Exploring Idaho comes in many forms. There are those who enjoy hiking, rafting, and spelunking, while others enjoy exploring the history of our great state via guided tours and interpretive areas. But the wonderful thing about our great state is that there is something for everybody, especially those with a little extra curiosity.
Here are just a few spots in Idaho that will bring out your inner explorer and make you wish you had all the time in the world to navigate every nook and cranny of what the Gem State has to offer.
1. Ritter Island State Park
Part of the Thousand Springs State Park, Ritter Island is central to everything the Hagerman area has to offer. Here, you can still see the springs of Idaho's "lost rivers" pouring out of the canyon walls, tour the original dairy farm that used to operate on the island, and explore the geologic and natural wonders of the area.
2. Centennial Trail
This 24-mile trail meanders along the Idaho/Washington border before reaching Higgins Point in Coeur d'Alene. Completed in 1996 as a means of connecting Northern Idaho adventure-lovers with more trail access, you'll find plenty of opportunities to explore forests, lakes, and wildlife -- often all at once.
3. City of Rocks
Hike, hide, explore, and be wowed by the immense natural rock formations in Southern Idaho. The campsites here are amazing as well, and generally perched on a scenic precipice of some kind for incredible views of the "city." Here, you'll find over 14,000 acres of towering spires, cones, and unique climbing opportunities -- or, the best "hide and seek" landscape in Idaho.
4. Sierra Silver Mine
Few things bring out a person's inner explorer like the opportunity to go underground. Sierra Silver Mine in Wallace dates back to 1900, until the ore ran dry in the 1960s. A tour of the tunnels in this once-vibrant mine will make you wish you could go deeper into the cavernous recesses of the earth, but there's something just as exciting about history coming alive before your very eyes.
5. Minnetonka Cave
For true explorers, Southern Idaho's largest cave is the best place to start. A half-mile and nine rooms of stunning underground formations will take you on a trip of epic geologic proportions.
6. Hells Canyon National Recreation Area
Absolutely spectacular views, even without a hike, are around every corner near Hells Canyon. Playgrounds, trails, overlooks, Nez Perce historical sites, and recreation opportunities abound, so you'll never run out of ways to explore this unique part of Idaho's landscape, whether in the canyon itself, or merely around its exhilarating walls and outskirts.
7. Julia Davis Park
When it comes to exploring Idaho, we can't forget Idaho's urban capital. Julia Davis Park is something special, however, and not just because it is centrally located within feet of the Boise Zoo, Historical Museum, Discovery Center, and Art Museum all at once. Boise also offers a "Tree Walk" guide which takes visitors through the native and historical trees scattered throughout the park. A rose garden makes for a lovely pit stop, or enjoy a relaxing paddle on the pond. If you're feeling adventurous, you can also continue down the Greenbelt through the park in either direction to find playgrounds, river overlooks, and -- of course -- food.
8. Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway
Diverse, expansive, and exploring one of Idaho's most underappreciated areas, this scenic byway offers an incredible range of attractions and vista views for all tastes. Here, you'll run alongside the magnificent Lost River Mountain Range, catch more than a glimpse of Borah Peak, traverse through wetlands and high desert, and end at the ancient lava beds at Craters of the Moon.
These places offer a great start to exploring the Gem State, but they don’t even come close to covering all that Idaho has to offer. So what are you waiting for? Go out and explore!