9 Best Places to Spend Summer in Idaho

Landscape awesomeness at Payette National Forest, McCall, Idaho, United States

Idaho is often overlooked as a travel destination, but it’s filled with unique and interesting places to see. A summer in Idaho opens up tons of options for outdoor recreation, as well as relaxing and leisurely vacation opportunities.

You can enjoy hiking and camping in Idaho’s rugged backcountry, visit incredible geological formations, or hang out along the beach at one of the Gem State’s pristine freshwater lakes.

Below is a roundup of great places to visit in Idaho during the summer. We’re sharing some of the best things to do in developed cities and resort towns like Boise and Sun Valley, but we’ll also uncover some of the more remote and hidden wonders that Idaho has to offer.

So keep reading and let’s get started on planning your next summer vacation in Idaho.

Twin Falls

Have you ever heard of the ‘Niagara of the West’? Shoshone Falls is an impressive sight to behold. It’s actually 45 feet taller than Niagara Falls! And in early summer it can be roaring with water after the snow melts.

But Shoshone is only one of the attractions in Twin Falls Idaho. There’s also a beautiful waterfall nearby called Perrine Coulee Falls that puts on a year-round show with its 200-foot drop.

You can walk and dine on the edge of the Snake River Canyon, where the daredevil Evel Knievel famously made his jump across in 1974. 

What makes Twin Falls such a perfect summer vacation destination is that there’s something for everyone. Outdoorsy types and thrill seekers can have their fill by zip lining the canyon, paddling down the Snake River, or rock climbing the sheer cliffs. 

But if you’re looking for a slower pace, downtown Twin Falls has plenty of great dining, live music, and art shows, as well as a splash pad for the kids. The Canyon Springs Golf Course, nestled along the Snake River and surrounded by towering cliffs, is a unique place to play a round of golf.

Craters of the Moon National Monument

This otherworldly landscape is in a more remote area of Idaho, but it’s only a 90-minute drive from Twin Falls. It’s also easy to do the scenic driving loop and walk a few trails in just one day, making it a perfect summer day trip. 

Craters of the Moon was formed after an ancient volcanic eruption. The lava flows left a remarkable impression on the surface but also created some jaw-dropping underground caves.

You can easily obtain a free permit from the rangers at the visitor center and explore the caves for yourself. 

While the temperatures on this dry and barren landscape can reach into the upper 80s during July and August, the caves themselves maintain a cool and comfortable temperature.

Being an International Dark Sky Park, it’s also one of the best places in the country to stop and do some stargazing. Throughout the summer, the National Park Service hosts several ‘Star Parties’ and full moon hikes.

Boise

Boise is another city with a perfect blend of the outdoors, culinary delights, and culture. It also makes a nice jumping-off point for several of the destinations on this list.

A great way to cool off while exploring Idaho’s capital city is to rent a tube or raft and float down the Boise River. The shady, tree-lined Greenbelt that runs for 25 miles alongside the river is popular for walking, running, or a bike ride.

The rodeo season kicks off in mid-July at the historic Snake River Stampede and promises to be the “biggest, wildest, and fastest” sporting event you’ll see in the state.

The Bogus Basin Resort has been a source of winter fun for Idahoans since 1942, but it also has plenty to offer during the summer. Here you can find mountain biking, horseback riding trails, disc golf, and even summer tubing.

After a day spent outdoors, you can retire back to Boise’s vibrant downtown scene. The recent climb in Boise’s population has brought a lot of diversity to local food menus. You’ll have your choice of everything from southern BBQ to authentic Ethiopian and Cuban dishes. 

While you’re down in the heart of Boise, take a walk through Freak Alley, the largest open-air mural gallery in the northwest. As an evolving collection of graffiti and public art, it’s one of the more unique places to see in the city. And yes, you can take the kids – all the artwork is family-friendly!

Stanley

No trip to Idaho would be complete without visiting some natural hot springs and, for that, Stanley is the ultimate destination.

It’s a tiny town with an official population of just over 100 people, but in the summer Stanley becomes a mecca for outdoor lovers. With access to the breathtaking Sawtooth Mountains and numerous hot springs, Stanley is worth every bit of the four-hour scenic drive from Boise.

Start your morning off with a relaxing soak in one of the tubs or pools at Sunbeam. Then, hit the trails or the river for some world-class hiking or whitewater rafting.

To enjoy a full week of relaxation in the outdoors, you can stay right on the water at Redfish Lake. Take a pontoon boat out, enjoy a guided cruise, or paddle your way around this incredibly beautiful alpine lake. Reserve one of the lodge rooms or enjoy a luxurious cabin vacation rental.

Thousand Springs State Park

Thousand Springs is made up of six different units that are all within a short drive of one another. The views here are a must-see, with waterfalls cascading down the side of volcanic cliffs, into crystal-clear rivers. Each area of the park is unique and lets you take in the varied geology of Idaho. 

