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Idaho: Head to the hills—and mountains—of the Gem State for fishing, hiking and rafting

Drive 260.8 miles, 5 hours, 52 minutes

Made for outdoor adventurers, this trip through the Gem State has it all—hiking, fishing, rafting and stunning natural beauty. From the small town charm of Twin Falls and Ketchum, to the mountain lover’s paradise of Stanley and Wild West history of Challis, be ready for excitement at every turn.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

1. Twin Falls

Starting Point
Ease your way into outdoors adventure by starting your trip in the region’s cosmopolitan center. The downtown is small, but galleries, shopping and welcoming cafes make it a great place to get acquainted with the area. Nearby, Shoshone Falls—known as the “Niagara of the West”—is a thundering spectacle, especially in the spring, when the river runs at full volume. For an out-of-town excursion, drive across the iconic Perrine Bridge on your way to 18-holes at the Canyon Springs Golf Course—the views of Snake River Canyon never disappoint.


2. Ketchum

81.8 miles, 1 hour, 59 minutes

It’s no wonder that everyone from Olympic skiers to off-duty astronauts to Hollywood elite have visited Ketchum. The splendid combination of natural beauty, small-town charm and nearby solitude make it the perfect stopover on your trip north. Depending on the season, you can hike or ski Bald Mountain—a world-famous destination—and the miles of biking trails make it simple to explore the surrounding area on your own. Add to that a movie theater in an opera house, championship golf courses and unmatched fly-fishing—you’ll run out of energy before running out of options.


3. Stanley

61.5 miles, 1 hour, 23 minutes

Bordered by the high peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains and the banks of the Salmon River, Stanley was made for lovers of the outdoors. Start the morning with hike or guided horseback ride through the Sawtooth range and experience one of America’s last pristine wildernesses. Long catering to hungry adventurers, downtown has myriad restaurant options to satisfy even the most discerning foodies. As the sun wanes, take in the views along the Salmon River, one of the purest and longest undammed rivers in the Lower 48. Just don’t forget your rod and reel—this stretch of the river is home to the largest sockeye migration in America!

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

4. Challis

58.2 miles, 1 hour, 16 minutes

With so much to see in Idaho, you might forget to take some time to relax. The best place to recharge your batteries is the Challis Hot Springs, just south of town on the banks of the Salmon River. The natural mineral water, stunning landscape and plentiful wildlife make for an all-around therapeutic experience. Birdwatchers especially will delight in the view—bald eagles, swallows and osprey make regular appearances. You can also visit nearby Custer, now a ghost town long past its Gold Rush glory days.


5. Salmon

59.3 miles, 1 hour, 14 minutes

A gateway to Idaho’s protected wilderness, Salmon has all the amenities for planning your newest adventure. The Salmon and Lemhi rivers meet here, making it a premier white-water rafting destination. If running the rapids is a bit too much, you can float serene stretches of the river on tours organized in town. The Sacajawea Interpretative, Cultural and Educational Center puts the spotlight on the region’s history and, in August, the Sacajawea Heritage Days festival brings much of that history to life. Your visit wouldn’t be complete, though, without landing the fish that give the town its name. There are numerous outfitters that handle excursions to remote stretches of the surrounding rivers to help you haul in the big one.