Whoever said that the state of Idaho is boring? They must have heard wrong. The state that is jaggedly shaped like a logger’s boot interestingly grows about 1/3 of America’s supply of potatoes. Even more fascinating, these stashes of spuds aren’t even native to the area but were found to grow wondrously because of the land’s rich, dense soil. The nation’s potato capital has a perfect environment for starchy growth due to volcanic eruptions that occurred thousands of years ago.
Idaho’s soil isn’t the only factor that makes the state’s landscape and natural terrain one-of-a-kind. If you’d measure the stretch of one of its most northern points to one of its most southeastern points, the mileage is almost as far as traveling from Chicago to New York City. Idaho is so big that the combination of the six states that make up New England could fit inside it. You can even find up to 72 different kinds of precious stones within this single territory.
Whichever way a person chooses to travel through the Gem State, they are sure to encounter sparkling rivers, lakes, mountains, wildlife, and unspoiled areas galore. This underrated land of many waters is no boring wasteland, but in fact a beautiful and valuable outdoor sanctuary. If you plan to someday soon visit, here are just a few of Idaho’s most amazing natural features that you have to see for yourself.
Nature Reserves: Wildlife Exploration Abound
Idaho’s expansive and diverse landscape serves as a natural habitat to thousands of native species and wild animals, including vascular plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, and fish. There are even several endangered species that find a home in Idaho, such as the woodland caribou, grizzly bear, and grey wolf. Other noteworthy animals that live within the state are fishers, North American lynx, coyotes, bighorn sheep, badgers, and rattlesnakes. Idaho also has one of the largest surviving Elk herds in the world.
The most notable wild animals can be discovered deep in the mountains or forests, but you can visit a wide array of reserves to take in your favorite’s own beauty. Whether you are a bird watcher, fly fisher, or simply an animal-lover, opportunities are plentiful here to view any of these captivating creatures within their natural hodgepodge of terrain and environments. For true solace in the outdoors, Idaho is not a place that disappoints.
Shoshone Falls: The Western Rival of Niagara Falls
Considered the Niagara Falls of the West, Shoshone Falls is a majestic waterfall located on the edge of Twin Falls, in the southern part of the state. This natural landmark surely resembles its famous falls counterpart in northern New York, but it’s almost 50 ft higher. Even though the water volume is lower than Niagara’s, Shoshone’s is entirely magnificent on its own when flowing in full brilliance. Any time of year is a good time to see this waterfall, but the best time is in late spring after the snow melts in the Rockies and finds its way down the river.
The flow of Shoshone Falls is enduringly fed from the waters of a dam located a bit upstream. This dam and the waters of the Snake River Basin are regulated for irrigation to maintain local agriculture. The excess water is then sent downstream on the Snake River towards the Pacific Ocean, where it rages dramatically over the falls. The impressive sight created by nature itself is a wonderful marvel to be explored from multiple points of view—hiking boots are entirely optional, but a good camera to capture the moment is highly recommended.
Sawtooth Mountains: Alpine-Like Peaks
Undoubtedly, there is a variety of incredible must-see panoramas, but one of Idaho’s most amazing natural features has to be the Sawtooth Mountains. These jagged cliffs and mountain peaks are a part of the breathtaking Rocky Mountain chain. While this stunningly rugged landscape is relatively unknown to outsiders in comparison to a majority of popular U.S. mountain ranges, this range was a favorite vista greatly admired by the late author Ernest Hemingway. Despite his local legacy, locals call this range a best-kept secret because of its sheer number of quiet hiking trails and crystal-esque lakes made by receding glaciers.
This epic mountain range located in central Idaho has hundreds of thousands of acres of scenic country that are perfect for visitors’ recreational pursuits. The top activities to fully appreciate and admire this natural landscape are backpacking, camping, hiking, boating, bicycling, and photography. These mountains cannot be quickly experienced, but even a simple hike on a trail or a kayak ride across a lake can lead visitors to the most sensational and memorable views.
Craters of the Moon: Space Features on Earth
For a surreal landscape that looks like outer space here on Earth, people can visit a unique, historic national monument—the biggest basaltic lava field in America. This natural landmark in southern Idaho is a one-of-a-kind terrain feature, created after a supervolcano erupted thousands of years ago and left plenty of scorched earth behind. There’s no way to truly describe the mystical panoramic scene than simply otherworldly. Visitors can take in the various lava formations and tubes, cinder cones, tree molds, and the deepest rift crack in the world. Since the iconic landscape appears to strikingly resemble the moon, there’s truly no other natural feature just like it on Earth.
Hells Canyon: Deepest North American River Gorge
One of the most incredible canyons in the country is one you have probably never heard of before. Hells Canyon is an incredibly deep and wide river gorge, surpassing the well-known Grand Canyon as the deepest in North America, at 8,000 feet. Acting as the border between Idaho and Oregon, beauty and adventure is in abundance in this gorge, where an array of natural features can be explored and revered. This so-called haunted canyon offers some of the best whitewater rafting, kayaking, hiking, and fishing adventures of a lifetime, as it sandwiches the mighty Snake River between its towering and lush walls.
For a once-in-a-lifetime-experience, visitors to this natural landmark can most gloriously take in its stunning vistas and features on a boat. River Adventures is a local adventure company that offers guided boat tours and fishing trips to take in all this canyon has to offer. Fishing in Hells Canyon is excellent, as Idaho is a major supplier of America’s trout. Sturgeon, steelhead, salmon, bass, and other species can be found in the Snake River’s waters throughout the seasons of the year. The canyon’s dramatic climate, elevation, and wild terrains are quaint and allow for a peaceful experience you can’t find anywhere else.