Idaho is an adventure-lovers paradise and is the perfect destination if you like taking road trips that revolve around hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and all the myriad of water sports that the beautiful lakes of Idaho provide.
Do your kids love water? Families with kids have to check out Lava Hot Springs and Silverwood Amusement Park!
How about boating? Rent a boat and spend the day playing on Coeur d’Alene, Lake Pend Oreille, Payette Lake, Priest Lake, or Bear Lake.
Need a little relaxation after all your Idaho adventures? Then you have to stop at one of Idaho’s many hot springs. I love that Kirkham Hot Springs is right next to the road and easy to stop at on my way to Stanley. You can soak in the hot pools and then cool off in the river.
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The hardest part of an adventure road trip through Idaho is having enough time to do it all. You really could spend all summer in Idaho and never be bored!
We’ve taken numerous road trips through Idaho and broke it down into 2 different Idaho adventure road trips– a northern route and a southern route. If you have the time, you could easily combine this into one epic summer road trip.
10 Things You Don’t Want To Forget For Your Adventure Road Trip Through Idaho
- Bear Spray: There are bears in Idaho and you don’t want to get caught unprepared. This one is a little cheaper than the one I just bought for $40 at Walmart.
- Inflatable Paddleboard: There are so many great opportunities to play on a lake in Idaho. This inflatable paddle board is less than $300, packs down small, and only takes 5 minutes to inflate.
- Quick Dry Towel: You’re going to need to dry off after all the fun you’ll be having in the lakes, hot springs, and waterparks. This is my favorite brand.
- Camping Light: We take this Luci Solar Inflatable Light with a Charger everywhere we go. We throw it on the dashboard so it charges during the day, use it to charge our phones while we hike, and it’s a great light when we are camping at night.
- Hammock: We love our Wise Owl Hammocks. They are a must for us when we hike, but with a family as big as ours, we rarely hike with 7 hammocks. That’s why we also bring the next thing on this list…
- Picnic blanket. The Matador Pocket Blanket is so great for all your adventures. It packs down so small it can fit in your pocket or easily clips to the outside of your backpack. I think it is perfect for having a picnic up at all the beautiful alpine lakes we hiked to in Idaho!
- Hiking backpack: If you aren’t doing a lot of hiking, it might be best to just get an inexpensive and foldable backpack like this. If you’ll be using it often, then I recommend our favorite backpack, REI’s Flash 22.
- Defy the Norm swag! Show off your bold, brave personality with our Defy the Norm Tees, Tanks, and Hoodies
- Music: Download our Road Trip Playlist to keep you rockin’ out along the way!
- Bluetooth Speaker: We have had quite a few of these but I think this one has the best sound quality and volume.
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Boise to Northern Idaho Adventure Road Trip Itinerary
This is a great two-week adventure road trip that starts and ends in Boise with the following stops along the way:
Day 1: Boise to Sun Valley
Day 2: Hike Pioneer Cabin & MTB Corral Creek in Sun Valley
On Day 3: Bike Galena or Hike Alice Lake on the way to Stanley
Day 4: Hike in the Sawtooths & Soak in a Hot Spring
And Day 5: Hike, Bike, and Play at Tamarack Resort
Day 6: Explore Trails & Hot Springs along Highway 12
Day 7: Bike, Zipline, or Hike near Wallace
On Day 8: Bike the Route of the Hiawatha & Play at Q’emiln Park
Day 9: Chill in Couer d’Alene
Day 10: Silverwood Theme Park
On Day 11: Sandpoint & Schweitzer Mountain
And Day 12: Priest Lake
Day 13: Moscow & Lewiston
Day 14: Boise
Sun Valley: Hike, Bike, Camp
There are adventures galore in the mountains surrounding Sun Valley and Ketchum. One of my all-time favorite hikes is Pioneer Cabin.
Related Blog: How To Train For a Strenuous Hike
Another favorite is biking Corral Creek, one of the top 5 MTB rides in Idaho. If you’re lucky you can score a campsite right next to the trailhead at Boundary Campground. We also love Climbing and Free Camping on Trail Creek Road.
On the way to Stanley from Sun Valley, mountain bike the easy and scenic trails at Galena. See the trail map here.
Stanley & Hiking the Sawtooths
The Sawtooths are easily one of our favorite mountain ranges in the world and you could spend so much time in the area surrounding Stanley. There are so many epic hikes to alpine lakes, meadows, jagged peaks, waterfalls, and lakes without the crowds of popular national parks.
