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A Full Array Of Heart-Pounding Idaho Attractions And Outdoor Recreation
Famed writer Ernest Hemingway perhaps described Idaho best: “… A lot of state, this Idaho, that I didn’t know about.” Today, Idaho is still a wonderland of surprises – a treasure trove of emerald hillsides, rolling hills, rugged mountains, and sparkling lakes. Discover four seasons of mind-boggling natural beauty and unlimited recreation. Experience hundreds of miles of mountain-biking trails and more whitewater than any other state in the “Lower 48”. Enjoy world-class fishing along the Salmon River. Visit the land of the Nez Perce Indians and follow the route of the Lewis & Clark Expedition . Or treat yourself to fascinating museums, historic sites , and other Idaho tourist attractions.
For more information, view our list of Idaho attractions below or visit www.visitidaho.org .
Learn more about recreational, cultural and historic sites on Idaho's public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management that are nearby to Drives and Trails traversing across the state of Idaho.
The rugged Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway is a special 103-mile route that is habitat for more than 180 species of birds and mammals such as coyotes, bighorn sheep and badgers. Learn more by clicking here!
Six Wilderness areas in Owyhee County were designed by Congress and studies are occurring now. Learn more at our special page for the Owyhee Wilderness Areas !
- For detailed information on Things to See and Do on National Forests in southern Idaho , download a Visitor Guide .
- Nez Perce National Historical Park – Since time immemorial, the Nimiipuu or Nez Perce have lived among the rivers, canyons, and prairies of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Despite the cataclysmic change of the past two centuries, the Nez Perce are still here. Explore the park's 38 sites and experience the story of a people who are still part of this landscape. www.nps.gov/nepe/
- Nez Perce National Forest – 2.2 million acres of beautiful and diverse land. From the dry, rugged canyons of the Salmon River to the moist cedar forests of the Selway drainage, the forest offers something for everyone. This vast, diverse area is managed to provide a variety of goods and services, including breathtaking scenery, wilderness, wildlife, fisheries, timber harvest, livestock grazing, mining, pristine water quality, and a wide array of recreation opportunities. The Forest is best known for its wild character. Nearly half of the Forest is designated wilderness. It also sports two rivers popular with thrill-seeking floaters — the Selway and the Salmon. fs.usda.gov/nezperce
Bureau of Landmanagement - Idaho Recreation Sites - Add to your scenic driving experience with side trip visits to recreation sites, areas of interest and wilderness area managed by Idaho’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Recreating on the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) public lands throughout the Northern Rockies can mean relaxing while fishing, or burning energy while backpacking through primitive canyons or mountains, or paddling through world-class whitewater.
Luckily, many of BLM's recreation sites, wilderness areas and cultural/historical areas of interest are nearby to some of our Drives and Trails. Many of these special places offer camping, from big-rig RVs to tent campers in developed or non-developed sites. detailed information and links to recreation sites, such as developed or undeveloped campgrounds, picnic areas or places of cultural/historical significance are listed in the 'Key Landmarks & Attractions' sections of the Salmon River-Sawtooth Scenic Byways , the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway , the International Selkirk Loop , and the Yellowstone-Grand Teton Loop .
BLM manages nearly 12 million acres of public lands in Idaho, nearly one-fourth of the state's total land area. Four BLM district offices, 12 field offices, and the Idaho State Office administer the public lands in Idaho with a mission of sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.
The Top 10 Scenic Drives project partners with Idaho BLM by asking all byway travelers to travel only on established roads and trails, leave no trace, and pack out what you pack in.
- Hells Canyon National Recreation Area – Hugging the borders of northeastern Oregon and western Idaho, this national showcase holds 652,488 acres of beauty and adventure, where you can let your senses run as wild as the landscape. Features North America’s deepest gorge. www.fs.fed.us/hellscanyon/
- Clearwater National Forest -- Covers 1.8 million acres from the jagged peaks of the Bitterroot Mountains in the east to the river canyons and the rolling hills of the Palouse Prairie in the west. The North Fork of the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers provide miles of tumbling white water interspersed with quiet pools for migratory and resident fish. The mountains provide habitat for elk, moose, whitetail and mule deer, black bear, gray wolf, cougar, mountain goats, and many smaller mammals. http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/clearwater/VisitorInfo/visinfo.htm
- Lava Hot Springs - A resort community located in picturesque Mountain setting centered between Salt Lake City and Yellowstone National Park. Known for it’s natural hot springs along the Portneuf River and Oregon Trail, it’s one of many hidden gems in the Top 10 region.
