Lying east of Washington and Oregon, Idaho - also known as the Gem State - is a big state. It's a place where travelers can indulge themselves in just about every sort of luxury, adventure, climate and geography one could possibly desire. World class resorts, wilderness adventures and everything in between attract roughly 23 million people to this vacation paradise every year.
It's been said if all the mountains in Idaho were flattened, Idaho would be the size of Texas. The state's geography covers two time zones, runs from Canada to Nevada and encompasses the western side of the Continental Divide of the Rocky Mountains. Rivers, mountains and farmland dominate the state's landscape. Idaho's panhandle is made up of emerald green hillsides, timbered mountains and sprinkled with lakes of all sizes. Central Idaho is covered with jagged peaks. The Snake River Plain, with its wide open vistas, irrigated farm lands and vibrant cities, forms the character of southern Idaho.
They call northern Idaho lake country, thanks to prehistoric glaciers of the ice age that left behind hundreds of beautiful lakes - Priest Lake, Lake Coeur d'Alene and Lake Pend Oreille. And while visitors don't have to be able to pronounce them to enjoy the scenery, they do have to hold on tight when riding Tremors, a rollercoaster at Silverwood Theme Park. Just down the road is Triple Play Family Fun Park, an indoor water park complete with a wave pool. If swinging a golf club is more to their liking, Circling Raven Golf Course at the Coeur d'Alene Casino (one of several in Idaho) and the Coeur d'Alene Resort Golf Course are listed by several golfing magazines as among the finest in the country. Mountain biking families love the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes and the Route of the Hiawatha, and in the winter are sure to hit the slopes at Schweitzer Mountain and Silver Mountain Ski Resorts, two of 17 ski areas in the Gem State.
North central Idaho is so full of American history and beautiful scenery it would take a book to describe all the things to see and do. The Lewis and Clark Trail parallels Highway 12, with several historic sites easily accessible from the road. The Nez Perce National Historical Park, the only national park that celebrates a people instead of a place, is located just outside Lewiston. After touring all the mountains and prairies Idaho has to offer, travelers can drop down into the deepest river gorge in North America, Hell's Canyon. Jet boat rides on this stretch of the Snake River are highly recommended for adventure seekers of every age. Hiking, horseback riding, rafting, fishing and many other forms of recreation are abundant in north central Idaho. The only bad news is they probably can't do it all in one trip.
In southwestern Idaho, travelers and adventure seekers can visit the rocky canyon of the Snake River Birds of Prey Conservation Area or climb a sand dune, soak in a natural hot spring, tour a few wineries or visit a multitude of museums. Cultural attractions include the Hispanic Cultural Center, the Basque Block and the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, along with the Idaho Black History Museum and the Idaho Historical Museum. Tamarack, the country's newest all-season resort, Brundage Mountain and Bogus Basin Mountain all offer un-crowded ski slopes in the winter and hiking and biking trails in the summer months.
In south central Idaho outside of Twin Falls, the Perrine Bridge is one of the premiere base-jumping attractions in the world. If your readers prefer climbing to jumping, the City of Rocks is a great place to test their skills. Prefer something more relaxing? Stop to admire the waters of the mighty Snake River as it drops some 486 feet over Shoshone Falls or visit the Hagerman Fossil Beds. Check out the Herrett Center for Arts and Science on the campus of the College of Southern Idaho and its collection of over 18,500 artifacts and specimens or experience their Faulkner Planetarium, a multi-media domed theater offering programs emphasizing space science. Stop off the Interstate to experience Thousand Springs State Park and its four units within including Malad Gorge, a 652-acre park with spectacular canyon views. Watch as the Malad River crashes down stair-step falls and into the Devils Washbowl, then cuts through a beautiful 250-foot gorge on its way to the Snake River.
The southeast corner of Idaho is known as the land of pioneer history and offers up the same forests, mountains, rivers and lakes that challenged the early-day trappers and wagon-train pioneers. The Oregon/California Trail Center gives a real feel for the hardships faced by the families who journeyed on that trail westward. Soak in historic healing waters at a place called Lava Hot Springs, relax on the shores of Bear Lake, known for its turquoise-blue water or visit Fort Hall Indian Reservation and the Paris Tabernacle. Built in 1889, the Paris Tabernacle is one of the true pioneer landmarks of the American west.
Eastern Idaho is also known as Yellowstone-Teton Territory and adjoins a region of the snow-capped peaks of the Grand Tetons, thundering waterfalls, glistening lakes and free-flowing rivers. A neighbor to Yellowstone and Teton National Parks, eastern Idaho shares much of the same spectacular beauty and awesome adventure, but without the crowds. Island Park is a mecca for hiking and fishing in the summer and skiing and snowmobiling in the winter. The world famous fly-fishing stream, Henrys Fork of the Snake River, winds through the meadows of Harriman State Park.
And right in the middle of it all, in central Idaho, Craters of the Moon National Monument, at 750,000 acres, is the largest volcanic lava field in the mainland of the United States. From there, the Pioneer Range of the Rocky Mountains abruptly rises skyward. Just a short drive from the lava fields is world-renowned Sun Valley, which includes the town of Ketchum and the Sun Valley Resort. Travelers here can pan for gold or visit Arco, the first city powered by nuclear energy. They can walk where Lewis and Clark first crossed the Continental Divide at Lemhi Pass and visit the Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural and Education Center in Salmon. By the way, Salmon is also known as the "Whitewater Capital of the World," and serves as the gateway for float trips on the famous "River of No Return."
Idaho's history lies with its native tribes, the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery and determined pioneers on the Oregon Trail. Today's Idaho is both cosmopolitan and small-town friendly. Boise, Idaho's capital and largest city, was developed near Fort Boise along the Oregon Trail and today, has grown to a population of 190,000. Tourism is one of Idaho's major industries and abundant outdoor recreation opportunities and scenic vistas around every turn attract over 23 million visitors annually.
Whichever part of this magnificent state travelers and visitors choose to discover, they will find spectacular scenery, fun things to do and friendly, helpful people. Idaho is a place that's unhurried, unspoiled and unassuming. So linger awhile and discover Idaho.