Skip to main content
Standup paddle boarding in turquoise blue Bear Lake

Idaho

Idaho’s High Country: Outdoor Adventures, Hot Springs and Heritage

By: Zaida Rios

1 of 1
  • States:
    Idaho

Here’s a little secret for outdoor enthusiasts blazing a trail to Yellowstone National Park: Don’t miss the natural beauty of Idaho’s High Country along the way.

Taking the scenic route makes perfect sense. Stunning vistas, soothing hot springs, quirky attractions and enriching pioneer and Native American heritage sites set in an inviting small- town atmosphere are sure to delight.

Rugged, Serene Landscapes

Idaho’s High Country delivers big on awe-inspiring views and photo opportunities. Start with Bear Lake, known as the Caribbean of the Rockies for its brilliant turquoise hue. Nearby, explore Minnetonka Cave, the largest limestone cave in Idaho, a staggering 800-meter stretch filled with stalagmites and stalactites. Guided tours are offered mid-June through Labor Day. Indulge in lakeside relaxation in American Falls’ Willow Bay Recreation Area. West of American Falls, history buffs will enjoy Massacre Rocks State Park, a famed stopping point for Oregon Trail pioneers. Don’t miss Register Rock State Historic Site, a massive basalt boulder featuring the inscribed names of those who braved the Oregon Trail. For a change of scenery, visit in winter, which welcomes snowmobiling, snowshoeing and ice fishing in this beautiful mountain setting.

An illuminated cavern passage in Minnetonka Cave

An illuminated cavern passage in Minnetonka Cave
View more

A Haven for Hot Springs

There’s no shortage of bubbling, natural, restorative springs in southeast Idaho. Even better, the hot springs here are mineral rich but lacking in sulfur, which means there’s no odor. Surrounded by mountains, Lava Hot Springs is an appealing getaway featuring five pools for soaking, ranging from 39 to 44.5 degrees Celsius. Encounter family-friendly fun at Downata Hot Springs. Amenities such as the dragon slide and water playground will keep the kids happy, while adults indulge in the relaxing pools. For a truly unique experience, venture to Soda Springs to see the only regulated geyser in the world, which erupts every hour.

Soothing thermal waters in Lava Hot Springs

Soothing thermal waters in Lava Hot Springs
View more

History, Heritage and Local Quirk

Venture back in time at The National Oregon/California Trail Center on the historic site of the original Oregon Trail. Learn more about the six-month, 3,200-kilometer trek made by pioneers headed west from Missouri to the unsettled Oregon Territory. Out in the high Western desert, explore the ghost town of Chesterfield, originally a Mormon outpost. There’s nothing eerie here, though: Many of the homes and buildings are in the process of being restored. In Fort Hall, delve into Native American culture at the Shoshone Bannock Tribal Museum featuring tribal history, old photographs, artifacts and a special exhibit dedicated to Chief Pocatello.

Since you’re in Idaho, pop over to The Idaho Potato Museum housed in an old railroad depot in Blackfoot. Learn about the role the humble potato played in Idaho’s history and pose with Mr. Potato Head. For more quirky fun, visit the Museum of Clean in Pocatello, showcasing the history of everything from vacuum cleaners and toilets to washers, brooms and more. There’s even a library dedicated to “clean” neatly stocked with books and videos.

Kids at play in the Museum of Clean in Pocatello, Idaho

Kids at play in the Museum of Clean in Pocatello, Idaho
View more

Getting There

Fly into Salt Lake City International Airport in Utah. Next, rent a car and drive approximately two hours north to either Bear Lake, Idaho, or Pocatello, Idaho. Either is an ideal base camp for exploring Idaho's High Country.

Explore more
Snow-capped mountains behind the downtown Boise skyline

Destination

Boise

View of the Snake River from atop Lewiston Hill
View more

Destination

Lewiston