Got an extra day or two during your Idaho idyll? Carve out time to explore beyond the state’s biggest city on the best day trips from Boise, Idaho.
In as little as 30 minutes from the City of Trees, you’ll discover a bounty of popular destination gems. Whether you’re looking for historic villages, archaeological treasures, rugged mountain peaks, or lush parks, your holiday options are limitless.
Venture outside Boise, and you can visit a mining ghost town, trek magnificent mountain trails, unwind in hot springs, or even climb a record-high sand dune! Take in the breathtaking beauty of Shoshone Falls. Zip down the slopes at a world-class ski resort in Sun Valley. Or dive into the zesty arts and cuisine scene in Nampa wine country.
Ready to enhance your Idaho getaway? Grab this guide to top-rated Boise day trips, and you’ll be good to go!
Looking for more vacation ideas? Check out all our other day trip guides and our United States Travel Guide for more travel tips & ideas on where to go, when to visit & what to do on your vacation!
Top-rated Boise side trips
Want to visit a town with a really “rich” past? Then make your way to Idaho City. Born of the 1862 Boise Basin Gold Rush, the city was a vibrant hub for tens of thousands during the bustling boom years. The gold gusher dried up long ago, but the historic markers left behind make Idaho City a perfect day trip or weekend getaway.
Just under an hour from Boise, Idaho City was once the state’s capital city. Today, you can still pick up a Wild West vibe as you stroll the wooden sidewalks in Idaho City’s rustic downtown.
Browse beguiling 19th-century buildings that today house craft stores, antique shops, and tempting restaurants. Take a historical walking tour, and explore the Boise Basin Museum to learn more about Idaho City’s colorful past.
Hungry for a taste of the great outdoors? Make tracks to the ruggedly beautiful Sawtooth National Forest, less than an hour away. Brimming with alpine peaks, majestic pines, pristine lakes and rivers, and hundreds of miles of trails, this breathtaking destination rivals anything in the Rockies.
Head for the Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area for amazing panoramic views of Sawtooth National Forest. Load your activity plate with alpine skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, horseback riding, and live entertainment.
And earn bragging rights by riding the only mountain roller coaster in the state!
Bruneau Dunes State Park
It may look like the backdrop for Lawrence of Arabia, but Toto – you’re still in Idaho! Just an hour from Boise, Bruneau Dunes State Park will have you believing you’ve been transported to another time and place.
Boasting a mesmerizing desert landscape, Bruneau Dunes State Park spans a vast 4,800 acres. The park’s huge sand dunes have been growing for over 12,000 years.
The mammoth that towers over them all is 470 feet tall, making it the tallest single-structured sand dune on the continent. Take a deep breath and take in the amazing view from the summit. Then get down the fun way: schuss down on a rented sandboard!
And there’s plenty more to explore at Bruneau Dunes State Park. Take the self-guided nature trail to explore the fascinating geological history of the dunes and the surrounding lakes. This is a vibrant ecological system, so hit the visitor center for information about the local wildlife, birds of prey, fossil discoveries, and the dunes themselves.
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This site may be known for its sand dunes, but you can scope out a range of activities, including birding, fishing, hiking, swimming, and horseback riding. Jaunt a few miles south to the Bruneau Canyon scenic overlook to take in its views.
After dark, head for The Bruneau Dunes Observatory Complex to view the brilliant night sky through a 25-foot telescope. If you really want to make a night of it, rent an onsite cabin or book a campsite.
Want to experience the charm of a historic city … or the breathtaking beauty of a pristine landscape? Tough call – but you can have both with a two-hour road trip to Twin Falls. Nestled atop the southern rim of the vast Snake River Canyon in Southern Idaho, Twin Falls is surrounded by stunning geological formations. But it’s also a treasure trove of gems dating back over a century.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Downtown Twin Falls is a history buff’s delight. Stroll the streets and savor the sight of over 40 historic buildings, many of which house now house cafes, vintage shops, breweries, and restaurants.
Chill out in the vibrant beauty of Centennial Waterfront Park. Browse the Herrett Center for Arts and Science and view an extensive collection of native American and Peruvian artifacts. While you’re there, direct your eyes to the sky at the Faulkner Planetarium and the Centennial Observatory, both spectacular celestial showcases.
Explore the awesome Snake River Canyon, the site of Evel Knievel’s death-defying motorcycle jump. Take in the stunning beauty of Shoshone Falls. Known as the “Niagara Falls of the West,” this is one of the largest waterfalls in the United States. It’s’ also home to the iconic, 500-foot-high Perrine Bridge – a year-round magnet for BASE jumpers.
