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The famed Idaho spud might garner much of the state’s notoriety from folks not familiar with the state’s other treasures. Those bold enough to venture into the Gem State, however, are rewarded by loads of natural attractions, the best of which can be found throughout the majestic Sawtooth Range.
Let’s start in the capital city of Boise, a bustling, yet charming small city in the state’s southwest region. As the state’s largest city with just over 100,000 residents, Boise is an original blend of the rugged Old West and the slick sophistication of the modern Northwest. Start by exploring the city’s historic downtown district. Capitol Boulevard showcases the Capitol building, while Maine Street features stores and restaurants as well as historic buildings restored and preserved from the glory days of the Gold Rush.
Stroll through Julia Davis Park, which skirts along the scenic Boise River, to Zoo Boise at the park’s center. For something a little different, visit the Old Idaho Penitentiary, the former home to some unlucky Idaho outlaws, circa 1870. If the visit here makes you feel claustrophobic, we recommend blue skies and fresh air via drive to either the Boise National Forest to the north, or the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, and its winged wonders, to the south.
Time to mount up from city of Boise, along I-84 south, all the way to Twin Falls. Just outside of town be sure to gander at the impressive Shoshone Falls, so called the “Niagara of the West.”
Another gander-worthy stop is a visit to the Perrine Bridge, towering some 1,500 feet above the roaring Snake River. Pop culture buffs might recall this as the site of the Evel Knievel's failed “Skycycle” motorcycle jump attempt over the mighty Snake River in 1974. Better luck next time, Evel.
The town of Stanley is home to the Redfish Lake Visitors Center, to help visitors get acquainted with its sprawling, green environs. Guests can also find audio tape/CD tours for the three scenic byways that converge in this area - a guided tour!
Head east along Highway 75 until the ghost towns of Bonanza and Custer come into view. Hardly tourist traps, these sites may be a little tricky to visit with a big rig, but smaller vehicles will have an easier time driving around to these sparse and authentic remnants of the Old West.
Challis affords a nice opportunity to partake of some serious whitewater rafting action at the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, a National Wild and Scenic River. Not for the faint of heart, visitors flock to this area to try their hand at taming the river’s unruly waters.
From Challis, head south along Highway 93 to the town of Arco, home to the curious attraction of the Experimental Breeder Reactor Number-1. The seriously odd and enormous contraption enables the city to claim its place as “the first city in the world to be lit by atomic power.” Arco also serves as a good jumping off point to explore the stunning Craters of the Moon National Monument, which features thousands of acres of ancient lava flows that left behind a scenic and unique geologic landscape.