Post Summary: Discover the 10 best day trips from Boise, Idaho.
There’s a reason why Boise has risen out of obscurity to become one of the hottest places to live. 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 was taking day trips outside of the city to explore more of the rugged and wild terrain of Idaho. Here are our picks for the top 10 day trips from Boise.
1. Bruneau Dunes State Park
Just one short hour away from Boise, Idaho is the extraordinary Bruneau Dunes State Park. The sand 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.
Before You Go:
-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.
-There are plenty of picnic tables, so pack a lunch and your hydro flask water bottle.
2. Kirkham Hot Springs
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 a lot more. The best thing about Kirkham, the hot waterfalls that cascade down the mountains. Pure Bliss.
Related: Read our full post about Kirkham Hot Springs and everything you need to know before you visit.
3. Twin Falls
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 height at a whopping 212 feet. The falls are at its 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
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 down to just under 500. 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,
Another popular stop is the retreat-style hot spring, The Springs. It’s heavenly and a great way to cap your evening. The place is very 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.
Related: Check out our full write up on The Springs in Idaho City here.
The drive to Idaho City is an hour-long from Boise on the beautiful Idaho 21, also known as the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway.
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.
If you want to visit a hot spring, Burgdorf Hot Springs and Gold Fork Hot Springs are in close proximity to McCall.
McCall is about a 2-hour drive from Boise heading north on Highway 55.
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
Located 45 minutes away from downtown Boise, Bogus Basin 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, they have expanded into summer offerings 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
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
Spend a day exploring a waterfall with this easy hike located an hour away from Boise. It’s a half-mile hike back and forth 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, so it’s best to get there early in the morning. You might even have the whole area to yourself! The best time to visit the creek is from March to October. If you start from the lower parking lot, it’s a simple hike with a small portion where you’ll need to cross a stream with stepping stones placed in the water to make it easier. We think it’s best to wear water shoes like these so you can fully enjoy your time there. There’s also a hike you can do where you can access a view of the waterfall from above. It’s a much harder hike and we opted not to do it since we had our two-year-old with us and it looked too steep and rocky for him.
9. Sunny Slope Wine Trail
Did you know Idaho is rising up among the ranks for its burgeoning wine scene? Take an easy 3o minute drive from Boise to neighboring Caldwell to experience firsthand 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 so you can easily combine a trip to explore the downtown area as well.
10. Thousand Springs State Park
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 these crystal clear waters. Here’s a good article telling you how to get there.
Day trips or weekend trips from Boise?
While all of these can be done in a day, some of these might be better suited for 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.
-Kirkham Hot Springs and Idaho City (this is one of my favorite road trips from Boise)
-Twin Falls, Bruneau Sand Dunes, and Thousand Islands State Park
-McCall and Burgdorf Hot Springs
-Sun Valley and Craters of the Moon
-Sunnyslope Wine Trail and Jump Creek Falls Trail
Additional Boise Day Trips
Those are our top picks, but there are so many other places to explore near Boise that will expose you to Idaho nature. We weren’t able to get to every possible place, but here are a few other options you might want to try out.
-Hagerman Fossil Beds
-Boise National Forest
-Sawtooth National Forest
Enjoy your time exploring the best day trips from Boise! Do you know any other great spots that are close to Boise? Let us know in the comments below.
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