Idaho is home to a significant stretch of the Rocky Mountains, the Great Basin, and the Snake River Plain, all of which feature spectacular, scenic and tranquil bodies of water to explore and enjoy. Add to these untouched mountainous terrains, fantastic parks and recreation areas, magnificent lakes, the deepest gorge and the highest waterfall in the country, and you have a wealth of incredible scenic landscapes to explore. So, don your hiking boots, pack a picnic and head out into the countryside to enjoy some of Idaho’s top state and regional parks, and recreational areas.
1.Bear Lake State Park
Bear Lake State Park, also known as North Beach State Park, is a state park and public recreation area located near the Cache mountain range in the southeastern corner of Idaho that borders the north and eastern shores of Bear Lake. Situated 15 miles south of Montpelier, the park rests across the lake from St Charles and offers a range of recreational activities such as swimming in the lake, fishing, boating, kayaking, and camping along the shores. There are two beaches in the park and safe swimming in the unique turquoise blue water which gets its color from suspended calcium carbonate (limestone) in the water. Large serviced campsites are available with electricity and water hookups.
3rd North 10th East, St. Charles, ID 83272, Phone: 208-945-2325
2.Bruneau Dunes State Park
Bruneau Dunes State Park is a public recreation and geologic preservation area located northeast of Bruneau that features several small lakes and giant dunes, including North America's highest single-structured dune which stands at approximately 470 feet. Situated 15 miles south of Mountain Home, Bruneau Dunes State Park encompasses 4,800 acres and is home to the Bruneau Dunes Observatory, which has a telescope for stargazing that is open to visitors. Other activities in the park include hiking, camping, fishing, non-motorized boating, birdwatching, swimming and horseback riding on two trails. An informative, educational center features natural history displays and a gift shop, and two campgrounds - Eagle Cove Campground and Broken Wheel Campground – have standard and RV sites and an equestrian overnight facility.
27608 Bruneau Sand Dunes Rd, Bruneau, ID 83604, Phone: 208-366-7919
3.Castle Rocks State Park
Castle Rocks State Park is a state park and public recreation area located in Big Cove at the base of Cache Peak in the Albion Mountains. The 1,692-acre park features challenging landscapes that date back 2.5 million years and attract rock climbers from around the world. Other activities in the park include camping on the east slope of the 7,500-foot Smoky Mountain surrounded by Idaho's largest pinyon pine forest, world-class rock climbing, hiking, fishing, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Winter offers ice-climbing, cross-country, and snowshoeing, and visitors can camp or enjoy overnight stays in a century-old ranch house, a bunkhouse or yurts.
748 E Castle Rock Rd, Almo, ID 83312, Phone: 208-824-5901
4.The City of Rocks National Reserve
The City of Rocks National Reserve, also known as the Silent City of Rocks, is a national reserve and state park that is renowned for its unusual rock formations and excellent rock climbing. Located two miles north of the south-central border with Utah, the reserve lies next to the Castle Rocks State Park, and both are feature incredible granitic rock formations from the Archean Green Creek Complex and the OligoceneAlmo pluton. The reserve boasts over 1,000 traditional and bolt-protected rock-climbing routes, some of which used to be some of the most challenging courses in the US in the 1980s. The City of Rocks National Reserve is also home to a wide variety of fauna and flora, providing excellent wildlife, bird and wildflower watching. Next read: Best Weekend Getaways in Idaho
Malta, ID 83342, Phone: 208-824-5901
5.Coeur d' Alene's Old Mission State Park
The Coeur d’ Alene’s Old Mission State Park is a heritage-oriented state park in North Idaho that is home to the Mission of the Sacred Heart, or Cataldo Mission, the oldest building in Idaho and a National Historic Landmark. Built between 1850 and 1853, the Cataldo Mission is comprised of the Sacred Heart Mission church, the beautifully restored Parish House, a historic cemetery, and the surrounding property, all of which are based in the park and open to the public as an educational experience. The park is also home to the Trail of the Coeur d'Alene, one of the most spectacular biking trails in the western United States, boasting breathtaking views of the stunning surrounding landscapes.