Prefer terra firma? Fans of hiking, mountain biking, boating, swimming, and fishing will find plenty of room to play in Shoshone Falls Park.
Hit the Sawtooth Scenic Byway, and you’ll find that Twin Falls is a fantastic gateway to Idaho treasures like Sawtooth National Forest, Sun Valley, Redfish Lake, and Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.
Looking for a quick, easy day trip? Zip over to Eagle, Idaho. Sometimes you just want to get outta town without spending a ton of time on the road. Just 10 miles from Boise, this often-overlooked destination is about more than its upscale homes. With loads of outdoor activity options, it can make an ideal destination for a one-day outing.
Nestled in the rolling foothills bordering the Boise River, Eagle offers a great blend of urban attractions and outdoor activities. Take your time to stroll the downtown streets and scope out the colorful local shops and restaurants. Explore the Eagle Historical Museum and browse intriguing artifacts, documents, and historic photographs that trace the city’s history.
Looking for some green space? Saunter over to scenic Merrill Park, set on the Little Wekiva River. Hit the softball fields or volleyball courts and get your game on. Pick a trail and explore the park’s wetlands. Swim in the Boise River, or let the kids loose in the splash park. If you want more room to move, head to the foothills for loads of opportunities for hiking.
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Still have energy to burn? Take a short jaunt west along the Boise River to Eagle Island State Park, a beautiful 545-acre enclave where you can swim, picnic, horseback ride, hike, and disc golf.
On the hunt for a family-friendly destination that’ll be a hit with the kids and foodies in your crew? You’ll find it just 10 miles from Boise in the lovely town of Meridian. An agricultural community dating back to 1891, this “big small town” hasn’t lost its 19th-century rural appeal, and it’s one of Idaho’s most popular day trips.
Take a ramble back in time in The Village. Stroll tree-lined cobblestone streets. (You’re forgiven if you feel like you’re in a European town.) Browse a bevy of boutiques. Slip into a cozy restaurant for some refreshments.
Take a walking tour of downtown Meridian and nibble your way through some of the tastiest cuisine in the Boise area. During the warmer months, you can check out the urban farmer’s markets or grab a tasty takeaway from a food truck and take in live music at the amphitheater.
If you’re looking for family-friendly fun, check out Roaring Springs, the largest waterpark in Southwest Idaho. Soak yourself silly on the waterslides or in the pools, or kick back with some lazy river rafting.
Up for more action? Zip over to Wahooz Family Fun Zone for a round of mini golf, or test your derring-do with a hot air balloon adventure at nearby Lake Harbor.
If you want to savor a cocktail of history, green space, and culture in the middle of Boise Wine Country, put Nampa at the top of your day trip list. Idaho’s second-largest city, Nampa is just 30 minutes from Boise – and it serves up a full meal of attractions.
Officially born in 1883 as a railway stopover, today, Nampa is a vibrant hub for arts, culture, and outdoor activity. Nampa shows off its 19th-century roots in the Old Town, where you can ramble the streets, view historical buildings, and browse galleries and antique shops. Stop off in the village square to check out its quaint cafes and hip breweries.
Step back in time at the Canyon County Historical Museum in Nampa’s original train depot. Built in 1903, the depot is considered one of the finest pieces of Neo-Baroque architecture in Idaho. Browse through Union Pacific Railroad memorabilia for fascinating insights into the history of the Iron Horse in the Southwest.
Stay on the history track with a stopover at the Warhawk Museum. Housed in the Nampa Municipal Airport, the museum is home to intriguing WWI, WWII, Vietnam, and Korean War displays that bring the past to vivid life.
You’re in Wine Country, so it’s safe to say the sun’s over the yardarm. Max out your experience with a 30-minute drive from Nampa to the Sunnyslope Wine Trail, home to the motherlode of Idaho’s wineries.
If you’re a history buff with a taste for the spooky, Silver City is an other-worldly experience you can’t pass up. One of Idaho’s most famous ghost towns, Silver City is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s one of the Southwest’s few remaining mining towns that hasn’t burned down or been commercialized for tourism.
Abandoned over 100 years ago, Silver City nestles in the beautiful Owyhee Mountains, about 2.5 hours from Boise. It’s your ticket to the colorful past of an old mining town. Silver City was booming and bursting at the seams during the Gold Rush of the late 1800s – then came the bust.
What remains is the eerie shell of a once-thriving town that “might have been.” Feel the presence of long-gone inhabitants as you walk the silent streets. Let your imagination take hold at the sight of over 70 19th–century buildings that have been preserved by descendants of the original miners.
