Soaking in the views along Fishhook Creek Trail near Redfish Lake. Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism

Maybe it’s time for you to witness some mind-blowing scenery in person rather than through the experiences of others? Since no camera can capture the smell of fresh pine trees or the feel of a cool stream rushing over your feet, it’s time to unplug and create lasting memories. Get out there and see, hear, smell and feel it in person! To get you started, we mapped out an Idaho road trip for you and the family with more diversity than most cross-country trips can provide.


1.  Hells Canyon National Recreation Area

At its highest point, America’s deepest canyon dives a staggering 7,993 feet to the valley floor below. Hell’s Canyon carves its way along the Idaho-Oregon border next to the Seven Devils Mountain Range.  While you are there, be sure to take a guided float trip or jet boat tour between the giant slabs of green and black basalt walls of this mammoth canyon.

Next Destination: Take US-95 north or take the White Pine and Lake Coeur d’Alene Scenic Byways.

Travel time to Lake Coeur d’Alene: 3h 49m (222 miles)

2.  Lake Coeur d’Alene

Lake Coeur d’Alene spans 26 miles and boasts more than 135 miles of shoreline. This international resort destination is home to the Coeur d’Alene ResortSilverwood Theme Park (the Northwest’s largest theme park), and a never-ending list of outdoor activities. Take a breather here and rest up for your next stop – the Route of the Hiawatha.

Next Destination: Hop on I-90 and head east.

Travel time to the Route of the Hiawatha: 2h 13m (81 miles)

3.  Route of the Hiawatha

Make sure you bring your camera along for this portion of your epic road trip. The route of the Hiawatha is a converted rail-trail that winds alongside the St. Joe river for 15 miles. Ride your bike over 7 beautifully crafted trestle bridges and cruise through 10 train tunnels. The trail is all downhill (fun for the whole family) with shuttle buses to transport you back to the top.

Next Destination: Take I-90 east, take exit 101 for Reserve St/US-93 S toward Hamilton. Hop on the Salmon River and the Sawtooth Scenic Byways.

Travel time to Sawtooth National Recreation Area: 8h 13m (420 miles)

4.  Sawtooth National Recreation Area

The Sawtooth National Recreation Area is the epitome of everything that is Idaho exploration. In fact, it could be a vacation in and of itself. The area has 300 high-mountain lakes and 700 miles of trails to explore. You may struggle to choose just one day’s worth of activities, so stick around and explore if you have the time. You’ll certainly have action-packed days ahead.

Next Destination: Take the Sawtooth and Peaks to Craters Scenic Byways.

Travel time to Craters of the Moon: 1h 30m (72 miles)

5. Craters of the Moon

Craters of the Moon spans 750,000 acres, roughly the same size as the state of Rhode Island. This vast ocean of lava-coated terrain includes lava tubes, cinder cones, and fissures. Venture out for a 15-minute light walk to the top of the Inferno Cone for a view of the vast lava formations.

Next Destination: Follow US-20 E/US-26 E/US-93 N to S 4300 W in Madison County.

Travel time to Yellowstone Bear World: 1h 41m (104 miles)

7. Yellowstone Bear World

“Bear World! Bear World! Bear World!” is what you will likely hear chanted from the backseat as you pull in to see the free-roaming wildlife habitat that is Yellowstone Bear World. Get an up close and personal view (from the comfort and safety of your own car) of bison, mule deer, elk, white-tail deer, moose, American black bear, grey wolves, and the infamous grizzly bear. This drive-through park offers a unique view of wildlife that you won’t get anywhere else. You’ll even get to pet bear cubs!

Next Destination: Take US-20 to Idaho Falls.

Travel time to Museum of Idaho: 23m (21 miles)

8. Museum of Idaho

Museum of Idaho
Museum of Idaho

The Museum of Idaho is a nonprofit that is devoted to bringing first-class exhibits to the State of Idaho. The museum preserves cultural and natural history by showcasing exhibits such as the Race for Atomic Power, Local Idaho History, Eagle Rock, and the Children’s Discovery Room. Be sure to plan your visit ahead of time as the museum is closed on certain days for new exhibit set up.

Next Destination: Follow I-15 S, I-86 W and I-84 to ID-50 S in Jerome County.

Travel time to Shoshone Falls: 2h 18m (159 miles)

9.  Shoshone Falls

Did you know that Idaho has a waterfall that is taller than Niagara Falls? Shoshone Falls is a jaw-dropping 212-feet tall and is at its best during the spring and early summer when the water flow is high. The Shoshone Falls/Dierkes Lake Complex is operated by the City of Twin Falls and has playgrounds, groomed picnic areas, hiking trails, and a swimming area. Make sure you visit the scenic overlook for an unforgettable family photo.

Next Destination: Travel west on E 3700 N Rd.

Travel time to Balanced Rock: 50m (34 miles)

10. Balanced Rock

A picture of Balanced Rock.
A view of Balanced Rock.

Balanced Rock is one of the most unique natural formations you will ever see. This world-famous rock weighs over 40 tons and is 48-feet tall. The wind has slowly etched every crevice of this boulder to form one of nature’s most curious balancing acts. Stop for a picnic and snap some pictures to add to your impressive and expanding road trip photo album.

Next Destination: Take US-30 W and I-84.

Travel time to Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park: 1h 40m (84 miles)

11. Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park

A picture of sand dunes in the summer.
A view of Bruneau Sand Dunes from on top of a dune.

Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park is last on the list of road trip destinations and is the perfect place to wrap up your road trip adventure. Over 12,000 years ago the Bonneville flood waters receded leaving a large amount of sand. The wind transported the sand to Idaho’s Bruneau Basin, and Bruneau Dunes State Park now boasts the highest single-structured sand dune in North America. In addition to the sandy waves, Bruneau is home to Idaho’s largest observatory. Gaze at the stars, climb the 470-foot dune, rent a sandboard, and surf the family-friendly sandy waves.

Next Destination: Take I-84 back to Boise.

Travel time to Boise: 1h 19m (65 miles)

Where To Rest Up

There are many options for comfortable overnight stays during your trip through Idaho. But if you’re in a pinch for a quick bathroom break or a roadside nap, this handy little app gives users a list of all the available rest areas in the state of Idaho.

Stay busy while on the road with IDAHO Bingo

Idaho Bingo.
Idaho Bingo.

Make the car ride fun for the whole family with a game of back seat bingo! Try to find all the items that are pictured on each card and be the first to get bingo! Some of the items will require you to leave the car, giving you the perfect excuse to get out and stretch your legs. This game is sure to keep kids happy and parents sane.

After you’re done exploring Idaho by car, make sure to share your pictures and stories with your friends online and watch the comments pour in. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and make some memories of your own!

This author is a paid content writer for Idaho Tourism.

Published on October 28, 2015