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Idaho Adventure Road Trip Itinerary

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 the myriad of water sports that the beautiful lakes of Idaho provide.

We take a road trip through Idaho most summers and in this blog, we are sharing 2 of our favorite Idaho adventure road tripsa northern route and a southern route. 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! That’s why we full-time RV! Now our entire life is one long road trip.

Be sure to also check out our 21 Things To Do in Idaho in Summer blog.

Idaho adventure road trip

Best Idaho Adventures

Do your kids love water? Families with kids want to check out Lava Hot Springs and Silverwood Amusement Park!

Inner Tubing in Lava
Getting pumped to begin our inner tubing fun at Lava Hot Springs

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.

Bear Lake: Idaho Adventure Family Road Trip
The beautiful turquoise water at 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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10 Things You Don’t Want To Forget For Your Adventure Road Trip Through Idaho

  1. 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.
  2. Inflatable Paddleboard: There are so many great opportunities to play on a lake in Idaho. We have this inflatable paddle board. I liked that it was less than $300, packs down small, and only takes a few minutes to inflate.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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…
  6. 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!
  7. 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 or for long hikes, then I recommend this comfortable daypack.
  8. Defy the Norm swag! Show off your bold, brave personality with our Defy the Norm or Allergic to the Rat Race Tees, Tanks, and Hoodies.
  9. Music: Download our Road Trip Playlist to keep you rockin’ out along the way!
  10. 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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Northern Idaho Adventure Road Trip Itinerary: Boise to Sandpoint

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, Hailey, and Ketchum. One of my favorite hikes is to Pioneer Cabin.

Pioneer Cabin, Best Hikes Idaho, Sun Valley
Epic mountainscapes from the cozy 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 a long time exploring the area around Stanley, Idaho. There are many great hikes to alpine lakes, meadows, jagged peaks, waterfalls, and lakes. The best part about the Sawtooths is that they are just as gorgeous as the National Parks but without the crowds.

Related Blog: Best National Park Hikes

My favorite hikes include Goat Lake, Alice Lake, and Thompson Peak. If you can, grab a campsite at Glacier View or Stanley Lake. There is also a lot of free camping around Stanley.

There is a great campers resource along the road into Redfish Lake where you can pay for hot showers, do laundry, and find an RV dump station.

In the morning, grab a delicious breakfast at Stanley Baking Company and Cafe or coffee at the popular Peaks and Perks.

Relax in the free Sunbeam Hot Springs or pay to soak at Mountain Village Hot Springs in town.

On the way from Stanley to McCall, stop at our favorite free Idaho hot spring, Kirkham Hot Springs. We love this one because there are multiple pools of varying temperatures and we like to jump into the crisp cold river for an ice bath. Also, it tends to be crowded which means less nudity (although we have been surprised a time or two).

Kirkham Hot Springs Idaho Summer Adventures
Enjoying sunset at Kirkham Hot Springs

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.

Highway 12

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.

Jerry Johnson Hot Spring

Personally, I think the two best things to do along Highway 12 are:

  1. Hike to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs
  2. Hike to West Butte Lookout

Wallace

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

Biking The Historic Hiawatha Trail

The Route of the Hiawatha near Coeur de Alene is considered the “crown jewel” of the rail-to-trail rides. With 10 train tunnels and 7 sky-high trestles along this historic 15-mile mountain biking route. The best part is that it’s mostly downhill and you can get a shuttle back to town.

The Route of the Hiawatha was surprisingly easy however, the first tunnel is about 1 mile long so be prepared with gloves and headlamps.

Biking The Historic Hiawatha Trail

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.

Stevens Lake, North Idaho
Stunning spot for a post-hike swim in Northern Idaho

Related Blog: Best Hikes in Idaho

Coeur d’Alene

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.

Post Falls

Q’emiln Park, in Post Falls, 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.

It is also a popular boating destination and much 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

Sandpoint

Lake Pend Orielle Sandpoint Idaho

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. 

Picking huckleberries in Sandpoint, Idaho

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. We often visit in July for the Wine Fest or in September for the Beer Fest.

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.

Priest Lake

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

Creaters of the Moon, Summer, Idaho
Escaping to the Craters of the Moon National Monument

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.

Idaho Falls

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

Freds Mountain Trail, Grand Targhee Resort
Taking in the views from Fred’s Summit after a wonderful summer hike at Grand Targhee Resort

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.

Bear Lake

Bear Lake: Idaho Adventure Family Road Trip
The bluest of lakes at Bear Lake

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

Lava Waterpark diving platforms
Diving platforms at the Waterpark

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

Camping under the stars in City or Rocks
Photo courtesy of Sammy Spindel

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.  

City of Rocks National Reserve
City of Rocks Main Parking Lot

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.

And that’s a wrap for your Idaho adventure road trip. Need more help planning? Hire me to plan the perfect trip.

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Trina

Tuesday 24th of September 2019

I live in Idaho and the one thing I really love about it is being able to step out my door and be in the mountains within a short period of time. Idaho falls and Bosie are someof the best places for shopping and if your into city life Bosie is the best city hands down. It has a tons of places for shopping, night life, and all kinds of adventures for the whole family. You can bike the green belt which practically flows all way thru town, float the river, play at one of the many parks, visit the zoo and museum or oneof the many flower gardens. Bosie is home to a large number of places to eat. The historic state penatentry is worth the tour as well as the botanical gardens next to it. If you ever come back to Idaho and get the chance there's plenty of places for camping, fishing, rock climbing or rock hunting, or even visit a ghost town or 2.near salmon Idaho are the ghost towns of Custer and bonanza and the dredge. They are all worth seeing and the salmon river is noted as one of the best rivers for white water rafting. There's so much to do in our state that with alittle bit of time and energy it's easy to get lost! I love camping and being out doors andi love rock hounding and Idaho definitely is the place to find all kindsof beauties. (hence why it's called the gem state) if you ever get the chance go to Spencer Idaho where you can go dig for Idaho opals..

Robyn

Thursday 3rd of October 2019

That would be awesome! We are hoping to make it to Idaho again next summer and we'll be sure to reach out :)

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