I have a friend who works with international tourism in the Idaho Department of Tourism, and I asked her where she likes to take international visitors to show them a taste of the real Idaho. Here are her picks:
Mesa Falls and Idaho’s Teton Valley. Mesa Falls refers to two waterfalls in eastern Idaho, the Upper and Lower Mesa Falls. These gorgeous waterfalls are all the more spectacular because they are completely natural, on a part of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River that is not dammed or altered by humans. The scenic byway that takes you to the falls recalls an era where folks went for Sunday drives. Mesa Falls are located in the Idaho Teton Valley, a stunning high plateau just west of Yellowstone and Teton National Parks, where the mountain vistas are simply incredible. The rich volcanic soil makes the area a lush agricultural center, and the Henry’s Fork provides fishing and other forms of recreation. The aura of the place makes you want to slow down, take a deep breath, and let go of all your troubles.
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. I have a special place in my heart for this unique place. My father was a National Park Service ranger, and he was stationed at Craters of the Moon for several years. My family moved to Yosemite just before I was born, so I never saw it until much later in life.
Craters of the Moon is the result of thousands of years of volcanic and geologic activity, creating what initially seems like a stark, barren landscape.
Look deeper, though, and you’ll see a huge variety of wildlife and vegetation that survives and thrives in this seemingly inhospitable place. Kids love climbing on the rocks and exploring the many caves.
Hells Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in North America, and a stunning place to boat along the Snake River. Evil Knievel tried to jump the canyon in his motorcycle back in the 1970s, but failed. Several river guide operations offer jet boating, fishing, and floating excursions along various stretches of the canyon. This is a great way to experience the river and the canyon. You will see wildlife such as big horn sheep scampering up the cliffs, petroglyphs from the native people who occupied the area thousands of years ago, and abandoned mines from the pioneer days. Beamer’s Hell Canyon Tours, Hells Canyon Adventures, and Killgore Adventures can set you up with a tour of the canyon that will fit your budget and time.
Redfish Lake sits high in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho, a jewel in a crown. It’s a popular place for families in the summer, with a beach for swimming, boating opportunities whether you want to motor boat or canoe, fishing, and lots of camping. The lodge looks out over the lake where the mountains seem to rise right out of the water. Cabins or rooms in the lodge are available for rent. If you want a place to take the family where everyone will have something to do, Redfish Lake is the place to do it.
Boise area for food, wine and music. Since Boise is the largest city in Idaho, the capital, and the center of business and the arts, it’s a logical place to start when visiting Idaho. The city has plenty of cultural offerings, such as ballet, orchestra, theater, shopping, and sports. With a unique geography along the Snake River, Idaho has several wineries that produce world class wines, all available in shops and restaurants in the city. The night life is exciting and varied. Everyone who visits Boise for the first time is surprised by the vitality and variety of things to do and see.