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Ultimate SW Idaho Summer Road Trip

Ultimate SW Idaho Summer Road Trip

Crank up that awesome driving playlist as miles of open road stretch out before you.

Travel through the high desert to dense forests, from rolling plains to deep canyons, from bustling cities to rugged mountains. We’ve put together the ultimate 10-day summer road trip through the most awe-inspiring and action-packed places in Southwest Idaho.

Day One

Arrive in Boise and explore the vibrant nightlife of this thriving city.

Dine on 8th street (the center of Boise’s culinary scene) and then take a short detour to Freak Alley. You’ll find brick walls covered in intricate, colorful and thought-provoking designs painted by local urban artists.

After a night on the town, check in to The Modern Hotel, a revamped motel Boise’s historic Linen District. You’ll be welcomed with a ridiculously comfortable bed, classic cocktails and a bubbly social atmosphere.

Day Two

Spend the day experiencing Boise like a local.

Rent a GreenBike from any of the stations scattered throughout town and cruise along the Boise River Greenbelt. Stop to explore the Boise Art Museum, Anne Frank Memorial, Boise Zoo or any of the other parks along the way. For lunch, taste authentic Basque food at The Basque Market. Try crispy croquetas, steaming paella and platters of tapas you can’t even name.




Take a drive 30 mins south of Boise to visit the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey. Experience raptors up close and learn about how The Peregrine Fund (an international nonprofit headquartered in Boise) is leading the world in conserving nature’s most athletic and allusive predators.

With a picnic basket in hand, hike up TableRock for dinner with an incredible panoramic view of the Boise skyline and a stunning sunset.

Day Three

Hit the open road for a one-hour drive through the high desert to Bruneau Sand Dunes. Bring along a paddleboard, snowboard or even a sled to try a local sport — sandboarding.

Drive 30 minutes further into the desert to the Bruneau River Canyon for a challenging hike through a maze of canyons and rock spires along a powerful river.

After watching the sunset, return Bruneau Sand dunes for some stargazing. Being miles away from civilization, the entire night sky is sparkling with far-off constellations.

Day Four

Sip a taste of Idaho along the Sunnyslope Trail, just a half-hour drive west from Boise. Winding through sweeping vistas of patchwork farmland in the lush Snake River Valley, you’ll find some award-winning wines and vineyards here.

Begin your wine tasting journey at Huston Vineyards, home to the award-winning Chicken Dinner wines. End your trip with a stop at Indian Creek Winery, where winemaking is a family business. 

If you would rather stay in Boise, there’s a ton of great wineries close by, whether right in Downtown Boise or along the Greenbelt. Try Telaya Wine Co. and taste local wines on a shaded patio overlooking the Boise River.

Day Five

Drive to Cascade along Hwy 55, a scenic two-lane road that winds through the rugged mountains along the Payette River.

Take the turn-off to Cascade Lake, where you’ll find a serene blue lake surrounded by ponderosa pines and sandy beaches. Dive in for a cool swim and then tan on the beach.

If you’re feeling adventurous, set out on a paddleboard or kayak to take in the beauty of one of the largest lakes in the state.

After a day out on the water, set up camp at one of the campsites near the lake. Be sure to check out Idaho State Park’s website for details on campgrounds. If you’re toting an RV, check out Idaho RV Campgrounds Association.

Day Six

Roll out of your sleeping bag and hit the road again, this time heading north.

Along the way, stop at Gold Fork Hot Springs. Soak in tiered pools of steaming water overlooking mountain meadows.

Once you’ve toweled off, continue to McCall, a charming lakeside town nestled near the shores of Lake Payette. Stroll streets lined with cafes, boutiques and galleries.

Local’s Tip: Take a quick detour to Ice Cream Alley and order a cone of huckleberry ice cream (an Idaho favorite).

Check in to a cozy suite at Hotel McCall, located in the heart of town right along the lake.

Day Seven

Play in Southwest Idaho’s backyard at Lake Payette!

Hike along the network of trails criss-crossing Ponderosa State Park. Be on the lookout for moose, bears, deer and elk.

Local’s Tip: Bring along an empty jar or container when you hike. You might stumble across a patch of huckleberries along the way.

End the night with a sunset lake cruise with McCall Lake Cruises. Sit out on the deck, sip a glass of wine and watch as the waters turn gold from the setting sun.

Day Eight

As you drive north along Hwy 55, you’ll watch the lush alpine forests of McCall transform into the rugged rock walls of Hells Canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America.

Pitch a tent at one of the many campsites along the river. Drop a fishing line to catch steelhead salmon, or relax on the beach to the calming sound of the river.

Fall asleep under a star-studded sky and get a good night’s rest. You’re going to need it.

Day Nine

Photo courtesy of Hells Canyon Adventures

As the sun rises over the jagged rim of the canyon, head over to Hells Canyon Adventures for an all-day whitewater rafting trip.

Experience a total adrenaline through the best whitewater in the nation. Take in every second of the ride. (If you’re looking to extend your trip to 3 or even 6 days, book an excursion with America’s Rafting Co. or Hells Canyon Raft.)

At the end of the day, you’ll be exhausted but so glad you finally checked that off your bucket list.

Day Ten

After sleeping in (because you definitely deserve it), cruise south along Hwy 55 — back to Boise.

Grab a pint of local beer at Payette Brewing Company and play a game of cornhole in their beer garden. Order up some local street fare from one of the food trucks parked nearby.

As the lights of Boise fade into the distance, you realize that 10 days still wasn’t enough to experience all that Southwest Idaho has to offer. From Boise to McCall to Hells Canyon (and everywhere in between), there’s boundless adventures just waiting to be discovered.