Boise is amazing place — both to live and to visit. But there are plenty of amazing places that also make a Boise great day trips. Whether you like wilderness, history, or city life, here are our favorite day trips from Boise, Idaho.
Click the links below to skip to any of the following locations:
Distance from Boise: 170 miles
Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes
Craters of the Moon is by far one of the coolest places to visit in Idaho. The area is the result of volcanic activity from the last tens of thousands of years.
Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve encompasses 600 square miles of protected lands, and is highly reminiscent of the surface of the moon.
You can hike or camp at Craters of the Moon, or just spend a day admiring the beautiful — but weirdly out-of-place — landscape.
Distance from Boise: 60 miles
Time: 1 hour
Idaho was created through a lot of geological processes, which helped form the mountainous regions of the state, Craters of the Moon, and also Bruneau Sand Dunes.
The sand dunes rise nearly to 470 feet, making them the tallest freestanding sand dunes in North America, according to Visit Idaho.
Bruneau Sand Dunes is an easy drive from Boise and fun to explore for all ages. You will see hikers, sand boarding, sand sledding, horseback riding, swimming (there are two large lakes within the dunes) and families just enjoying their day.
Distance from Boise: 16 miles
Time: 45 minutes
Okay, so this isn’t exactly a far off destination, but it is still a popular destination for a day trip from Boise. Bogus Basin is the local ski hill, which rises above the city of Boise on a 16-mile winding road.
Locals and visitors alike enjoy Bogus Basin all year round — skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. There is also plenty of mountain biking trails at Bogus Basin as well that are enjoyed by thousands of residents each year.
Although the suburbs of Boise have not been particularly popular destinations in recent years, each of them has begun forming their own personalities and reasons to visit. Meridian, Nampa, and Caldwell are all unique in their own way.
Distance from Boise: 10 miles
Time: 15 minutes
Meridian is home to The Village, an outdoor mall that can keep you and your entire family entertained all day. The mall includes a movie theater, plenty of restaurants and stores, and Big Al’s — an arcade and restaurant that will keep your kids busy for hours.
The city also includes numerous parks, a car track, and plenty more to make it a great day trip from Boise.
Nampa and Caldwell
Distance from Boise: 20-25 miles
Time: 20-30 minutes
As Boise has gotten more expensive over the years, more and more residents have moved outside its borders — to places like Nampa and Caldwell.
Both cities offer plenty to do, with new restaurants popping up all the time, event centers, and even an outdoor ice skating rink (or “ribbon”).
Nampa and Caldwell are great places to take a day trip from Boise, but plan your trip first because the best things to do are not always apparent without a little bit of planning.
Distance from Boise: 40 miles
Time: 1 hour
Idaho City used to be the largest city in the entire northwest. As of 1864, the population of Idaho City was 7,000, which made it larger than even Portland, Oregon. During the gold rush, there were more than 200 businesses in town, but today there are only 485 residents.
As mining in the area declined, so did the city. Idaho City only had 900 residents by 1870.
But what was left was an amazing place to visit and experience early Idaho history. The city is barely an hour from Boise (although many times the road to Idaho City is un-passable in winter), and it’s a great destination for a day trip from Boise.
Idaho City holds many treasures, including museums, a visitor center, and the main street is full of cute shops — with both artisan creations and repurposed items.
Distance from Boise: 70 miles
Time: 2 hours
Silver City, Idaho is also a great day trip from Boise, and also gives you a look into the mining era of the west. The road to Silver City is more treacherous than any others on this list, but once you get there you will find a mostly-untouched ghost town in the middle of Idaho. You can also go around and take more modern roads, but that will take you a little longer (even if it’s a more pleasant trip).
Silver City also had a large population during the gold and silver rush, with a population of 2,500 in 1880 and more than 75 businesses. Silver City is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A bonus in Silver City: the Idaho Hotel was restored in the 1970s and opened to tourists, so you can stay overnight and see if you can find one of the city’s many ghosts.