Pay your respects at the city’s four cemeteries as you ramble among their simple inscribed headstones. Once the town hub, the Idaho Hotel stands as it did over 100 years ago, with the addition of just a few modern amenities. Stay the night … if you dare; according to rumor, it’s haunted!
(Tip: You can reach Silver City by gravel road from May through November, but only by snowmobile during the winter months.)
Three Island Crossing State Park
Whether you’re a history buff or outdoor enthusiast, you’ll find plenty to feed your appetite in Three Island Crossing State Park. Just an hour from Boise, this beautiful recreational region stretches over 600 acres and was once part of the historic Oregon Trail. The most challenging river crossing in Idaho, this destination was a key player in the opening up of the American West.
Walk in the footsteps of 19th-century Oregon Trail pioneers who traveled this route to ford the Snake River on their journey west. Take a self-guided tour of Three Island Crossing State Park to explore the original wagon ruts, miles of hiking trails, and replicas of the legendary Conestoga covered wagon.
Drop into the Oregon Trail History and Education Center to browse through a remarkable collection of artifacts left by pioneers and indigenous peoples over 150 years ago.
Climb to the Oregon Trail Overlook to take in a vista that captured the imaginations of travelers generations ago. Head down to the river to dangle your feet in the water, or cast a line to see what bites. Up for an adrenaline rush? Test your whitewater rafting moxie in the river’s rapids.
Want to make a night of it? Rent an onsite cabin, or bunk down at the nearby Wagon Wheel Campground.
Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument
Are you a fossil fan? Then you’ll want to put the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument on your must-see list. Just two hours from Boise, this amazing archeological park is home to some of the richest fossil finds in the world. Prepare for a journey that will take you back eons in time.
Top of the list of must-see fossils are the famous remnants of the Hagerman Horse, an Ice Age animal that once roamed on North America’s grasslands. Dating back over 3.5 million years to the Ice Age, the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument was once home to a fantastically diverse wildlife population – so you can feast your eyes on the fossils of a huge range of species.
Take a scenic drive to enjoy stunning views of Snake River, the fossil beds, and the Hagerman Valley. Stop at the Snake River, and Oregon Trail Overlooks for scenic vistas and educational exhibits. Drop into the Thousand Springs Visitor Center to get an up-close look at the mesmerizing fossils of prehistoric creatures, including mastodons, saber-tooth cats, bears, camels, giant otters, swans, and more.
If you get your fill of fossils and still have energy to burn, make a five-minute jaunt to Lower Salmon Falls Park. Take in the awesome sight of the powerful Snake River as it takes a big dive over a cliff and down to earth. Slip into a canoe or kayak, cast a fishing line, or hike the park’s trails to enjoy spectacular views of the forests and canyon.
Up for some spelunking? Boise is bursting with caves just waiting to be discovered – and Kuna Caves may be one of the state’s best-kept secrets. But that discovery takes a little effort because there are no signs to mark the entrance. Be sure to fire up your device and check out Google Maps satellite imaging to get your bearings.
Dating back thousands of years, the Kuna Caves were formed by powerful volcanic eruptions, leaving a series of intriguing lava tubes. They’re not the only ancient caves in Idaho, but these vast volcanic creations top the list for their size and accessibility – and they’re just a 30-minute day trip from Boise.
Ready for a plunge into the underworld? Pull on your grubbiest gear, pack your flashlight, and climb down the caged ladder into a massive cave that sits 50 feet deep and spans over 1,000 feet. You can walk almost a mile in a darkened cavern.
Be prepared: the cave gets narrower and darker with every step you take from the entrance – so keep that flashlight handy!
If you’re looking for a day trip that lets you live out your holiday retreat fantasies, make your way to McCall. Surrounded by a stunning forested mountain landscape, this family-friendly resort town offers plenty to keep outdoor enthusiasts buzzing.
Whether you want to experience the charm of a summer lake town or the exhilaration of a snowy mountain retreat, McCall has it all going on.
Boasting the highest snowfall in Idaho, McCall is a dream destination for skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobilers. Looking for a low-key outdoor experience? Check out Ponderosa State Park, just 10 minutes from McCall. Set on beautiful Payette Lake, Ponderosa State Park is packed with groomed trails that make it a prime destination for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
If deep powder is your thing, head 15 miles from downtown McCall to Brundage Mountain Resort. Home to the “Best Snow in Idaho,” this laid-back, family-friendly resort is blessed with 320 inches of snow annually.
Hit the hill, or hop aboard a snowcat for some guided backcountry touring. Strap on snowshoes or cross-country skis to glide through an other-worldly snowscape.