For those of us not from the Pacific Northwest area, you might have a biased and probably inaccurate view of Idaho. I always pictured it as a flat, boring place full of potatoes. While it is where most of the nation’s potatoes are grown, there’s so much more to Idaho! And the best way to see Idaho is on a good old-fashioned road trip.
Idaho is one of my favorite places to go on a road trip in my campervan for several reasons. From stunning mountain ranges to cascading hot springs and lively cities and towns, Idaho has it all.
I’ll share what I love about The Gem State and some of the spots you should be sure to see on your Idaho road trip. I’ll even throw in some campsites and lodging options for you! As always, feel free to tailor this itinerary to your interests and the amount of time you have to explore Idaho.
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This itinerary is best for summer to early fall since mountain passes may be closed due to snow and ice in colder weather. You’ll find the best access to hiking trails and biking trails, plus gorgeous wildflowers and flowing streams and rivers during summer as well. Hot springs and recreation areas are often only reachable by snowmobile in winter.
(Truth be told, I avoid snow at all costs, so I can’t say exactly what winter is like in Idaho; I’m usually as far south as possible by that point!)
Southern Idaho Road Trip Itinerary
Start your Idaho road trip in the bustling state capital. Downtown Boise is cute and trendy and worth a visit.
Food: I highly advise you to stay a couple of days and discover the thriving coffee culture in Boise. Some favorites include Push & Pour, Form & Function, and The Alchemist. Make a reservation to ensure you get to try out Boise Fork, a hot spot thoughtfully integrating local ingredients from the surrounding area.
Camping: Boise River RV Park is located in town but can be pricey. Stealth camping is easy in Boise, or you can head outside of the city and into Boise National Forest, which is often packed with locals escaping the heat in summer.
To-Do: Indulge in the local craft beer scene, walk the greenbelt, or check out the street art as you stroll through Freak Alley, an outdoor mural gallery. Summer in Boise can get very hot; I highly recommend refreshing tubing down the Boise River to cool off!
Leave Boise and take the scenic highway 55 north, along the cascading Payette River to McCall.
Set on gorgeous Payette Lake, McCall is an outdoor adventure hub! Whether you’re into watersports, hiking, or biking, McCall has something for everyone.
Food: Ice Cream Alley gives you the best bang for your buck when it comes to ice cream in Idaho! Try the huckleberry! My Father’s Place is a local favorite for burgers, fries, and shakes. You’ve gotta try their famous nut burger!
Camping: Goose Lake is one of my favorite spots, and I promise it’s worth the miles and miles of washboard roads to get there!
Lodging: Treat yourself to a stay at the Shore Lodge, an upscale lakefront resort with saltwater immersion pools, live music events, and excursion packages. Some suites open right out to glistening Payette Lake.
To-Do: Salmon River Brewing offers drinks with a view, and Burgdorf Hot Springs is 32 miles north of McCall if you want a nice soak and have the time! During summer, bring your mountain bike and ride down the slopes of Brundage Ski Resort (on the way to Goose Lake!). Soak your tired muscles at Trail Creek Hot Springs on your way to or from Boise.
Next to the Tetons, the Sawtooth Mountains are probably my favorite mountain range in the US. They’re jagged, rugged, and distinct, jutting into the sky and usually capped with snow, even in summertime.
Take Grimes Pass from Boise to Stanley and stop in Lowman for a soak at Kirkham Hot Springs.
Stanley is the not-so-hidden gem of the Sawtooths. Though it’s a tiny little town, there are plenty of visitors to Stanley, especially in summer! There is a small grocery store, but you’ll want to stock up on things before heading to Stanley because the selection is limited.
Food: Get your daily caffeine fix at Peaks and Perks, a walkup coffee shop that serves deliciousness in the form of coffee, bagels, and ice cream. Stanley Baking Company is “the” breakfast spot in town, and it’s not unusual to have to wait for a seat. For a nice dinner, check out Stanley Supper Club.
Camping: Take Forest Service Road #633, known as Nip and Tuck Road, for some stunning boondocking views. Forest Service Road #70654 is a bit hidden but has free spots with a pit toilet. Coin showers and laundry are available at the nearby Redfish Lake Lodge.
