There are very few places where you can start your day cross-country skiing in the mountains and end it stargazing in the desert.
Here in Southwest Idaho, you can do that… and much more.
Stargaze at Bruneau Sand Dunes
At first glance, this Idaho landmark looks like a piece of the Sahara Desert — windswept sand dunes for miles around, warmed by the blazing sun. The tallest dune rises 470 feet high!
Just a 25-minute drive south from Mountain Home, the isolation of this area makes it a prime place to go stargazing. During the day, bring along a paddleboard or a sled and try out a local tradition — sandboarding.
Explore Idaho’s Wine Country
Winding through sweeping vistas of patchwork farmland in the Snake River valley, the Sunnyslope Wine Trail cuts through the heart of Idaho wine country.
Begin your wine tasting journey at Huston Vineyards, home to the award-winning Chicken Dinner wines. Named after a quirky local legend, any of these wines would pair perfectly with a picnic under the Alger family’s locust tree.
End your trip with a stop at Indian Creek Winery, where winemaking is a family business. Be on the lookout for upcoming events hosted by the Stowe family, including a 5k obstacle race called the Wino Lympics.
Hit the slopes at Brundage (McCall)
Whether you’ve been skiing since you could walk or are hitting the slopes for the first time, there’s an adventure for everyone at Brundage. A mere eight miles away from McCall, this resort has more than 46 groomed trails, acres of lift-served backcountry, and powder-packed glades for skiers and snowboarders alike.
After hitting the slopes, treat yourself to a warm meal at the Bear’s Den
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Listen to Ghost Stories at the Old Idaho Penitentiary
In 1872, the Old Idaho Penitentiary opened its doors to some of the most dangerous criminals in the west. Today, you can visit the same cells that once held those criminals. Experience more than 100 years of Idaho’s dark past as you walk through solitary confinement chambers, cell blocks and gallows.
Bike (or Hike) through the Boise Foothills
Watch the sunrise from the top of Tablerock. Pick wildflowers on the trails at Shafer Butte. Follow in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark on the Oregon Trail. With over 190 miles of trails in Boise’s Ridge to Rivers Trail System, all of these adventures are within a short drive of the Boise area.
Raft down Hells Canyon whitewater
Home to the deepest gorge in North America, Hells Canyon is a prime spot for whitewater rafting. The canyon cuts right along the border of Oregon and Idaho, and it’s filled with Native American legends, geologic wonders and diverse wildlife.
Want to ride through the gorge via a jet boat, raft, or on a fishing trip? Hells Canyon Adventures is the guide for you. Learn more about them here. Interested in a multi-day Hells Canyon trip? Definitely check out Hells Canyon Raft.
Bleed Blue and Orange at Albertsons Stadium
Come see the world’s only “Smurf Turf” football field for yourself. Visit Albertsons Stadium, home to the Boise State Broncos and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Football season starts early September.
Visit the Anne Frank Memorial.
The Idaho Anne Frank Memorial is only one of 11 sites in the U.S. to receive a sapling from the Anne Frank Chestnut Tree in Amsterdam. Located in downtown Boise, the space was designed to bring natural elements — water, stone and native plants — together with a message of hope. Take a moment to read the powerful quotes inscribed on the stone walls.
Kayak or paddleboard on Payette Lake
Combined with views of snow-capped mountains and towering pine trees, this expanse of clear glacial water makes an ideal spot for kayaking and paddleboarding.
Bordering the lake is the small mountain town of McCall, Idaho. After a day out on the water, take a break to wander the streets lined with cafes, ice cream shops, antique stores, art galleries, and more.
Looking for a unique experience on Payette Lake? Check out McCall Lake Cruises!
Freak out at Freak Alley
Considered one of the largest outdoor galleries in the Northwest, Freak Alley features stunning local graffiti and urban art. Intricate, colorful and thought-provoking murals cover entire city walls. Located in the center of downtown Boise, the gallery is a fun, quick detour from exploring Boise’s dining scene.
Bike along the Boise River Greenbelt
Following the course of the Boise River, this 20-mile-long trail runs straight along the edge of Boise’s vibrant downtown scene. Be sure to take a detour and check out any of the cafes, museums, wineries, and theaters all easily accessible from the trail.
Check out our Boise Greenbelt Guide.
Ski after dark at Bogus Basin
Located in Boise’s backyard, Bogus Basin offers unparalleled views of the city as visitors race down the slopes. But the views become even more breathtaking at night.
During the winter season, night operations at the resort run from 4 to 10 p.m. daily. Night skiing tickets are also offered at a lower price than tickets purchased during daylight hours.
Try Basque food at Boise’s Basque Block
Not many people would guess that Boise is home to the largest Basque population in the U.S. Located in the center of downtown Boise, the Basque Block celebrates the rich culture of the Basque people and is home to bars, restaurants, the Basque Museum and Cultural Center and the Basque Market.
This historic neighborhood also hosts cultural events throughout the year, featuring musical performances, dances and authentic food.
Camp at Three Island Crossing
Back in the days of the pioneers, Three Island Crossing was one of the most famous (and dangerous) stops along the Oregon Trail. Many prospective homesteaders crossed the coursing waters to settle in Fort Boise.
Today, Three Island Crossing is home to the Oregon Trail History and Education Center, and a great place for a weekend camping trip.
Set sail on Lake Cascade
Less than two hours north of Boise, Lake Cascade is one of the largest bodies of water in Idaho.
The prevailing winds across its surface also make the lake ideal for all types of water sports, especially sailing and windsurfing.
Step back in time at Idaho City
Tucked away in the Boise National Forest, Idaho City is a little old mining town filled with history and small town charm. As the original state capital, this town has more than its share of ghost stories and local legend. Take a walk through Idaho’s past as you stroll along its historic streets or explore the alpine trails nearby.
Take Flight at the World Center for Birds of Prey
Just a 30-minute drive south of Boise, the World Center for Birds of Prey is the global headquarters for the Peregrine Fund, an international non-profit focused on conserving endangered raptors. Stroll through the courtyard featuring native and non-native bird habitats, watch live raptor presentations inside, and make some feathered friends along the way.
Between September and November, be sure to buy a ticket for the Fall Flights.
From barren deserts to bustling cities (and everything in between), there’s certainly no shortage of breathtaking places to experience in Southwest Idaho. Adventure is calling — come explore.