31732 S Mission Rd, Cataldo, ID 83810, Phone: 208-682-3814
6.Dworshak State Park
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Located along the western shore of Dworshak Reservoir in Clearwater County, Dworshak State Park is a state park and public recreation area that offers a variety of outdoor activities, including swimming, fishing, boating, water-skiing, camping, and hiking. Spanning 850 acres, the park is made up three units, namely Freeman Creek, Three Meadows Group Camp, and Big Eddy Lodge and Marina. Freeman Creek has 105 campsites, four camping cabins, and a large picnic shelter, along with restrooms, showers, an archery range, a boat ramps, and several excellent hiking trails. Three Meadows Group Camp has eight bunk-style group cabins, a four-sleeper cabin and a spacious lodge with kitchen facilities, while the Big Eddy Lodge is available to rent for special occasions and group functions. The Big Eddy Marina has 01 boat slips, a fueling station and a shop selling essentials.
Lenore, ID 83541, Phone: 208-476-5994
7.Eagle Island State Park
Spanning 545 acres and bordered by the north and south channels of the Boise River, Eagle Island State Park is a state park and public recreation area on the southwest outskirts of the city of Eagle. The family-friendly park offers a wealth of fun outdoor activities such as a safe swimming beach, picnic areas, a water slide and more than five miles of hiking and equestrian trails. Once used as a penitentiary farm, the parkland now provides the community with a place to enjoy many recreational activities such as non-motorized boating, fishing, swimming, picnicking, horseshoes, volleyball, ziplining, and disc golf on an 18-hole course.
165 Eagle Island Parkway, Eagle, ID 83616, Phone: 208-939-0696
8.Farragut State Park
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Set at the southern tip of Lake Pend Oreille in the Coeur d'Alene Mountains, Farragut State Park is a 4,000-acre state park and public recreation area that offers a wealth of traditional recreational opportunities. Located in the Idaho Panhandle five miles east of Athol in Kootenai County, the park is popular for hiking, mountain biking, camping, picnicking, boating, fishing, swimming, and water sports, as well as archery, flying model aircraft, horseback riding, orienteering, and disc golf. The park is home to a WWII-era naval training station and a military museum called Museum at the Brig which features displays of naval and war memorabilia, boot camp artifacts, and historic prison cells. Farragut State Park has a variety of camping sites for individuals and groups and ten camping cabins.
13550 ID-54, Athol, ID 83801, Phone: 208-683-2425
9.Harriman State Park
Located on the 11,000-acre Harriman Wildlife Refuge in Fremont County, Harriman State Park is a state park and recreation area within the geological feature called Henry's Fork Caldera in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Once owned by Union Pacific Railroad investors and used as a cattle ranch and private retreat for the Harriman and Guggenheim families, today the park provides visitors with a spectacular landscape and setting in which to soak up the natural beauty and unique history of the area. Situated three miles south of Island Park in eastern Idaho, the park is home to an abundance of wildlife, including elk, moose, black or grizzly bears, sandhill cranes, and trumpeter swans. The Henrys Fork meanders for eight miles through the park and offers some of the best fly-fishing in the region. Other activities in the park include 24-miles of groomed trails for skate and classic skiing, snowshoeing and fat bike riding.
3489 Green Canyon Rd, Island Park, ID 83429, Phone: 208-558-7368
10.Hells Gate State Park
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Hells Gate State Park is a state park based at where the Snake River enters Hells Canyon, North America’s deepest canyon. Situated on the southern edge Lewiston, the park and recreation area was established by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and sits at just 733 feet above sea level. The park offers a variety of activities, and outdoor recreation such as hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, boating, fishing, swimming, kayaking, camping, and jet boat trips into the canyon. Hells Gate State Park features basaltic columns from the Pomona flows 14 million years ago and the site of a Nez Perce village that show the remnants of pit houses used by the Nez Perce near Asotin Creek.
