There are just a few places in the world where you can explore underground lava tubes and see where molten lava once flowed for miles on end, and Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is one of them. Hike or drive through this alien terrain to explore the vast lava fields and spatter cones. The lava tubes offer hikers a unique view into the inner workings of the lava flows. Grab your map at the trailheads, or head over to the visitor center and learn about the power of Mother Nature. Make sure to stay as the sun goes down and the stars come out, as Craters of the Moon is a designated International Dark Sky Park.
Just below the Canadian border rests Priest Lake, a crystal-clear body of water stream-fed from the towering Selkirk peaks. The main body of Priest Lake stretches to the north for 19 miles, and a two-mile thoroughfare connects the main lake to the remote Upper Priest Lake–a region accessible only by foot, mountain bike, or boat. Journey here and uncover endless miles of untouched shorelines, fish in pristine waters, or hike one of the forested trails that wrap around the lake’s sandy beaches.
North Central Idaho
Hells Canyon National Recreation Area has it all: dramatic changes in elevation, wildlife galore, and scenic vistas. North America’s deepest river gorge plunges to depths of over 7,900 feet and carves its way through North Central Idaho 90 miles south of Lewiston. The recreation area offers remote wilderness exploration, countless acres of spectacular terrain, world-class whitewater rafting and jet boating, and unparalleled fishing. You might even catch a glimpse of Idaho’s largest herds of bighorn sheep scaling the canyon walls.
Payette Lake is a 5,330-acre expanse of fresh, glacial water in the heart of the southwest mountains of Idaho. This popular summer destination was carved out by a glacier over 10,000 years ago. Camping here is quintessential, as the bordering Ponderosa State Park offers over 1,000 acres of natural wilderness, biking trails, and campsites. Take an easy stroll along the Peninsula Trail following the eastern shore, try your hand at water skiing, or rent a paddleboard and glide atop the lake’s sparkling surface.
South Central Idaho
Long before the City of Rocks National Reserve became a nationwide rock-climbing destination, it was a resting spot for the early pioneers in the 1800s who traversed the California Trail. Hundreds of weather-carved granite monoliths protrude out of the surrounding terrain like rock giants from another planet. The park’s diversity offers visitors outstanding opportunities for day hikes, mountain biking, camping, and of course, rock climbing.
Minnetonka Cave is a massive limestone cave located near Bear Lake. This nine-room cave of stalactites, stalagmites, and banded travertine spans over half a mile and is home to several bat species. Descend below the earth’s surface to take a guided tour past the legendary stalactite known as The Bride and to walk between magnificent stalagmites over 10-feet high. Guided tours of Minnetonka Cave are offered mid-June through Labor Day.
Mesa Falls has two thundering falls along the Snake River, and each one is worth the stop. These falls are the last prominent waterfalls on the Snake River that are unaffected by man-made influences—flowing over what is left of an ancient volcanic super-eruption. Stand next to 10-story tall Upper Mesa Falls, and watch the sun move through the mist. Venture a mile down the river, and enjoy the views of Lower Mesa Falls. From the visitor center, an accessible trail and boardwalk provide spectacular views.