Best Hikes in Idaho: The Gem State’s Top 11 Trails

Idaho is jam-packed with exceptional hiking trails. Don’t believe us? Check out our guide and discover The Gem State’s wild and rugged beauty for yourself!

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Written by: | Reviewed by: Kieran James Cunningham
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Whether you’re a seasoned hiker looking for a challenge or a beginner looking to take in the sights and sounds of nature, Idaho has a trail for you! From the majestic peaks of the rugged Sawtooth Mountains to the tranquil beauty of the Clearwater River, there’s something for every type of outdoor enthusiast.

Ready to lace up your hiking boots and head to ‘The Gem State’? Then check out our guide to the best hiking Idaho has to offer. From hikes for all the family to challenging summit treks, you’re sure to find the right trail for your next adventure. 

1. North Crater Trail, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

North Crater Trail, Idaho
If you’ve ever dreamt of walking on the moon, the North Crater Trail is as close as it gets! 
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Distance: 3.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate 

With its lunar-like surface, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve offers a unique hiking experience like no other!

The show-stopper of the preserve is The North Crater Trail, a moderately challenging 6-mile out-and-back hike (3 miles one way). 

Accessible from the Loop Road and Lava Flow Campground, the trail takes hikers through a dormant lava field peppered with cinder and lava tubes, spatter cones, and volcanic fissures.

Although the best wildflower viewing is in late spring and early summer, visiting in winter provides the opportunity for blissful solitude and winter sports like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

2. Caves Trail, Craters of the Moon National Monument

Caves Trail, Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho
The Caves Trail offers the unique experience of hiking through 4 lava tubes.
  • Type: Loop 
  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy 

After a volcanic eruption, underground tunnels known as lava tubes serve as drainage tubes for leftover molten lava. Once the lava cools, the underground tubes remain, leaving an utterly unique geological feature that’s not only cool to look at but also awesome to hike through! 

At the Craters of the Moon National Monument, you can explore 4 of these lava tubes on one exhilarating trail known as the Caves Trail. The lava tubes can be rocky, chilly, and pitch dark in some places, so always bring a jacket and flashlight.

To access the trail, you’ll need to pick up a free permit at the Visitor Center. Be sure to return after your hike to learn more about the park’s geology and history. The park rangers and the staff are happy to answer any questions you may have and provide information on other trails and activities in the park.

3. Redfish Lake to Alpine Lake, Sawtooth Mountains

Redfish Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho
Redfish Lake to Alpine Lake is a captivating hike that takes you through some of the most spectacular scenery in the area.
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Distance: 11.5 miles 
  • Difficulty: Moderate 

Redfish Lake to Alpine Lake has everything you’d expect from a Sawtooth hike: mountain lakes, scenic peaks, wildflowers, and best of all, fresh mountain air! The trail is well-maintained and easy to follow, making it suitable for hikers of all skill levels. 

The trailhead is located near the Redfish Lake Lodge. You’ll need to take the ferry to Redfish Marina unless you want to hike the extra miles around the lake.

The trail starts by winding through a dense forest, with towering pine trees and an abundance of wildflowers in the summer. After a series of intense switchbacks, you’ll reach the top of the ridge and be rewarded with panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains and the lake below. 

The path eventually descends towards Alpine Lake. Be sure to save some time for taking a dip in those crystal-clear waters! 

The return journey takes you back the way you came, but the views are just as stunning in the opposite direction!

4. Idaho Centennial Trail

Lake Coeur d'Alene, Idaho Centennial Trail
The Idaho Centennial Trail stretches over 900 miles across the state of Idaho.
  • Type: Point-to-point
  • Distance: 900 miles
  • Difficulty: Challenging 

The 900-mile Idaho Centennial Trail weaves through the most scenic portions of Idaho’s wild country. The trail starts at the border of Montana and Idaho and ends at the border of Oregon and Idaho, weaving through some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in the state. 

The trail is divided into several sections, each with its own unique characteristics and challenges. 

The northern section of the trail passes through dense forests and rugged mountains, while the southern section of the trail traverses through deserts and canyons. On the way, lake views abound. You’ll enjoy spectacular vistas of Lake Pend Oreille, Priest Lake, and Lake Coeur d’Alene.

