Boise, Idaho, is a bustling city filled with culture, adventure, and natural beauty. However, the surrounding areas of the “City of Trees” are also home to numerous attractions and recreational activities, making it an ideal starting point for various day trips.
With destinations ranging from mountains, hot springs, waterfalls, and national parks, visitors and locals alike are spoilt for choice when exploring Idaho’s stunning landscapes. Whether seeking adrenaline-fueled outdoor activities, historical sites, or tranquil, scenic escapes, the day trip options from Boise cater to diverse interests and preferences.
This article highlights some of the best day trips that can be taken from the city, including popular locations like Bogus Basin, Kirkham Hot Springs, Garden Valley, and Twin Falls. Discover the rich natural beauty and adventure that awaits just a short drive from Boise, and enhance your experience in this captivating region of the United States.
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Best Day Trips from Boise
Boise, Idaho, is not only a beautiful city, but it also serves as a great starting point for numerous exciting day trips. Whether you’re seeking an outdoor adventure or a cultural experience, here are some of the best day trips from Boise:
Located just a couple of hours from Boise, Twin Falls is a great destination for nature lovers. The city is home to the stunning Shoshone Falls, sometimes referred to as the “Niagara of the West.” The waterfall is over 200 feet tall and offers spectacular views, especially during the spring when the water flow is at its peak.
For an exhilarating adventure, head to Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park, less than two hours from Boise. The park features North America’s tallest single-structured sand dune, reaching a height of 470 feet. Visitors can enjoy hiking, sandboarding, or stargazing at the Bruneau Dunes Observatory.
Travel back in time with a visit to Idaho City, just an hour from Boise. This historic town used to be one of the largest cities in the Pacific Northwest during the gold rush era. Visitors can explore the preserved 19th-century buildings, museums, and even try their hand at gold panning for an authentic experience.
Craters of the Moon
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, a three-hour drive from Boise, is a geological wonder that lives up to its name. This unique park boasts vast lava fields, caves, and volcanic formations, making it a truly otherworldly landscape. Visitors can hike, explore lava tubes, and learn about the area’s geology at the visitor center.
McCall, situated on the shores of Payette Lake, is a picturesque destination about two hours from Boise. It offers a range of outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, and boating in the summer, and skiing or snowboarding in the winter. With charming shops and eateries, McCall also provides a laid-back atmosphere for a relaxing day trip.
For those who want to witness one of Idaho’s most impressive waterfalls, Shoshone Falls is a must-visit destination just two hours from Boise. With a height of at 212 feet, the falls are often compared to Niagara Falls. The surrounding park also offers picnic areas, hiking trails, and viewpoints for a perfect day trip.
Another historic town worth visiting is Silver City, about two and a half hours from Boise. Established during the mid-1800s as a mining town, it now serves as a well-preserved ghost town with numerous original buildings still standing, giving visitors a glimpse into Idaho’s past.
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City of Rocks
Located about three hours from Boise, the City of Rocks National Reserve is a rock-climber’s paradise. This unique landscape features massive granite formations which provide excellent climbing and bouldering opportunities. Even if you’re not a climber, the area also offers hiking trails and scenic drives to fully appreciate the rugged beauty.
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Boise, Idaho, offers a wide range of outdoor activities for visitors who want to explore the diverse and breathtaking landscape of the area. From mountains to rivers, hiking and biking trails there are endless possibilities for outdoor enthusiasts.
The area surrounding Boise is a hiker’s paradise with numerous trails and parks to explore. One popular destination is the Sawtooth National Forest, where you can find a variety of hiking trails suitable for all skill levels. Another excellent choice is Bogus Basin, which offers trails for hiking and mountain biking, as well as activities like horseback riding and disc golf.
During the winter months, skiing enthusiasts can head to Bogus Basin, where they can enjoy downhill skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and snowshoeing. Additionally, Sun Valley, located in the Rocky Mountains, is another popular destination for skiing and snowboarding.
Boise has several options for those who love mountain biking. Bogus Basin features a variety of trails for all skill levels, and the nearby Sawtooth National Forest has even more to offer. For more adventurous bikers, the Thousand Springs State Park provides challenging and scenic routes.
