Post Summary: Discover the best day trips from Boise, Idaho that are 1-4 hours away.
There’s a reason why Boise has risen out of obscurity to become one of the best places to live in America. With extraordinary nature and big-city amenities, it’s no wonder the masses are making their way to travel to this picturesque high desert city in Southwest Idaho. We spent four months in Boise, exploring every nook and cranny to see if it’s where we would eventually want to live.
The city of Boise has so much to offer, but one of the biggest highlights of our time there was taking day trips from Boise to explore the rugged and wild terrain of Idaho.
Here are our picks for the 12 best day trips from Boise. They offer everything from hiking, relaxation, history, and plenty of adventure.
12 AMAZING BOISE DAY TRIPS
1. BRUNEAU DUNES STATE PARK
Average driving time from Boise: 1 hour
Just one short hour away from Boise, Idaho, is the extraordinary Bruneau Dunes State Park. The dunes surround two small lakes, creating the perfect desert oasis. The park is home to the tallest freestanding sand dune in North America, capping out at 470 feet. We loved it there and while we visited in late winter, I can imagine it being such a fun day out in the early summer. Not sure how good the sand would feel in the harsh heat of August! Although, you can always jump in the water since swimming is permitted in the lakes. The park offers hiking, swimming, camping, horseback riding, an observatory for stargazing, kayaking, and of course…sandboarding! We brought our own sled, but you can also rent one for $15 from the visitor’s center.
This unique, easy to get to landmark makes it one of the best day trips from Boise.
BEFORE YOU GO
1. Make sure to have all the right gear to make the day more comfortable. We suggest sunglasses, a sunhat, sunblock, and shoes you don’t mind getting a whole heck of a lot of sand in. Preferably a lightweight hiking shoe that rises above your ankle or shoes that are made of one single material (like rubber shoes from Native), so the sand doesn’t get stuck in every crevice.
2. There are plenty of picnic tables, so pack a lunch and a water bottle.
2. KIRKHAM HOT SPRINGS
Average driving time from Boise: 2 hours
Idaho is teeming with natural hot springs bubbling up through the earth’s surface. You could easily plan an epic road trip from Boise, hitting up all the extraordinary hot springs hidden in the mountains and forests of Idaho. Our favorite hot spring near Boise is Kirkham Hot Springs, located in Lowman, Idaho. It’s 2 hours away and largely considered one of the best hot springs in Idaho. If it were even a tiny bit closer, we would probably go every week! The best thing about Kirkham, the hot waterfalls that cascade down the mountains. Pure Bliss.
3. TWIN FALLS + SHOSHONE FALLS
Average driving time from Boise: 2 hours
A two-hour drive away from Boise is the city of Twin Falls, Idaho. It’s most famous for having Shoshone Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in the United States, surpassing Niagara Falls’s height at a whopping 212 feet. The falls are at their peak after the winter snowmelt from Spring to Summer. We visited in the winter when the falls were considerably lower. However, we still loved our time there and enjoyed taking the hiking paths and learning about Evil Knievel’s famous attempt to jump the Snake River Canyon. Other highlights are biking or walking the Snake River Canyon rim trail, kayaking the Snake River, strolling through the cute downtown shops, and visiting the Perrine Bridge to see if you can catch BASE jumpers taking flight.
That’s right; Twin Falls attracts BASE jumpers from all over who hop on over the bridge and take the daring 486 feet plunge. Sadly, we didn’t get to see anyone jump since the free-spirited van lifer who was packing up his gear said it was too windy to jump. Ah well, we loved watching the red tail hawks glide across the canyon.
BEFORE YOU GO: If you’re hoping to see Shoshone Falls in its full glory, you can always check the water flow at the live webcam the city offers.
4. IDAHO CITY
Average driving time from Boise: One hour
Take a giant leap back in time and visit the old gold mining town of Idaho City. What was once the largest city in the Northwest with over 7000 residents is now just under 500 people. While it may not have many residents, it retains its old west charm and history. A visit isn’t complete without strolling the antique shops, sipping on sarsaparilla (homemade root beer) from the local ice cream parlor, and visiting the Boise Basin Museum to get some historical context to this old wild west town.
