As the capital of the “Gem State,” it’s only fair that Boise would hold the crown for winter adventures. Destinations, vacations, fresh air, long weekends, family memories—whatever you’re after, there’s always something new to discover in Southwest Idaho.
The best part? Most of these extraordinary journeys are only a quick car ride away from Boise. It sounds surprising, but trust us—winter is actually the perfect time to pack the car and head into Idaho’s beauty.
Snow transforms the state into a destination dreamland, giving you exclusive access to winter getaways, family fun, and lifelong memories.
This is our list of the best winter day trips, scenic stops, and weekend getaways only a short drive from Boise.
1. Sun Valley: Scope-Out the Ski Town Scene
At only two-and-a-half-hours from Boise, Sun Valley is a world-class ski town calling to snow lovers and A-listers from around the globe.
Situated in the Smoky Mountains, its quaint aesthetic, striking mountain peaks, premiere conditions, and extensive list of skiable terrain routinely rank Sun Valley as one of the best resorts in the world.
With so many ways to enjoy it, you’ll run out of days before you run out of ways to embrace winter’s charm in Sun Valley.
Here's our top-tier Sun Valley must-do's:
Sun Valley is home to two ski resorts: Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain. As the more advanced of the two, Baldy is a downhiller’s dream.
With 12 lifts, a gondola, 2,054 acres of skiable terrain, a 3-mile-long run, sunshiny days 80% of the season, 100 runs, and a vertical difference of 3,400 feet from base to top, it’s hard to find a better resort anywhere else in the world.
If the stats don’t prove it, Sun Valley is also the birthplace of chairlifts, with the first operational lift taking passengers up the mountain in 1936.
Whether you’re bringing gear for a breakaway weekend or renting from the lodge, no matter your skill level, Sun Valley keeps you shredding 150 days out of the year.
Looking for a little less impact? What about an extraordinary dining experience? Then hop on The Roundhouse Express Gondola for a bit of ski-free recreation.
The Gondola offers breathtaking views of the sheer Sawtooth National Forest. With an 8-person capacity, a nine-minute ride takes you up to 7,700 feet. You’ll stop mid-way up Baldy, where you’ll find The Roundhouse, an authentic and unmatched restaurant offering “memorable meals, soul-warming drinks, and stunning views.”
Perched in a lodge and surrounded by the beauty of the Sawtooths, you’ll dine on the best Sun Valley has to offer, ending the night with a full stomach and an unforgettable experience. With limited hours and seating, you’ll want to reserve your spot well in advance.
Whether you’re after a romantic ride or a lifelong family memory, wrap up in blankets and take in the striking Sawtooths from the comfort of a horse-drawn sleigh. At only 30-minutes, these one-of-a-kind rides pair great with hot cocoa.
Twirl your way to Christina Potters Ice Rink, a free-to-use and free-to-borrow rink in nearby Ketchum. As an outdoor rink, this unique spot is a great way to make winter special as you skate beneath the charm of Bald Mountain.
Is stick-and-puck more your style? Take it to center-ice with the Sun Valley Suns, an amateur ice hockey team, who host games through the first week of March.
From beginner's loops to lung burners, the Sun Valley Nordic & Snowshoe Center has nearly 25 miles of trails for all levels of cardio carnage. Don’t want to haul your gear? The rental shop has you covered.
Work up an appetite? From quick bites to Michelin-quality, get ready to send your tastebuds teetering.
We recommend the Pioneer Saloon, an old-west style spot that takes you back to the days of cowboys and covered wagons.
2. McCall: Uncover This Lake Town’s Little-Known Treasures
At a little more than a two-hours north of Boise, McCall has long been a recreation destination for anyone itching to return to nature. Nestled along the southern shore of Payette Lake, this charming town makes the best of everything the Payette National Forest has to offer.
With lakefront properties, a booming restaurant scene, a ski resort, shops, cafes, and heaps of snow for more activities and adventures than you can pack into a whole season of weekends, McCall puts the “wonder” in winter wonderland.