- Sawtooth National Recreation Area – One of the largest, most magnificent National Recreation Areas in the United States and located at the northernmost end of the Sawtooth National Forest. Four mountain ranges -- the Sawtooths, Boulders, White Clouds, and Smokies -- provide scenic landscapes in every direction, with more than 50 major peaks over 10,000 feet, 300 lakes, and 250 miles of trails. There are also more than 1,000 high mountain lakes.http://www.gorp.com/parks-guide/travel-ta-sawtooth-national-forest-sidwcmdev_068261.html?state=MI
- Yellowstone National Park – Affectionately called “Nature’s Amusement Park”. Hike or backpack amid steaming hot springs, shooting geysers, and roaring waterfalls.
- Craters of the Moon National Monument – Contain more than 25 volcanic cones, including outstanding examples of spatter cones. The 60 distinct lava flows that form the Craters of the Moon Lava Field range in age from 15,000 to 2,000 years. www.nps.gov/crmo/
- Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness – Designated as a wilderness in 1980, it now has a total of 2.3 million acres. As the second largest wilderness area in Lower 48, it was named for Senator Frank Church, who played a key role in the passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964. www.fs.fed.us/r4/sc/recreation/fcronr/fcronrindex.shtml
- Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural & Educational Center – Honoring and providing education about America’s great historical heroine. Two miles from downtown Salmon, Idaho. www.sacajaweacenter.org ; 208-756-1188
- Cave Falls – A popular starting point for hikers, Cave Falls stretches 250 feet across the Falls River. (208) 652-7442
- Mesa Falls – Two of the most spectacular waterfalls in Idaho include 114-foot Upper Mesa Falls and the nearly 65-foot Lower Mesa Falls. (208) 652-7442; www.westyellowstonenet.com/attractions/mesa_falls.php
- Camas National Wildlife Sanctuary – A 10,578-acre sanctuary for migrating waterfowl, including geese, ducks, herons, egrets, cranes, and swans. (208) 662-5423; http://www.fws.gov/Refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=14611 .
- Lolo Pass Visitor Center – This facility hosts interpretive displays describing the Lewis and Clark Expedition through the Bitterroot Mountains, the Nez Perce War and Flight of 1877, and geologic features of the area. (208) 942-3113; www.fs.fed.us/r1/clearwater/VisitorInfo/visinfo.htm#lolo
- Dworshak National Fish Hatchery - Located at the confluence of the North Fork and main stem Clearwater River, 3 miles west of Orofino, Idaho. The hatchery was constructed to mitigate for the loss of steelhead trout in the North Fork of the Clearwater River and its tributaries. The hatchery is co-managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho, as a result of the Snake River Basin Adjudication settlement agreement signed in 2007. http://www.fws.gov/dworshak/aboutus.html
- Priest Lake , Priest Lake, Idaho - Located in the heart of the Selkirk Mountain Range the location and sheer size of Priest Lake afford ample space for all water sports activities. Rustic resorts, state park campgrounds and white sandy beaches along crystal clear shores makes an ideal spot to relax and unwind. By powerboat, sailboat, canoe, kayak, or personal watercraft, the 72-mile shoreline and the seven islands beckon for exploration. If fishing is your forte, Priest Lake is renowned for its trophy sized lake trout (Mackinaw). The area is open year round and has over 400-miles of groomed snowmobile trails as well as a nordic ski trail system in winter. http://www.priestlake.org/
- Lake Pend Oreille Cruises, Sandpoint, ID- Experience the breathtaking scenery of Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho's largest lake, and 13th largest lake in the world. Offering history tours, eagle watching, dinner cruises, private charters, and more on the Shawnodese. Jet boat tours & rentals. Find us at City Beach in downtown Sandpoint. http://www.lakependoreillecruises.com/
- Shoshone Ice Caves
- lava tubes with the typical collapsed roof serving as
an entrance. The cold trap effect and the extremely different temperatures in Idaho between summer and winter make it perfect ice cave. Accessible only from May to early September. Located in Shoshone Idaho. Nearby Bennett Hills Recreation Management Area has fourteen lava tubes, managed by the BLM. http://www.showcaves.com/english/usa/showcaves/Shoshone.html
