Nature September 15, 2016
This Natural Wonders Road Trip Will Show You Idaho Like You’ve Never Seen It Before
With purple mountain majesties, fruited plains, and meandering rivers white with foam, Idaho is the spectacular epitome of everything that songwriters have been waxing poetic about for centuries. The Gem State is overflowing with wonders – natural beauty and towering formations that are so amazing you’ll be in awe with every visit, each feature inspiring exploration and adventure with their magnificence.
But with 80 mountain ranges to explore, three distinct regions, and a fantastic geologic history unlike any other, the best way to truly experience the diversity of Idaho’s natural wonders is to see them for yourself! You might remember we’ve written about Idaho’s natural wonders before (
here and here), but we’ve created a road trip that takes you to several of our these stunning locations to help you to experience Idaho in a whole new way.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
At just over 33 hours round-trip, this is a multi-day adventure you won't forget!
You can do this trip as-is using our map, or, check the map out for yourself and customize as needed. Be sure to check out our suggestions for other sites to see along the way! Are you ready?
1. Mount Borah
For the perfect Idaho road trip, why not start at Idaho's tallest mountain peak? Chiseled and rocky, Mount Borah rises up a spectacular 12,662 feet and towers over its neighbors in the Lost River Range. Uniquely, Borah is also very close to the exact geographic
center of Idaho
- which is another fantastic
to add to your bucket list!
2. City of Rocks National Reserve
This back-country national reserve is an enchanting world of spires, pyramids, and unique rock formations that will inspire the imagination with every visit. There are dozens of trails to explore and endless rock climbing and rappelling opportunities, or plenty of places to camp, picnic, and or simply enjoy the view. Rising from Idaho's landscape as a silent city, this geologic marvel is truly special not only for its volcanic history, but its importance as a Native American camp and important area on the California Trail.
3. Shoshone Falls
Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls is perhaps the most visited and widely-recognized wonder in Idaho. Standing proudly at 212 feet and over 200 feet wide, this landmark waterfall is the crowning jewel of the Snake River Canyon and higher than Niagara Falls. Whether pouring at full force or just a late summer trickle, Shoshone Falls is a fantastic sight. Make a weekend out of it by exploring all of the waterfalls the Magic Valley has to offer!
4. Bruneau Sand Dunes
Towering above the sagebrush desert at 470 feet, Bruneau Dunes State Park is home to the tallest freestanding sand dunes in North America. But what many people don't realize is that this magnificent park also has one of the longest camping seasons in Idaho, meaning you can sandbaord, hike, camp, and enjoy the sights well into the year.
5. Hells Canyon
The deepest canyon in the US sits on Idaho's western border and is a magnificent site to behold. At ten miles wide and nearly 8,000 feet deep, it's deeper than the Grand Canyon but often overlooked due to its lack of sheer walls. There are a number of ways to explore this unique wonder, starting with a guided river boat tour up the Snake River, but Heaven's Gate Overlook, the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, and Hells Canyon Dam are all great places to explore the pictographs, wildlife, and natural beauty of the area.
6. Hobo Cedar Grove
The trees in this botanical area were mere sprouts when America was discovered by Spaniards following Columbus's 1492 expedition. Today, they tower hundreds of feet above the landscape and provide a lush green haven that is unexpected when coming up from Southern Idaho. Two short trails form a loop through the trees with multiple numbered posts to describe everything that is so special about this woodsy wonder.
7. Lake Pend Oreille
Idaho's deepest lake is also the fifth deepest lake in the country, plunging down 1,150 feet beneath the surface. This gem of Northern Idaho is well worth the visit for the magnificent sunsets alone - which are made intensely vibrant by the crisp northern air - as well as for the bounty of natural features and activities which dot the area, including Northern Idaho's own cedar grove nearby. Multiple islands dot the lake while gentle, sandy beaches add an oceanfront feel to inland Idaho.
8. Mesa Falls
The Upper and Lower Mesa Falls are a set of pristine Idaho gems, untouched by manmade diversions and just shy of the Idaho-Montana border. Easy access to both falls can be found at the Mesa Falls visitor center, where a paved boardwalk leads to one and a nature trail leads to the other. Tucked away in the Caribou-Targee National Forest and set on scenic Henrys Fork, the Mesa Falls Tuff (the rock over which the upper falls cascades) was formed as part of the Henrys Fork caldera, which is a bit of a natural wonder in itself!
Idaho’s natural wonders are undeniably spectacular on their own, but come together to uniquely define our state. What’s your favorite natural feature in Idaho? Share your photos and stories!