The trail also passes through several small towns and communities, providing plenty of opportunity to rest and resupply. 

The Idaho Centennial Trail isn’t as popular as some other thru-hiking trails and some parts are still underdeveloped. If you’re up for the challenge, Idaho Parks and Recreation has a trail guide with all the info you need to get started. 

5. Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail, Mineral Ridge Scenic Area

Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail, Mineral Ridge Scenic Area, Idaho
Mineral Ridge is one of the most spectacular areas around Coeur d’Alene Lake.
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 3.3 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate 

Located just 10 miles east of Coeur d’Alene in northern Idaho, the Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail is the BLM’s first recreational site in the state. This 3.3-mile loop hike offers a glimpse into the natural beauty that inspired its designation as a National Recreation Trail. Its major highlight is the stunning view of Lake Coeur d’Alene from the hike’s apex.

Despite almost 700 feet of elevation gain, this trek is manageable even for novice hikers. Trail markers match up with a trail guide available from the BLM, which describes the local flora, fauna, and history of the area. The overlook of Lake Coeur d’Alene is the true spectacle at the top of the trail, where a connecting path leads back to the parking area.

If you want to see some majestic bald eagles, visit between November and February, when they can be seen feeding on spawning salmon in the area.

6. Palisades Creek Trail, Caribou-Targhee National Forest

Palisades Creek Trail, Idaho
Hike along the peaceful Palisades Creek in a wild and rugged canyon.
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Distance: 9.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate 

The Palisades Creek Trail in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest is a must-see for outdoor enthusiasts in southeastern Idaho. Located off U.S. Highway 26, it’s a quick drive from either Twin Falls or Jackson, Wyoming. The trail’s popularity comes from its easily accessible yet breathtaking mountain views.

This trek is approximately 9.8 miles long and offers stunning views of the surrounding wilderness, including the Palisades Reservoir, the Palisades Mountains, and the Snake River. The real beauty of this trail is how many diverse ecosystems it features, including dense forests, rocky cliffs, and wildflower meadows.

The trail is also popular for fishing enthusiasts, as Palisades Creek is home to a variety of fish species including cutthroat trout.

7. Snake River Trail, Hells Canyon Wilderness, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest

Snake River Trail, Hells Canyon Wilderness, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Idaho
Hells Canyon Wilderness is home to one of the best canyon hikes in the Pacific Northwest. 
  • Type: Point-to-point
  • Length: 42 miles
  • Difficulty: Challenging

The Snake River Trail is a 42-mile point-to-point trek that you can also complete in several shorter out-and-back hikes.

The trail follows the Snake River as it winds through the deepest gorge in North America, providing hikers with stunning views of the surrounding wilderness and the river below.

Over the course of the trek, you’ll pass through some of Idaho’s most scenic wild country, including dense forests, canyons, rocky cliffs, and wildflower meadows. The trail also offers access to several historic sites and landmarks, including the Hells Canyon Dam and the Kirkwood Ranch

If you want to tackle the entire trail, know that it’s strenuous and requires multiple days of backpacking to complete. Due to the many steep and technical sections, you’ll need to be in good physical shape and have a good head for heights! 

8. The Dunes 6-Mile Hiking Trail, Bruneau Dunes State Park

Bruneau Dunes State Park, Idaho
A fascinating trail where you can slide down one of NA’s tallest sand dunes on a sled! 
  • Type: Loop
  • Length: 6 miles 
  • Difficulty: Easy 

Located in southwestern Idaho, Bruneau Dunes State Park is home to the largest freestanding sand dune in North America. These shifting natural wonders offer visitors an exciting and unique opportunity to hike and explore an ecosystem like no other. You can even climb the different dunes in the park and then slide down the sandy slopes on a sled!

The Dunes’ 6-Mile Hiking Trail is an interpretive trail that winds through the highest ridges of the dunes and the surrounding desert-like environment. By far the coolest part of the trek is hiking along the dune’s ridgeline, although the footing can be a little shifty. Fascinating desert and marshland environments await you on either side. 

The trail officially starts near the park’s visitor center, where sand sleds are available for rent. The trail is also accessible from the Broken Wheel and Eagle Cove Campgrounds.

