The best places to visit for a week-long scenic Idaho road trip, from the state capital to waterfalls, hot springs, and river floats.
As I mentioned in my last post about Boise, it was my first time in Idaho this summer. It’s not a hugely popular place for tourism, compared to other states around the US, and I found it to be highly underrated as a destination. Idaho is lovely in so many ways.
I did one week Idaho road trip and found myself amazed at the scenery and natural beauty everywhere. All of the Idaho license plate slogans say “the scenic state” and I could see why as soon as I hit the road.
Sadly, I didn’t get to try any potatoes, or potato ice cream (yes, that’s a thing) while I was there, but I did get to see a few sights that made me want to come back to the state soon for a longer adventure.
My seven-day Idaho road trip started in Boise and then went through the southern parts of the state, on my way to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
I hit Boise, Twin Falls, a small city called Rupert, Lava Hot Springs, and Soda Springs through the duration of that week. I wanted to share a few of my favorite moments and photos from my first time in the state.
Here’s my ideal list of stops for a scenic Idaho road trip.
The Best Stops for a Scenic Idaho Road Trip
The capital of Idaho, Boise is an up and coming city for the craft beer industry. It has plenty of art and creative outlets around downtown, and every imaginable outdoor activity you could imagine on hand.
Although, I kind of get the feeling that’s a common theme throughout Idaho in general.
Boise is a nice big city because it doesn’t feel too overwhelming or busy. It has still managed to keep that small town charm even though it is the largest city in the state, and I found the locals incredibly easy to talk to.
Boise is the perfect jumping off point for an Idaho road trip. Spend a few days here and introduce yourself to the Idahoan culture before venturing to the more rural areas of the state.
Potentially my favorite part of my Idaho road trip, Twin Falls is just a couple of hours from Boise and this is really when I started to see the natural beauty of the state come out tenfold.
Although we passed through the small town of Twin Falls, we didn’t actually see the waterfalls where the town gets its name. Instead we opted for Shoshone Falls Park for scenic overlooks and plenty of beautiful areas from which to take photos.
I actually thought I was heading to Twin Falls, but when I realized my mistake I just went with it and enjoyed the attractive Shoshone Falls and layered history surrounding the area.
The Shoshone Falls are higher than Niagara Falls, although not quite as boisterous. A great place for a picnic and a short hike on your way to your next Idaho destination.
I ended up staying in Rupert for a couple of nights and I loved staying in such a small city full of only locals. There aren’t many tourists that come through this city of just over 5,000 residents, but it was everything you’d expect from small town America.
I was hammock camping at the delightful Lake Walcott State Park, just outside of Rupert, and besides there being an abundance of bugs, it was the prettiest place I camped in Idaho.
If you have the chance to spend a couple of days in small town Idaho, that’s where you’ll get the best idea of local culture and the Idaho way of life.
Although I didn’t do any classic “tourist” type activities, simply talking to locals and driving around town was a nice break from continuous sight seeing.
Lava Hot Springs
Lava Springs is an even smaller place than Rupert, with just over 400 residents. I stopped for a night here, well, because the name sounded cool, but also because they’re famous for their natural hot springs, obviously.
There’s a river that runs through town that locals and visitors love to float down. Luckily enough, I had already bought an inexpensive inner tube in Portland previous to starting our Idaho road trip, just in case we came across a lake or river we wanted to float in.
In Lava Springs, I blew up my pink inner tube and went down to the launch point. Floating down a river was something I had never done before, and it was an experience I was excited for but also a tad anxious about.
I floated down twice and the second time is when I backflipped down a small rapid that forced me underwater. I managed to just come out with a few scrapes and bruises, but after that I was ready for a relaxing time in the famous hot springs.
I stopped in at Lava Hot Springs Hot Pools and tested out the variety of temperatures in the different pools they had on offer. It was the perfect way to relax after the thrilling river run and exactly what I needed before getting in the car again for another long drive.
Soda Springs was a quick visit and our last stop before heading into Wyoming and up to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park. Soda Springs is famous for its geyser that goes off every hour on the hour.
The geyser was discovered in 1934 when town leaders were looking for access to a hot pool attraction to boost tourism. Instead, they drilled into a spot that released the geyser.
It was continuously releasing water for weeks and flooding the downtown area before the leaders decided they needed to put a cap on it. Today, it is still released by a time valve every hour as a tourist attraction. It’s worth a stop to see if you’re in Southeast Idaho!
Have you done an Idaho road trip before? What other places should I see next time I’m in the state?
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