Water sports enthusiasts have plenty of options in the Boise area, such as swimming or paddleboarding in the Boise River. Eagle Island State Park is a popular destination for a day of water activities, while thrill-seekers can try their hand at white water rafting in the nearby Rocky Mountains.
With its numerous lakes and rivers, Boise is an ideal spot for fishing. Redfish Lake, located in the Sawtooth National Forest, is a popular fishing spot, where anglers can catch a variety of fish species. The Boise River also offers excellent fishing opportunities for both novice and experienced anglers.
Rock climbing enthusiasts can also find great spots around Boise to challenge their skills. The Sawtooth National Forest is home to numerous climbing routes suitable for various skill levels. Additionally, the Shafer Butte Mining Company area provides an adventurous experience for those looking to climb the rocky terrain.
National Parks and Monuments
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is situated in the Snake River Plain in central Idaho. It is about 3 hours and 37 minutes (175 miles) away from Boise via US-20 E. This unique U.S. National Monument and preserve features vast lava fields, cinder cones, and a diverse landscape. Visitors can explore the park via hikes, picnics, and seasonal stargazing events at the on-site observatory.
Hells Canyon National Recreation Area
Hells Canyon, considered North America’s deepest river gorge, offers visitors stunning views and outdoor activities. From rafting to hiking along the Snake River Canyon, there are plenty of opportunities for adventure. Take a day trip from Boise to experience the breathtaking landscapes of Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and the nearby Sawtooth National Forest.
City of Rocks National Reserve
Located about 3 hours away from Boise, the City of Rocks National Reserve offers visitors a unique combination of striking natural beauty and historical significance. The reserve features a maze of granite spires and domes, attracting rock climbers from all over the world. In addition, it is home to many historic sites from the California National Historic Trail and the old Kelton-Boise stagecoach route.
Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument
The Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument is another fascinating destination near Boise. Located along the US 30 about 2 hours away from Boise, the monument is known for its abundant and well-preserved fossils. Visitors can learn about the prehistoric animals that once roamed this area, view the fossils, and enjoy a picnic at nearby state parks.
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Scenic Nature Spots
Idaho is home to a wide variety of beautiful scenic spots that make for perfect day trips from Boise. In this section, we’ll explore some of the top natural attractions to visit, including Shoshone Falls, Bruneau Dunes State Park, natural hot springs, alpine lakes, and St. Anthony Sand Dunes.
Known as the “Niagara of the West,” Shoshone Falls is a must-visit destination while in Idaho. Located approximately two hours from Boise, this stunning waterfall on the Snake River offers breathtaking views and plenty of photo opportunities. The falls reach a height of 212 feet, making them higher than Niagara Falls. A visit to the Shoshone Falls Park also provides access to hiking trails, picnic areas, and a boat ramp.
Bruneau Dunes State Park
Another unique natural attraction to consider is Bruneau Dunes State Park, which features the tallest single-structured sand dune in North America, reaching 470 feet high. The park is located about an hour and a half from Boise and offers various activities such as hiking, bird watching, and sandboarding. Additionally, there’s an observatory within the park where visitors can enjoy stargazing on weekends from March to October.
Natural Hot Springs
Idaho boasts a number of natural hot springs, and one of the most popular destinations is Kirkham Hot Springs, which is located about 80 miles and a 1-hour and 45-minute drive from Boise. The hot springs are situated along the South Fork of the Payette River and feature various pools with different temperatures to relax in. Surrounded by beautiful scenery, these hot springs make for a perfect day trip from the city.
The Pacific Northwest is known for its numerous alpine lakes, and Idaho is no exception. Stanley, Idaho, which is about 2.5 hours from Boise, offers access to stunning alpine lakes like Sawtooth Lake and Redfish Lake. These high-altitude lakes provide visitors with crystal-clear water, serene surroundings, and ample opportunities for hiking, fishing, and wildlife spotting.
