The how to's of planning a North to South roadtrip through Idaho
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Idaho Road Trip Itinerary: A Jaunt from Coeur d’Alene to Boise in One Week

Idaho still feels like a secret among friends. This is despite an influx of post-Covid residents that's making Idaho one of America’s fastest-growing states.

It's that under-the-radar status that makes Idaho such a smart pick for road trippers. The state offers a well-balanced mix of relaxation and adventure, but this geographically diverse stretch of endlessly gorgeous real estate offers a more wallet-friendly, less crowded alternative to its more famous neighbors.

The following suggested itinerary includes urban sophistication, lakeside relaxation, and nature exploration, extending from the rugged mountains of the Idaho Panhandle to the urban cityscapes of Boise. If you have a week and are up for adventure, here’s how to do Idaho right.

(Pictured above: A swimmer plummets into Coeur d'Alene lake from Tubbs Hill) 

Coeur d'Alene is the first stop in our north-to-south road trip of Idaho
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Day 1: Coeur d’Alene
Flights into remote northern Idaho are best arranged through Spokane, Washington, a breezy 45-minute drive from the scenic lakeside resort town of Coeur d’Alene. Here you’ll want to take in the panoramic vistas via an easy hike at Tubbs Hill near downtown’s 4-star Coeur d’Alene Resort before making your way along its boardwalk (pictured above)—reputed to be the world’s longest floating boardwalk—which encircles the property for about ¾ of a mile. Golfers may also want to arrange a round of golf at the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course, home of the world-famous "floating green" on the 14th hole. An exploration of the compact tourist-friendly downtown area should also include stops at the small alpine beach of Coeur d’Alene City Park as well as locals-friendly dive bar Iron Horse, which is frequented by local characters from the area.
The Old West town of Wallace is the second stop on our north-to-south Idaho roadtrip
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Day 2: Wallace

Speaking of local culture, you’ll find plenty of it along with some fascinating history via a quick 1-hour drive to the nearby town of Wallace. With a downtown manhole cover self-proclaimed as the “Center of the Universe” (they even have signage declaring it as such) and the Oasis Bordello Museum enticing fans of offbeat local history of ill repute, one could spend an entire afternoon exploring Wallace’s historic streets. (After all, the entire town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.) Outside Wallace, a lunch of burgers and fries at the delightfully quirky Snake Pit in nearby Enaville is an absolute must for Old West fans looking to experience local life beyond the typical tourist traps.

Why the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway is an excellent option in a road trip of Idaho
Jay Gentile
Day 3: Orofino/Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

From Coeur d’Alene, take the road less traveled south via the White Pine Scenic Byway towards Orofino, a 3-hour drive through rural communities surrounded by national forest. Road trippers will want to continue on for about another hour in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark via the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway towards Reflections Inn (pictured above), a no-frills resort along the Clearwater River, and take in the quiet grandeur of the surrounding Bitterroot Mountains foothills. In Orofino, the Best Western Lodge at River’s Edge also makes for a surprisingly excellent choice at a reasonable rate.

A stop for white water rafting on the Salmon River could make an Idaho road even more exciting
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Days 4-5: McCall
Enjoy some rustic Lake Tahoe vibes (minus the Lake Tahoe prices) in the delightful little resort community of McCall, another three hours south of Orofino. Stop along the way for some high-octane white water rafting on the Salmon River near the town of Riggins, which can be organized through a local outfitter such as Salmon River Tours. Jet boat tours here cross into the expansive Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, one of the largest wilderness areas in the U.S. (and easily the best named.)
Ski or hike through Ponderosa State Park on our one-week roadtrip through Idaho
Jay Gentile

Upon arriving in McCall, it’s time to kick back and explore some laid-back mountain terrain at nearby Ponderosa State Park (pictured above) or hit the slopes at Tamarack Ski Resort (you can also ride the gondola here in summer). A stroll through visitor-friendly downtown McCall should include a stop at the historic Hotel McCall, which is worthy of a visit even if you aren’t staying here (although you most definitely should.) Looking to splurge? Look no further than the hotel’s awe-inspiring Glass House.

Whether you’re getting pizza at Hometown Pizza, drinks at McCall Brewing, or you-know-what at Ice Cream Alley, the vibe of the town is fun, friendly, and relaxed pretty much wherever you go. No one’s really looking to "dress to impress" here or show off their newest Porsche, which is unquestionably a good thing. And unquestionably Idaho.

Boise is the last stop on our roadtrip north to south in Idaho
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Days 6-7: Boise
Perhaps no city in America received more attention from out-of-towners eager to relocate during the pandemic than Idaho’s capital city of Boise, located about 2.5 hours south of McCall. Yet there’s still plenty of room to roam in Idaho’s largest municipality, which retains much of its small-city charm despite its rapid recent growth. Its highly walkable downtown district includes the Basque Block, one of America’s largest Spanish communities, and the wildly photogenic Freak Alley Gallery, an outdoor mural installation brimming with color (see below).
Where to stay, eat and play in Boise at the end of our recommended north-to-south roadtrip through Idaho
Jay Gentile

The Avery Hotel, opened in 2023 after being painstakingly restored in a historic early 1900s building, makes an excellent base of operations (as well as an A-list dinner spot.) Local bars and venues like Pengilly Saloon and Neurolux give visitors a taste of Boise’s vibrant music scene, while the Boise River Greenbelt showcases the city’s picturesque natural environment. Don’t worry too much about getting lost; just wander around a bit and take it all in. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up moving here, too.