From the remote desert of the Owyhee Mountains, to expanding vineyards and family-run farms, to bustling metropolitan areas ringed by national forest, there is no other place in Idaho – or perhaps even the Northwest – that contains the diversity of the Treasure Valley.
In addition, job opportunities are plentiful, housing prices are reasonable, and national rankings show everyone from millennials to retirees think it’s a desirable area to live. So it’s no surprise that the Treasure Valley, also called the Boise Metro Area, is currently consistently ranked as one of the fastest-growing in the nation.
But all that diversity can sometimes cause confusion. For instance, what exactly do we mean when we’re speaking of the Treasure Valley? Is the Treasure Valley a good fit for me? Are there places in the valley that are more favorable for my lifestyle than others?
Below, we’ll explain everything you need to know when making an informed decision about moving to Idaho’s beautiful, bustling Treasure Valley.
What Is the Treasure Valley?
When most people speak of the Treasure Valley, they’re referring to the area that encompasses the cities of Boise, Meridian, Nampa, Eagle, Star, Kuna, Caldwell, and Middleton. For our purposes, when we talk about homes and opportunities in the Treasure Valley, this is what we mean.
Historically, however, it covered a much larger area – from Boise, Idaho to Vale, Oregon. Back then, it was most commonly known as the Lower Snake River Valley, so named because of the five tributaries that emptied into the Snake River. In 1959, the valley’s chamber of commerce president changed the name to “Treasure Valley” to better describe the richness of opportunities available in the area and attract more residents. As far as rebrands go, it worked like a charm.
Currently, roughly 40 percent of Idaho’s population lives in the Treasure Valley. As of 2019, the area was home to 712,200 residents, but it is estimated to grow to over one million by 2040. In addition, it is the third-largest metro area in the Pacific Northwest, after Seattle and Portland.
Working in the Treasure Valley
While historically the area’s economy has been centered around agriculture, in the last 20 years it’s experienced explosive diversification and growth, thanks to the area’s low overhead and business-friendly climate. That growth is forecast to continue with job growth increasing by as much as 86% through 2040.
Instead of potatoes, the backbone of the Treasure Valley is its largest employers: Albertsons, Blue Cross of Idaho, the Treasure Valley YMCA, and Hewlett Packard, among others.
It is also becoming known for innovative tech startups like Bodybuilding.com, which has been honored nine times by the Inc. as one of America’s fastest-growing companies, or Cradlepoint, a global leader in cloud-delivered wireless networks. Investment firms are taking notice.
This bustling tech growth is supported by tech-minded coworking spaces like Trailhead, Boise State University’s business incubator program, Venture College, and the valley’s annual Boise Startup Week, which pairs burgeoning companies with investors, and local entrepreneurs with mentors.
Treasure Valley Weather
You’ll experience all four seasons living in the Treasure Valley. Located in what is known as the high desert, humidity is generally low and skies are mostly clear and sunny, even in winter. While we do get a few snowy days, temperatures rarely dip into the negative scale during the winter. In the hottest months of July and August, 100-degree days are relatively common. These months also usher in fire season, which can blanket the valley with smoke. During these months, air quality can be considered unhealthy for some groups of people.
Traffic and Public Transportation
Like all rapidly growing communities, traffic and transportation are among the Treasure Valley’s growing pains and an ongoing issue community leaders must grapple with. However, “growing pains” are relative. While commute times have increased across the Treasure Valley, they are still below the national average of 26.6 minutes. A survey by CarMax showed on average, Boiseans spend 17 minutes on their daily commute. In comparison, residents in Nampa spend 22 minutes and those in Meridian spend 21 minutes.
The Treasure Valley does have a comprehensive regional transit system, including a rideshare service, but about 80 percent of Treasure Valley residents choose to commute alone in their cars. In the Boise area, you’ll see more bike commuters than anywhere else. Commuters have the added benefit of Boise Green Bike, a bike-share system, as well as a connected system of bike lanes for people to enjoy.
Living in Idaho's Treasure Valley
The Treasure Valley is a vibrant mix of bustling urban centers surrounded by rolling farms and intimate subdivisions with pastoral views. Let's take a look at the four largest and fastest-growing cities.
Boise is Idaho’s largest city and the third-largest in the Northwest (behind Seattle and Portland). It is the cultural hub of the Treasure Valley, featuring everything from art museums and touring broadway shows, to an eclectic mix of local restaurants and craft breweries. The tradeoff is you’ll generally pay more to live in the city than elsewhere in the valley.
Historic neighborhoods like Boise’s North End and East End are known for their exquisitely restored Craftsman and Victorian homes, surrounded by mature trees. These more expensive neighborhoods are the city’s most walkable and bikeable. They tend to attract people who appreciate the area’s close proximity downtown, the Boise Foothills and other recreation options.
In Southwest Boise, you’ll find mid-century ranch-style stunners and retro 80’s homes set on large lots in quiet, suburban neighborhoods. Southeast Boise residents tend to skew younger – many Boise State University students and young professionals who enjoy the short commute to downtown make their homes here.
The secret is out: crowned one of the fastest-growing cities in America, many families have discovered the joys of living in Meridian. This is a family town – entertainment skews towards family-friendly options like a day swimming at Eagle Island State Park or Roaring Springs Water Park, or wandering through The Village, an upscale, European-style mall.
Idaho's third-largest city has a lot going on – picturesque parks, easy access to public lands for recreating, and a quaint downtown known for great antiquing. Not to be missed, Nampa offers residents a world-class 140,000 square foot Rec Center (with six pools!). The nearby Ford Idaho Center attracts national headliners, monster truck rallies, the famous Snake River Stampede, and everything in between. New shopping centers and restaurants have also sprung up in the southern part of the city, adding to the area's appeal.