Here’s what we recommend for a winter trip to McCall:
Do you love snow? McCall does, too—their Winter Carnival has been an Idaho staple since the 1960s. For ten days a year, McCall hosts an outdoor showcase of everything that makes winter special.
With towering snow sculptures, a torchlight parade, fireworks, live music, dog sledding, ice shows, and so much more, the 100+ event list makes sure the 60,000+ annual Carnival visitors are always busy.
The McCall Winter Carnival starts the last week of January.
Brundage Mountain Resort is one of Idaho’s worst-kept secrets for the best of all-mountain skiing. With rentals, lessons, day passes, and 1,920 acres of skiable terrain, it’s the ideal resort for all levels of rider.
Only 15 minutes away, this mountain lives in McCall’s backyard, adding to its home-town charm.
The McCall Activity Barn is a snow tubing experience perfect for anyone looking to spend their day laughing. You’ll watch the hours zip by faster than your tube on any of the five 800-foot tubing lanes.
As a must-hit experience, make sure to reserve your spot well in advance.
The Activity Barn also offers Fat Bike (bicycles equipped for snow-riding) and snowshoe rentals for use on McCall’s extensive trail system.
The Winter Carnival isn’t your only opportunity for County-fan-Fair.
The Manchester Ice & Event Center, centered in downtown McCall, offers ice bumper cars, a smashingly hilarious way to enjoy the ice rink.
On top of regular public skate hours, the rink also offers Cosmic Skating, rentals, and the occasional hockey game.
Check out their schedule for the best times to lace—or buckle—up.
Take a spa day or relax after a well-deserved morning on the mountain at any of the natural hot springs surrounding McCall.
There are five easily accessible hot springs within an hour of McCall: Gold Fork, Burgdorf, Mundo, Trail Creek, and Zimms. Each spring varies greatly, so take a good peek at their websites before taking your pick. We recommend Gold Fork, Mundo, and Zimms hot springs for their size, convenience, and family-friendly atmosphere.
3. Twin Falls: The Canyon City You’ve Never Truly Seen
Only two hours east along I-84, you may have already driven past Twin Falls on another excursion. Known as The Gateway to the Snake River Canyon, Twin Falls lies just south of the extensive canyon.
With sweeping, panoramic views, deep history, and access to all of your favorite winter recreation, Twin Falls is a definitive destination for a quick winter getaway.
Here are our top picks for a trek to Twin Falls:
The Snake River is 1,078 miles long and the largest tributary of the Columbia, North America’s biggest river. Over millions of years, it carved out the Snake River Canyon, a 50 mile long, 500 foot deep, and quarter-mile wide gorge which caps the north side of Twin Falls.
On your way to Twin Falls, you’ll drive over the Perrine Memorial Bridge if you’re entering via I-84. This route takes you straight over the heart of the canyon, offering a view that, if you’re not careful, will actually take your breath away.
The Snake River Canyon is dotted with easily accessible hiking trails of varying difficulty, giving you the best view of Mother Nature’s elegance and power.
If you follow the Snake River Canyon east, you’ll find Shoshone Falls. Nicknamed “The Niagara of the West,” this waterfall is 212 feet tall and 900 feet wide and stands taller than its namesake.
Accessible via trails for the uber-adventurous, you can also drive to the mammoth-sized waterfall for a quick, awe-inspiring visit.
In winter, the falls freeze, and the crawling icicles and swaths of pure ice are almost otherworldly. We recommend visiting in the winter or early spring when the water is frozen or at its peak flow. On especially chilly days, the spray freezes into glittery ice crystals that turn any trip into a magical fantasy.
Not far from Twin Falls is Pomerelle, a small ski resort ideal for a handful of runs or a full day of total-mountain touring. Pomerelle offers night skiing and kiddos six-and-under ride for free.
The Pro Shop has everything you need if you’re looking to rent gear, and they even stock snowshoes for those who prefer to get their cardio from a hill climb rather than a shred session.