At the newly built visitor’s center, you can learn about another national monument in the area, the Hagerman Fossil Beds. Ancient fossils from over 200 different species have been discovered here and you can see some of them on display.

On a stop at Ritter Island, you’ll learn about pioneer history and see a historic dairy farm, but the natural views here are especially fantastic. 

And if you’re up for a little hiking, Box Canyon can’t be missed. It’s one of the largest springs in North America and a 4.3 mile loop trail leads down to a perfectly blue oasis where you can take a dip and cool off.

Idaho Falls

The hub for adventures on the eastern side of the state is Idaho Falls.

Thrill seekers can rent an ATV and have a blast riding the St. Anthony Sand Dunes just north of town.

There’s whitewater rafting suitable for any age or skill level on the Snake River.

Idaho Falls is also just a two-hour road trip away from both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park, two of the most beautiful parks in the country.

Stay cool by stopping in at the Rainey Creek Country Store for their signature treat – ice cream served in square scoops.

McCall

McCall is an unpretentious mountain resort town in central Idaho. It’s also a giant playground for outdoor enthusiasts.

There are loads of hiking and mountain biking trails in the area. Whether you’re a beginner hiker or enthusiast there are trails of all different lengths and difficulties. A great place to start is Ponderosa State Park, a scenic peninsula on the northern side of McCall offering multiple campgrounds.

There’s also a wide variety of choices for mountain bikers. You can take the lifts up at either Tamarack Resort or Brundage for downhill mountain biking or discover some freeride trails at Bear Basin and Jug Mountain.

The town of McCall sits just south of Payette Lake, offering plenty of opportunities to fish, swim, and paddle. Access to the Payette River means more of Idaho’s world-class whitewater. Rafting outfitters offer half and full-day trips, as well as a more laid-back floating experience. 

Less than 45 minutes outside town, near Donnelly, is the commercially developed Gold Fork Hot Springs. For $10 you can soak all afternoon in one of 6 pools with varying temperatures.

Forty-five minutes in the opposite direction, north of town, is Burgdorf Hot Springs. It’s a rustic little resort that offers log cabin rentals and, of course, there’s a spacious hot spring pool right at the heart of the property. Stay for a few days, or book a two-hour soak for $20 per person.

Coeur d’Alene

This lakeside resort town has some of the best on-water views in the state. Lake Coeur d’Alene is huge, at 25 miles long, so there are countless ways to enjoy a summer on the water here.

Kayaks, paddleboards, pontoon boats, and jet skis are all available to rent. You can even take off right from the lake on a seaplane tour, getting an airborne perspective on the bays and rolling mountains surrounding CDA.

Take a sunset dinner cruise or head into town and take a stroll along Sherman Avenue to enjoy one of the many restaurants and boutique shops.

The summer months bring all kinds of cultural events to Coeur d’Alene. During second Fridays there’s an ArtWalk in the evening, featuring local art, live music, plus food and drink specials. The Julyamsh Powwow is a four-day gathering and celebration of Native American culture that brings together several tribes from the region.

The downtown farmer’s market is held every Saturday morning and Wednesday evening.

Silverwood Theme Park is the largest in the Northwest and it’s located just 30 minutes outside the city. It’s got everything for the entire family, including roller coasters, games, shows, and even a water park.

Wallace

A great stop in northern Idaho not far from Coeur d’Alene is the quirky little mountain town of Wallace. The entire town is actually on the National Register of Historic Places, thanks to an effort to prevent it from being demolished for freeway development. It originated as a mining settlement in the late 1800s and still preserves a lot of its history as the “Silver Capital of the World”. 

Seven days a week during the summer you can hop on a trolley car with the Sierra Silver Mine Tour company and ride up to an actual silver mine. From there, a retired miner will take you through a guided tour, demonstrating how silver has been extracted from the hills for more than 100 years. The tours leave every half hour and only cost $55 for the whole family.

Silver and gold aren’t Wallace’s only claims to fame, though. You may even recognize the town from the Pierce Brosnan movie Dante’s Peak. And, notably, in 2004 it was declared by the mayor of Wallace to be the official “Center of the Universe.” 

Have a walk around town and stop in at the eclectic Red Light Garage restaurant or grab a huckleberry-infused cider at Wallace Brewing. Just make sure your walk takes you through 6th Street and Bank Street, where you’ll find the manhole cover designating the precise location of the Center of the Universe.

Fun Things to Do All Over Idaho

Idaho summer is all about spending time outdoors and soaking in the views at one of the state’s many breathtaking destinations. Hopefully, this list has provided lots of inspiration for the next time you visit Idaho.

Whether you choose to head up into the mountains for cooler temperatures and a more rugged experience or stick to a metropolitan resort town, a summer in Idaho offers fun things to do for everyone.

Joren Byers is a professional photographer with an unquenchable desire for adventure. After completing a DIY van build, he set off with his wife and two cats to see North America. On their travel blog Lor & Jor Explore he writes guides for other adventurous travelers and nomads.