Hit the Road: 3 Days Exploring Idaho’s Rocky Mountains in Winter

The majestic landscape of Idaho consists of wild rivers, rugged mountains, thermal hot springs, and vast swaths of protected wilderness and outdoor recreation areas. Perfect for those who love to explore.

Located in the foothills of the mighty Rocky Mountains, you’ll find the Boise River, well-known for fishing and rafting. But during the winter, the snowy conditions allow you to discover a whole new side of the area from major ski resorts to laidback activities in more remote areas.

This three-day itinerary has everything you need to experience the very best of a wintry getaway in the Gem State.

DAY 1 – EXPLORE BOISE

We start the trip in Boise, Idaho’s state capital. Even though the temperatures are chilly, you may be surprised to hear that winter in Boise is pretty mild, but you don’t have to go far to get to the snowy mountains and foothills.

Ice Skating

Ice skating is a family-friendly activity and is very popular in Boise. Slip into some skates at the indoor ice rink at Idaho Ice World in Boise or at Indian Creek Plaza in nearby Caldwell. All of these places provide ice skate rentals, but you can take your own if you have them.

Idaho Ice World is a great place for kids to learn how to skate, and you can cozy up next to the gas fires outside while you aren’t skating. After you have finished your session on the ice, head over to Soda Burst for hot chocolate and cookies!

Natural Hot Springs

If ice skating isn’t your thing, you’re in luck. Head to The Springs Resort in Idaho City if you fancy a little trip into the mountains. Here, you can enjoy natural hot springs while taking in stunning views of the Sawtooth Mountains. The resort has an inn, too, so you can stay overnight after your relaxing soak in the warm waters.

An alternative to The Springs Resort is Givens Hot Springs. Just 30 minutes from Caldwell and Nampa, these Idaho hot springs have a large swimming pool with a safe area for kids.

Bogus Basin Ski Resort

Teenager skiing at Bogus Basin in Boise, Idaho.

Turn northward to Bogus Basin ski resort if you want to start your trip with a little more action. Here you can get your ski legs ready for day two or enjoy tubing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. There is even a mountain coaster for some safe adrenaline-fueled fun.

Where to Eat in Boise

You will need to ensure that you are fueled up for your trip. Luckily, Boise has a diverse selection of eateries, and the choices are rapidly becoming more plentiful. Stop into at the local favorite BBQ4Life, a family-owned restaurant with food to suit most tastes and dietary requirements offering vegan, dairy and gluten-free options. You can expect delicious ribs, tri-tip, pulled pork and mac n’ cheese. A few other must-try restaurants include the dog-friendly Payette BrewingBoise Fry Company and Fork Restaurant!

DAY 2 – SKI SUN VALLEY RESORT

After breakfast, jump in the car and head east for about three hours to Sun Valley Resort, a ski resort that manages to strike a balance between up-market and low-key. Here, European style blends with the Wild West, creating a unique atmosphere that attracts Hollywood stars and regular folk alike.

America’s first destination ski resort, and where the chairlift was invented, Sun Valley’s ski area features two mountains, Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain.

Skiing at Sun Valley Resort in Idaho.

Bald Mountain is the main one and is affectionately called “Baldy” by the locals. You can expect a modern lift system consisting of 12 lifts, including a gondola and several high-speed quad chairlifts. Ski with caution because Bald Mountain isn’t the best place for beginners. Though it has designated green runs, they are pretty steep for novices. Expert skiers can challenge themselves on the steep black diamond runs and treeless bowls. There are three double-black diamond runs and some excellent backcountry terrain here, too.

If you have beginners or kids in your group, you may want to head to Dollar Mountain. Here you will find a protected area designated for beginners, a terrain park and a tubing park.

Where to Eat & Stay in Sun Valley

Most lodging options are just a short shuttle bus ride from the slopes. If you want easy access to bars and restaurants, you may want to stay in Ketchum. The Limelight Hotel has a selection of rooms and suites, a shuttle bus to the slopes, spa and a range of dining options.

However, you may want the full Sun Valley experience by staying in the European-inspired lodge. You can choose between the magnificent hotel or the Sun Valley Inn. Both are very convenient for getting on the slopes or heading into town.

After a day of shredding the mountain, you will need some sustenance. So why not head to The Ram for dinner? The Ram is a charming restaurant that has been serving excellent food to diners since 1937. The menu is pretty unique, as it prides itself on heritage dinners, showcasing dishes from the restaurant’s history.

DAY 3 – FAT BIKING & SNOWSHOEING

No need to dig the car out of the snow or scrape ice off the windshield on day three, because we are staying in Sun Valley. Though we’ll still be seeing the sights. Tour Sun Valley by way of fat tire mountain bike. These fantastic bikes have big, squidgy high-volume tires, which give you lots of grip and “float” on soft surfaces, making them perfect for riding on snow.

Snowshoeing in Sun Valley, Idaho. Photo Courtesy of Dangerous Dan.

With over 40 miles of groomed trails, specifically for fat bikes, Sun Valley is the perfect place to get acquainted with an unfamiliar type of cycling or for more experienced riders to explore. You can rent your fat bikes at Sun Valley from The Elephant’s Perch or Sturtevants before heading to the trails.

The Sawtooth National Recreation Area

One of the best places in the area to go fat biking is The Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) headquarters. Just 15 minutes north of Ketchum and the starting point of a vast network of cross-country skiing trails. One of which is the Durance Loop, a five-mile trail groomed for both fat bikes and Nordic skiers.

Winter Mountains in Idaho.

Quigley Nordic

Alternatively, you can head to Quigley Nordic in Hailey. Here, you will find Dog & Fat Tire Loop, an ideal fat bike loop for beginners, just 5km long. You will be sharing the trail with cross-country skiers and dog walkers on a flat course, so you don’t have to worry about steep climbs and descents on snow.

Sun Valley Nordic and Snowshoe Center

Another excellent spot for fat biking is the Sun Valley Nordic and Snowshoe Center. This area has five trails for fat bikes, covering 16km of terrain. But while you’re there, you may want to try your hand at snowshoeing.

Snowshoeing is a great way to experience the sights and sounds of the mountains at a slower pace. Many people regard this area as one of the best places to go cross-country skiing in the country. Here, you enjoy 30 miles of well-maintained trails, clinics, training programs, and a modern clubhouse. It is the perfect place to learn something new or get some exercise and fresh air.

If you don’t have your own snowshoes or cross-country skiing equipment, there is no need to worry. You can rent everything you need at the center for a reasonable price. Just remember to bring your camera, and wear appropriate clothing for working up a sweat in the snow.


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