of the North Fork and main stem Clearwater River, 3 miles
- Museum of Idaho - Imagine an encounter with a giant dinosaur, the allure of ancient Egyptian artifacts, or the fascination of seeing the delicate intricacies of the human body. At the Museum of Idaho, you can surround yourself with these wonders of the world. As Idaho's premier national traveling exhibit museum located in Idaho Falls, we are dedicated to preserving and showcasing the natural and cultural history of Idaho and the Intermountain West. http://www.museumofidaho.org/index.php
- National Oregon/California Trail Center - The National Oregon/California Trail Center offers a unique and entertaining interpretive adventure, simulating a wagon train experience of the 1850s. http://www.oregontrailcenter.org/
- Idaho Panhandle National Forests -- From the shores of big lakes to the banks of winding rivers, the Idaho Panhandle National Forests create a tapestry of land and water in the handle of North Idaho. The Forest has been and continues to be the lifeline for local communities. Silver, gold and large timber drew settlers to the area. Remnant roads that once led to work now lead to play, and treasures sought are now recreational - water-based activities, winter uses and the traditional hiking, hunting, fishing and gathering. More than half the state’s surface water is on the Forest. These vast lakes and miles of rivers support a world class fishery. Rich in wildlife, the Forest is home to large game such as elk and deer, as well as species such as grizzly bears, wolves and caribou that add to the sense of "wildness". From lush evergreen mountains to the shores of big waters, the Idaho Panhandle National Forest has a rich history that continues to link families and forest. Historic cabins and lookouts dot the landscape, while significant places such as Hiawatha Trail and Marble Creek Historic District add depth to the heritage. Fire has played, and continues to play an important role in the landscape’s evolution. Forest roads and trails trace the past of American Indians, mining, logging, and Forest Service History. Read More.
- Payette National Forest- Covering over 2.3 million acres, visitors will experience a variety of landscapes and recreational opportunities everything from the deep recesses of Hell's Canyon to peaks reaching elevations of almost 9,500 feet. Dry desert grasslands compliment heavily forested acres. Gateways to the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness lead the visitor to experience the solitude of seldom traveled trails.Stand on east rim of the Hell's Canyon National Recreation Area and gaze down to the Snake River 8,000 feet below into the the deepest river gorge in North America. Gaze across the ten mile wide chasm into the neighboring state of Oregon. http://www.fs.fed.us/r4/payette/recreation/
- Salmon-Challis National Forest - The Salmon-Challis National Forest covers over 4.3 million acres. Included within the boundaries of the Forest is 1.3 million acres of the Frank Church-- River of No Return Wilderness Area, the largest wilderness area in the Continental United States; Borah Peak, Idaho's tallest peak, and the Wild & Scenic Salmon River and the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Rugged and remote, this country offers adventure, solitude and breathtaking scenery. The area is a highly desired destination for hunting, fishing, white-water rafting and many other popular recreational pursuits. http://www.fs.fed.us/r4/sc/recreation/
- Boise National Forest - Over 2million acres, offers Year-Round Recreation. These recreation includes, over 70 recreation sites, 1300 miles of trails, unlimited hunting & fishing, water sports and winter recreation opportunities. www.fs.fed.us/r4/boise/recreation
- Caribou-Targhee National Fores t- The Caribou-Targhee National Forest boasts rugged mountains, fertile valleys, rivers, varied wildlife, campgrounds, wilderness, adventure, solitude and scenery enough to saturate your aesthetic cravings. http://www.fs.fed.us/r4/caribou-targhee/recreation/
Learn About The Most Famous Idaho Tourist Attractions
Reach extraordinary new heights of travel. Use the Top 10 Scenic Drives in the Northern Rockies to experience truly unforgettable North and Central Idaho attractions.