We love the Treasure Valley, but sometimes we've just got to get out of Dodge--or rather, out of Boise. The fact that Boise is the most remote metropolitan area in the Lower 48 doesn't make a quick weekend escape impossible, it just makes finding a peaceful destination all that much easier.
Using Boise as a starting point, here are some of our favorite ways to get away.
1 HourThis former mining town has an Old West feel. While the piles of slag are all that's left of the mines, the area is filled with trails--for summer hiking or winter Nordic skiing or snowmobiling. After a hard day, soak your tired bones in the natural hot spring waters of The Springs Resort. idahocitychamber.com.
1.5 HoursGarden Valley is a low-key place, where full-time residents are few, but the outdoor recreation options are plentiful. Whether whitewater rafting on the Payette River, golfing, fly fishing or snowmobiling, visitors won't be bored. One of the greatest draws to the area is the abundance of natural hot springs. gardenvalleyidaho.net.
2 HoursMcCall is the go-to getaway for Boiseans looking for a quick change of scenery. From sitting on the shore of Payette Lake, to skiing or mountain biking at Brundage Mountain Resort, to hitting the Nordic or hiking trails at Ponderosa State Park, there's no shortage of activities. The town even has great restaurants and swank lodging for those whose idea of roughing it means no room service. discovermccall.com.
2 HoursSun Valley is Idaho's celebrity town--not because of the stars who own houses there, but because of world-class skiing, stunning views and a great restaurant and arts scene. It's also a prime destination for mountain biking, Nordic skiing and golf. Check out the ridgetop White Cloud course or the miles of paved bike paths. visitsunvalley.com.
Bruneau Sand Dunes
2.5 HoursHead south of Mountain Home for some of the biggest sand dunes in the West. The tallest dune is roughly 470 feet tall and is a favorite for sliding down. The area offers camping and hiking trails and is home to one of two public astronomy observatories in Idaho. parksandrecreation.idaho.gov.
Hagerman Fossil Beds
2.5HoursIt's all about history here, from ancient to Old West. Check out the collection of fossils from 3 million to 4 million years ago. For more recent history, the area is also home to a section of the Oregon Trail--wagon ruts are still visible. nps.gov/hafo.
2.5 HoursIn winter, it's routinely one of the coldest places in the country; but, in summer, it's the gateway to the Sawtooth Mountains. That's where visitors find mountain climbing, hiking, backcountry skiing, fishing, camping, horseback riding, river rafting, snowmobiling and even a regular live music concert series. stanleycc.org.
City of Rocks
3 HoursWith towering spires rising from the high desert, City of Rocks in southeast Idaho is a mecca for rock climbers who come to test their skills. There are great camping and hiking opportunities--as well as easy viewing spots to watch the climbing action from safety on the ground. nps.gov/ciro.
Craters of the Moon National Monument
3 HoursThe term "escape" is an understatement in a place that looks like another planet. Encompassing 750,000 acres, hardened lava creates a surreal landscape for camping, hiking trails and scenic drives. nps.gov/crmo.
3 HoursIdaho has some of the most pristine rivers in the country--not to mention the whitewater--which is what makes this small town on the Salmon River is so popular with outdoor recreationists. The area provides easy access for rafters, kayakers and anglers looking for adventure: --not only on the Salmon River, but along the nearby Hells Canyon stretch of the Snake River. rigginsidaho.com.
Sawtooth National Recreation Area
3 HoursWhen people speak of Idaho's mountains, they're often talking about the Sawtooths. Spanning more than 750,000 acres, the area boasts hundreds of miles of trails crossing some of the most spectacular scenery around. There are world-class rivers, mountain biking, backcountry skiing and, well, just about any sport you want to do in the outdoors. fs.usda.gov/sawtooth.
Route of the Hiawatha Rail-Trail
8 HoursAnyone with a little time to spend exploring can check out this bike/hike trail, which actually begins in Montana but runs for 15 miles along former railroad beds. The gravel trail travels through nine tunnels (one is two miles long) and over seven high steel trestles. friendsofcdatrails.org.
Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes
8 HoursThose serious about mountain biking should head north--far north. Crossing the Idaho Panhandle from Mullan to Plummer, the trail follows the old Union Pacific railroad tracks for 71 miles. The paved trail includes sections along Lake Coeur d'Alene. friendsofcdatrails.org.