5100 Hells Gate Rd, Lewiston, ID 83501, Phone: 208-799-5015
11.Henrys Lake State Park
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Henrys Lake State Park is a sprawling 585-acre park set around the small, shallow alpine Henrys Lake located in the mountains of southeastern Idaho. Resting at 6,472 feet above sea level on the southwest side of the Henrys Lake Mountains, the park is just 15 miles west of Yellowstone National Park and a fishing paradise for eager anglers. Facilities at the park include 44 campsites with tent and RV sites and camper cabins, boat launches, miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, an amphitheater, a fish cleaning station, an information center, and a kiosk. Activities range from boating, fishing, kayaking and camping to picnicking, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, nature hikes, and wildlife watching.
3917 E. 5100 N., Island Park, ID 83429, Phone: 208-558-7532
12.Heyburn State Park
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Heyburn State Park is a public recreation area in Benewah County, and the oldest state park in the Pacific Northwest. Founded in 1908 through an act of Congress, the park boasts 5,744 acres of land and 2,332 acres of water in three lakes, namely Benewah, Chatcolet, and Hidden. Established by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, the park’s facilities are still in use today and include two trailheads with a 3,100-foot bridge across the St. Joe River that offers spectacular views of Benewah Lake and the surrounding area. Activities and recreation in the park range from boating, fishing, swimming and sailing to canoeing, kayaking, waterskiing and wildlife watching. Heyburn State Park also has three campgrounds named after the three lakes and a full-service marina with a boat launch, public dock, boat rentals, and a convenience store.
57 Chatcolet Lower Rd, Plummer, ID 83851, Phone: 208-686-1308
13.Lake Cascade State Park
Nestled in the mountains of central Idaho, Lake Cascade State Park is a public recreation area and state park that offers a diverse range of recreational opportunities throughout all four seasons. Set around Lake Cascade which is fed by the Payette River, the park has over 86 miles of beautiful shoreline, and features has two group camping complexes, including the Osprey Point group yurt complex and seven well-developed campgrounds, and six boat launch ramps. Activities in the park include boating, fishing, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, picnicking, sailing, and windsurfing. Other recreational opportunities range from ice fishing, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing in the winter to hiking, bird watching, mountain biking, and photography in the summer.
970 Dam Rd, Cascade, ID 83611, Phone: 208-382-6544
Lake Walcott is an 11,000-acre reservoir impounded by Minidoka Dam in south-central Idaho with an island in the middle of the lake known as Bird Island. Situated within the Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge, the Lake Walcott Park is home to a diverse array of wildlife including mule deer, raccoon, porcupine and squirrels, as well as pelicans, geese, ducks and other shorebirds. Activities and recreational opportunities in and around the lake include excellent fishing, boating, kayaking and canoeing, camping, picnicking, group activities, and disc golf.
959 E Minidoka Dam, Rupert, ID 83350, Phone: 208-436-1258
15.Land of Yankee Fork State Park
The Land of the Yankee Fork State Park is a 521-acre recreation area in the historic mining region nestled between Stanley and Challis that focuses on the history of the region and interprets the rich frontier mining history of Idaho, including the ghost towns of Bonanza, Bayhorse and Custer. The park features an interpretive visitor’s center near the town of Challis with a museum and gold panning station, and several interesting historical sites including the 988-ton Yankee Fork Gold Dredge and the Challis Bison Kill site. Land of the Yankee Fork provides outstanding hiking and mountain trails, as well as primitive and developed camping opportunities on the adjacent National Forest and BLM lands.
24424 State Hwy 75, Challis, ID 83226, Phone: 208-879-5244
16.Lucky Peak State Park
Lucky Peak State Park is a 240-acre state park surrounding Lucky Peak Lake just ten miles east of Boise in Ada County. The recreation area is comprised of three sections, namely the roadside Discovery Park off State Highway 21, which provides excellent fishing and picnicking along the Boise River; Sandy Point at the base of the Lucky Peak Dam, which boasts a lovely sandy beach and tranquil waters for safe paddling and swimming; and Spring Shores at the northern end of the lake with boat launching ramps and a full-service marina.
