Here are three northern ski areas in Idaho sure to surprise you.

Are you a skier or snowboarder? Or do you simply love that white powdery stuff! And that oh-so- crisp winter air and the dramatic beauty of winter in the mountains. Then here are three lesser-known Idaho winter destinations that should get you heading to pack your bags.

Oh wait, you can’t travel again yet? Well hold that thought and plan, and book for next northern season. Or when it’s again safe for you to travel.

North Idaho, or the northern panhandle as it’s known, is home to three amazing, and very different, ski resorts.And all of them should be put on your list. Why? Every skier knows the thrill and excitement of a new hill, different terrain and bragging rights for place their friends are yet to visit.

In essence these areas are lesser known, less crowded and easily accessible from the popular ‘powder highway’ resorts of British Columbia.

Furthermore, here’s what you need to know:

Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Sandpoint ID: Idaho’s largest ski resort.

The mountain is best known for expert bowls, chutes and glades with gorgeous views and no crowds.

This is a full-service resort with upscale amenities and a mountain village for slope-side accommodation and access to first tracks, the last chair and of course, après ski.

Schweitzer also has 32km of cross-country trails and twilight skiing from 3-7.00pm.

 

It’s an easy trip from Canada to Schweitzer Idaho, with two different border crossings; East Port and Porthill. Or only 1.5 hours from Spokane WA or 3.5 from Missoula MT by car, both with good air connections from the west coast.

For more: https://visitidaho.org/things-to-do/alpine-skiing-snowboarding/schweitzer-mountain-resort/

Silver Mountain, Kellogg ID: two Idaho mountains in one.

Silver offers varied terrain for all abilities. The upper mountain and slopes are accessed from the gondola village at the base of the mountain. This is North America’s longest scenic gondola ride!

The resort offers bowl and top-notch tree skiing and long-lasting powder, averaging 300+ inches annually.

The easiest access of any ski mountain you will visit, just 1 minute off the i90, one hour drive from Spokane WA or 2 hours from Missoula MT

For more: https://visitidaho.org/things-to-do/snow-tubing/silver-mountain-resort-2/

Look Out Pass, Mullan ID : the Idaho locals’ resort which gets the most snow

In contrast Look Out Pass is a smaller, cool, locals’ ski resort. And it’s located 5 miles east of Mullan Idaho. On the border of Montana.

Additionally, Lookout Pass has the enviable reputation for receiving the most snow in northern Idaho.  It’s also known for learner friendly slopes, progressive terrain parks.

Moreover as an added bonus: this is an all-seasons resort, set in unspoiled national forest. In summer Lookout Pass also operates the Route of the Hiawatha Scenic Bike Trail.

Often referred to as “the most scenic stretch of rail-to-trail adventure in the USA”. This awesome mountain bike adventure offers 10 dark tunnels and 7 sky-high trestles and is 15 miles long: all downhill.

Accessed via the Interstate 90, Lookout Pass is approximately 90 min on i90 drive from entry airports at Spokane WA or Missoula MT.

For more: https://visitidaho.org/things-to-do/alpine-skiing-snowboarding/lookout-pass-ski-recreation-area/

The top best things to do and see in Medora! But don’t leave it too long; even the best little town in the west can change. Read all about it here.

Sun Valley knows how to celebrate the Christmas holiday.

Images: courtesy Caroline Davidson and Idaho Tourism

Make your perfect ski getaway from Australia to Sun Valley Idaho. Here’s how:

Choose Your Getaway timing

Undoubtedly, December is the perfect month to head to Sun Valley. Aussies are staying home for Christmas, but you’ll be back in time! The snow season is well underway in Idaho. So usually means there’s an abundance of powder ready for your visit. The holiday season has started in Idaho, so decorations and lights make the getaway to Sun Valley even more spectacular: like they are celebrating your arrival. Flights and accommodation are cheaper and more available before Christmas.

Hollywood celebrities were first to discover the delights of Sun Valley.

 

Accommodation is Plentiful

Unquestionably, your perfect ski getaway should include the best accommodation for your needs. Whatever they may be!

Sun Valley Resort is for those wanting luxury, old world style and glamour. And easy access to the slopes. As a result Hollywood, celebrities, the rich and famous all make Sun Valley their home away from home.

Sun Valley Resort

Sun Valley Resort at night

The Limelight Hotel in nearby Ketchum is the latest, modern luxury hotel blending style, comfort and a central location to both Dollar and Baldy Mountains with the charm of this small town location.

Apartment or condo-style vacation stays are plentiful and offer the ease of self-catering. Book here.

