There are many sights to see when you take a road trip through Idaho’s national forests, including rolling hills, breathtaking lakes, and rugged mountains. With fifteen national forests located fully or partially in Idaho, it can be difficult deciding which beautiful region to explore first. The expanse of forests in the state have a lot to offer, so here’s a guide to discovering some of the best gems in Idaho’s many national forests.
Take a drive
Three of Idaho’s scenic byways can be found in the Boise National Forest. The Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway will take you from Boise, ID, to Stanley, ID. The 130-mile drive takes three hours, but that’s if you don’t stop at the old mining town of Idaho City. Or the Kirkham Hot Springs. Or Lucky Peak and Arrow Rock Reservoirs!
Caribou-Targhee National Forest boasts the largest limestone rock cave in the entire state, Minnetonka Cave. A half-mile trek underground through halls of stalactites, stalagmites, fossils, and bat habitats lasts about 90 minutes, and will show you a side of Idaho you probably haven’t seen before. Make sure to bring warm clothes; the cave stays chilly all year long! Tours are available from the second week of June through Labor Day.
Enjoy the hot springs
Want to relax in steaming natural pools while surrounded by nature? Clearwater National Forest is home to the Jerry Johnson Hot Springs and Weir Creek Hot Springs. Tourists know Jerry Johnson Hot Springs as one of the most popular of its kind in Idaho. With plenty of warm pools and friendly faces, making the beginner’s one-mile hike into the woods is well worth it. If you want something a bit more off-the-path, try Weir Creek Hot Springs. This smaller pool takes a more strenuous hike to reach, which starts near mile marker 141 on Highway 12.
Raft the river
If you’re looking to experience the rush of the rivers in Idaho, check out the Selway River. One of the most challenging whitewater rafting runs in the country, the Selway River is within Salmon-Challis National Forest. The river flows through 1.2 million acres of protected wilderness, most of which is passable only by horseback, foot, or boat. The river drops an average of 28 feet per mile, which makes for high difficulty rapids.
Hit the trails
Within the 2.1 million acres of Sawtooth National Forest, you can find over 1,400 miles of hiking and recreational trails. Grab a durable trekking pole, a permit and set out with your friends, or rent all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) to enjoy some roads and trails. For a more extreme experience, rent a mountain bike and enjoy the biking trails of the Sun Valley.