Ready for the ultimate Idaho road trip? This absolute gem of a road trip itinerary goes through none other than the underrated Gem State – IDAHO. If you’ve followed me for awhile, you know I was absolutely mind blown by my visit there and now have an ever-growing list of places I’d like to see upon returning. While Idaho seems to have a lifetime worth of adventures available, this 7 day road trip itinerary covers a weeks worth of some of the best. I hope if you make this trip through this amazing state (and a tiny slice of Montana) you enjoy every last second and get inspired to explore more of what this wild place has to offer! Always be sure to leave these places better than you found them. With that being said, let’s kick it into gear!
Day 1: Boise to McCall – 2 hrs 18 minutes (109 miles)
We’re starting the trip off with a mellow driving day. Make your way north from Boise to the small, beautiful mountain town of McCall, Idaho. This is going to become an adventure launchpad for the 24 hours following. There are many places to stay in McCall – from the incredibly stunning Shore Lodge right on the water, to countless cabin rental options through AirBnb or VRBO. If you’re planning on camping along this road trip be sure to check out Ponderosa State Park right on Payette Lake. All lodging and camping options fill up quickly so be sure to plan ahead and make reservations. Dining options are plenty! A few of my picks for dinner are McCall Brewing Company, Salmon River Brewery, or The Sushi Bar (definitely make reservations for this option since it is a small venue). If you’re looking to stretch your legs with a quick and easy afternoon or evening hike check out the Payette Lake Peninsula Loop. If you made it to McCall early enough in the day and want a bit more adventure that is still in close proximity to town head to Boulder Meadows Reservoir and hike the 7 mile Boulder Lake Loop Trail.
Day 2: Adventure Day In McCall
Alright, it’s time for a day of adventure now! Kickstart your morning with breakfast at FoggLifter Cafe then choose what you want to do for the day. There are unlimited options in McCall and tons of resources and access. We’ll start off with my recommended hikes since this is my favorite outdoor activity; a few notable day hike options are Box Lake, Hazard Lakes, and if you’re up for a bit of a challenge, Twenty Mile Lakes. Don’t be fooled by the name, Twenty Mile Lakes is only 6.5 miles in (13 RT) with the first 3 miles being relatively flat. The last 3.5 miles climb up into a basin with 4 lakes tucked right next to each other. Take my advice, if you make the trek up to these lakes, make sure you at least hike into South Twenty Mile and Long Lake (my favorite)! Another favorite in the McCall area is Loon Lake – known for its crashed B-23 Bomber Plane. The plane wreckage is still there (everyone survived), and there are information plaques at the site! If you are looking for adventure outside of hiking check out Zip McCall Adventures, McCall Lake Cruises, and Rotary Park Beach and Swim Area. There are also two local ski resorts that are jam packed with year round adventure opportunities. Check out Tamarack Resort and Brundage Mountain Resort. Both websites have a wealth of information about available season activities! If you want to see the area on a UTV here are a few rental options – McCall has miles and miles of motorized vehicle trails! Be sure to recreate responsibly no matter what option you choose and have fun!
Day 3: McCall to Lochsa Lodge or Lolo Hot Springs Resort – 4 hrs 9 minutes (201 miles)
Get ready for a day of driving with ever-changing landscapes! I recommend hitting Albertsons on the way out of McCall for roadtrip snacks and drinks. The stretch of road between McCall and Grangeville has a few small towns if you need a pit-stop. The variety of landscapes start with lush evergreen forest, then open up with wide mountain meadows, into narrow rugged canyons along the Little Salmon River before climbing up the White Bird grade to the rolling prairie Grangeville is nestled in where I recommend stopping for lunch. Be sure to check out Seasons Restaurant! Before heading out of town fill up on gas – you are going to want a full tank heading into some of Idaho’s remote highways. Depending on your cell service provider, the prairie might be your last stretch of service for the day, so make sure you familiarize yourself with the route and put your destination in your map apps while you can. There are two accommodation options along the remote Highway 12 corridor, so calling ahead and booking is also a good idea. You can choose to stay at the beautiful Lochsa Lodge in Powell, Idaho or continue on a little ways to Lolo Hot Springs in Montana. If you choose to stay in Powell, there is also a small campground as well. For information and reservations call the Powell Ranger Station. If you make good time on your drive and want a little adventure sprinkled into your travel day, be sure to check out my Idaho Hot Springs Blog. Weir, Jerry Johnson, and Stanley hot springs are a few mentioned close by. If you choose to stay at the Lochsa Lodge there are wonderful restaurant food options in the main lodge! I recommend the wild salmon, side salad with huckleberry vinaigrette and sweet potato fries! A truly perfect representation of Idaho. If you choose to stay at the Lolo Hot Springs make sure to stop at the Idaho/Montana border at the Lolo Visitor Center. There is a small hiking loop and a ton of history on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, since they passed through the area on their way to the Pacific Ocean.