9725 ID-21, Boise, ID 83716, Phone: 208-334-2432
17.Massacre Rocks State Park
Operated by the State of Idaho as a Historical Area, Massacre Rocks State Park is a history-centric state park and public recreation area that is renowned for being home to the famous spot along the Oregon Trail and California Trail that became Massacre Rocks during the middle 19th century. Established as a Historical Park in 1968, and opened to the public in 1970, Massacre Rocks State Park features unique rock formations with unusual names such as "Gate of Death" and "Devil's Gate" which were so named by pioneers on the Oregon Trail when only one wagon could pass through the rocks at a time. Facilities at the park include boat launches, miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, an amphitheater, an information center, and a kiosk. Activities range from boating, fishing, kayaking and camping to picnicking, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, nature hikes, and wildlife watching.
3592 Park Ln, American Falls, ID 83211, Phone: 208-548-2672
18.Ponderosa State Park
Ponderosa State Park is set on a peninsula in Payette Lake that spans 1,515 acres in McCall in Valley County. Named after the 150-foot-tall ponderosa pine which dominates the park, the park has several interesting features and many facilities and activities to enjoy, ranging from several excellent hiking and biking trails and guided walks with park naturalists to camping and evening campfire programs. Osprey Point has a scenic lookout point which provides spectacular views of the lake, and the park is rich in wildflowers, beautiful natural flora, and a diverse array of wildlife. Camping is available in four locations around the park with standard campsites, camper cabins, bathhouses with hot showers and flush toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, and dump stations.
1920 Davis Ave, McCall, ID 83638, Phone: 208-634-2164
19.Priest Lake State Park
Tucked below the crest of the Selkirk Mountains, Priest Lake State Park is a 755-acre state park and public recreation area in Bonner County, about 30 miles from the Canada–United States border. Resting on the shores of the 19-mile, 300+ foot deep Priest Lake and surrounded by spectacular natural beauty, Priest Lake State Park has three sections, namely Dickenseet, Indian Creek, and Lionhead. The lake is fed by streams cascading from the high Selkirk peaks and is noted for its translucent water, making it ideal for fishing, boating, kayaking, and canoeing. Upper Priest Lake is only accessible only by foot or boat, and the park offers a wide range of activities throughout the year from hiking and mountain biking to cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
314 Indian Creek Park Road, Coolin, ID 83821, Phone: 208-443-2200
20.Round Lake State Park
Resting at an elevation of 2,122 feet above sea level four miles southwest of Sagle in Bonner County Round Lake State Park is a 142-acre state park and public recreation area surrounding a 58- lake was that was formed from glacial activity in the Pleistocene Epoch. The park and lake are home to a wide variety of birds and wildlife, ranging from robins, raven, and osprey to vast flocks of Canada geese, along with trout and perch in the lake and turtles, frogs, and beaver. The park also features three hiking trails and individual campsites with restrooms, showers, and central water, as well as a boat dock, boat launch (for non-motorized boats), and a safe swimming area.
1915 Dufort Rd, Sagle, ID 83860, Phone: 208-263-3489
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The Sawtooth Wilderness is a federally-protected wilderness area that was established in 1937 to protect and maintain the spectacular scenic beauty of the Sawtooth Mountains. Managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the area spans 217,088-acre in the state of Idaho and is part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Boasting some of the cleanest air in the lower states of the country, the Sawtooth Wilderness is home to the Sawtooth Mountains, which create a dramatic and well-known skyline above Stanley. As the name suggests, this spectacular wilderness features hundreds of jagged peaks, many soaring over 10,000 feet in height, along with hundreds of high alpine lakes and mirror-like basins. The Sawtooth Wilderness offers exceptional recreational activities such as hiking, mountain climbing, trout fishing, horse packing, hunting, and camping.
Stanley, ID 83278, Phone: 208-737-3200
22.Thousand Springs State Park
Thousand Springs State Park is a nature preservation and public recreation area in Gooding County made up of several exceptionally scenic small parks, ranging from Billingsley Creek, Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon Springs Nature Preserve, and Niagara Springs to Malad Gorge and Ritter Island. Located near the Snake River west of Twin Falls, the area is renowned for its spectacular geologic history, unique rock formations and vast canyons cut by the river of up to 600 feet deep. Two main attractions of the park are a spectacular narrow canyon known as the Malad Gorge, and the Earl M Hardy Box Canyon Springs, a set of crystal-clear pools formed by a spring in the side of a small canyon.