Distance from Boise: 125 miles
Time: 2 hours
Twin Falls makes an amazing day trip from Boise mostly because of their beautiful geological landscape. The Perrine Bridge lays over the Snake River Canyon, which cuts the city in half.
Both the bridge and canyon are impressive. Perrine Bridge is 1,500 feet long, and nearly 500 feet above the Snake River, making it the eighth highest bridge in the United States.
The Snake River Canyon has gained fame over the years for many things, but mostly in 1974 when Evel Knievel unsuccessfully attempted to jump over the canyon.
Distance from Boise: 130 miles
Time: 2 hours
Located near Twin Falls, but worthy of its own section, Shoshone Falls is a masterpiece in the middle of Idaho.
Shoshone Falls is sometimes called the “Niagara of the West” and it’s easy to see why when you visit. The falls are 212 feet tall, 45 feet higher than Niagara Falls. The rim is nearly 1,000 feet wide.
Shoshone Falls is another beautiful location created by thousands of years of geological events in Idaho. The falls also plays an important part in fish migration in the state, including salmon.
The water at Shoshone Falls is operated based on snowpack and other factors, and is turned “up” or “down” based on the season. Because of this, spring is the best time to visit the park.
Distance from Boise: 155 miles
Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes
Sun Valley is a great day trip from Boise, although one of the furthest from Boise on this list. You can make it to Sun Valley in less than three hours, but that may be too much for a day trip (but possible).
Sun Valley is a great place to visit to ski, to hike, or just to walk around the cute villages surrounding the Sun Valley Resort.
Even if you are not a skiier, the historical value of Sun Valley is so important to Idaho. Ernest Hemingway made Sun Valley his home in the mid-1900s, writing there and even dying there. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz not only lived there, but also filmed quite a few productions there. There have been visits by presidents, movie stars, and more, and some of their residents include Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Clint Eastwood.
Distance from Boise: 110 miles
Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
McCall is another great ski destination, but it slightly more popular as a day trip from Boise because it is only about two hours from Boise. McCall is a small mountain town with fewer than 4,000 residents — but there are so many reasons to visit.
Payette Lake is the centerpiece of town, which makes McCall fun for a day on the boat or hikes around the lake and surrounding forest. In the winter, they put on the McCall Winter Festival, where artists create ice sculptures around town.
McCall also has two ski resorts in its vicinity: Tamarack Resort and Brundage Mountain.
Although McCall is a perfect day trip from Boise, many people also spend a day or two if they are planning to ski.
Distance from Boise: 150 miles
Time: 3 hours
Hells Canyon is shared by Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, but is another great day trip from Boise. The Snake River flows through Hells Canyon, and it is the deepest river gorge in North America — at 7,993 feet at its deepest point.
Hells Canyon is another place to visit in Idaho that was formed by volcanic activity. The Snake River began carving the canyon around six million years ago.
Just viewing Hells Canyon is amazing in itself, but you can visit the area for hunting, fishing, hiking, river rafting, and kayaking.
Distance from Boise: 100 miles
Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
The Hagerman Fossil Beds are one of the largest fossil beds in the world, and have preserved many fossils perfectly over millions of years.
Many extinct animals have been found at the Hagerman Fossil Beds, including the Hagerman Horse, Camelops (a extinct North American camel), mastodons, saber-toothed cats, ancient dogs, and fish, frogs, and beaver, among others.
If you are just looking to get back to nature, there are plenty of forests surrounding the area that make them a perfect day trip from Boise.
Sawtooth National Forest
Distance from Boise: 150 miles
Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes
The Sawtooth National Forest is located in central Idaho nearly Stanley and offers plenty of trails for hiking, camping, and sightseeing.
Stanley is a beautiful small town in the area and Redfish Lake is a reason in itself to visit.
Boise National Forest
Distance from Boise: 85 miles
Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
The Boise National Forest is also not far from Boise and offers more than 4,000 square miles of wilderness.
The forest has many different landscapes and is perfect for camping, hiking, kayaking, skiing, and snowshoeing. You can also just drive through the forest and see the beautiful landscape.