Epic Skiing or Boarding on your Perfect Getaway in Sun Valley

The Slopes

Sun Valley is a magical place to ski or board whether you are a first-timer or a veteran advanced powder junkie. Importantly, the resort is famous for no lift lines and no clouds. And for its snowmaking! So if the snow gods have not been kind, no worries, the snow cover will still be spectacular. The sun is nearly always out- and so will you be. Furthermore, Sun Valley is part of Epic Pass- incredible value for skiers and boarders around the world.

Baldy Mountain 

Undoubtedly, Baldy Mountain is the main game. Bald is for skiers of all levels with a great variety of terrain, all downhill with no flats or plateaus. Go fast or slow but go downhill.

Downhill, cross country, ice-skating; the choice of winter thrill is yours.

Dollar mountain is where skiing learned to ski and the best place for new skiers and boarders to do the same… It has the world’s first chair lift along with four more, beginner- friendly, treeless, sunny slopes and plenty of vertical to keep everyone smiling.

The dedicated Ski & Snowboard program available in Sun Valley offers endless opportunities for group or private lessons to learn and get the most out of your perfect winter getaway in Sun Valley. Higher Ground is the adaptive snow sports provider in Sun Valley and provides on-snow opportunities for people of all ages with cognitive, physical, and developmental disabilities.

The Day Lodges – For Palaces in the snow

River Run

At the base of Baldy is a dedicated mini-village for everything ski-related you need, and then some. Tune or wax your skis, buy that special beanie or your new snowboard or stash your kit before heading off for the day. Relax here for après by the roaring open fire with a local beer, wine or enjoy wood-fired pizza or try the sushi. Live entertainment ups the energy on Friday and Saturday afternoons.

 

Seattle Ridge Day Lodge

The place to stop for lunch with a side of breath-taking views of Wood River Valley nearly 9,000 feet below.

Warm Springs Day Lodge

Fully renovated in 2018 is the local’s pick for the famous freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, best eaten on the sun-drenched patio or while listening to the live entertainment inside

Carol’s Dollar Mountain Day Lodge

The family friendly venue an easy walk from the village, with something for everyone. Also a great breakfast or lunch spot, inside or outside on the heated patio.

Must-Dos Off the Slopes – Explore Ketchum

This small town is full of wonderful surprises, great dining, entertainment and has as cool western feel.

Apres Ski

The “Pio” to locals, the Pioneer Inn is classic authentic western saloon. And great place to meet the locals! In addition, Grumpy’s for beer-can lined walls, an authentic local feel and celerity-spotting opportunities or the Warfield Distillery & Brewery for craft cocktails, local brew and excellent locally sourced pub grub.

Carol Singers and Sleigh Ride Dinner

Christmas in Sun Valley comes complete with roving carol singers around the main venues but for the full experience rug up and don’t miss a sleigh-ride dinner at the Trail Cabin. A rustic hideaway reached by horse-drawn sleigh and featuring north-western fare and the best carol singers around.

Art and Culture

Famed author Ernest Hemingway has tributes of booze, flowers and coins left on his simple otherwise unadorned grave site near Ketchum. He wrote “The Sun Also Rises” during a lengthy stay at the Resort and committed suicide in 1961 after a full life of writing, hunting, boozing & womanizing.

Trawl the treasure at the Gold Mine

Visit this community run op shop in downtown Ketchum, legendary for finds of expensive ski wear for a fraction of the cost.

The famous Gold Mine op shop, Ketchum

Get Up and Go: To Sun Valley Idaho.

  • You can be in Sun Valley the same day! Depart Sydney to LA, and fly into Hailey ( SUN) arriving the same date.
  • Hailey (or officially Friedman Memorial) Airport ( SUN) is located outside Ketchum and provides direct flights to Boise and beyond.
  • Boise Airport ( BOI) is a two hour drive from Sun Valley and has direct flights ( also approx. 2 hours ) from LAX.
  • Finally, for more information on your perfect ski getaway to Sun Valley Idaho go to: greatamericanwest.com.au; VisitIdaho.org and SunValley.com

The First Reason to Visit North Dakota: Nature Wild as It is Meant to Be

Reasons to visit North Dakota? There are so many reasons. But here are eight of the best.  First off, North Dakota has the only national park named for a person, Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Furthermore, it immortalises President Theodore Roosevelt who put national parks on the agenda (and on the map).

The two separate units of this spectacular tract of nature, north and south, remain pristine, with no buildings or man-made structures. However, the wildlife abounds in its natural habitat, including buffalo, horses, elk, white-tail and mule deer, prairie dogs. Over 186 kinds of birds can also be found here. Take the loop road to view the wildlife best, but take it slow and enjoy the spectacular scenery without the crowds. You’ll encounter more wildlife than you believed possible, but don’t forget, it is WILD! Stay your distance and stay safe.