1074 E 2350 S, Hagerman, ID 83332, Phone: 208-837-4505
23.Three Island Crossing
Three Island Crossing State Park is a public recreation area in Glenns Ferry, Elmore County that focuses on the rich history of the region and interprets an important historical site that was once used as a river crossing on the Oregon Trail. Emigrants on the Oregon Trail had to decide whether to make the challenging crossing at this point on the Snake River known as Three Island Crossing or take a longer alternative route along the south side of the river. It was used as a crossing point until a ferry across the river about was built. Three Island Crossing State Park features a visitor’s center with interpretive exhibits, camping and overnight cabins, and disk golf for children.
1083 S Three Island Park Drive, Glenns Ferry, ID 83623, Phone: 208-366-2394
24.Winchester Lake State Park
Winchester Lake State Park is a 418-acre state park and public recreation area on the southern edge of Winchester in Lewis County that surrounds the beautiful 104-acre Winchester Lake at the base of the Craig Mountains. Winchester Lake State Park is a favorite spot for anglers and keen fishermen with high stocks of bass, perch, rainbow trout and bluegill, while other activities that can be enjoyed in the park include canoeing and kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, and nature walks, as well as ice fishing, ice skating or cross-country skiing during the winter. The Wolf Education Center offers visitors the unique opportunity to observe wolves in a near-natural habitat, and guests can spend the night in a deluxe yurt with access to free bicycles and canoes.
1786 Forest Rd, Winchester, ID 83555, Phone: 208-924-7563
25.Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is a world-renowned wilderness recreation area atop a volcanic hot spot that spans for more than 3,500-square miles across three states and features spectacular natural scenery made up of hot springs and gushing geysers, lush forests and alpine rivers, majestic mountains, and dramatic canyons. Established by the U.S. Congress in 1872 as the first national park in the country and a UNESCO World Heritage Site today, the park is home to the famous gushing geysers known as Old Faithful, as well as a wealth of fauna and flora, ranging from bears and wolves to elk, bison, and moose.
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168, Phone: 307-344-7381
25 Best Idaho State & National Parks
- Bear Lake State Park, Photo: swisshippo/stock.adobe.com
- Bruneau Dunes State Park, Photo: rck/stock.adobe.com
- Castle Rocks State Park, Photo: Robert/stock.adobe.com
- The City of Rocks National Reserve, Photo: MeganBetteridge/stock.adobe.com
- Coeur d' Alene's Old Mission State Park, Photo: William/stock.adobe.com
- Dworshak State Park, Photo: LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/stock.adobe.com
- Eagle Island State Park, Photo: Daniel/stock.adobe.com
- Farragut State Park, Photo: Gregory Johnston/stock.adobe.com
- Harriman State Park, Photo: Melani/stock.adobe.com
- Hells Gate State Park, Photo: Gregory Johnston/stock.adobe.com
- Henrys Lake State Park, Photo: Moelyn Photos/stock.adobe.com
- Heyburn State Park, Photo: Gregory Johnston/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Cascade State Park, Photo: DSGNSR/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Walcott, Photo: Goshashka/stock.adobe.com
- Land of Yankee Fork State Park, Photo: sveten/stock.adobe.com
- Lucky Peak State Park, Photo: emkaplin/stock.adobe.com
- Massacre Rocks State Park, Photo: Ben/stock.adobe.com
- Ponderosa State Park, Photo: Alicia/stock.adobe.com
- Priest Lake State Park, Photo: Patti/stock.adobe.com
- Round Lake State Park, Photo: Skyler/stock.adobe.com
- Sawtooth Wilderness, Photo: Gregory Johnston/stock.adobe.com
- Thousand Springs State Park, Photo: aquamarine4/stock.adobe.com
- Three Island Crossing, Photo: ananaline/stock.adobe.com
- Winchester Lake State Park, Photo: Venera/stock.adobe.com
- Yellowstone National Park, Photo: susanne2688/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Sharon Day/stock.adobe.com