St. Anthony Sand Dunes
Situated about three hours from Boise, the St. Anthony Sand Dunes offer an exhilarating outdoor adventure for visitors. The dunes cover 10,600 acres and provide exciting activities such as off-roading, sandboarding, and hiking. The dunes are also home to various species of wildlife, making it a great destination for nature lovers.
Local Culture and History
Boise, Idaho, and its surrounding areas offer a rich tapestry of local culture and history for visitors to explore. With attractions ranging from wineries to ghost towns, there are a myriad of day trip destinations for those interested in the stories and heritage of the region.
The Sunnyslope Wine Trail, located in Caldwell, is a prime example of Idaho’s burgeoning wine industry. With over 15 vineyards and wineries nestled along the the Snake River valley, visitors can indulge in tastings, tours, and events that showcase the region’s unique terroir. The area boasts a variety of grapes, including Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Riesling. Wine enthusiasts can expect a delightful day spent sampling the flavors of Idaho’s wine country.
Idaho is home to numerous ghost towns waiting to be explored. Silver City, located about two hours from Boise, is a perfectly preserved relic from Idaho’s mining era. Visitors can walk along the historic streets and marvel at the well-preserved buildings, while experiencing a rare glimpse into Idaho’s bygone era. Another popular destination is the Owyhee Canyonlands and the Leslie Gulch area, which offers a different perspective on local history and allows visitors to delve into the rugged beauty of Idaho’s landscape.
Nampa Train Depot
In the heart of Nampa, the Nampa Train Depot stands as a testament to the vital role the railroad played in shaping the Treasure Valley. Opened in 1903, this historic building now houses a museum, revealing the past of train travel in the region. Visitors can view exhibits featuring rolling stock, artifacts, and interpretive displays, and can also take a ride on a vintage train during special events.
Warhawk Air Museum
Located in Nampa, the Warhawk Air Museum is dedicated to preserving the history of aviation in the United States. Featuring an impressive collection of aircraft, the museum delves into the stories of pilots, aircrews, and support personnel who served in conflicts from World War II to the present. Exhibits showcase restored vintage airplanes, impeccably preserved artifacts, and personal stories that help visitors connect with the human experience of those who served. Boasting a wealth of knowledge and fascinating displays, the Warhawk Air Museum provides an engaging day trip for history enthusiasts.
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Family-Friendly Day Trips
Glade Runner Mountain Roller Coaster
Located at Bogus Basin, the Glade Runner Mountain Roller Coaster offers a thrilling adventure for the entire family. The coaster winds through the beautiful forest terrain, providing a unique and exhilarating experience that children and adults alike will enjoy.
Winter tubing is a fun and exciting activity for families visiting the Boise area. With numerous locations such as Bogus Basin, kids and adults can enjoy sliding down snow-covered hills on large inflatable tubes, creating a day filled with laughter and excitement.
With plentiful snow during the winter months, resorts like Bogus Basin and Tamarack offer excellent snowboarding opportunities for families. Both beginner and experienced snowboarders can enjoy the snowy slopes, making it a fantastic day trip option during the winter season.
Sunnyslope Wine Trail
For a more relaxed day trip, the Sunnyslope Wine Trail is a perfect family-friendly excursion. Located in Idaho’s wine country near Caldwell, families can sample local wines while taking in the picturesque vineyard scenery. The wine trail is a great way to spend a leisurely afternoon.
Idaho is rich in natural beauty and offers a plethora of family-friendly day trips to explore the outdoors. Areas like the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, Boise River, and Payette River are popular destinations for hiking, picnicking, and enjoying the surrounding landscapes. Lake Lowell also offers a serene and picturesque location for families to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature.
With countless hiking trails and campsites available, the Kirkham Hot Springs area provides families with an outdoor paradise to explore. The natural hot springs offer a soothing and relaxing retreat, while nearby trails lead to stunning vistas and hidden gems.
No family trip to Boise would be complete without a visit to the breathtaking Rocky Mountains. The nearby Payette River offers whitewater rafting opportunities for adventurous families, while more relaxed activities such as hiking and camping can be found in the region. With its combination of natural beauty and outdoor activities, the Rocky Mountains provide an ideal day trip for families visiting Boise.