Buffalo grazing at sunset in North Dakota

Buffalo grazing at sunset in North Dakota

The Second Reason: The Best Little Cowboy Town in the West

Undoubtedly, Medora is one of the best places in the continental USA to channel your inner cowboy or girl.  Here’s why: it has original wooden sidewalks, the National Cowboy Museum, a place to stay called the Badlands Motel (or alternatively the Rough Riders Hotel); horses are still used as town transport and the Pitchfork Fondue is a popular dining option. What more could you possibly want?

Medora town sign on the mountainside

Medora: the best little western town in ND

Oh, you like a five-star golf course? Check! Bully Pulpit Golf Course is a challenging course. Surrounded by the spectacularly rugged scenery of the Badlands. It is rated one of the 100 best public courses in the U.S. THis comes as no surprise to locals.

A golfer putting on Bully Pulpit golf course ND

Bully Pulpit- one of the best golf courses in the U.S.

 

You’d like a national park on the doorstep? Check! Medora is literally the gateway to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

You need a running/hiking/biking trail to challenge the best? Check! The Maah Daah Hey trail is 150 miles of some of the best single-track in the world. It traverses the Badlands, Little Missouri Grasslands, private land and the North and South units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Finally you want a nightly entertainment spectacular? Check! The Medora Musical  is held in a natural amphitheater outside town every evening in summer and is a living slice of Americana. It’ll have you hootin’ and hollerin’ in your seat.

Medora Musical on outdoor amphitheater stage in Medora North Dakota

Medora Musical in a spectacular outdoor setting

The Third Reason: Authentic American History you Always Wanted to Learn

History is only as old as yesterday’s birding adventure in North Dakota or  a Badland’s trail ride. Reach back to the Jurassic Period or into Lewis & Clark’s exploration of the West to discover the stories of great leaders like Sitting Bull and Theodore Roosevelt.

Badlands rugged terrain North Dakota

Badlands North Dakota

The Fourth Reason: Forts and Five Tribes

You can visit many of the forts around North Dakota along the itinerary of your next road trip. They are historically accurate relics of an earlier age of the cattle barons, railroads, the push west and conflicts between settlers and Native American tribes. Here are a few of the most interesting:

Fort Abraham Lincoln at night

Fort Abraham Lincoln

Fort Abraham Lincoln  

is conveniently located outside North Dakota’s capitol, Bismarck. Its an excellent choice for a one-stop history lesson. The Native Americans’  authentic On-A-Slant Village recreation allows visitors to get an up close and personal glimpse of the way of life of the Mandan people and their cultural heritage. And on the ‘other side of the fence’, step inside the faithfully recreated General and Mrs Custer’s house with an army aide. He will show you around while they are out; all taking place as if you are really back in their day (rookie tip: don’t mention mobile phones).  Ask all the questions you want and check out exactly how a General lived back in the 1800s.

Forth Berholdt Indian Reservation

is located in the central West of North Dakota. Home for the federally recognized Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation.   They are also known as the Three Affiliated Tribes. The reservation includes lands on both sides of the Missouri River.

Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site

is considered the grandest fort on the Upper Missouri River. Between 1828 and 1867, Fort Union was the most important fur trade post in the area. Here, the Assiniboine and six other Northern Plains Indian Tribes exchanged buffalo robes and smaller furs for goods from around the world, including cloth, guns, blankets, and beads. A fortress of peaceful coexistence, the post annually traded over 25,000 buffalo robes and $100,000 in merchandise.

Fort Union Trading Post in North Dakota

Fort Union Trading Post in North Dakota

Fort Buford State Historic Site Fort Buford

built in 1866 became a major supply depot for military field operations. Fort Buford, located near present-day Williston, is one of a few military posts established to protect overland and river routes used by immigrants settling the West. However, it is best remembered as the place where the famous Hunkpapa Sioux leader, Sitting Bull, surrendered in 1881.

 Lewis and Clark

Explorers Lewis and Clark were among the earliest visitors to North Dakota. The expedition spent 214 days in North Dakota on two separate visits. The group spent 146 days on its outbound trip in October of 1804, when it set up a winter camp near Washburn. The second visit was on its return from the Pacific. The expedition stopped again in August of 1806. This was when Sakakawea was returned to her home. One quarter of the expedition was spent in what is now called North Dakota. They have mapped out a trail for you to follow that takes you on their route.

