Idaho is often underestimated as a tourist destination — but with its sheer canyons, towering mountains, and clear lakes, it’s an outdoor enthusiast’s dream come true. This stunning state boasts a bounty of hidden gems ranging from bubbling hot springs to otherworldly canyons, so there are endless opportunities to enjoy the wilderness without the crowds. Get off the beaten path by staying at Idaho vacation rentals near these beautiful attractions.
1. Black Magic Canyon, West Magic
Step into another world in Black Magic Canyon, where bizarre black basalt rock formations create an alien landscape. This spectacular, Instagram-worthy canyon is only accessible when the water dries up, usually from August through February. A company called Big Wood Canal Company controls the water that flows through the canyon; before you go, call to be sure that the canyon is dry and that no water releases are scheduled. Stay in nearby Shoshone, or if you don’t mind a drive, look for vacation rentals in Twin Falls.
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2. Shoshone Falls, Twin Falls
A few miles off of Interstate 84 is Shoshone Falls, a thundering set of waterfalls in the Snake River Canyon. Be prepared to get wet – when the water is running at full force, the mist drenches the observation platform. These powerful falls run year-round; in the winter, you may need to park at the top of the Shoshone Falls Park and walk down the snowy roads. If you’re planning to stay nearby, look for Twin Falls vacation rentals overlooking the dramatic Snake River.
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3. Owyhee River Wilderness, Dickshooter
Hidden away in the southwestern corner of Idaho, the Owyhee River Wilderness is one of the most remote places in the state. Here, dramatic canyons rise around the river, creating spectacular opportunities for hiking any time of the year. This part of the state is stunning, but sparsely inhabited and rarely visited, so you can go days without seeing another soul. Look for vacation rentals in surrounding communities such as Dickshooter, Riddle, or China Hat.
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4. Treaty Rock Park, Post Falls
Tucked away in the northern tip of Idaho, Treaty Rock Park shows off one of the most unusual contracts in the United States. As legend has it, the Coeur d’ Alene Indian Chief Seltice agreed to hand over a plot of land to Post Falls founder Frederick Post, in return for lumber milled from the land. The two men signed a contract on a rock, which still exists today. The park is open all year, but the best time to visit is in the summer and fall, when leaves form a canopy over the beautiful hiking trails. Stay in nearby Coeur d’ Alene or in Post Falls itself.
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5. Boise Whitewater Park, Boise
Head to Boise to see the unusual Boise Whitewater Park, which offers the opportunity for landlocked surfing year round. Here, a Wave Shaper device turns the Thurman Mill Diversion Dam into a series of standing waves – from the shore, you can watch as surfers and kayakers ride this urban wave. If you want to get in on the fun, rent a tube and join the locals in floating down the Boise River below the park. The best local vacation rentals are downtown or in the North End neighborhood.
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6. Malad Gorge State Park, Hagerman
Idaho is packed with canyons and natural springs; see both at Malad Gorge State Park. This exciting park, which is open year-round, is easily accessible from Interstate 84 – in fact, the highway runs right over the canyon. If you only have a few minutes, take a terrifying walk on the bridge over Malad Gorge. For a longer visit, hike the nearby trails to find hidden springs, ponds, and streams. Stay nearby in either Boise or Twin Falls.
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7. Three Island Crossing State Park, Glenns Ferry
Stand on the historic Oregon Trail at Three Island Crossing State Park, which is built on the site of one of the most dangerous river crossings on the cross-country route. Look out over the Snake River to see where wagons once made the precarious journey, and head into the visitor center to learn about the route. Outside, you can even climb into a historic wagon for photos. Visit any time of year, and look for rental properties in Glenns Ferry.
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8. Goldbug Hot Springs, Elk Bend
Soak in a natural hot springs high in Idaho’s Lemhi Range at Goldbug Hot Springs. Getting to the springs requires a strenuous 2-mile hike, but the effort is well worth it – at the top, you can slip into the hot pools and relax with a view of the mountains. Many visitors take a dip sans clothing, so you might want to hike ahead to scout out the situation if you’re bringing little ones. The trailhead, which is accessible in the summer, sits between Challis and Salmon; stay in either town for easy access.
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9. Tower Creek Pyramids, Salmon
Drive up to the Tower Creek Pyramids day use area to explore a historic homestead that was established soon after Lewis and Clark passed through in the early 1800s. From the site of the old apple orchard, you can look down on the pyramids, a set of bizarre rock formations that rise up unexpectedly from the side of a mountain. Visit during any month, but be prepared for snowy road conditions in the winter. Salmon, which sits about 10 miles south, is a convenient place to stay.
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10. Bruneau Dunes State Park
Idaho is known for its range of unusual landscapes; see one of the most bizarre spots in the state at Bruneau Dunes State Park. The park is well-known to local schoolchildren, who often take field trips to the dunes – but if you’re just driving through, you’d never know it’s there. As you approach, huge sand dunes appear out of nowhere, far from the nearest ocean or lake. Climb the huge dunes any time of year, and enjoy racing back to the bottom. You can even try sandboarding down the steep, soft slopes. The park is within an easy drive of vacation rentals in both Boise and Twin Falls.
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