Road Trip in Idaho
With its abundance of snow-capped mountains, picturesque canyons and lakes, rich farmlands, vast evergreen forests and waterfalls, and natural resources, it's no wonder Idaho is nicknamed “The Gem State."
It's also no wonder you want to take a road trip through it.
Before you start planning your trip, make sure both you and your vehicle are legal to hit the roads, you have a clear understanding of the state's roadways and traffic rules, and you're fully aware of everything the state offers residents and tourists alike.
Driving in Idaho
Adult visitors with a valid out-of-state driver's license can legally drive in Idaho.
However, because each state's teen driver requirements vary, out-of-state teen drivers might need to abide by the state's graduated licensing process—even if you're already going through your home state's GDL requirements.
Play it safe and contact an Idaho Transportation Department driver's license office location for information on how Idaho's GDL program applies to your state's specific regulations.
ID State Traffic Rules
As you travel through the roads of Idaho, it is important that you follow its rules of the road.
The Idaho Driver's Manual provides a wealth of information about the state's traffic laws and safety suggestions, including information about:
- Specific traffic laws, including traffic signs, signals, and markings.
- Legal consequences for driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
- Safety information for driving in dangerous weather and on the state's freeways.
You can also visit our guide to Idaho safety laws for details on requirements for seat belts, child safety seats, cell phones, and more.
Idaho Maps & Major Roads
From the state's Maps & Publications guide, you can download or order copies of travel destination guides covering all areas of the state, as well as maps of Idaho's highways, byways, parks, and forests, also organized by state regions.
Major ID highways and interstates include:
- Interstate 15.
- Runs from south to north through Malad City, Pocatello, Idaho Falls and Dubois. Connects to Utah and Montana.
- Interstate 84.
- From northwest to southeast, I-84 runs through Ontario, Caldwell, Boise, Twin Falls and Juniper. Links to Washington and Utah.
- Interstate 86.
- Runs east to west along the Snake River from I-84 to Pocatello.
- Interstate 90.
- Crosses Idaho's panhandle from west to east. Runs through the northern city of Coeur d'Alene. Connects to Washington and Montana.
- US 2.
- Runs from southwest to northeast along Lake Pend Oreille's North Shore through Priest River, Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry. Links Washington and Montana.
- US 95.
- Runs south to north through Moscow, Potlatch, Plummer, Coeur d'Alene, Sanpoint, Bonners Ferry and Porthill. Links to Oregon and Canada.
Idaho Road Trip Destinations
Idaho is full of nature, making it an ideal place to hike, fish, camp, ski, and raft!
Visit some of the state's top sites such as:
- Snake River Canyon.
- Known for its thrilling rapids and steep walls, the Snake River Canyon is a must-see on any Idaho adventure. Activities include whitewater rafting, jet boating, and fishing (where the water is calmer). Companies run rafting and boating tours daily throughout the summer months in area towns and across the border in Wyoming.
- Ponderosa State Park.
- Located on a peninsula that pushes into beautiful Payette Lake, Ponderosa State Park is perfect for a family outing. With hiking and mountain biking trails, volleyball and horseshoe courts, swimming and fishing areas, and lush hills for skiing and snowshoeing, visitors of all ages and types will find something they love about this natural playground.
- Lava Hot Springs.
- With indoor and outdoor pools, a water park complete with diving tower, heated sidewalks, and an Olympic swimming complex, the Lava Hot Springs hot pools are suited for any time of year. Heated through geothermal activity but without the usual accompanying sulfur, these natural pools are clean, fresh, and ready for a day of adventure.
- Coeur d'Alene Lake Parkway State Park.
- Travel along the Idaho Centennial Trail and you'll come across the lovely Coer d'Alene Lake Parkway State Park. Boat ramps at Higgins Point give you access to its clear waters, while an exercise course gets your heart pumping and muscles moving, all to a breathtaking backdrop and natural wildlife as your spectators.
- Craters of the Moon National Monument.
- Situated north of Pocatello, Craters of the Moon National Monument is a volcanic wonderland with unbelievable scenery. Miles of trail systems explore caves, volcanic craters, ancient lava flows and dormant volcanoes. Enjoy hiking, camping and picnicking.
- Boise River Greenbelt.
- This lush, green, and gorgeous park takes visitors through the state's capital and along the length of the river. Test your sleuthing skills with an historical scavenger hunt, get active on the biking trails, or take a leisurely stroll as you learn about native wildlife, flora, and fauna.
- Mesa Falls.
- If your journey takes you to the city of Ashton, make sure to stop and take in the majesty of these powerful waterfalls. The product of a massive volcanic eruption, Mesa Falls' sparkling waters spill into a beautiful cavern covered with greenery and surrounded by a scenic boardwalk and trail path. Should your Idaho road trip take place during the winter, you can ski or snowmobile to the falls and see their mighty waters frozen into stillness.
- Sawtooth Wilderness Area.
- Nestled in the Sawtooth Mountain Range, the Sawtooth Wilderness Area is home to some of America's most impressive fauna. From elk and moose to wolverines, Canadian lynx, and the awe-inspiring gray wolf, Sawtooth is known as a home of American icons. Bull trout are found in streams throughout the protected wilderness and are a popular catch for area fly fishermen. Camping, backpacking and hiking are key activities in the Sawtooths.
Arts & Culture
Of course, the state is filled with other activities, too. For example, Idaho offers plenty of options for dining, cultural sites, and hotels and beds and breakfasts.
Boise, Idaho's biggest city, is a blast to visit, with plenty of cultural, culinary, and athletic activities you'll want to check out. Here are a few:
- Albertsons Stadium.
- Home of the famed Boise State University Broncos, Albertsons Field is known far and wide for its unique blue Astroturf. If the Broncos are home during your trip, it'll be worth it to see one of the most peculiar playing surfaces in American sports.
- Boise Art Museum.
- This museum features a unique blend of art from throughout the American West and world at large. Peruse its ever-changing lineup of exhibits including paintings, sculptures and mixed-media.
- Once a sleepy mountain town, Boise now has a vibrant downtown with a number of craft brews to sample once you've put the keys away for the day. Take in views of the state capitol building over a cold pint of suds.
Idaho's Department of Parks and Recreation, Department of Commerce, and the State of Idaho work together to highlight the numerous activities you can enjoy in Idaho. Visit Idaho Parks & Recreation, Visit Idaho, and the State of Idaho's section on recreation to start planning your trip today!