Post Summary: A breakdown of the best time to visit Idaho and what all four seasons are like in the gem state.
Wondering about the best time to visit Idaho? You’re not alone! Idaho has started to gain steam as a fantastic outdoor getaway. Idaho is piquing the interest of visitors from all over the country who are curious about what there is to do in Idaho.
As someone who lives in the Gem State, the best time to go to Idaho depends on what kind of traveler you are, your ideal weather, and what you hope to do.
I’ll break down all four seasons in Idaho to give you a good idea of what kind of weather you’ll be dealing with, along with my recommendations for the best time to visit Idaho.
Best Time To Visit Idaho
Generally, the high season for Idaho tourism is during the winter holidays and all through the summer months. Come wintertime, everyone flocks to Idaho’s multiple ski resorts to enjoy skiing and snowboarding, while summertime brings families and adventurers who want to hike, camp, or play on the thousands of lakes and rivers spread throughout the state.
My personal recommendation on the best time to visit Idaho is late spring to early fall. The weather is sublime, and the outdoors are bursting with fun recreational activities. That being said, I’m a sun worshipper who always wants to be in the water. So…I like the summer.
If you love winter recreation, like skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, winter yurts, hot springs, and snowshoeing, Idaho offers phenomenal experiences. The best part is that if you visit outside of the winter holidays and come in January or February, even the most popular places will be relatively uncrowded compared to other huge ski resorts in other states.
I could also argue that June and September are the best months to visit Idaho if you’re looking for uncrowded hiking trails, clear waterways, comfortable weather, and vibrant green forests.
Let’s dig a little further into the weather in Idaho and each season to get a feel for the best time to go to Idaho that works for your unique likes and needs.
Weather In Idaho
When breaking down the weather in Idaho, it’s important to remember that Idaho is a long mountainous state, so there will be differences between Northern and Southern Idaho. Southern Idaho is a high desert climate with HOT summers and cold winters, and northern Idaho has hot summers and COLD winters. So while it could be a cool 40 degrees with one inch of snow in Boise, it could be a freezing 25 degrees with 9 inches of snow in Couer d’Alene, Idaho.
Idaho has various climates that are determined by topography, elevation, and location. To get a better idea of the weather in Idaho, let’s look at the climate averages of Boise, located in the southwestern part of the state, and Coeur d’Alene, located in the northern part of the state.
Average Weather In Boise and Coeur d’Alene
As you can see, Boise has a pretty standard four seasons with little rain, cool winters, and hot summers. Boise is a high desert city that averages 12 inches of rain a year and 20 inches of snow a year.
Now, let’s take a look at Coeur d’Alene all the way up in the panhandle of Idaho.
In contrast to Boise, Coeur d’Alene has more moisture with an average of 27 inches of rain a year and 42 inches of snow a year. Summers are hot with a few days that top out in the high 90s.
Let’s look at each season in Idaho to see the pros and cons of visiting in that season.
THE BEST TIME TO GO TO IDAHO
Summer In Idaho
Summer in Idaho is glorious. Think of long days out on the lake with your family and backcountry camping with your closest friends. From late June to early September, Idaho becomes a giant playground for those who love activities like camping, kayaking, hiking, paddle boarding, mountain biking, and more. With temperatures ranging from the 80s to 90s (and more than a few scorching hot days in Southern Idaho), the most popular thing to do is get out and explore Idaho’s ample waterways like Lake Pend Oreille in Sandpoint, the Boise River in Boise, or Payette Lake in McCall
With school out and visitors coming into the state, you can expect that crowds will be at their highest. Make your camping reservations EARLY and book your hotels ahead of time.
Even if the outdoors isn’t your first passion, Idaho in the summer still offers bustling farmers markets, u-pick farms, outdoor concerts, summer festivals, wild foraging, craft beer tastings, and more.
The drawback to visiting Idaho in the summer is that crowds are at their highest, hotels will be more expensive, and it’s fire season. There’s no way to predict how bad of a fire season it will be, but you’re always taking a chance that the air will be unhealthy with a grey covering of smoke. It’s not pleasant and can surely ruin a vacation. Some summers are glorious, and you get only three or four days of smoke, but sometimes it ends up being like the summer of 2020, where the air was smoky and grey for the entire month of August.