The Fifth Reason: Native American Tribes and Experiences

North Dakota is home to five federally recognized Native American Reservations and tribes. These include: Mandan, Hidatsa, & Arikara Nation (Three Affiliated Tribes), the Spirit Lake Nationthe Standing Rock Sioux Tribethe Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, and the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Nation.

Check out some of the enriching experiences you can enjoy:

The United Tribes Powow

draws tribes from around the U.S. to take part in drumming, dancing and costume displays based on a rich tribal culture and tradition. The event runs over three days in early October and is an eye-opening way to immerse in living, evolving, Native American culture. Be sure to respect the people and the traditions and you will be richer for the experience.

Dancer at United Tribes Pow wow North Dakota

Dancer at United Tribes Pow wow North Dakota

Stay in a yurt or a teepee (you know you want to!)

When it comes to ‘yurting’ North Dakota has you covered! Three state parks feature yurts as part of their lodging packages: Cross Ranch State Park near Washburn, Lake Metigoshe State Park near Bottineau and Fort Ransom State Park near Fort Ransom. So when it comes to finding a unique winter stay you will be spoilt for choice. Yurts fall somewhere between a tent and cabin and they have transformed winter camping in the state. The yurts in North Dakota’s state parks are luxurious with a rustic backwoods charm. They have heat and electricity, meaning there’s no need to stoke the fire after returning from a chilly hike.

A family approaching a yurt accommodation in North Dakota

‘Yurting’ in North Dakota,

Ranch Stay with Brad Pitt (OK not really, but close second).

Black Leg Ranch cowboy rounding up cattle

Black Leg Ranch cowboy rounding up cattle

Black Leg Ranch, just south of Bismarck, is one of the oldest working cattle ranches still in operation today. Additionally, it is home to over 17000 acres of grassland prairie near the Missouri River. With buffalo wallows, the ghost town of Brittin, abandoned farmsteads, post office foundation, quicksand, 1800’s wagon trails, abandoned railroads and trestles, native American teepee rings and artifacts and much more. Equally important to note is that it is a family-owned ranch with a rich and legendary history including outlaws.

a cowboy riding at Black Leg Ranch ND

Black Leg Ranch, ND

When I first visited, the Doan family’s three sons, were hardworking cowboys (the real deal) and one, Jay, had even had a starring role in a movie (and, to me, was the nearest thing to Brad Pitt).

The ranch offers cabin accommodation for visitors keen to fish and hunt, and ‘dudes’ like us wanting to learn the arcane arts of the cowboy; ropin’ ridin’ and ranchin’.

Over the years since then, the ranch has grown and diversified and gone from strength to strength with a new lodge, a brewery and many significant awards under their collective belt. Now it’s renown as the place to enjoy the local brew, locally-raised grass-fed beef or buffalo …or to even get married (once yout find your own cowboy or girl)

 

The Sixth Reason: Fargo (Seen the Movie? Now visit for real).

The woodchipper on display form Fargo the Movie

Fargo movie woodchipper, Credit: North Dakota Tourism

Yes, fans, the real woodchipper from the movie can be viewed at the art-deco theatre in Fargo. But this should be an added extra. Fargo the town has much more to offer from a quirky Frostival festival held in winter with more fun family activities than the temperatures suggest, to the Fargo Air Museum, loads of breweries and craft beers, the Hotel Donaldson, a boutique gem.

Downtown buildings of Fargo ND

Streets Alive in downtown Fargo opens city streets to foot traffic.

After some outdoor adventures? Be sure to check out Lindenwood Park. This is the largest multi-use park in Fargo, and it is located on Roger Maris Drive along the Red River. The Universal Playground is a large playground that is accessible to all children. It features several shelters fitted will amenities that can be used for picnics as well as baseball fields. There are several trails in the park including skating trails, and bicycles can be rented during the warmer summer months. The park also has a scenic campground.

For family fun pack up the kids and head to the Children’s Museum at Yunker Farm. Located on 28th Avenue North in Fargo, the Children’s Museum at Yunker Farm offers hands on exhibits and many other attractions that keep curious children entertained while learning.

The best part… it all comes neatly summarised best by the town slogan: Fargo: North of Normal!

Snowga at Frostival winter Festival Fargo ND

Frostival, Snowga, winter, Fargo, North Dakota

The Seventh Reason: Agritourism (Fun with Farming)

Agritourism, the combination of agriculture and tourism, is the practice of inviting guests to visit and/or participate in normal farm or ranch activities. It is growing in popularity and diversifying. It now includes working farms and ranch visits, vineyards, wineries and breweries, pumpkin patches, orchards for farm festivals, corn mazes and u-pick fun. North Dakota has become a standout destination for agritourism. This is no surprise with the region ranking first in the production of spring wheat, durum wheat, sunflowers, barley, honey and other crops.