Lodging: Mountain Village Resort has pet-friendly rooms, an on-site hot spring, and a restaurant/saloon. Summer booking opens in January and fills up quickly.
To-Do: I love an early (and I mean sunrise early) soak in the cauldron at Boat Box Hot Springs. It’s right next to the highway, but you would never know unless you looked for it! Mountain Village Hot Spring (at the resort) operates by reservation only and has an incredible view of the Sawtooths!
Stanley Lake and Redfish Lake are both gorgeous spots to get on the water.
On Thursday nights in the summer, Stanley hosts Street Dance, which is an absolute blast. Locals and visitors alike come to eat, drink, and be merry while listening to live music in the streets.
The Sun Valley area is a popular skiing, hiking, and mountain biking destination.
Food: Grab a hearty breakfast at The Kneadery, a popular spot with a rustic vibe. Sawtooth Brewery Public House has typical bar food and a variety of beers, ciders, and kombucha. Check out Rickshaw for fantastic and creative Asian fusion dishes inspired by Southeast Asia.
Camping: Lake Creek is a gorgeous meadow full of butterflies with a creek running through it. I also like the spots on Baker Creek Road. Some have creek access, and you’ll find wildflowers for days! The nearby Sawtooth National Recreation Area Visitor’s Center has a dump station and water fill for $10.
Lodging: Limelight Hotel is the hot spot to stay in town. There’s no shortage of amenities, from free breakfast and airport shuttles to bike rentals to communal fire pits. They have pet-friendly accommodations as well!
To-Do: Check out all the local goodies, including endless flavors of homemade potato chips, at the Wood River Farmers Market on Wednesdays from 12-4 PM in Forest Service Park. After a day of hiking or biking, treat yourself to a soak at Frenchman’s Bend Hot Springs. Just an hour and a half away from Sun Valley is Craters of the Moon National Monument. It’s an otherworldly landscape of lava flows and volcanic cones. Short trails mean you can see a lot in a small span of time!
Food: Grab a morning coffee or evening cocktail at Gate City Coffee and Wine Bistro in historic downtown Pocatello. The Yellowstone Restaurant is a fantastic spot for fine dining in historic digs. For a more laid-back meal, The Snakebite Restaurant in Idaho Falls has burgers, sandwiches, and pasta dishes with all-day happy hour on Mondays!
Lodging: A bit outside of town, The Harkness Hotel prides itself on “unexpected luxury,” which is exactly that! Just a note: if you plan to travel with your pet, they do not accept furry friends at this time.
To-Do: Stroll past the falls along the Greenbelt that winds through downtown or catch a show at the Colonial Theater.
Lava Hot Springs is $8 for an all-day soaking pass. Pools range from 102-110 degrees Fahrenheit. I highly recommend eating before soaking. No outside food is allowed, and they only sell small snacks onsite.
In between Idaho Falls and Pocatello, make a stop at The Idaho Potato Museum. The cafe has many goodies like french fries, baked potatoes, and even potato ice cream!
The Museum of Clean in Pocatello (also a Harvest Host) is the strangest museum I’ve ever visited. With entire floors dedicated to vacuum cleaners, it was actually pretty interesting and had some fun exhibits.
Just across Teton Pass from pricey and posh Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Victor and Driggs are more modest, comfortable, – and dare I say – less pretentious than Jackson. Staying on this side is a more affordable way to see the Tetons without as much touristy stuff.
Food: Sip some coffee with breakfast or brunch at Rise Coffeehouse. For a hearty meal, Citizen 33 Brewery makes a mean fish and chips and has some tasty brews.
Camping: Upper Rainey Creek in the Victor area has gorgeous views for days. It’s a bit of a rough ride up, but it’s worth it! The Big Eddy/Rainey Bridge is a free camping field with picnic tables, pit toilets, and a boat ramp. Bonus point: it comes with a killer view of the Tetons, too!
Lodging: Teton Valley Cabins has rustic rooms with kitchenettes, an on-site hot tub, and pet-friendly options.