It’s one of the easiest day drives from Boise and takes you on the picturesque Idaho 21, also known as the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway. It’s one of the most scenic drives near Boise.
Another popular stop in Idaho City is the retreat-style hot spring, The Springs. It’s heavenly and a great way to cap your evening. The place is popular and is commonly touted as one of the best things to do in Boise. We highly suggest you book a spot before you go. Even better, reserve a private hot tub so you can stargaze in privacy.
Average driving time from Boise: 2 hours
McCall, Idaho is everything you want from a small resort town, unparalleled natural beauty without a lick of pretension. Vibrant and charming, it offers everything from skiing and snowboarding at Brundage Mountain Resort, white water rafting on the Payette River, abundant hiking and biking trails, and swimming at North Beach.
While McCall isn’t a far drive, it’s also makes for a great weekend trip from Boise. Get a hotel for the weekend and see why it’s one of the best small towns in Idaho.
BEFORE YOU GO: If you’re visiting in winter, you can try to time your trip to the biggest event in McCall, the Winter Carnival. The annual event is a festive winter celebration with ice sculptures, parades, live music, and more attracting nearly 60,000 people every year.
6. BOGUS BASIN
Average driving distance from Boise: 45 minutes
Bogus Basin is the quintessential winter day trip from Boise. Located 45 minutes from downtown Boise, the ski hill is a fantastic option for anyone looking for a day of mountain recreation. They offer affordable alpine skiing, snow tubing, nordic skiing, a mountain coaster, and snowshoeing.
While it started as a winter destination, it has become a year-round destination with a 300-foot tube slide, mountain biking trails, a 32-foot climbing wall, chairlift rides, a trampoline bungee, disc golf, and numerous hiking trails.
Bogus Basin is a non-profit organization, so 100% of profits go back into the mountain and improving the community of Boise.
7. CRATERS OF THE MOON
Average driving time from Boise: 3.45 hours
Craters of the Moon is a surreal landscape of 618 square miles of black lava. Created from lava oozing up through fissures in the earth, you can hike or drive alongside these incredible otherwordly lava formations and lava caves. This post from a former worker at Craters of the Moon offers the best tips on how to enjoy this extreme and desolate park.
Craters of the Moon National Monument is about a 3 hour and 45-minute drive from Boise, Idaho, so it might be a stretch for most to consider this a day trip. But if you are looking for fun road trips from Boise, consider making a trip to Craters of the Moon. If doing it in one day feels like too much, bring a tent and experience a place with zero light pollution. Seeing the sky lit up with a million stars is a sight you’ll never forget. Or you can spend a night in Sun Valley and add Craters of the Moon to your itinerary.
BEFORE YOU GO: The best time to visit is in the spring when the weather is gentler, and the wildflowers miraculously make their way through the harsh conditions of the lava fields.
8. JUMP CREEK FALLS TRAIL
Average driving time from Boise: 1 hour
Spend a day exploring a waterfall with this easy hike located an hour away from Boise. It’s a half-mile out-and-back hike with a 60-foot waterfall payoff. There is a small dipping pool about five feet deep, so bring a bathing suit if you’re visiting in the summer months. It is a small area, so even a modest amount of people can make it feel crowded. It’s best to get there early in the morning. You might even have the whole area to yourself!
If you start from the lower parking lot, it’s a simple hike with a small section where you’ll need to cross a stream with stepping stones conveniently placed in the water. We think it’s best to wear water shoes like these so you can fully enjoy your time there. There’s also a hike where you can get a view of the waterfall from above. It’s a harder hike, so we opted not to do it since we had our two-year-old with us. We saw many kids doing the hike, but the steep, rocky nature didn’t make it too toddler-friendly.
9. SUNNY SLOPE WINE TRAIL
Average driving distance from Boise: 30 minutes
Did you know there’s an Idaho wine country? Yup, a 30-minute drive from Boise to neighboring Caldwell will bring you to the up-and-coming wine region of Southwest Idaho. With 15 wineries and vineyards, you could easily spend a day wining and dining amongst the lush farmland of Caldwell, Boise.