Agritourism-wheatfields in North Dakota

Agritourism-wheatfields in North Dakota

The Eighth Reason: Nordic Dakota; the Scandinavia of the US (and we don’t mean IKEA)

One in three North Dakotans; 38% of the populations has Nordic heritage, the highest percentage in the US.  They settled along the main line of the Great Northern Railroad ,

immigrating from the 1870s to the north and central part of the state,

The Scandinavian Heritage Park   in Minot (rhymes with Why not!) North Dakota is the only living outdoor museum in the world to feature all five Nordic countries: Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland. It’s free, spread over parklands and features a Norwegian wooden stave church and a Danish windmill; well worth a day’s exploration.

And if you arrive in fall, be sure to check out Norsk Hostfest; the largest Scandinavian event on the continent, celebrated in Minot.

Norsk building in Scandinavian Heriateg Park, Minot ND

Scandinavian Park; credit North Dakota Tourism

 

Moreover one thing is certain, the people in North Dakota are incredibly hospitable and proud of their state.

Dueling accordions! North Dakota native, Josh Duhamel, takes on one of the Norsk Hostfest's finest at the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, ND.

Dueling accordions! North Dakota native, Josh Duhamel, takes on one of the Norsk Hostfest’s finest at the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, ND.

Your Next Road Trip in North Dakota: Fast Facts

  • You can fly into Bismarck from LA via MSPB or Denver and hire a car, motorbike or campervan
  • An east-west road trip across the i90 highway will touch on many of the above reasons to visit but our tip: get off the beaten path and explore scenic byways. Head up north for much of the history, Native American and Norse culture experiences
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park was named the #5 on the New York Times’ list of must-see places in 2016
  • In Rugby, North Dakota, you will find the geographical center of North America. That is right, the center to the entire continent is here in North Dakota!
  • Jamestown, North Dakota is home to the world’s largest buffalo (statue)
  • More info com and greatamericanwest.co.nz

Every ‘Thelma-and- Louise’ Style Girls’ Road-Trip Itinerary in Idaho Starts Somewhere Fabulous 

In my own version of the ultimate road- trip movie “Thelma and Louise”; ( i.e. one where I don’t drive off a cliff),  I teamed up with an adventurous and travel-writing doyen gal-pal for a girls’ road-trip itinerary in Idaho and to adventure.  Our fabulous starting point was America’s first national park, Yellowstone National Park, in the Great American West , but our road-trip was to take us far beyond the park, headed west, north-west into our own private Idaho. After the scenic, natural and wildlife wonders of Yellowstone we depart the park at West Yellowstone, Montana, the western entrance to the park and a town dedicated to visitors of this natural wonder.

The top must-dos in West Yellowstone

Before departing the park and heading west demand at least a day’s exploration and possibly a night of glamping under the stars.

In this case the top things to do and places to see in West Yellowstone are;

  • Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center: This not-for-profit, wildlife park and educational facility is an amazing opportunity to experience the world of grizzly bears and gray wolves. Furthermore, all the animals featured at the center are unable to survive in the wild and serve as representatives for their wild peers.
  • Under Canvas glamping: Located only 10 minutes from Yellowstone National Park’s West Entrance, it is the perfect spot to experience Montana’s unique hydrothermal and geologic wonders, diverse wildlife and boundless means of outdoor recreation, with a large serving of style.
  • Zipline Adventure Park: Well worth a trip to break up the biking and hiking by zipping through the trees. Especially in the summer when there is also a Ropes Course for the kids to do to.
Girls try the zipline at Twin Falls in Idaho

AWOL zipline Twin Falls Idaho

Image: Zipline Adventure Park. Credit: Visit Idaho.

Yippee We Are Now in Idaho!

Of course we are excited to enter Idaho soon after leaving West Yellowstone and decide to head to Victor. Firstly, we backtrack towards the border of Wyoming and the Teton Mountain Range, via Mesa Falls Scenic Byway. Next, during this stretch, taking a detour for a breather at the wildly beautiful Lower and Upper Mesa Falls is a pitstop you will not regret.

Following on from Ashton, Idaho, the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway heads northeast into the lush landscape of the Targhee National Forest. This close- to- thirty-mile loop is hugely impressive, snaking all the way to the Island Park area. Along the way, visitors will spot the popular Warm River campground and two of the most magnificent waterfalls in the West — Lower and Upper Mesa Falls. Following this at the upper falls you can stop at the historic Big Falls interpretive center to learn about the geology and history of the area.

the wonderful Lower Mesa Falls in Targhee National Forest

Lower Mesa Falls

A Sidestep East

Without a doubt the backtracking east is well worth it as we are staying at the fabulous Teton Springs Lodge and Spa, a great option for families, golfers and skiers in winter as it’s located an easy drive from the Teton Mountains and both Grand Targhee and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (over the border in Wyoming).  Next on the list, dining and drinks- check! And the spa- heaven for girls ‘roughing it’ in the ‘wilderness’! Of course you can’t forget the sensational breakfast; well a girl needs to keep her energy up on the road!

