With its 50 states, the U.S. has countless road trip options. For another road trip in the future, think about an intriguing but lesser-known state: Idaho.
This state in the form of a raised gun is an exciting enigma: rugged and elegant, urban and wild, old and new. The topography limits the location of cities to a few locations that bend down from boise’s northern protrusion to Yellowstone on the Wyoming border like a fishing hook. Idaho contains rich wilderness, sharp peaks and foaming rivers, as well as high desert plains and rolling arable land. With its forests, rivers and air, the state offers a personal and undisturbed outdoor experience and a look at the roots of American history. Perhaps, in addition to all the natural beauty, you will be surprised by the inventive and creative spirit in the villages and towns of the state. An authentic journey through Idaho offers space to roam; an exceptional trip ensures that you get dirty nails.
Day 1 Explore the Boise River Greenbelt, a footpath between the city’s cultural destinations: art, history, parks, zoo and gardens. Dine at the Basque Block.
Day 2 From desert to mountains: take the meandering Payette River Scenic Byway to McCall. Raft or kayak on the Payette River or cruise silent waters on Cascade or Payette Lake. Stroll into McCall in Ponderosa State Park.
Day 3 Relax on the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway to Stanley along rugged mountains, crystal clear lakes and wooded meadows. Don’t forget to watch stars in the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve.
Day 4 After Galena Summit, Sun Valley offers outdoor activities with a distinctly decadent taste. Alternate a morning bike ride or fly fishing with visits to boutiques and art galleries. Take a chair lift to the top of Baldy and soak up the midday sun above the Wood River Valley. Switch to the evening with live music at the Sun Valley Pavilion of Whiskey Jacques’.
Food & drink
Idaho is more diverse than its reputation suggests. Boise has a remarkably large Basque community, the largest outside Spain. The Basques began to settle in Idaho in the early 19th century and now they are giving the so-called Basque Block in the center of Boise flavor with paella, lamb, chorizo and croquetas
(a kind of croquette). If you miss the annual Jaialdi (a culture festival), take the time to sample the regional specialties offered here all year round. Idaho’s unique Basque cuisine has evolved into a combination of traditional Basque flavors with American products like lamb.
Yes, there’s an Idaho Potato Museum. Yes, potatoes from Idaho are exceptionally delicious and ubiquitous; about 6 billion kilos of it is grown annually. Whether you’re eating delicious fries at Boise Fry Company (you can choose your own potato variety) or an unconventional ice cream potato (don’t worry, it only looks like a pager), the humble potato is inseparable and proudly attached to Idaho.
Craters Of The Moon National Monument & Preserve
This is a strange and very subtly changing landscape of hardened lava flows surrounded by a diverse natural park. Descend into caves, climb cinder cones, and discover the history of the Shoshone-Bannock Native Americans through archaeological discoveries in the region. nps.gov/crmo
This pristine 9,300-acre lake (pictured in the forest above) reflects the Selkirk Mountains. In addition to the usual water activities, tree lovers can admire 2,000-year-old cedar trees (up to 3.5 meters in diameter and 45 meters high) in the Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars, while snow fanatics can indulge in neat orbits. priestlake.org
The waterfall at Twin Falls is 275 meters wide and over 60 meters high. The water flow is strongest between April and July. The nearby Shoshone Falls Park offers beautiful photo points, a playground, picnic meadows and hiking trails, in addition to hiking and swimming opportunities. It is one of the most beautiful places in the western USA. fid.org
Wild Salmon River
The Salmon River, which begins in the waters of Redfish Lake (also the end point of the longest migration of red salmon in North America), is called the ‘river of no return’ for its fast currents and steep canyon walls. It’s partly next to the huge, rugged Sawtooth Wilderness, so a trip across this river could be the American adventure of a lifetime. See 1.5 billion ancient rock (Idaho’s oldest), rare and diverse wildlife, and ancient pioneer spots. rivers.gov
Art, Culture & History
Basque Museum & Cultural Center
Among Boise’s ethnic inns, restaurants and bars is the Basque Museum & Cultural Center, a successful project to introduce people to Basque culture and how it traveled 10,000 kilometres west from the Pyrenees to Idaho. Lessons euskara, Europe’s oldest language, are also offered (see the programme). basquemuseum.eus
Old Penitentiary & Botanical Garden
In Boise, you can stand behind bars that kept hardened criminals inside during the wild west. The cold stone and iron are echoes of the pioneering past, but with the neighbors, Idaho’s modern history is brightened up. After tasting prison life, stroll through the 12 diverse gardens. idahobotanicalgarden.org
See a rare mining town that has barely changed since the 1860s. Roam more than 70 buildings including a hotel, school, church, cemeteries, and the birthplace of Idaho’s first newspaper. It is located in the hinterland of Owyhee County and the Silver City Road closes in winter, but is open from Memorial Day (late May) to the end of November; all-wheel drive is always recommended. historicsilvercityidaho.com
World Center Birds Of Prey
At this center in Boise (pictured above), Fall Flights (September to November) showcases the natural elegance of birds and the expertise of the trainers by letting hawks, owls and falcons do fly shows. Visit the archives of the Falconer’s Library and the outdoor and indoor exhibitions to see how they handle conservation here. peregrinefund.org/visit