Want to turn your quick trip into an overnight adventure? The Willow Glamping Yurt is a rare winter experience. To get there, you’ll need to travel about an hour and a half from Twin Falls, deep into the City of Rocks National Reserve.
With its sprawling landscape of towering rock spires, serrated peaks, and endless walking and hiking trails, not only is The City of Rocks a year-round rock climbing destination, but it’s stunning enough to make you consider never leaving.
You’ll find the Willow Glamping Yurt among the massive snow-covered rock formations. This luxurious canvas yurt is situated below Cache Peak and comes with a king bed, futon, mini-fridge, heater, and all the other amenities you’ll need to turn a winter camping trip into a resort experience.
The Willow Glamping Yurt combines the beauty of the Reserve with all the comforts of home for a truly unique stay. Be sure to reserve your spot early.
4. Driggs: A Trip That Should Be at the Top of Your List
Boise is only five hours away from an adrenaline-filled destination. We know—we’re stretching the day-trip-able-ness here—but Driggs is well worth the drive.
A tiny haven of less than 2,000, Driggs lies a few miles from the Idaho-Wyoming border. Sitting at an elevation of 6,000 feet, Driggs is the perfect combination of Teton Mountain grandeur and small-town charm.
Here’s our top explorations for your visit to Driggs:
This big-mountain ski resort lies on the western slopes of the Tetons. Sharing the grandeur of the same famous mountain Alta Ski Resort calls home, Grand Targhee is “Eastern Idaho’s take” on world-class skiing.
The resort offers lodging, rentals, lessons, shuttles, guided snowcat skiing, snowshoeing, nordic skiing, fat biking, and backcountry tours. It’s your one-stop-adventure-shop.
At over 2,600 acres, an average snowfall of more than 41 feet (yes, 41 feet of snow), and 2,000+ vertical feet of skiable terrain, Grand Targhee’s elegance will leave your knees weaker than they’d be after a day on the mountain.
After an up-close-and-personal view of the Tetons at Grand Targhee, take flight for a birds-eye view of their jagged peaks with a guided plane tour.
With a three-passenger Cessna 172 or a seven-passenger Quest Kodiak 100, the Teton Aviation Center will whisk you and your family up into the clouds for an unforgettable experience.
Each flight is dependent on the weather, so keep an eye on the forecast when you book your reservation this winter.
If you’re not ready for big mountain skiing or the forecast keeps you grounded, consider a snowmobile tour with Teton Valley Adventures. They offer full guided tours of Yellowstone National Park and the Caribou Targhee National Forest.
- In the Yellowstone packages, you’ll choose between two all-day adventures: a 60-mile round-trip tour of Old Faithful or an 80-mile round-trip visit to the Grand Canyon.
- In the Caribou Targhee National Forest, you have your choice of a 70-miler to Mesa Falls, a 35-miler to Cave Falls, or a 25-miler to Big Hole Mountain.
Each snowmobile trip is fully-guided, and adventures are rated by experience level and distance.
Driggs is home to the Grand Teton Distillery, an award-winning producer of Idaho potato vodkas, bourbons, and whiskeys. Sourcing local ingredients and utilizing the Teton’s pure glacial water, there’s a reason they’ve brought so many gold medals to Idaho.
Grand Teton Distillery hosts 30-minute tours and tasting experiences, giving you an inside look and straight-from-the-source sip of Idaho’s prodigal potatoes.
5. Idaho City: Retrace History in This Getaway Goldmine
Less than an hour’s drive from Boise, this tiny town of 500 is a must-visit for every Boisean. In the mid-1800s, Idaho City was born from the Boise Basin gold rush.
This mining boom saw Idaho City surge to tens of thousands of residents, making it the nation’s largest northwestern city in the 1860s. Idaho City had over 200 businesses, more than 30 saloons, and 24 law offices. While it’s nowhere near that same unbelievable size, remnants of Idaho City’s gold rush history still stand.
Whether you’re looking to step into the past or to relax in the serenity of the Boise National Forest, Idaho City is a top choice for day trip destinations.
