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Boise Idaho to Yellowstone Road Trip

Gem State Sampler: Want outdoor thrills, cultural treasures, and mountain scenery? Look no further than this tour through Idaho’s finest attractions.

Start: Boise, ID
Mileage: 964
Days: 7

Day 1 – Pocatello, ID

I-84 East

From your starting point in Boise, drive southeast to Twin Falls, home to 212-foot Shoshone Falls on the Snake River. Continue on to Pocatello, where your to-do list includes a visit to the Idaho Museum of Natural History and a dip in nearby Lava Hot Springs. Hundreds of miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding snake into the hills just beyond downtown, and in winter, Pebble Creek Ski Area draws in skiers and snowboarders.

Museum of Idaho in Idaho Falls

Day 2 – West Yellowstone, Montana

I-15 North to US 20 East

West Yellowstone, Montana Candy Shop

Start with a visit to the Shoshone-Bannock tribes’ Fort Hall Reservation to see traditional art and artifacts. Then, pass through the expansive Caribou National Forest en route to Idaho Falls. Don’t miss the Museum of Idaho’s exhibits on American history, dinosaurs, and science. Just up the road you’ll hit Rexburg, home to the wildlife park Yellowstone Bear World. Press on to finish the day in the park gateway town of West Yellowstone. This bustling little town offers lots of lodging and casual dining choices.

Day 3 – Yellowstone National Park

Note: The road through Yellowstone’s West Entrance and out the South Entrance is closed to wheeled traffic in winter.

People walking on one of Yellowstone's boardwalk next to a geyser

Today you’ll head straight for the many natural wonders of Yellowstone National Park. You could easily spend weeks exploring this park’s geothermal features, wildlife habitat, and scenery. At the very least, tour a geyser basin, hike a trail, see Upper and Lower Falls at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and spot some wildlife (a bison is practically guaranteed). If you have extra days, this is a fantastic place to spend them.

Day 4 – Jackson, Wyoming

US 89 South

Jackson Hole Antler Arch in Town Square

The John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway takes you past the iconic Tetons in Grand Teton National Park, a hiking and wildlife-watching paradise. You can see the looming Teton peaks from all over the park, but getting off the beaten path and onto the trails will lead to wildflower-packed meadows, subalpine lakes, and glacier views. Then go on to Jackson. Book a whitewater float with Mad River Boat Trips or Lewis and Clark Expeditions, paddle with O.A.R.S., ride the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram, check out the National Museum of Wildlife Art, stroll among the cowboy-themed shops, or take a photo under one of the famous antler arches in the town square. Or head to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort for lift-accessed mountain biking, rock climbing, and a bungee trampoline (and world-class skiing and snowboarding in winter). Top eats in Jackson include Snake River Brewing for burgers and microbrews, Thai Me Up for Thai, and The Bunnery for breakfast.

Day 5 – Craters of the Moon National Monument

WY 22 West to ID 33 West to US 20 West

Beauty Cave at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

See the quiet side of the Tetons with a cruise through tiny Driggs to Grand Targhee Resort—well worth a layover for its summertime lift-accessed mountain biking, nature tours, disc golf, and wintertime skiing. The surrounding Caribou-Targhee National Forest also offers nearly boundless options for hiking, fishing, and climbing (trails leave right from the ski area). Then continue west to take a scenic loop drive, hike, and explore lava caves in the eerie volcanic landscape at Craters of the Moon National Monument. This stark preserve features a largely trackless wilderness of black lava flows and stunted vegetation; stay at the park campground, or head to Arco for lodging.

Day 6 – Sun Valley, Idaho

US 26 West to ID 75 North

Today’s route takes you to lively Sun Valley, a heaven for lovers of outdoor sports at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains. In summer, hike, raft the Salmon River, or mountain bike singletrack trails. In winter, skiers and snowboarders flock to Sun Valley Resort. In between all the adventure, browse art galleries, hit up the live theater, visit the Sun Valley Museum of History, or golf in town. Literary travelers shouldn’t miss a trip to Ernest Hemingway’s grave in nearby Ketchum. Got an extra day? Head deeper into the Sawtooths. Top picks: Swimming and boating at Redfish Lake and soaking in Frenchman’s Bend Hot Springs.

Day 7 – Boise, ID

ID 75 North to ID 21 South to ID 55 South

Finish the loop with a drive to Stanley, another adventure town at the foot of the Sawtooths, along the Salmon River, and close to all manner of outdoor activities: climbing, fishing, hiking, biking, rafting, and backcountry skiing. When you’ve had your fill, head west to return to Boise. This is a great time to take advantage of the capital’s charms, such as the Boise Art Museum, the Idaho Botanical Garden, and World Center for Birds of Prey. Runners and hikers can head straight into the foothills from downtown via the Greenbelt Path.

End: Boise, Idaho