5 Fantastic Things To Do In Idaho In Summer
- Tubing the Boise River
- Kayak to Blue Heart Springs
- Lake life in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
- Craft Beer in Boise, Idaho
- Biking the Route of the Hiawatha
Fall in Idaho
Fall is a wonderful time to visit if you don’t want hot weather and aren’t interested in water activities. Hiking trails will be open and dry, so it’s a great time to get out and explore Idaho’s most famous mountain tops, like Borah Peak and Scotchman Peak, or to enjoy the last days of pleasant weather while camping in Idaho’s fantastic state parks.
While the weather will be temperate, evenings will be cold, so you’ll need to dress in layers.
If you’re interested in leaf peeping, eastern and northern Idaho offer fantastic fall colors, with the colors typically at their peak in mid to late October. Southern Idaho peaks just a little later, and you can enjoy the display of red Maples and yellow Tamaracks in late to early November.
Fall in northern Idaho can often get cut short with freezing weather and snow coming as early as late October. The most ideal time to visit Idaho in the fall is from late September to early October.
5 Fantastic Things To Do In Idaho In Fall
- Backpacking the Sawtooth Mountains
- Walk amongst the giant trees at the Roosevelt Grove Of Ancient Cedars
- Drive the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway for fall foliage
- Sand surfing at Bruneau Dunes State Park
- Sip Idaho’s finest on the Idaho Sunnyslope Wine Trail
Winter In Idaho
Winter in Idaho is a dream for powder lovers. With 18 ski resorts to choose from, each with its own unique flavor, you’re bound to find a ski hill that speaks to you. While Sun Valley is the most famous resort, there are plenty of other under-the-radar spots with acres and acres of crowd-free skiing. Grand Targhee, anyone? Okay, technically, Grand Targhee is in Wyoming, but you can only access it through Idaho, so I’m counting it people! Ski season is dependent on weather, but it typically runs from late November to April.
Even if you’re not a skier, you can enjoy snowshoeing, sleigh rides, dog sledding, winter festivals, and my personal favorite…natural hot springs. Southern Idaho is teeming with natural hot springs, and in the wintertime, the brave will trek through slippery ice to enjoy a steaming waterfall and a hot soak next to a snow-drenched mountain. Hot springs can be enjoyed year-round, but wintertime is one of the most magical times to experience the natural wonder.
Winters are cold and brutal for anyone who isn’t adequately prepared with high-quality winter gear. Read our post on what to wear in Idaho so you can actually enjoy your time in the snow.
If you’re looking to avoid crowds, you’ll want to visit outside of the winter holidays when tourism is at its highest.
5 Favorite Things To Do In Idaho In Winter
- Winter Carnival in McCall, Idaho
- Skiing at Schweitzer Mountain
- The Ice Palace in Rigby, Idaho
- Holiday Light Show at the Coeur d’Alene Resort
- Snowshoeing in Ponderosa State Park
Spring In Idaho
Spring means it’s waterfall and wildflower season! While the spring equinox is on March 21, you can expect to see typical spring weather in Idaho starting in April and sometimes even as late as May in eastern and northern Idaho. If you’ll be doing any hiking, you’ll want to bring waterproof boots that you don’t mind getting muddy since it’s the beginning of the rainy season, and many trails at higher elevations will have snow all the way into early June.
That being said, late spring is perfection, with the weather sitting at the 70s and 80s and wildflowers pushing their way up through the soil. It’s also the best time to see Idaho’s famous waterfalls at their fullest. Shoshone Falls and Mesa Falls bring in thousands of visitors, but lesser-known waterfalls will be just as full and less crowded.
Spring is also one of the most adventurous times for white water rafting. With snowmelt gushing down the mountain, Idaho’s rivers will be flowing at full blast. Here’s a fun fact about Idaho, it has more miles of runnable whitewater than anywhere else in the US!
With rain and increased moisture in the air, it’s also the beginning of mosquito season, so don’t forget your bug spray.
5 Fantastic Things To Do In Idaho In Spring
- Treefort Music Fest in Boise
- Whitewater Rafting the Salmon River
- Craters of the Moon National Monument to see small wildflowers popping up between the hard lava beds
- Leaf peeping on the Mesa Falls or Wild Horse Scenic Byway.
- Foraging for mushrooms
So now the question isn’t what’s the best time to go Idaho…it’s when are you coming to Idaho!?
See you on the trails.
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