Start your day at the Sunnyslope Wine Trail visitors center, located in historic downtown Caldwell, where they can help you with maps and possible itineraries. You can also look at their website, which offers a wealth of information.
Downtown Caldwell has some cute restaurants and shops you can easily add to your day trip from Boise.
10. THOUSAND SPRINGS STATE PARK
Average driving distance from Boise: 1.5 hours
Located an hour and a half away from Boise is Thousand Springs State Park. The park is a collection of separate units, including Malad Gorge, Kelton Trail, Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon Springs Nature Preserve, Billingsley Creek, Ritter Island, Crystal Springs, and Niagara Springs. If you’re a nature lover, you’ll find something to do here! Box Springs stands out as a must-visit for its vibrant jewel-toned water. The green-blue spring is a sight to see and is best visited in the spring when the springs are dotted with lush greenery and wildflowers. If you’re willing to make the hike down, you can even take a dip in its crystal clear waters. Here’s a good article telling you how to get there.
11. CELEBRATION PARK
Average driving distance from Boise: 50 minutes
This gem of a state park is Idaho’s first Archeological Park. The park features an easy walk through lava rocks that are etched with over 5000 petroglyphs that date back 10,000 years.
Kids and the curious at heart will enjoy walking through the volcanic rock to try to find the petroglyphs in the rocks. I’ve heard it said before that petroglyphs choose when and to whom they reveal themselves. See if you can spot them!
The other main draw of the park is the Guffey Railroad Bridge. Completed in 1897 it harkens back to Idaho’s mining history. The bridge is now the state’s largest historic artifact and is open to foot traffic only. It’s fun to cross the bridge and take in the beauty of the Snake River. On the other side of the bridge are primitive walking trails that give you great views of the canyon.
We also really loved the Atlatl Range, a primitive hunting tool that the earliest inhabitants of the land used. You can try your hand at the Atlatl range and see how you would have fared back then!
If you’re looking for a weekend getaway from Boise, dry camping is offered in the park.
BEFORE YOU GO: Bring a picnic lunch and use one of the many picnic benches spread along the park.
12. BOISE NATIONAL FOREST
Average driving time from Boise: 2.5 hours
With 4000 square miles of wilderness, Boise National Forest is for anyone who wants to reconnect with nature. With hiking, camping, snowshoeing, and kayaking, there’s something for every adventurer.
With 80 miles of hiking trails, you’ll be sure to find a slice of nature that has you forgetting the stresses of city life.
Additional Day Trips From Boise
Those are our top picks, but there are so many other day trips near Boise. We weren’t able to get to every possible place, but here are a few other options you might want to try out.
1. Hells Canyon – spread over 3 states, it’s famous for having the deepest river gorge in North America. Take a boat trip along the Snake River to really take in this gorgeous canyon.
2. Sawtooth National Forest – A beautiful national forest that’s perfect for hiking, camping, and visiting the nearby small town of Stanley, Idaho.
3. Silver City– A fun ghost town that will take you back in time to Idaho’s mining days.
4. Ketchum/Sun Valley – Ski resort town with good restaurants and natural hot springs.
5. Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument – Home to the richest deposit of fossils in the world. Famous for having the Hagerman Horse fossil, a horse that evolved in North America and featured only one toe.
Day trips or weekend trips from Boise?
While all of these can be done as a day trip from Boise, some might be better suited as long weekend trips from Boise. Many of them are close to each other and can be combined into a full weekend itinerary. Here are some possible ideas if you want to create a weekend getaway or a fun road trip from Boise.
WEEKEND TRIPS AND ROAD TRIPS FROM BOISE:
1. Kirkham Hot Springs and Idaho City (this is one of the favorite road trips from Boise)
2. Twin Falls, Shoshone Waterfall, Bruneau Sand Dunes, and Thousand Islands State Park
3. McCall, Cascade, and Burgdorf Hot Springs
4. Sun Valley and Craters of the Moon
5. Sunnyslope Wine Trail, Jump Creek Falls Trail, Downtown Caldwell
Enjoy your time exploring the best day trips from Boise! Do you have another Boise road trip that you love? Let us know in the comments below.
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