What could be better than a relaxing vacation in the great outdoors of Southwest Idaho? Short answer: not much. It’s almost like this area was designed to help you slow down and take it all in. From pristine mountain lakes to grandiose desert canyons and lazy river floats to striking sand dunes, you’ll find it here. With so much to do, we can’t list it all here, but here are some top picks:
Rafting & Kayaking: Idaho is home to some of the best whitewater in the nation. And we’re not just saying that. The Payette River (both its north & south forks) provide a wide range of fun, from “just-enough excitement” Class II rapids to “that was freakin’ crazy” Class IV rapids. Guided trips from a few hours to a few days are available.
Take a float: We may be known for our whitewater, but Southwest Idaho also offers many flatwater opportunities for those who’d rather chill than thrill. For a wilderness experience, try the North Fork of the Payette River near McCall. The beautiful mountain setting overflows with opportunities for wildlife viewing.
By far, the most popular float in Idaho is the Boise River right through downtown Boise. Thousands of locals and visitors use this family-friendly 6-mile float to beat the heat. The put-in is in Southeast Boise and the take-out is right in the center of town in Ann Morrison Park. Restrooms, equipment rentals, even a shuttle bus are all available.
Fly Fishing: Take your pick: mountain lakes, freestone streams and desert rivers. Southwest Idaho has them all. Choose from guided trips or just grab your gear and head out on your own. Favorite destinations include:
South Fork of the Boise River: a blue-ribbon trout fishery just an hour from Boise and near Pine and Featherville.
Boise River – in town: an excellent tailwater fishery in the heart of town.
McCall area: Bring your float tube or just wade. Numerous lakes and streams around McCall provide great fishing most of the year. Try Louie Lake, Brundage Reservoir, Browns Pond or Upper Payette Lake.
Camping: Your options are nearly endless. Some favorites include camping on the shores (a peninsula, actually) of Payette Lake at Ponderosa State Park, or at the base of North America’s tallest sand dune at Bruneau State Park. You can also find dozens of other options along the Snake River or near Idaho City. For a unique experience, stay at Givens Hot Springs or camp on-site at Starlight Mountain Theatre.
Hell’s Canyon: You gotta see this. Not only is the canyon a wonder in itself, you can also get in some great fishing, jetboating and wildlife viewing while here.