To-Do: Victor and Driggs make a great base for exploring Grand Teton National Park. There’s also plenty of mountain biking at Grand Targhee Resort, or you can ride the 15-mile round trip Victor to Driggs Rail Trail with a stop in the middle for lunch or coffee!
If you have the time and want to explore more, you could easily add in a few other stops to see more of the state. Here are a few spots to consider if you want to extend your Idaho road trip.
In my opinion, Twin Falls is not worth an overnight stay, but if you like waterfalls, you can stop for a few hours!
To-Do: After checking out the Twin Falls in town, take a drive to visit the famous Shoshone Falls. This massive waterfall is actually taller than Niagara Falls! It’s $5 per car and the path to view the falls is wheelchair accessible and dog-friendly.
Fifty miles of pedestrian and bike paths make CDA, in northwest Idaho, a fantastic place to visit in summer! Lake Coeur d’Alene is picturesque and a welcome reprieve from the summer heat.
Food: Set in an old bank built in 1904, Vault Coffee is a great spot to work or hang out for a bit. Trails End is an award-winning brewery with absolutely incredible pizza! And last but not least, you must try a huckleberry hand pie from Bean & Pie!
Camping: East of town, there are boondocking spots along Forest Service Road 1575. But you can always park at good old Cracker Barrel if you want to stay in town!
Lodging: The Blackwell Hotel is a boutique hotel with local art on display. For a different vibe, The Flamingo Motel, around 1954, has kitschy-themed rooms within walking distance from all you’ll want to see and do in town.
To-Do: Lake Coeur d’Alene is perfect for fishing, swimming, and boating. Downtown has breweries, wineries, boutique shops, and a farmer’s market on Wednesdays from 4-7 PM. Don’t miss the 2nd Friday Art Walk each month!
All the way up at the top of Idaho, along the gorgeous 43-mile Lake Pend Oreille, lies Sandpoint, Idaho. It’s tucked between the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains and has a thriving year-round tourism industry.
Food: Evans Brothers Coffee should be on your coffee radar! Heart Bowls is a go-to for plant-based goodies and deliciousness. Matchwood Brewing Company, with its amazing outdoor space,is killing it with upgraded bar food featuring local ingredients.
Camping: City Beach RV Park is $50/night for full hookups and only allows RVs. You can also park overnight at the Walmart or stealth camp downtown.
Lodging: A few minutes north in nearby Ponderay, Outdoors Inn is too cute. I don’t know if nature or adventure chic is a thing, but if so, it’s this motel.
To-Do: Check out the local art scene downtown or go for a swim on the sandy beaches at Sandpoint City Beach Park. Hiking and mountain biking are popular here, too. Schweitzer Mountain Resort is a great place for outdoor enthusiasts.
Salmon and Challis
This area in eastern central Idaho is rich with hot springs and natural beauty. Don’t expect to be alone at hot springs, but there are enough to go around!
Food: Oddfellows Bakery is the best for coffee and pastries in Salmon. Junkyard Bistro is highly recommended with various options, and you can’t go wrong with Last Chance Pizza! Don’t forget to swing by the Tea Cup Cafe on your way through Challis.
Camping: In Salmon, there are several public campgrounds north and south of town all along the Salmon River for just $5 per night. Challis has free camping along Forest Service Road 111 with beautiful views and 5G cell signal.
Lodging: Simple, pet-friendly rooms, some with kitchenettes, are available in Challis at the Red Rock Lodge.
To-Do: Earn your soak with a 3.6-mile round trip hike to Goldbug Hot Springs, raft the Salmon River, or visit the Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural, and Education Center.
So, Are You Going on an Idaho Road Trip?
Whether you just visit southern Idaho or add in a few stops to make it a state-wide loop, your Idaho road trip is sure to be full of mountains, water, and great times!
Remember as Idaho becomes more popular and receives more tourist traffic, we must do our part to leave no trace. Take note of stay limits and don’t abuse free public lands. Pack out all your trash when camping or hiking and keep Idaho beautiful for the next person.
Give this Idaho road trip itinerary a try and check back in to let me know your favorite cities, towns, and things to do in Idaho!
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