The famed Teton Mountain Range is a view on the Idaho Road Trip itinerary

Image: Teton Mountain Range. Credit: Visit Idaho

Girls in Idaho Gotta Go West

Finally we are again heading west; making our first stop at Idaho Falls for a visit to the oh-so-memorable Idaho Potato Museum. Even if you routinely ‘don’t do museums’, this one is a MUST! Hint: Marilyn Monroe  and /or mashed-potato fans will love it!

The famous Big Spud outside the Idaho Potato Museum

Idaho Potato Museum

Idaho’s ‘Strangest Little Town’

Following Highway 20 there is a whistle-stop in Arco, a tiny town with a big story. In 1955, tiny Arco won fame as “the first city in the world to be lit by atomic power”. Today, it mainly serves as a jumping-off point for excursions into our next destination, the nearby Craters of the Moon National Monument. Arco is one of Idaho’s strangest little towns. For instance, there are numbers painted on the rock mountain that towers above  the town, and the sign in the park on Grand Avenue explains that graduating high school classes have been adding their class years to the monument since 1920, which makes for a spectacular, if odd, graffiti installation.

Next while exploring Arco, we manage to find the epitome of small-town America diners, Pickle’s Place, complete with an elderly ex-, or maybe current, biker chick with long grey hair and tattoos everywhere, rocking the counter. The Harley complete with a sidecar and American flag parked outside was only to be expected. Now we’re talkin’ Thelma and Louise, but sadly, still no sign of Brad Pitt!

Craters of The Moon National Monument and Preserve: To the Moon Alice! Well, here’s your chance without leaving earth…

Firstly we recommend you start your Craters experience with a stop at the Visitor Center for maps, trail suggestions and information about upcoming presentations, guided hike and events. Visitors to Craters can drive the loop road or hike a variety of trails. In the winter, it is a popular spot for snowshoe treks and cross-country skiing. Plan to stay as the sun goes down and check out the out- of- this- world night because the area is a designated International Dark Sky Park, which means there will be no shortage of stars to observe.

an essential stop in the girls roadtrip itinerary in Idaho is Craters of the Moon National Monument entrance, near Arco.

Image: Craters of the Moon National Monument entrance, near Arco. Credit: Visit Idaho.

Discover Twin Falls

Undoubtedly one of the best things about a girls’ road trip itinerary in Idaho is the unplanned stops or places that delight and exceed your expectations. On this trip, one of our most exciting ‘discoveries’ was the stunning Twin Falls. We enjoyed its many delights so much that we found ourselves wanting to set up camp  and stay awhile. To start with, Twin Falls is one of those road trip ‘finds’ that you simply can’t believe you didn’t know about before.

Moreover, while there we had a dinner fit to civilize even the most ardent of adventuring fast-food girls; at the top of the canyon at Elevation486! With that view and the spectacular food, we felt like royalty. We loved  the fresh Northwest Seafood linguine and Idaho Ruby Red trout, but the Canyon-cut rib eye will be  next on our hit list when we make a return journey. Especially good for the girls who need their iron boost! Not ones to skip on dessert, we topped it off with homemade Apple-Blackberry crisp washed down with Koenig Vineyards Idaho Ice wine. This was a truly fine-dining experience to rave about!

Visit beautiful Perrine Coulee Falls, Twin Falls, Idaho

Image: Perrine Coulee Falls, Twin Falls. Credit: Visit Idaho.

It should be noted when in Twin Falls a stop-off at Snake River is essential. With so many adventure options on our girls road trip itinerary in Idaho, the thrill- seekers among us are sure to have a fantastic time. In our opinion, the kayaking (which was our absolute favourite) is not to be missed. Another fun find was the Blue Lakes Inn; with its quirky 50’s,road-trip style, motel accommodation and friendly family service, it is a recommended stay for all travellers passing through.

Family fun mountain biking near Snake River Canyon in Idaho

Image: Mountain biking near Snake River Canyon. Credit: Visit Idaho.

The Shoshone Falls: who knew?

Visit Shoshone Falls, near Twin Falls in Idaho

Image: Shoshone Falls, near Twin Falls. Credit: Visit Idaho.

