With its soaring mountain ranges and lush valleys, Idaho is a beautiful state at any time of year. Columbus Day weekend is particularly scenic, however, since it occurs right in the middle of peak fall foliage season. If you’re wanting a relaxing early autumn getaway, look for Idaho vacation rentals in these fantastic towns.
This often-overlooked gem in northern Idaho is surrounded by natural beauty, but one of the main attractions is the amazing Shattuck Arboretum maintained by the University of Idaho. This botanical garden has many deciduous trees that turn brilliant colors during early October in addition to well-manicured gardens. Admission is free to the public. The town also has a vibrant arts scene, with two particular favorites being the University of Idaho’s Prichard Art Gallery and the Third Street Gallery in City Hall.
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Once a wild frontier town, Pocatello turned into one of Idaho’s largest cities with a wealth of things to do. If you’re visiting for Columbus Day, look for a vacation rental near one of the city’s extensive park and trail systems. The area along City Creek is particularly notable for its stunning fall foliage. If you prefer to drive, Mink Creek Road also offers stunning views. Pocatello’s historic Old Town district offers plenty of dining and shopping, and the area is also home to several museums including the quirky Museum of Clean that chronicles all the innovative ways that people clean things.
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3. Twin Falls
The cool, mild temperatures in early October make Columbus Day weekend a great time to visit this town in southern Idaho. Scenic Shoshone Falls sits just outside of town and is taller than Niagara Falls. Snake River Canyon also offers miles of trails ranging from beginner to advanced that go up and down the canyon. If you feel like kicking up your heels a little, head a couple of miles south to Jackpot, Nevada, which has multiple casinos to enjoy. Several of them, such as Cactus Petes, offer frequent concerts and shows.
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Nestled in the rugged Sawtooth Mountains, this town is a fantastic spot for a fall outdoors adventure. Wildlife viewing opportunities abound in early October as birds start heading south and other animals start preparing for the long winter. Migrating animals make the fall foliage even more beautiful. Drive along the Salmon River Scenic Byway for some of the best and most accessible viewing options. Downtown Stanley offers a range of dining options from the casual to the upscale, with Bridge Street Grill being a particularly popular option due to its excellent view of the Salmon River and casual food.
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Boise is nicknamed “the City of Trees,” so it’s a great place to visit for some autumn entertainment. Early October is still usually warm enough for kayaking down the tree-lined Boise River to enjoy some fall foliage, or you can walk or cycle along the 25-mile Boise Greenbelt. Look for vacation rentals in the Downtown district to stay close to arts and entertainment venues, including Zoo Boise and the Boise Art Museum.
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6. Fish Haven
Located on the shores of the turquoise-blue Bear Lake, this tiny little hamlet is a great place to get away from it all. The mild October temperatures make it easy to explore the rugged high desert terrain nearby, or you can tour Bear Lake in a boat to see the trees’ beautiful fall colors reflected in the crystal clear waters. Vacation rentals in this area tend to have a rustic look to them, and the quaint area boasts only a single business, a sprawling general store called Glady’s Place.
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7. Island Park
This lush valley is just a little over half an hour from Yellowstone National Park, so you can see a similarly amazing volcanic landscape and abundant wildlife without the crowds. Island Park has easy access to four lovely scenic byways that offer spectacular fall foliage viewing opportunities, with perhaps the most spectacular being the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway in the Targhee National Forest.
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One of the main attractions in this quaint town is Bruneau Dunes State Park, which contains towering sand dunes and beautiful desert scenery that are perfect for explorations during cool October days. After dark, visit the public observatory for some stargazing. If you’re up for an adventure, take a drive out to the massive Bruneau Canyon, sometimes called “the Grand Canyon of Idaho.” The town itself is rustic, but you can grab a delicious bite to eat at The Cowboy’s Pastime for some down-home grub.
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9. Coeur d’Alene
For a combination of city fun and natural beauty, it’s hard to beat Coeur d’Alene. This sprawling city hosts tons of crisscrossing hiking trails and forested parks for you to enjoy, or you can take a lake cruise on Lake Coeur d’Alene to look for migratory birds, eagles, caribou and, if you’re lucky, a gray wolf. The Coeur d’Alene Scenic Byway offers fantastic viewing opportunities of the surrounding countryside. Downtown is full of restaurants and art galleries to take in the local culture. The Art Spirit is particularly popular because it showcases regional artists.
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10. Sun Valley
Sun Valley and the neighboring town of Ketchum are popular resort towns year-round, but October marks a great time to visit as the crowds tend to shrink at this time of year. Although this mountainous area usually has a large covering of pine trees, plenty of aspens and deciduous trees to let you enjoy the changing leaves with brilliant yellows, reds, and oranges. Sun Valley remains popular among celebrities, so it tends to cater to a more upscale crowd compared to other Idaho towns. However, this town also has strong farming roots as noted by the Trailing of the Sheep Festival.
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11. Bonners Ferry
If you want to get up close and personal with nature, the small town of Bonners Ferry is an excellent choice. Swing over to the nearby Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge to take in the beautiful fall colors and amazing wildlife, such as migratory birds that come through during the fall. When you feel like staying in town, sample some delicious local vintages at Heart Rock Wines or get a little wild at the nearby Kootenai Casino.
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