Boise Idaho street leading to the capital building in fall.

8 Underrated Destinations In Idaho To Avoid Summer Crowds

Idaho, a gem nestled along the Canada-United States border, beckons travelers with its mesmerizing natural landscapes and an impressive array of wildlife. Renowned for its well-known cities and parks, this destination also offers a treasure chest of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. From idyllic small towns to unique natural wonders, join us as we explore some of Idaho's most underrated spots that promise a tranquil, crowd-free summer vacation filled with intrigue and beauty.

Deception Creek Experimental Forest

Deception Creek rushes under a wooden footbridge with railings at the Deception Falls area of the Mt Baker Snoqualmie National Forest.
Deception Creek rushes under a wooden footbridge with railings at the Deception Falls area of the Mt Baker Snoqualmie National Forest.

With a name that sounds like it came out of a sci-fi flick, Deception Creek Experimental Forest is a serene retreat. Often overlooked for Idaho’s larger forests, this area was developed in 1933 for research on the ecology and silviculture of western white pine. To this end, the diverse and lush forest has had minimal human interaction offering a pure outdoor experience. Even a short walk through the forest feels like you’ve entered a mystical oasis surrounded by large Cedar trees and western white pine. Moreover, with small streams, greenery, and wildlife abound, this place is a dream for any nature lover. In total, the forest's 3,520-acre area provides tourists with an insight into the unique ecosystem and lots of room to explore. That said, as it is a research site, certain rules are in place to protect the environment.

Skyline Drive

McCroskey State Park Panoramic Photo.
McCroskey National Park Panoramic Photo. Editorial Credit: Parks and Recreation, Idaho, Official site

If walking through dense forests seems like too much work, you can opt for a scenic road trip along Skyline Drive instead. This 18-mile road highlights the idyllic ridgeline park, McCroskey State Park. So, take in the spectacular scenery and panoramic views spanning miles. The best part is that you won’t have to deal with unnecessary crowds or people in the sanctity of your car. To top it off, Skyline Drive offers many entry points and a gravel road throughout for complete comfort while enjoying the endless sights. If you ever get bored of the drive, you can stop to enjoy various activities such as hiking, camping, or sightseeing in McCroskey State Park. All in all, Skyline Drive is a unique way to enjoy Idaho’s verdant beauty!

Weiser River Trail

Autumn on the weiser river.

The Weiser River, Idaho, during Autumn.

Another lovely route in Idaho, the Weiser River Trail, is a great way to stay fit and indulge in natural views. Following along the Weiser River, this trail spans an immense 84 miles making it the longest rail trail in Idaho. This length cuts through majestic desert canyons, evergreen forests, alpine meadows, and coastal sights for an idyllic outdoor experience. Along with the sights, wildlife is also abundant, with animals such as turkeys, deer, and waterfowl abound. However, bears and mountain lions also roam the area, so watch the treeline! When it comes to traversing the route, you can choose to hike, cycle, or horseback ride. Due to the notable length, most people opt to cycle, which is a great way to enjoy the sights while keeping a strong pace. So, offering a nature outing to avoid summer crowds, the Weiser River Trail is a stunning option.

Shoshone Ice Caves

Twin Falls, ID, USA - August 5, 2022: Shoshone Falls or Niagara of the West, in Twin Falls, Idaho. Observation deck with tourists.
Twin Falls, ID, USA - August 5, 2022: Shoshone Falls, or Niagara of the West, in Twin Falls, Idaho. Observation deck with tourists. Editorial Credit: Iv-olga via Shutterstock.

The Shoshone Ice Caves are a must-visit if you’re looking for a unique destination this summer. Often considered a natural world wonder, these caves are lava tubes spanning more than 1,000 feet in length. However, due to the below-freezing temperatures and air currents, most of the subterranean water has frozen inside. This has led to ice build-up around the caves between 8 and 30 feet in height. So, book a guided tour where you can travel through the massive hollow for an eerie time underground. Surrounded by enormous ice and rocks, it feels like entering a new world while you're in the cave. Once you’ve taken the tour, there is also a gift shop, museum, and games for the whole family to enjoy.

While this may seem like all the Shoshone Ice Caves have to offer, it also holds an interesting secret. According to locals, after the caves close up for the public, ominous sounds of voices and footsteps can be heard. Most people believe this is the ghost of Native American princess Edahow, who haunts these caves near her burial site. So, if you’re scared of ghosts, bring some friends along with you for the tour!

Craters of the Moon National Monument

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho.
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho.