Be sure to hike Goat Lake, it’s short (not easy per se) and one of the most amazing hikes we’ve ever done. Camp at Stanley Lake but make a reservation ahead of time if it’s summer.
Related Blog: Best Hikes in the Sawtooths
Spend a few days at Redfish Lake where there are many scenic campgrounds, though Glacier View is the only one that allows RVs. There is also a great campers resource on the road into Redfish where you can shower and do laundry (always a highlight for us).
If you’re near the town of Stanley, have a post-hike breakfast at Stanley Baking Company and Cafe. There’s a small library in town with free wifi and it’s right next to a yoga studio if you need to stretch after all that hiking.
Related Blog: Yoga for Hikers
Before leaving Stanley you may want to head over to the amazing Kirkham Hot Springs. It can be crowded but it’s still worth the stop. Park at 44.072427, -115.541471, cross the bridge, and enjoy moving between the 100-degree springs then polar plunging in the crisp cold river and cliff jumping from the opposite side of the river!
Cascade, Donnelly & McCall
There are three cute little towns between Stanley and the turn-off for Highway 12. Cascade has great free camping and fishing.
Tamarack Resort near Donnelly is one of our new favorite destinations. We discovered this hidden gem on a ski trip this past winter and hope to do some hiking and MTB there this summer.
Some of our favorite things in McCall include camping at Ponderosa State Park, hiking and MTB Huckleberry Bay Loop, rock climbing at the Thinking Spot, chilling at North Beach, and boating on Payette Lake.
This beautiful stretch of highway follows a windy river for miles and miles. There’s not a lot to do along the way but just enough to keep you entertained for this stretch of your Idaho road trip.
Personally, I think the two best things to do along Highway 12 are:
- Hike to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs
- Hike to West Butte Lookout
Wallace is famous for being the “Center of the Universe” and its “rails-to-trails” network including the Route of the Hiawatha and the Route of the Olympian for mountain bikers, and the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes for road bikers.
There’s a short but popular hike, Pulaski Tunnel Trail, that you may want to explore while you are in Wallace, or if you want more adventure, try ziplining. Families will also love the indoor water park at Silver Mountain.
We love to stay at the Wallace RV park because you can walk to town from it and there is a brewery on-site.
Ride The Route of the Hiawatha
The Route of the Hiawatha was surprisingly easy but goes through 10 dark train tunnels and across 7 very high trestles. You can rent bikes and buy your tickets to ride this trail, as well as shuttle tickets, at Lookout Pass. There’s also a cool hike to Steven’s Lake that I recommend doing that starts near Lookout Pass.
Q’emiln Park is easy to get to and has a nice, easy trail system to hike, tightly bolted climbing routes, a playground for the kids, and a river to play in and rinse off in after a day spent adventuring. And is also a popular boating destination and way less crowded than nearby Coeur d’Alene. Plus, if you take a short walk across the bridge that spans the river, you can enjoy a delicious cold beer at Post Falls Brewing Co while taking in the views overlooking the river.
Related Blog: Best Rock Climbing Destinations to Take Your Kids
If you love beautiful nature with all the amenities of a city, this will be your favorite spot. While it’s a little too touristy for me, I can see why so many people love vacationing here every summer.
Personally, I love camping at Camp Coeur d’Alene and hiking Tubbs Hill, especially on a hot day when we can jump into the lake. Younger kids will love the playground and splash pad at McEuen Park. There’s also the 22-mile-long Centennial Trail that you can ride all the way to Spokane.
Before you get to Sandpoint, you may want to play at Silverwood Theme Park. Our family loves roller coasters and water parks and it is really fun to get to do both here. Plus, there is an RV park right on the property making it super easy to spend a day or two here on your Idaho road trip.
Surrounded by 3 mountain ranges and sitting adjacent to the magnificent Lake Pend Oreille, it’s no wonder why people flock here for outdoor adventure.
While you can quickly escape the crowds to get lost on the many miles of hiking and MTB trails in Sherwood Forest or Schweitzer Mountain Resort, you can also find easy trails near town or chill and soak up the sun at City Beach. Lake Pend Oreille is also a perfect lake for powerboating and I so wish we had rented a boat to get a day of wakeboarding and inner-tubing in.
When your kids have had enough of swimming and jumping into the water, you absolutely have to head over to Panhandle Cone & Coffee for the absolute best ice cream ever.
The small-town charm of Sandpoint draws festivals, art shows, and concerts every year. Victor and I had a fun evening dancing and singing at The Festival at Sandpoint. This popular concert series that comes to Sandpoint every summer may not be your favorite hit artist, but the environment is super fun, friendly, and happy.