Located at the edge of Twin Falls, Shoshone Falls is a the stand-out attraction and scenic beauty on the Snake River. At 212 feet, the falls are higher than Niagara Falls and offer a unique blend of recreational facilities, including playgrounds, hiking trails, picnic areas, a boat ramp, swimming area, and a scenic overlook.  Try a picnic in the shaded, grassy areas which provide a perfect vantage point for viewing Shoshone Falls. We never wanted to leave! But the highway calls.

Let’s hit the road!

Following this was stop two! The next leg of our girls’ road-trip itinerary is the easy 2.5 hour drive on Thousand Springs Scenic Byway: it had us increasingly excited to be  heading to Idaho’s capital city of Boise, for a much needed girls’ night out on the town.

a must stop on the girls roadtrip itinerary in Idaho is the overlook for a view of Shoshone Falls, near Twin Falls.

Image: Shoshone Falls, near Twin Falls. Credit: Visit Idaho.

What a detour; gotta love these dunes!

Before we could make it to Boise we were again distracted; so much to see, so little time. Who doesn’t love a detour, though? Especially when the tallest freestanding sand dunes are calling us to stop at Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park. With the highest dunes reaching 470 feet, we channeled out inner children and hiked to the very top of this adult-sized sandpit. The view and bragging rights make the climb well worth it. The dunes at Bruneau Dunes State Park are unique in the Western Hemisphere. While other dunes in the Americas form at the edge of a natural basin, the Bruneau dunes form near the center. The dunes started with sands from the Bonneville Flood which occurred about 15,000 years ago and, unlike most dunes, the sands here do not drift far from the peaks which overlook the surrounding plains and picturesque lakes.

a fun detour on the girls roadtrip was to vsiit Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park. Idaho

Image: Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park, near Twin Falls. Credit: Visit Idaho.

Back on track

Last but not least we tiredly (but happily) finally get back on track for Boise. We were very ready to frock up and see the sights and lights of such a green and beautiful city.

Too many things to delight and discover about Boise:

Downtown Boise Idaho is a green and beautiful city

Image: Downtown Boise. Credit: Visit Idaho.

First up: a two-night stay at Hotel 43 in downtown Boise was just what the road doctor ordered; perfect plush robes, free wifi, Caffe D’Arte coffee AND close to everything. We’re talking right next door to the one and only Chandlers, Boise’s best steak and seafood restaurant where Boise’s upper echelon, folk- in- the- know head for sophisticated cocktails and to be seen. An added bonus for the morning after; free bicycles we could explore on!

Exploring Boise’s Green Belt

With the free bike, why not ride the Boise River Green Belt? Our highlight was the spring blossoms that fell as we rode past, looking like summer ‘snow’. That, tied with startling two gorgeous fawns in the bushes beside the river (which was as startling for us as for them)! Scooters, bicycles, roller skates, running or walking; these 25 miles of pathway and green oasis is one of the city’s most loved assets, providing wildlife habitat, scenic views and pedestrian access to the city’s popular riverside parks.

Biking tracks, Boise River Green Belt give access to many of the city parks

Image: Biking tracks, Boise River Green Belt. Credit: Visit Idaho.

Calling all culture and history buffs; here are our top Boise suggestions for things to see and do:

Food culture is a taste sensation at the Basque Market in Boise Idaho

Image: The Basque Market. Credit: Visit Idaho.

History and culture buffs will love the Nez Perce National Historical Visitor Center

Image: Nez Perce National Historical Park Visitor Center. Credit: Visit Idaho.

Wildlife and conservation your thing?

If you answered yes, we have the perfect suggestion: The Worldwide Center for Birds of Prey. Wonderful and wild, you can drop in to hear the heartwarming story of how they saved the Peregrine falcon from extinction; a joyous tale of conservation success. Now home for raptors who cannot be returned to the wild, this is a haven for unique animals and a glimpse into the world of some of the most fascinating and rare birds from around the globe. Or learn more about the ancient art of falconry; it will have you pining for the romance of the desert and your very own Lawrence of Arabia.

Girls Road-trip Itinerary in Idaho: Your FAQ

  • Suggested entry point airports: Denver, Jackson, Salt Lake City.
  • For car or camper rental Alamo, DriveAway and other companies are readily available to book your favourite car or camper van out of any of the entry cities.
  • More about Yellowstone National Park here
  • Discover more about planning your own private road-trip to Idaho here

Rafting the Payette River Idaho is girls' adventure fun

Image: Rafting the Payette River. Credit: Visit Idaho.

  1. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Devils Tower, Credit: Wyoming Office of Tourism

Steven Spielberg’s science fiction film about a UFO, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, features Devils Tower National Monument; a spectacular 867-foot rock which formed from volcanic lava millions of years ago.