Craters of the Moon National Monument is another interesting natural formation that is perfect for a summer trip. This monument preserves three major lava fields along the Great Rift of Idaho. Created over thousands of years, the lava fields showcase stunning craters, cinder cones, and open rift cracks for a surreal environment. As the name suggests, many people compare it to being on the moon’s surface. So, you can enjoy a few hours taking in the unique geography and stunning basaltic lava abundant here. Or, walk along the North Crater Flow trail, which showcases a 2,000-year-old segment of lava flow.

Along with the lava fields, Craters of the Moon National Monument is home to approximately 400 square miles (1,000 sq. km.) of sagebrush steppe grasslands. This endless expanse is filled with opportunities such as hiking, skiing, and even wildlife watching. If you’re lucky, you might even spot subspecies of the American pika, yellow-pine chipmunk, and Great Basin pocket mouse, which are exclusive to the area. With so much to offer, Craters of the Moon National Monument is an inimitable place to spend your summer. Moreover, while it may not be the most underrated, the vast 750,000-acre area is enough for everyone to enjoy their own space.


Two men classic Nordic skiing in Teton Canyon near Driggs Idaho and Alta, Wyoming, Grand Teton in distance.
Two men classic Nordic skiing in Teton Canyon near Driggs, Idaho, and Alta, Wyoming, Grand Teton in the distance.

In Driggs, you can enjoy the vibrant culture and enjoyable activities without the unnecessary crowds. Nestled within Teton County, this town of 1,700 is filled with friendly faces always up for a fun chat. So, even a stroll through town is full of lively conversations and interesting people. However, Driggs's true hospitality is prevalent during the town’s amazing festivals and events. From county fairs to music festivals, there is always something to celebrate here. Plan your trip to match these dates, and you can enjoy a bustling town with hot air balloons, fresh produce, games, music, and more. If this is a bit too crowded for you, you can opt for outdoor activities instead. Engulfed by Idaho’s vast countryside, there are various activities such as skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and fishing to enjoy. Head over to the Grand Teton National Park after visiting Driggs to take on the great outdoors.

Island Park

Island park, Idaho, during Winter.
Island Park, Idaho, during Winter.

Another small town in Idaho, Island Park is a charming destination with a unique attribute. This quaint local in Fremont County is home to the longest main street in the world, with a shocking length of 33 miles (53 km). In fact, most of Island Park is wrapped around this main road creating a narrow and endless feel to the town. A short drive down the street is riddled with quaint businesses, eateries, and stunning resorts. For example, get a room at the Island Park Resort, which offers luxury tents, restaurants, a swimming pool, gardens, and even workshops. Once you have a place to stay, head back out to take in the natural beauty of Island Park.

With the 2.2 million acres of Yellowstone National Park a short drive away, any outdoor enthusiast will surely appreciate a trip to Island Park. You’ll find loads of people hiking, camping, and even taking part in the local fly fishing competitions, which are quite famous. Even if you’re new to the outdoors, stop by TRR Outfitters, which sells top-quality fishing and camping gear so you can face any challenge head-on. After all this action, end the day with a scrumptious burger at TroutHunter’s Last Change Bar & Grill, and you’ll surely enjoy Idaho.

Goldbug Hot Springs

Adult woman wearing an American flag swimsuit soaks and enjoys the Goldbug Hot Springs in the Salmon Challis National Forest of Idaho.
An adult woman wearing an American flag swimsuit soaks and enjoys the Goldbug Hot Springs in the Salmon-Challis National Forest of Idaho.

For a truly magical Idaho experience, take the 2-mile hike through Salmon-Challis National Forest, where you’ll find the Goldbug Hot Springs. A mystical hot springs boasting six waterfall-fed pools and 113 °F (45 °C) water, this place feels like it's right out of a fantasy story. As soon as you get in the water, all the stress of your job, life, and the hike you just endured will seep out of your body. For the best experience, head up to the top pool at Goldbug Hot Springs, which has the perfect amount of water and panoramic views of the nearby mountains. If a few hours here isn’t enough, there is a campsite above the top pool where you can stay overnight. Encompassed by mother nature’s tranquility, serene hot springs, and peaceful wildlife, it is a wonderful place to stay.

Hidden Treasures and Timeless Adventures

From the ethereal tranquility of Goldbug Hot Springs to the otherworldly charm of the Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho's lesser-known destinations offer a rich tapestry of experiences. These hidden gems encapsulate the essence of natural beauty, vibrant culture, and outdoor adventure. Whether it's the thrill of exploring the haunted lore of Shoshone Ice Caves or the peace found along the stunning Skyline Drive, Idaho's underrated spots present an unparalleled opportunity to reconnect with nature and experience joy under the summer sun. Don't miss the chance to unearth these treasures and make your next vacation truly unforgettable.


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