Take it Outside in Boise, Idaho’s Vibrant Capital

Boise is a haven for active travelers and residents, offering hiking, biking and golf as well as a growing culinary scene and diverse entertainment options. Home to Boise State University (and its famous blue football field), Garden City noteworthy rivers and trails, there’s more than a handful of reasons to add Idaho’s vibrant capital city to your itinerary.
Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic (photo by Anna Gorin/Alamy Stock Photo)

Outdoor Recreation

Outdoor recreation is a major part of the identity of “The City of Trees,” and there’s nothing more quintessentially Boise than hiking Table Rock. The route’s easy to access and provides can’t-miss views of downtown. Camel’s Back Park in Boise’s north end is a good starting point for trails. Head to Hulls Gulch Interpretive Trail for secluded serenity. The route is approximately 7 miles and restricted to foot traffic, meaning people are sparse while nature and wildlife are abundant.

Runners and cyclists should head to the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge Nature Trail, a nearly 30-mile loop around Lake Lowell. The route is also a great path for birders and wildlife enthusiasts. The Greenbelt is another great route for an easy stroll or ride. For climbing and bouldering junkies, Table Rock has more than 50 climbing routes and is only a short detour from downtown. The Black Cliffs are also less than 10 miles from the city center and have a accessible, year-round climbing routes. The Boise Climbers Alliance offers tips and updates so you know which areas to avoid before getting started.

Boise National Forest’s 9,451-foot-tall Trinity Mountain is Idaho’s highest drivable point and offers panoramic views and a hike to a lookout tower on the summit, but beware: the unpaved, sometimes rocky road isn’t for drivers who aren’t comfortable with mountain motoring and steep drop-offs, and snow can block the road even well into summer.

For an easier drive, the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway runs through the forest from Boise to Stanley. The forest’s mushroom-picking season runs from late May through June; look for fertile fungi soil in areas that burned the prior year.

If you’re just looking to soak up some sun, check out the Spirit of Boise hot air balloon festival at Ann Morrison Park, or enjoy the greater Boise area’s abundance of golf courses. Quail Hollow and Shadow Valley are two of the more scenic links in the area, while Ridgecrest and Warm Springs are another two noteworthy clubs.

The Boise River (photo by Steve Bly/Alamy Stock Photo)

Water Fun

Boise’s affinity for outdoor recreation expands to the water in warmer months, and no summer is complete without whitewater rafting or paddling. Start at the Boise Whitewater Park, a community park on the Boise River with a wave-shaper device that offers opportunities to surf, kayak and paddleboard. For some moderate family-friendly rapids, head about 70 miles north to the Cabarton Bridge on the North Fork Payette River. The 10-mile journey is an ideal day trip, combining an easy float with class II and class III stretches. Just east of Boise in the town of Meridian, Roaring Springs Water Park is the go-to summer spot for families, with rides and attractions for a wide variety of ages. Floating and paddling along the Boise River are popular summer activities. If you’re looking for a lakeside escape, Lake Cascade and Payette Lake are great stops for flatwater paddling a few hours outside of the city, while Quinn’s Pond is only 10 minutes from the city center.
Treefort Fest (photo by Matthew Wordell)

Entertainment and Creative Culture

For a taste of Boise’s creative scene, head to the Hyde Park historic district in the north end of town. The neighborhood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and known for its character and unique specialty shops and restaurants. Another “city within a city” is Garden City, an urban sanctuary less than two miles from downtown. From quality wineries and breweries to its abundance of local artisans, Garden City is a must-see for culinary enthusiasts and creative types. From arts collectives and shared studio spaces to glassblowing and garden art, there’s a little bit of everything in Garden City. Of Boise’s concerts, festivals, art exhibits and sports, one of the most famous is Treefort, an annual indie-rock music festival that takes place each spring. Entertainment options throughout the summer include the Boise Book Festival, ongoing concert series and family friendly events.

–Written by Maggy Lehmicke

Interested in planning your next road trip with AAA Washington? Call your travel agent directly or your nearest AAA store to get pro tips, TripTik maps, and more. Find more Pacific Northwest scenic drives and road trips.

  • From Seattle: About 505 miles
  • From Spokane​: About 420 miles
Best For
  • Summertime entertainment
  • Outdoor recreation
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