Idaho is a great state for those outdoors enthusiasts. One of the main draws to the Gem State is its impressive number of awesome hiking trails. And with over 19,000 miles of winding paths to sink your hike-starved boots into, the first question you’ll ask is: Where do I start? Below are 15 of the best hiking trails in Idaho.
Bogus Basin is Boise’s largest peak and with its great height and proximity to the Treasure Valley, many locals take advantage of all the hiking trails just waiting at their fingertips. A day hike up Bogus Basin road is a mere 30-minute drive, once reaching the precipice, not only will you be rewarded with an amazing view of the valley, but you will have trails to hike to your heart’s content.
McCall, Idaho, sits among the Rocky Mountains in North-central Idaho. A true alpine ski and mountain town, McCall also offers a plethora of all level hiking trails. The trail will wind around some of the most pristine and secluded mountain wilderness, all culminating with an alpine lake destination. A hike that is guaranteed to suit the whole family.
Back in Boise proper, if you are looking for a little outdoor physical exercise but don’t want to make the drive up Bogus Basin, there are always the Ridge to River trails. This unique trail system offers hundreds of miles in and around the Boise River and the nearby foothills. Close-in and open to the public year-round, the only thing you will need is your water and a sturdy pair of shoes.
This gem of a hike offers a wide variety of activities as well as miles of unforgettable scenery. Rock climbing, horseback riding, ancient pictographs and creeks full of trout area also among this park’s highlights, not to mention the miles of easily accessible hiking!
The mountain towns of central Idaho are home to some of the most breathtaking scenery in the state, so it comes as no surprise that the alpine town of Sun Valley offers amazing hikes. The Kane Lake Trail will not disappoint, be sure to bring some water and snacks, the climb starts you off in a decent incline, but all the exertion will be worth it, once you spy that lake view at the top.
Not your typical hike, but then again, Idaho has not always been known to cater to the typical or usual. The Craters of the Moon National Park is an expansive lava bed that covers over 600 miles of geologic formations. Located in south-central Idaho, plan on a lengthy drive (depending on where you are coming from) however, the park is open all year. Just think, how many other people do you know that spent a Saturday traipsing around prehistoric lava beds?
Sticking with the theme of unusual, the sand dunes found in the southern Idaho desert are truly unique. Once reaching the precipice, a height of 471 feet, one can glimpse an amazing panoramic view of the valley below, not to mention a rather unique way to get down—sand sledding! Now, the hiking part—Bruneau Sand Dunes offers a variety of hiking trails, right from the get go, as in a five-mile hike straight from the parking lot to reach the nearest dune. Open all year around.
The Boise National Forest offers some of the most beautiful scenery for local hikers. Fronting the Sawtooth range, this 7.7-mile moderate trail offers some of Idaho’s best features: Timbered trails, alpine lakes and lots of great outdoor scenery. Open from July through August, plan on a full day of hiking, but just enough time to head back home.
The northern panhandle hike highlights the historical significance of the Pulaski Tunnel. In 1910, a fire sparked by a convergence of lightning strikes and coal-fed trains, ignited one of the largest fires west of the Rockies. Legend has it, Ed Pulaski saved all but six of his 45-man fire crew, by sheparding them into an abandoned mining shaft. The Pulaski Tunnel hike is fairly short in length, (four miles round trip) but makes up for its brevity with its sweeping views and historic past. Open all-year.
There is nothing better to top off a great hike than with a plunge into soothingly refreshing mountain hot springs, the only catch—you’ve got to hike up to enjoy them. This moderate hike (3.2 miles) is both family friendly and open year-round. Plan on bringing appropriate attire (especially when the weather changes), as you will want to take full advantage of these therapeutic outdoor oases.
A little off the beaten path, but no doubt will please hikers of all ages, this somewhat steep hike rewards weary hikers with a great little fishing hole at Blue Lake and a beautiful little waterfall for those more adventurous types. Only a mile from the trailhead, this hike is definitely worth the extra effort.
Riggins is located in central Idaho and is pure mountain country, as in thick timber, winding rivers, and of course, amazing hiking trails. This 7.5-mile intermediate hiking trail winds along beneath the Seven Devils Peaks, leading to upper Cannon Lake. Beautiful scenery abounds here, be prepared for a relatively strenuous hike.
Southeastern Idaho offers hikers a beautiful glimpse of mountainous peaks and thickly timbered valleys, not to mention, great hiking trails. Big Elk Creek will not disappoint with hardened hiking enthusiasts, as a matter of fact, this trail can turn a comfortable day hike into one of many days, depending on how far you would like to hike. Open through the summer months.
Located in Southwest Idaho, the Hagerman Valley is one of the state’s most unique areas. Filled with gorges, lakes, streams and waterfalls, one would be remiss without a trip to this venerable landscape. Haller’s Haven is a moderate trail that offers hikers a glimpse of Idaho’s mountainous scenery and often, luckier ones will get to witness the area’s wilder residents like foxes, eagles, mountain lions and more.
Central Idaho is thick with hiking trails, and the Harriman is no exception. A grade of moderate has been given to this hike, however, with a length of 19 miles, you can turn this day hike into many days, and not be disappointed with the amazing scenery. During the winter, bring your cross-country skis as this trail is groomed for a good stretch of skiing.
Fortunately for those of us who call Idaho home, many of these trails are a mere car ride away. For out-of-staters, don’t stress, Idaho’s trails beckon for those who seek adventure and a little respite of outdoor tranquility. Just dress according to mountain climates, after all, many of us who live in Idaho, have sometimes found ourselves weathering through all four seasons, all in the course of an hour.