Day 4: Lochsa Lodge or Lolo Hot Springs to Salmon – 3 hrs 14 minutes (174 miles)
Be ready for another beautiful roadtrip day full of wide open mountain views! You will drive about 2 of the 3 hours through the iconic Bitterroot Valley in Montana before passing back into Idaho for the rest of the trip. Sidenote: For any Yellowstone fans, the “Dutton Ranch” is actually in Darby, Montana – and is named the Chief Joseph Ranch. The big sky views are plenty on this drive, as well as adventurous pitstop opportunities. A Bitterroot Valley favorite is Lake Como. Crazy right?! Although Lake Como, Italy is a true bucketlister for a reason, this lesser known little Montana version is absolutely worth checking out for a swim at the beach, or to stretch the legs on a hike around the lake. The Lake Como Loop Trail is about 8 miles long with a gorgeous waterfall, and continuous mountain and lake views. After stopping here, make your way to Salmon, ID where you will stay the night before heading into one of my all-time favorite places – Stanley, ID. Head to visitsalmonvalley.com for a look at hotel, cabin, and camping options. For dinner, I recommend checking out The Junk Yard Bistro, The Shady Nook, or The 28 Club!
Day 5: Salmon to Stanley – 2 hrs 13 min (116 miles)
Start off the day with breakfast and coffee at Oddfellows Bakery. I recommend getting a fairly early start since you have adventure waiting at your doorstep! The drive between Salmon and Stanley has a few more hot springs I listed in my Idaho Hot Springs Blog – look for Gold Bug, and Elkhorn (Boat Box) hot springs. An early arrival into Stanley is never a bad idea either, since the Sawtooths are loaded with opportunities! Take a look at my 3-Day Guide to the Sawtooths blog for ideas on where to stay and a quick overview of a few family friendly activity options. While Stanley is still less known than other areas such as national parks, it still fills up fast. Check out the Stanley Chamber of Commerce and accommodations ahead of time. Redfish and Stanley Lake offer beautiful and iconic welcome views into the area. Rest up and get ready for a full day of adventure in some of the most world-class beauty I’ve experienced to date!
Day 6: Adventure Day in Stanley
If you have made it here to this point of the trip, I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOU! The hardest part of visiting the Sawtooh Mountains is narrowing down the options – so let’s get this started!
If you are wanting to get a nice day hike in there are plenty to choose from. A few honorable mentions are Sawtooth Lake + Alpine Lake, Alice Lake + Twin Lakes (HIGHLY recommend), Imogene, and Goat Lake. As mentioned in my 3-Day Guide to the Sawtooths blog, there is a boat shuttle that will take you across Redfish Lake from the Redfish Lake Lodgefor $13 per person. From the Redfish Lake Inlet you can hike up into Cramer Lakes, which are stair-stepped right next to each other with a waterfall connecting them. I recommend starting early for any of these hikes so you have time to enjoy the jaw dropping scenery and hang out! Check out my Free Week of Workouts to kickstart your preparation for the trails, and if you’re serious about getting fit for hiking, the Mountain Metabolic Coaching Program might be the perfect option for you! If seeing the mountains on horseback is more your thing check out The Redfish Lake Corrals. There are also plenty of opportunities for fishing, biking, climbing, and rafting. Whatever you choose to do with your adventure day in Stanley, be sure to check out the Events Calendar to see if there is live music to cap the night with! For food options definitely check out Papa Brunee’s, Redfish Lake Lodge, and Mountain Village Restaurant.
Day 7: Stanley to Boise via Idaho City Route – 3 hours (132 mi)
Just because the perfect Idaho road trip is ending doesn’t mean the adventure has to quite yet. You know we like to make the most out of each day around here! It wouldn’t be a road trip day through the Gem State without yet another few hot springs options, would it? Right along the banks of the South Fork Payette River there is the local favorite – Kirkham hot springs. There is a small parking fee, to an otherwise free natural hot springs experience. If you are looking for a more luxury experience, be sure to make a reservation for The Springs in Idaho City. While you are in this quaint little mountain town I recommend grabbing lunch at Trudy’s Kitchen, The Gold Mine, or Boco Social before making your way back down into Boise to end and amazing week exploring a little of what Idaho has to offer!
Don’t forget to start training for your big adventures so you can take on any mountain experience with confidence and strength! Check out a FREE week of my Fit for Hiking workouts to get started. As always, I hope you enjoy this itinerary. Please share and let me know how your trip goes!
Happy + Healthy Trails,