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11 Best Stops on an Idaho Road Trip

Idaho has emerged to be quite the trendy vacation destination. Volcanic soils and innovative grape growers have propelled the wine scene to Napa like status, Boise is probably one of the coolest, evolving cities in the country, and then there’s all that natural, unspoiled landscape. Taking a road trip through the state is the best way to introduce yourself to the overwhelming offerings. To give you a taste, we’ve put together an itinerary that will keep you on more major roads, while still getting those feet wet. Always check ahead for road closures if traveling during the winter.

Boise Boise

Boise

Landing in Boise will toss travelers right into the trendy side of Idaho, which debunks all the potato rumors (but potatoes are a thing, and they are delicious). A few nights here will take you into a vortex of amazing foods, from the healthy to indulgent. Vegan sweets at Guru Donuts, berry ketchup at the Boise Fry Company, and boozy ice cream at The STIL is met with an overflow of modern plant-based options and poke bowls. Foodie heaven right? The Penitentiary is a hauntingly good time, a short Camelback mountain walk will burn off breakfast, and the Greenbelt connects those traveling by bike or foot to local wineries and breweries.

McCall McCall

McCall

Only two hours away from Boise, McCall is that classic snowy town with lodges, inns and resorts to base out of. Aside from its pure beauty, a load of recreational activities is yours to pursue. Payette Lake scenically lines the edge of town and is so clear, you might see the legendary lake monster swish by. All seasons in McCall are amazing, but the Winter Carnival, complete with ice sculptures, is one of the most exciting times to visit. Stop by The Pancake House and Christmas Shop for carby goodness.

Moscow Moscow, Idaho

Moscow

Less than a four-hour jaunt away, Moscow is a college town worth visiting. Road trippers will get a dose of local art experiences, and a look at more classic Idaho land met with mountains. If you are lucky, one of the many fairs or festivals will be going on when passing through. Aside from the arts, the food scene is on point with a variety of feel-good eating environments, and a solid farmers market to top it all off. Super hungry? Grab an indulgent burger with a brew at Tapped.

Coeur d’Alene Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Credit: Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho by Bigstock.com

Coeur d’Alene

Coeur d’Alene hugs around a giant lake just 1.5 hours from Moscow, and there is always something happening on the water. For example, Christmas brings an impressive light display that is actually on the water. Guests float by boat to get an up-close look. With golfing and upscale eateries, there’s definitely a resort feel here. But the affordable eats scene is solid with options like extreme grilled cheese sandwiches, or tried and true basic burgers and coconut cream pie at Hudson’s Hamburgers.

Sandpoint Sandpoint
Credit: Sandpoint by bigstock.com

Sandpoint

56 Minutes to Next Destination
Sandpoint, Idaho is fortunate enough to feature both a spectacular ski resort, Schweitzer Mountain, along with the vibrant blue Lake Pend Oreille. So when either traversing down the snow in the winter or biking in the summer, the lake adds another beautiful dimension to the views. An hour from Coeur d’Alene, the chain hotels and lodges here rate highly, but finding a cozy cabin rental might be hard to beat. High-end American eateries and brew pups round out the food scene, but if looking for good cheap eats grab a mouthwatering sandwich from Pack River General Store.

Bonners Ferry Bonners Ferry

Bonners Ferry

You can drive 40 minutes to Bonners Ferry, which is probably not more than a quick stop, but it’s worth going a little above Sandpoint to see this truly adorable town near the border. Stop at small shops downtown—discover books and take home trinkets. Before heading out, refuel with a slice of huckleberry cheesecake at Mugsys Tavern. The huckleberry lemonade is quite amazing too.

Missoula, Montana Missoula
Credit: Missoula by lancefisher via Flickr

Missoula, Montana

Next, cross the borders on a 4-hour trip to Missoula. Yes, Missoula is in Montana, but the most sensible route back down to the bottom of Idaho is through here. Not only is the landscape flawless, but there’s also a good bit to do. Fish, kayak, or even veer away from nature for the day and explore the town museums. Keeping things with the theme, Pearl Cafe, on the high-end side, serves up a seamless Idaho trout.

Salmon City Park - Salmon, Idaho
Credit: City Park - Salmon, Idaho by © Martynelson | Dreamstime.com

Salmon

Back in Idaho, Salmon is less than three hours away, home to a rich history, culture and a wealth of outdoor activities like rafting and fishing. Downtown is nothing short of cute, making Salmon that out of the way mountain nook that’s completely worth your time. Stay in a cozy inn, and enjoy an abundance of great little food shops like Odd Fellows’ Bakery—be sure to leave with at least a couple loaves of bread and a chocolate croissant.

Ketchum Sun Valley
Credit: Sun Valley by Sunvalley.com

Ketchum

Ketchum is a combination of cozy mountain escape and sheer luxury, just a short three-hour drive from Salmon. Downtown is small but vibrant with a variety of precious eateries, and bakeries for a delightful breakfast. Sun Valley ski resort is basically an extension of the area and is prime for both beginners and experts. Glistening streams accent gentle cross country trails—definitely stop at Galena Lodge for a bowl of soup by the fire before or after an adventure. Hotel Ketchum is one of the trendy, sleek places to stay that will keep visitors in budget while meeting high expectations.

Stanley Stanley, Idaho
Credit: Stanley, Idaho by bigstock.com

Stanley

Stanley is a stone’s throw from Ketchum, only about an hour away, and could honestly be lumped into one stop. However, you’d be missing out on the painting worthy hikes just beyond the stunning, very small, town. Being the epitome of a hidden gem, it’s worth staying at the lodge for a few days, and immersing in aquatic excursions and fishing.

Twin Falls Shoshone Falls, Twin Falls
Credit: Shoshone Falls, Twin Falls by bigstock.com

Twin Falls

Three hours away, Twin Falls will allow travelers to experience the southeast portion of Idaho. This adorable town is a fun place to explore, and the massive cascades and jaw-dropping bridge are what draws them here versus other nearby towns. Recreation enthusiasts can traverse trails and even base jump. Elevation 486 rates highly as a top restaurant in Twin Falls, for good reason. Sit on the patio with vast views of the Snake River Canyon while sipping a drink and enjoying eclectic American eats. A sunset meal here is certainly a strong send off to an amazing Idaho road trip.

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