Idaho is a nature lover’s paradise with lots of landscapes to explore and space to roam. There are some beautiful national and state parks here that help you get outside in uncrowded and impressive environments to soothe you physically, mentally, and spiritually. Here are our favorite parks in Idaho to help you reconnect with nature and yourself.
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Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, Arco
Part of the national park system, Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve features a cinder cone and sagebrush environment that feels like something out of this world. The landscape was created by ancient volcanic activity and eruptions between 15,000 and 2,000 years ago. You can take in the scenic views along the seven-mile loop drive, hike from the various parking lots, or explore the wilderness if you have more time. One of the most adventurous things to do here is to go caving, but just make sure not to wear or bring in anything that has been in any other cave to protect the bats. For overnight trips, you can set up camp at the Lava Flow or group campgrounds, or in the wilderness areas for a remote experience. You can also stay in the small town of Arco nearby, which has some restaurant options.
Farragut State Park, Athol
An awesome state park worth visiting in Idaho is Farragut State Park, which was once a World War II-era naval training station. The park spans about 4,000 acres and has around 265 individual campsites, six group camps, and 10 camping cabins. The park is about 20 miles north of Coeur d’Alene in northern Idaho. The onsite recreational opportunities include disc golf, fishing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and a museum. The museum has naval training station memorabilia and films about geology and history. Definitely check out the five 18-hole disc golf courses at Farragut. You can swim at Beaver Bay Beach and launch a boat from the Eagle Boat Launch.
Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, Hagerman
A popular day trip from Boise, this national monument is known for its fossils and paleontological resources, especially the Hagerman Horse that was smaller than the modern horse and lived in the area in ancient times. Although you cannot see actual fossils while hiking here, you can see excavated fossils in the park visitor center. Part of the Oregon Trail National Historic Trail is contained within this park. Make a point to check out the Snake River Overlook with its views over the river and the Oregon Trail Overlook that has informational panels about the trail and fossils.
Bear Lake State Park, St. Charles
This Idaho state park is in the southeastern corner of the state and by the Cache mountain range. Water-lovers come here for outdoor recreation, as well as campers. This is a prime spot for fishing, boating, and sunbathing on Bear Lake, which is about 20 miles long and eight miles wide. These turquoise waters are sometimes called the Caribbean of the Rockies. For overnight stays, there are 47 serviced campsites, two ADA campsites, and three group shelters. Hiking and mountain biking are popular in the summer, while ice fishing and snowmobiling are common things to do in the winter at this state park.
Yellowstone National Park, Island Park
Part of the famous and epic Yellowstone National Park is in Idaho, which is why this park definitely deserves a place on this list. The town of Island Park, Idaho is about 20 minutes from the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park and is known for its long Main Street (the longest in America!), large caldera, and year-round outdoor recreation. As you get more into the national park, top highlights of Yellowstone in the western portions include the Lower Geyser Basin, Old Faithful Geyser and Upper Basin, and Norris Geyser Basin.
Harriman State Park, Island Park
Another Island Park-area destination is Harriman State Park, which used to be owned by Union Pacific Railroad investors and served as a cattle ranch and private family retreat. It is about 28 miles south of West Yellowstone, Montana. The park is within a 16,000-acre wildlife refuge and has 22 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. This is also a great place for fly fishing. There are multiple options for overnight accommodations at the park, including a bunkhouse, group dormitory, fully furnished log home, three-bedroom cabin, and yurts. Visit this park in the winter to explore the 24-miles of groomed trails for skate skiing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and fat-tire biking.
Henry’s Lake State Park, Island Park
In this same area of Idaho is Henrys Lake State Park, which is home to a high mountain lake and is a fisherman’s dream. Cutthroat, brook, and cut-bow hybrid trout are caught by anglers here on the 6,000-acre lake. This park is about 15 miles west of Yellowstone National Park. It has 83 serviced campsites, three cabins, and three ADA campsites for overnight stays.
Bruneau Dunes State Park, Bruneau
One of the most unique parks that you can visit in Idaho is Bruneau Dunes State Park. The park has the tallest single-structured sand dune on the continent, standing at 470 feet above the desert. It has a long camping season compared to others in the state park system and offers overnight stay options year-around. There are 82 serviced campsites, 35 standard campsites, two ADA campsites, and two cabins here. This is a popular place for hiking, biking, horses, dune sledding, skiing, and snowboarding. Bluegill fishing at the lake, viewing the night sky at the observatory, and riding your horse are all popular pastimes here.
City of Rocks National Reserve, Almo
Another national site that is an outdoor paradise in Idaho is the City of Rocks National Reserve. The rocks here resemble cities of tall spires and really must be seen to believe them yourself. Mountain biking, birding, hiking, fishing, and photography are all popular activities here. It’s also been a popular rock climbing destination since the 1970s and has routes ranging from easy 5.6 routes to very difficult 5.14 routes. You need to get a permit before placing permanent anchors, but visitors are free to climb established routes. Guided experiences for first-time climbers are also offered. Overnight camping is allowed in the park to make a full weekend out of your trip.
Heyburn State Park, Plummer
Heyburn State Park is the oldest park in the Pacific Northwest and filled with ponderosa pine trees, calm waters, and colorful meadows. The park features a marina with boat docks and launch point. The marina also rents out kayaks, paddleboats, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards. In total, the park spans about 5,744 acres of land and 2,332 acres of water. For a unique overnight stay, make a booking at one of the quaint cottages or cabins.
Shoshone Falls Park, Twin Falls
Shoshone Falls is a scenic attraction with an iconic waterfall in southern Idaho. It is sometimes called the Niagara of the West and stands at 212 feet tall and 900 feet wide. It’s at the edge of Twin Falls and along the Snake River. In this park, you can enjoy the hiking areas, playgrounds, boat ramp, swimming area, and scenic overlook. The flow of the falls varies by season and peaks in the springtime.
Castle Rocks State Park, Almo
Castle Rocks State Park is home to Idaho’s largest pinyon pine forest and is about 45 miles south of Burley, Idaho. This is another prime spot for rock climbers from around the world. Hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding are also popular here. You can even see Native American pictographs in the park. This park offers unique overnight stays, including a lodge and bunkhouse. It also offers an introductory fishing program for all ages and provides all of the equipment you’ll need for your first fishing adventure. For camping, the park has 37 serviced campsites, six equestrian campsites, and two yurts.
Lucky Peak State Park, Boise
Boise residents love spending time at Lucky Peak State Park to get outside with biking, swimming, fishing, boating, and picnicking. Sandy Point and Discovery Park are just 10 minutes from Boise, while the marina is about 40 minutes away. Onsite watersport rentals and boat ramps are available here. Discovery Park is a favorite spot among dog lovers and a place where your pup can play in the water. However, dogs are not allowed at Sandy Point, which is a beach with a swimming area and volleyball courts.