The state of Idaho isn't exactly at the top of the sightseeing list of most visitors to the United States. But if you ever find yourself in this general area of the world, you’ll discover that Idaho makes an ideal destination for when you're planning a trip with the whole family in tow. It's full of postcard-worthy sights, friendly folks happy to point you to the right direction, and best of all, an introduction to a whole new experience of rugged America.
Travelife Magazine gives you eight reasons to explore this off-the-beaten track state.
1. An authentic Wild West education
Real Cowboy College is a school where anyone can learn the true cowboy way. It
offers a multi-level education focusing on cowboy skills and character. Students are immersed into the cowboy culture, starting with donning a real cowboy attire suitable for training. Students also learn the history of the western ranch horse, and about horse care, grooming and horsemanship skills. Further education includes horsemanship, roping, and working and moving cattle, plus overnight trips with cooking and campfires.
(Experience Real Cowboy College at Idaho)
2. A waterfall higher than Niagra Falls
Shoshone Falls Park in south central Idaho is nearly 65 meters high — 11 meters higher than Niagara Falls. The falls, rock formations, and Snake River Canyon are beautiful year-round, but the falls are most spectacular in the early spring before the river is diverted for irrigation. From the end of March to September, the park offers prime waterfall views from platforms and the canyon rim. Try a zip line tour or relax with a golf game in the canyon, then take in a meal and a view in one of the restaurants on the rim.
3. The deepest canyon in North America
Hells Canyon in north central Idaho is deeper than the Grand Canyon, but not as wide. The Snake River flows through it, offering fishing, rafting, and jet boating. Wildlife is also plentiful and visitors can see Native American pictographs and historic homesteads. The most popular way to experience the canyon is aboard a jet boat or raft, but there are also hiking trails in the area. The canyon is warmer than the surrounding area, so consider morning outings and come prepared with sun protection. Rafting and jet boat outfitters typically provide refreshments.
4. Amazing wilderness
The Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area is second only in size to California’s famous Death Valley Wilderness. It’s a reserve of steep, rugged mountains, deep canyons, and wild whitewater rivers. Although the Salmon River Canyon is one of the deepest gorges in North America, even deeper than the Grand Canyon, it's best known for the variety of landscapes visible from the river: wooded ridges rising to the sky, huge eroded monuments and bluffs and slides; picturesque castles and towers; and solitary crags. Whitewater trips are a popular way to experience this wilderness, but you may also enjoy a guest ranch stay or a backpacking trip.
(A trip to Idaho brings you up close and personal with some of America's oldest wilderness trails)
5. America's first destination ski resort
Sun Valley Resort was created in 1936. It became famous for having installed the world's first chairlifts which were avidly used by European nobility and Hollywood royalty on holidays. This year-round, family-friendly resort area still offers various recreation opportunities including horseback riding, golf, ice skating, movies, concerts, paved bike trails, mountain bike trails, and fishing.
6. The world's largest captive geyser
The Soda Springs Geyser in eastern Idaho was discovered in 1937 during an attempt to find a hot water source for a swimming pool. The geyser is now timed to erupt every hour on the hour. Carbon dioxide gas and water mix in an underground chamber, creating enough pressure to cause the geyser to gush to heights of 30 meters year-round. The Soda Springs area, an oasis along the Oregon Trail, also has several historic sites to explore. Try the naturally carbonated water at Hooper Spring or Octagon Spring and walk Oregon Trail ruts.
7. Visit the center of the universe
The town of Wallace, in north Idaho, is a true Old West mining town that traces its roots back to 1884 and still prospers today. In town, you can take a silver or gold mine tour, visit the Oasis Bordello Museum and the Wallace Mining Museum, stroll the Settlers Grove Trail through an ancient cedar grove, or enjoy nearby bike trails, golf courses, and a zip line tour. Wallace also has the notable distinction of being officially declared the Center of the Universe, and there's even an official marker in the road. The mayor of Wallace proclaimed it so in 2004 based on the theory that “if something can't be disproven, it must be true.”
8. The tallest sand dune in North America
A dune within Bruneau Dunes State Park rises 143 meters above the desert floor. You can hike the dunes and surrounding trails, and rent a sand board for a thrilling ride. The park also has fishing and campsites, and you can visit the Bruneau Dunes Observatory to gaze at the night sky through the Observatory's collection of telescopes.
(Beautiful views of desert await at the Bruneau Dunes State Park)
What do you think of planning a trip to Idaho? Discover this state that's as majestic as it is inviting — truly an underrated travel destination. Visit www.visitidaho.org for more information.