Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

10 Off-the-Radar Idaho Destinations RVers Shouldn’t Miss

Feb 13, 2019 | Travel Itineraries

When you hear the word “Idaho,” you think “potatoes,” right? (Our potatoes are pretty great.)

But we bet you don’t know about many of Idaho’s other claims to fame: The Niagara of the West. North America’s deepest gorge. Giant, windswept sand dunes. Mountain ranges so tall they seem to cling to the sky.

With thousands of miles of paved roads and “traffic jam” still a concept rather than a reality, Idaho is the perfect place for RVers to escape and play. Here are the best places to explore in the Gem State.

1. A truly ancient grove

Priest Lake

The trees at the Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars in North Idaho are so old that they were growing when Rome was still ruled by emperors. Marvel at the majesty of 800 to 2,000-year-old trees in this virgin forest before taking a loop trail to Upper and Lower Granite Falls, where you’ll be greeted by crashing water and stunning views. There are plenty of campgrounds at nearby Priest Lake, where the water is known for its clarity. To get to the grove, head 13 miles north of the town of Nordman on Forest Road 302, an extension of ID-57.

2. A trail where you can cruise through the sky

Route of the Hiawatha

The Route of the Hiawatha in North Idaho is a stretch of more than 15 miles of converted railroad track that takes bikers and walkers through railroad bridges and trestle tunnels perched up to 230 feet high. It’s an easy trail for everyone, from kids to seniors, because it runs downhill. Trail passes, shuttle tickets, and mountain bike rentals are available at Lookout Pass Ski Area located right alongside Interstate 90, Exit 0, at the Idaho-Montana state line, 12 miles east of Wallace. There are plenty of nearby campgrounds, ranging from primitive to full hookups; download our Free Camping Guide for more information.

3. A very, very deep canyon

Hells Canyon

Hells Canyon in North Central Idaho has an imposing name backed by an imposing stat: It’s the deepest river gorge in North America, featuring a 7,993-foot plunge to the Snake River below. This huge canyon straddles Oregon and Idaho and is accessible via a southern entrance near Oxbow, Oregon, or a northern entrance off US-12 near Lewiston, Idaho. Leave your RV at one of the many campgrounds near Lewiston and board a jet boat into the heart of this unspoiled wilderness, where you can catch massive sturgeon and explore Old West mining sites.

4. The highest single-structured sand dune in North America

Bruneau Dunes

Idaho’s high desert doesn’t look like the Sahara — here, you’re more likely to see volcanic rocks and sagebrush — with the exception of Bruneau Dunes State Park, located off ID-78 in Southwestern Idaho. Here, dunes reaching up to 470 feet in the air project out of the desert floor. It’s also one of the best places to experience Idaho’s legendary dark skies: It’s home to Idaho’s only public observatory. Use our Find a Park section to select the perfect nearby campground.

5. Campgrounds with unbeatable views

Sawtooth Mountains

Camping in the Sawtooth Mountains of Central Idaho is one of the West’s greatest pleasures. This section of the Rocky Mountains is known for its jagged peaks — the highest stretches 10,751 feet in the air — and is dotted by high alpine lakes. Visit popular mountain towns like Stanley, camp at one of the area’s many campgrounds, and breathe in the crisp mountain air. Stanley is at the intersection of highways 21 and 75; for a beautiful, high-elevation drive, head south along ID-75 and finish by visiting historic Sun Valley and Ketchum.

6. A waterfall even higher than Niagara

Shoshone Falls

Veer off I-84 in South Central Idaho for a detour to Shoshone Falls, a 212-foot behemoth that attracts thousands of visitors at its peak in the spring. Known as the Niagara of the West, this astounding waterfall pounds into the Snake River below. The adventurous can rent kayaks or stand-up paddleboards to see the falls at its base; casual observers can view the beauty of the falls from the observation deck in the canyon. There are several RV campgrounds in Twin Falls; for a complete listing, download our Free Camping Guide.

7. A hot springs made for families

Lava Hot Springs

Folks from all over the world have been flocking to Lava Hot Springs in Southeastern Idaho for generations, where the mineral water flows into pools ranging from 102 to 112 degrees. This family-friendly destination off US-30 features Olympic-sized pools, a Kiddie Cove, and plenty of opportunities to soothe tired muscles. RV parking and campgrounds are abundant nearby.

8. A legendary getaway

Payette Lake McCall

McCall, located on the southern shore of Payette Lake on ID-55, has been the go-to vacation spot for Southwestern Idaho families for decades. This charming mountain town is most popular in the summer, when families congregate to swim, fish, and paddle, but it’s also lovely in the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn. Camp at one of the beautiful campgrounds in the McCall area.

9. A watery byway

Thousand Springs Scenic Byway

Thousand Springs Scenic Byway in South Central Idaho’s Snake River Canyon lives up to its name. Meander down this gorgeous road located just off I-84 (take the Bliss exit) and you’ll be treated to hundreds of waterfalls tumbling over the walls of the canyon. Treat yourself to a soak at Miracle or Banbury Hot Springs while you’re there. Click here to see campgrounds nearby.

10. A well-preserved boomtown

Idaho City

Located just an hour from Boise on ID-21 in Southwestern Idaho, Idaho City is a historic gem that was once the largest city in the Northwest. This 1860s town boomed with the discovery of precious metals in the surrounding mountains and went bust nearly as quickly, but dozens of well-preserved houses, churches, meeting halls, and saloons are still lovingly tended by the town’s residents. You’ll find plenty of campgrounds just outside the city in the mountains.

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