  1. Shane (1953)

Another film shot in Wyoming, Shane (1953), was based on Wyoming’s 1892 Johnson County War. Many scenes were shot in Grand Teton National Park and the fictional town and homestead were constructed in Jackson Hole.

  1. Django Unchained (2012)

National Elk Refuge, Credit: Chad Coppess, Dakotagraph

Several modern films were also shot in Wyoming, including Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Winter scenes were filmed in wonderful locations including Grand Teton National Park, Kelly Warm Springs, and the National Elk Refuge.

More info at https://travelwyoming.com/ or https://greatamericanwest.com.au/

  1. Dances With Wolves (1990)

Black Hills, Credit: South Dakota Department of Tourism

Many well-known films have been shot in South Dakota, including epic western film Dances with Wolves which features Kevin Costner as an Army Lieutenant who is assigned to a remote western Civil War outpost. The movie was filmed in beautiful South Dakota locations near Pierre and Rapid City at Badlands National Park, the Black Hills, the Sage Creek Wilderness Area, and the Belle Fourche River Area. You can go on a free tour of the set and view original buildings used in the film at Fort Hays.

  1. Armageddon (1998)

Badlands National Park, Credit: South Dakota Department of Tourism

Another film that featured the striking Badlands National Park was science fiction film Armageddon starring Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck. It is about a group of oil drillers who are sent by NASA to prevent an asteroid from hitting earth and killing everyone.

  1. How the West Was Won (1962)

Custer State Park wildlife loop, Credit: South Dakota Department of Tourism

Epic-western film How the West Was Won follows four generations of a family as they move from New York to the Pacific Ocean. The film showcases herds of buffalo in the picturesque Custer State Park. Today, you can drive Custer State Park’s 18-mile Wildlife Loop State Scenic Byway to see buffalo, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, and coyote up close!

More info at https://www.travelsouthdakota.com/ or https://greatamericanwest.com.au/

Fargo (1996)

1996 comedy thriller Fargo, starring Frances McDormand, has become a cult classic and much of it was filmed in the magnificent snow-covered landscapes of north-eastern North Dakota as far north as Grand Forks.

Even though none of the movie was filmed in Fargo, you can visit the original prop from the famous woodchipper murder scene at the Fargo-Moorhead Visitors’ Center. This quirky stop is the perfect place to take a photo with the legendary prop – friendly locals will give you a trapper hat to wear while you pretend to push a fake leg into the Fargo chipper.

More info at https://www.ndtourism.com/ or https://greatamericanwest.com.au/

  1. A River Runs Through It (1992)

Gallatin River, Credit: Montana Office of Tourism

Oscar-winning film A River Runs Through It, starring Brad Pitt, is about two fly-fishing sons growing up in rural Montana. The film was shot in south central Montana in Livingston and Bozeman, and features picturesque scenes at the upper Yellowstone, Gallatin, and Boulder Rivers.

  1. Forrest Gump (1994)

Glacier National Park, Credit: Montana Office of Tourism

Multi award-winning film Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks, also featured Montana with scenes in Cut Bank and Glacier National Park’s St. Mary entrance.

  1. Always (1989)

Kootenai National Forest, Credit: Montana Office of Tourism

Steven Spielberg’s romantic comedy, Always, featured Montana’s aerial ‘smokejumper’ elite firefighters. The film was shot in northwestern Montana in Kootenai National Forest, Libby, and Bull Lake.

More info at https://www.visitmt.com/ or  https://greatamericanwest.com.au/

  1. Wild Wild West (1999)

Lewiston, Credit: Idaho Tourism

Many classic films have been shot in Idaho, including western comedy Wild Wild West which features Idaho’s Camas Prairie Railroad, showcasing magnificent views of Grangeville’s rural farmland and Lewiston’s pine-covered landscapes. The railroad is no longer in use but can still be explored today.

  1. Pale Rider (1985)

Sawooth National Recreation Area, Credit: Idaho Tourism

Another film shot in Idaho is Clint Eastwood’s famous Western film Pale Rider. Focusing on the fight over gold mining territory, the film was mainly shot in Idaho’s beautiful Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Boulder Mountains.

  1. Dante’s Peak (1997)

Wallace, Credit: Idaho Tourism

Pierce Brosnan starred in disaster thriller Dante’s Peak which is about citizens trying to survive a volcanic eruption. Many scenes were shot in Idaho’s renowned ghost town of Wallace, featuring the town’s distinctive old buildings.

More info at https://visitidaho.org/ or https://greatamericanwest.com.au/