The fun at Schweitzer Mountain Resort doesn’t end with just MTB either. This is a great destination for hiking, trail running, zip-lining, panning for gold, picking huckleberries, disc golf, geocaching, horseback riding, and more.
For delicious pies and jams, as well as organic meats and produce, hit the Farmers Market on Saturdays 9 am-1 pm or Wednesdays 3 pm-5:30 pm from early May to mid-October.
Last but not least this amazing Northern Idaho adventure road trip is Priest Lake. I’ll admit that while it is beautiful and I love coming up here to hike, camp, and play in the lake, there is quite a bit of extra driving that you could probably skip.
What I think is the most unique part of this area is how different the forest feels. It reminded me a lot of our drive through Canada on the Alaska Highway. Also, the campground, on Priest Lake is awesome. The sites are spacious, there is a great sandy beach, and my kids loved jumping off the dock
Going through Moscow & Lewiston is only 15 minutes longer than driving back through Washington on I-84 but it provides you with things to do along the way. I’ve never really explored much of Moscow or Lewiston but I have heard other people say that they really enjoy exploring these cute college towns
That’s a wrap for the north, now here’s my recommended itinerary for exploring the southern part of Idaho.
Southern Idaho Adventure Road Trip Itinerary
On Day 1: Drive to Craters of the Moon
Day 2: Explore Idaho Falls, Swan Valley, & Darby Canyon
Day 3: Hike or MTB at Grand Targhee Resort
Day 4: Boat on Bear Lake
Day 5: Play at Lava Hot Springs
Day 6: Hike or Climb in City of Rocks
Day 7: Stop at Shoshone Falls or Bruneau Sand Dunes on the way back to Boise
Craters of the Moon
This is an awesome place to camp for a night. While there isn’t a ton of hiking and things to do, the night sky is incredible and makes for a great place to spend a night on an Idaho adventure road trip.
On your way from Craters of the Moon, you could detour and hike Borah Peak if you feel very adventurous. The rock climbing at The Fins near Arco is great too!
We don’t spend much time in Idaho Falls but we do stop here often to grab dinner or restock food and supplies. Idaho Falls is a nice town with a bike path that runs along the water.
Google Maps says the fastest way to Driggs is through Rexburg but I prefer driving towards Swan Valley and over the mountains towards Victor to get there. Swan Valley also has great camping and beautiful waterfalls.
Driggs & Grand Targhee
This could be a destination in and of itself. Driggs sits on the backside of the Grand Tetons. It’s a playground for outdoor enthusiasts with much fewer crowds than the Tetons will draw this summer.
Some of our favorite things to do near Driggs in the summer include mountain biking at Grand Targhee Resort, hiking to the top of Fred’s Mountain at Targhee, free camping in Darby Canyon, and hiking the wind cave. Don’t miss going to an old-fashioned drive-in movie theatre when you visit Driggs.
If you’re looking for a place to relax and recover, make sure to stop at Bear Lake. Though there are many campgrounds around the lake, East Beach seemed to be the most lovely. The water of this lake is famous for a reason– you saw how turquoise it was, right?!– and if you have a boat, it’s an epic place to waterski/wakeboard because there’s practically no one else on the lake (at least when we were there in late August).
Lava Hot Springs
This is one of our family’s favorite adventure destinations in Idaho. I love how chill this small town feels. The camping is right along the river making it easy to rent an inner tube and float the river that runs through town. The hot pools are wonderful to relax in after a fun day of waterslides and high dives at the outdoor pool.
Related Blog: Guide to Lava Hot Springs
City of Rocks
If you’re in the wonderful state of Idaho, you can’t miss the opportunity to climb the famous City of Rocks. There is a route for everyone here and though it’s not an easy approach or lots of easy sport routes like Q’emiln Park, it’s still worth it. You will want to make time to camp out here as these campsites are amazing for stargazing and an ultimate dose of tranquility.
Related blog: Guide to Camping & Climbing in City of Rocks.
Shoshone Falls & Bruneau Sand Dunes
Finish off this amazing road trip with a stop at Shoshone Falls and Bruneau Sand Dunes. If you can time it, try to get to Shoshone early for fewer crowds and better lighting for photos and then to Bruneau closer to sunset when the temperatures are cooler.
Related Blogs + Road Trip Resources:
- 21 Things To Do in Idaho in Summer
- Best Campgrounds Idaho
- Best Hikes Idaho
- Best Hikes in the Sawtooths
- 51 Things to Pack For Car Camping
- Road Trip Playlist