9. Pioneer Cabin Trail

Pioneer Cabin Trail, Pioneer Mountains, Idaho
A moderately challenging trek to the Pioneer Cabin nestled high in the Pioneer Mountains.
  • Type: Loop
  • Length: 8.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderately challenging 

The Pioneer Cabin Trail is a monument to the rich history of Sun Valley. This hike involves a grueling climb to Pioneer Cabin – a ski hut constructed by the Pacific Union Railroad in 1937. These days, the cabin provides shelter for skiers in the spring and a warm lunch to hikers all year round. 

If you want to reach Pioneer Cabin, prepare for a tough climb! You’ll be facing 23 switchbacks with occasional views of the Sawtooth, Smoky, and Pioneer Mountains between the trees. While some eager trail runners actually run up the switchbacks for exercise, the rest of us mere mortals will find the intense elevation gain to be quite the challenge. 

At the top, you can stop for a snack and soak in the views before you head down the Long Gulch Trail. 

10. Crooked River Trail, Boise National Forest

Crooked River Trail, Boise National Forest, Idaho
Crooked River offers uninterrupted river views and an abundance of wildflowers.
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Length: 7 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy 

The Crooked River Trail is a family-friendly hike in the Boise National Forest. The whole area is a haven for outdoor adventure. It’s popular with hikers, campers, anglers, and mountain bikers all year round, and with cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, and snowshoers in the winter months. 

Families and novice hikers might enjoy a shorter hike to the bridge spanning the Crooked River, which is just 1.3 miles from the trailhead. This section of the hike is generally flat and offers excellent opportunities for fishing, with cutthroat, brook, and rainbow trout found in the river. 

11. Alice Lake, Sawtooth National Recreation Area

Alice Lake, Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho
Hike through an alpine wonderland filled with craggy peaks and mountain lakes.
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Length: 12 miles 
  • Difficulty: Moderate 

Ready to hike to one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in all of Idaho? Despite being a long, 12-mile round trip, this gorgeous hike is pretty accessible due to its fairly mild elevation gain. 

Your journey starts at the Iron Creek Trailhead, winding through a peaceful, forested area before eventually reaching the scenic meadow near the Sawtooth Wilderness boundary. In the early summer, families can simply hike up to this spot to enjoy the gorgeous wildflower blooms. 

From there, it’s another 600 feet of additional gain through a steep and rocky section before reaching the lake.

Once you reach Alice Lake, you might never want to leave! The lake is surrounded by soaring peaks and its crystal-clear waters are perfect for swimming and fishing. Pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it! 

Other Awesome Idaho Hiking Trails 

Our list comprises what we consider to be the 11 best trails in Idaho. There are, however, plenty more worth exploring. These include:

  • Elephant Rock, City of Rocks National Reserve
  • Sawtooth Lake via Iron Creek Stanley Lake
  • Goat Lake
  • Huckleberry Loop Trail, Ponderosa State Park
  • Upper Priest Lake
  • Goldbug Hot Springs
Goldbug Hot Springs, Idaho
Goldbug Springs offers a heated geothermal pool at its climax for all your troubles!

Best Hikes in Idaho: Happy Hiking!

Idaho is one of the best-kept secrets in the US for outdoor adventure. Thanks to its wide array of wild, wonderful, and utterly unique landscapes, this is one state that every adventure lover ought to have on their bucket list!

We hope you found this list of the best hikes in Idaho helpful for planning your next adventure in the great outdoors. If you have any questions, feel free to give us a shout in the comments below. Happy trails! 

Last update on 2024-06-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Jolanda Lapegna Avatar

Jolanda is a full-time writer and life-long outdoor enthusiast. Growing up on a small island off the Eastern Canadian coast, she spent most of her childhood hiking, swimming and fishing in the Atlantic ocean.

After a short stint in the corporate world, Jolanda quit her day job to write full-time and check out what lies beyond the Canadian shores. Ever since, she’s been hiking, biking and kayaking her way across 11 European countries and counting.

Jolanda currently lives in the beautiful, Tuscan countryside. When she isn’t hanging out in the woods or at the beach, you’ll catch her foraging for mushrooms and truffles with her truffle-dog, Red.

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