Offering many great amenities of a city with a small-town feel, large, private homes on expansive lots are a hallmark of the area. Eagle's historic, two-block downtown still retains some of its original 1800s buildings – and charm. This affluent community also features mouth-watering restaurants like Bacquet’s, often called the best French food to be found in the valley, and Bardenay, a popular Treasure Valley distillery featuring pub fare with an upscale twist.
There are many parks in close proximity, but the crown jewel of Eagle’s park system is Eagle Island State Park, a 10-acre marine park with swimming in the summer and snow tubing in the winter. The West Boise YMCA, the largest in the Treasure Valley, is also a short drive away.
Cost of Living in the Treasure Valley
On the whole, the cost of living in the Treasure Valley is slightly below the national average. You’ll spend less on necessary expenses like healthcare and groceries, as well as transportation and utilities. However, housing prices in the Treasure Valley – especially in Eagle – are higher than the national average and tend to skew the cost of living higher in the most desirable areas. (Learn more about the cost of living in Boise)
The Treasure Valley’s Booming Housing Market
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a hotter real estate market than the Treasure Valley. In 2019, it was ranked the 8th fastest-growing metropolitan area in the nation. That healthy growth, combined with record-low inventory – so low it echoes the ‘90s housing boom – has created a fiercely competitive market. Houses generally stay on the market for days instead of weeks, are subject to multiple bids, and often sell above the asking price.
In the past year alone, we have witnessed record-high housing prices in the Treasure Valley’s Ada and Canyon counties – and then we’ve routinely smashed those records to set new records. For instance, in Ada County, we’ve set new median sales price records six times in the last 12 months, most recently in June 2020, with a new high of $375,000. In Canyon County, we’ve set new records eight times, ending with a median sales price record of $285,000 in June.
Each month, we recap and analyze Treasure Valley real estate market trends. Visit our blog for an up-to-date look at the current Boise housing market.
Treasure Valley Schools and Universities
The Treasure Valley includes several different public school districts, as well as the greatest number of charter schools in Idaho. Parents prize education in the Treasure Valley, which is why the area includes six of the top 10 high schools in the state.
Higher education options also abound in the valley. In Boise, you’ll find Boise State University, a doctoral research center with nearly 28,000 students that is nationally praised for its innovation. The Treasure Valley is also home to Northwest Nazarene University, a private Christian university in Nampa with over 1,500 students; College of Idaho, a private liberal arts college in Caldwell with roughly 1,000 students; and College of Western Idaho, a community college based in Nampa and serving more than 24,000 students.
Things to Do in the Treasure Valley
The Treasure Valley’s greatest treasure is the high quality of living it offers residents. The abundance of recreation and entertainment opportunities available at your fingertips are almost too numerous to describe.
Residents who love the outdoors can hike, bike or run the 25-mile long Boise River Greenbelt, which offers shade and stunning views of the Boise River throughout. The 200-plus mile Ridge to Rivers Trail System, with its breathtaking panoramic views of the valley, is also not to be missed.
The Bogus Basin mountain recreation area, nestled above Boise, is a skier and snowboarder’s paradise. If neither are your thing, it also offers fun snow-tubing and adventures for the whole family. As a bonus, Bogus Basin is now open for summer activities, including mountain biking, running trails, and the state’s only mountain coaster.
If birdwatching or riding through the desert on all-terrain vehicles is your idea of a weekend getaway, The Peregrine Fund's World Center For Birds of Prey area outside of Kuna is a popular choice. The public conservation area has the highest concentration of nesting raptors in the nation, as well as thousands of acres of public trail access for hikers, bikers, and horseback and ATV riders.
Lucky Peak State Park, a 10-minute drive from Boise, is popular with swimmers, boaters, and fishers alike. Then there’s the famous Boise River float, a beloved summer pastime for families of all ages, or planning a picnic at one of hundreds of parks spread across the Treasure Valley.
Music lovers also have many reasons to rejoice: the Outlaw Field Summer Concert Series, set at the historical and picturesque Idaho Botanical Garden, brings world-class musicians to Boise each summer. Each spring, thousands of people throughout the West journey to the Treasure Valley for Treefort Music Fest, a live music and arts festival featuring more than 400 local, national and international bands.
If toasting is more your thing, there’s wine tasting on the Sunnyslope Wine Trail outside of Caldwell, or grabbing a pint at one of the Treasure Valley’s beloved craft breweries. We take our food seriously, too. The valley is home to top-rated restaurants like Petit 4, nominated for a national James Beard Award for best chef, and the beloved local bakery, Janjou Pâtisserie, also nominated for a James Beard Award. (Locals annually name their own favorites – for instance, Boise Fry Company is known for the best burgers in the Treasure Valley, while Goldy’s Breakfast Bistro has the best breakfast.)
Residents and tourists alike can also be found touring Idaho’s historic state capitol building or Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise, perusing hip stores at The Village at Meridian, or taking a day trip to the Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa, with aviation memorabilia from World War I onwards on display.
As you can see, there is no shortage of things to do in the Treasure Valley. In fact, sometimes the hardest part about living here is choosing the best way to spend your free time. Whether you’re looking for a slower-paced country lifestyle or crave the hustle and bustle of urban living, the Treasure Valley likely holds your next dream home. Let us help you find it.
Lisa is a top Idaho Realtor and creator of WeKnowBoise.com. From Southeast Boise to The North End, up to Eagle and West to Meridian, or right in the middle of the Boise Bench and downtown - We Know Boise. Whether buying or selling a home, we provide full-service real estate solutions dedicated to helping our clients achieve their goals.