Make the most of Idaho City with these close-to-home activities:
Idaho City is jam-packed with historic buildings and visitor sites. From the old jail, trading post, antique shops, courthouse, museum, and old saloon, it’s easy to spend a day exploring what life was like in the 1860s.
The Idaho City Visitors Center offers a self-guided walking tour booklet, or you can schedule a guided tour with one of the city’s history buffs to get a memorable old-west experience.
Don’t let Idaho City’s old-west vibe fool you—they’re not afraid of modern luxuries. Let’s take The Springs, for instance, a state-of-the-art pool heated by a natural hot spring.
With private tubs, massages, overnight stays, a cafe, bar, and the whispering beauty of Boise National Forest winter, it’s a local favorite for everyone wanting to relax and unwind with their loved ones.
The Idaho Parks and Recreation Department maintains six backcountry yurts (circular, domed, canvas tents) around Idaho City, precisely what you need for a “complete” weekend getaway.
Now, this isn’t a trip-to-the-hotel-down-the-road type of escape. No, a backcountry yurt trip is ripe with intimate wilderness adventure.
You’ll need to park and hike to your yurt—a snowshoe trip of around two to four miles. Yurts are stocked with the essentials, but it’s on you to bring up all the bedding, clothing, food, and fuel needed for a comfortable weekend stay.
This trip takes planning, preparation, and early reservations. If your adventure group is game for a weekend surrounded by snow and gorgeous mountain views, this unparalleled trip will go down in your history books as the best of all time.
Idaho City holds over 60 miles of groomed and ungroomed trails. With varying skill levels for both snowshoers and nordic skiers, you’ll be able to find the quintessential course to get your chest pumping this winter.
While you’ll need to bring gear, there are many Boise outdoor sports shops to rent from before heading into the mountains.
Boise Bonus: 3 Quick-Hit Day Trips
1. Traverse Thousand Springs State Park
An hour and a half drive from Boise, this park gets its name from the near-endless amount of breathtaking waterfalls and hot springs. Thousand Springs separates into several different explorable units with varying trail difficulties.
While it’s a well-visited summer destination, Winter at Thousand Springs is uniquely gorgeous.
The park is fed by the Snake River Plain Aquifer, a groundwater reservoir the size of Lake Erie. The aquifer flows 2,308 miles below ground, rushing towards the Snake River.
On its journey, the water meets the volcanic cliffs of Thousand Springs and cascades with violent beauty out of every crack and cranny.
While most river waterfalls freeze in the winter, Thousand Springs’ water comes from under ground, maintaining a constant geothermal temperature. The warm water shoots out to meet the cold air, creating incredible crystalized views.
When you’re able to pull your eyes away from the natural wonders, you should be able to spot a bald eagle.
Every year, eagles and waterfowl choose the warmth and resources of Thousand Springs for their cold-weather home. Make sure to keep an eye on the sky when you’re visiting these magnificent winter waterfalls.
2. Bound Down Bruneau Sand Dunes
Head an hour southeast of Boise, and you’ll find yourself at North America’s tallest sand dune.
Bruneau Dunes State Park is a popular summer outing for hikers and adrenaline seekers eager to test their sandboarding skills, but it’s even better in winter. The 4,800 acres of dunes, trails, and fishable lakes turn into the most standout sledding park in all of Idaho.
Rides depend on how far your legs can take you up the snowy dunes, meaning there’s a perfect fit for all sledders— and with the highest dune measuring 470 feet, if you’re game, the ride of a lifetime is only a hike away.
The Visitor Center offers year-round sandboard rentals, and there are rentable campgrounds and cabins for anyone looking to extend their sledding journey into an overnight stay—something you’ll want to consider if you’re interested in stargazing.
Idaho is known worldwide for premiere stargazing, and the view from Bruneau is no exception.
As winter air is thinner and drier, there’s less moisture in the atmosphere to block the night sky, giving you and your family a spectacular view to top off a day of sand dune shenanigans.
3. Cross Craters of the Moon
Did you know there is a volcano only three and a half hours from Boise?
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, a rugged expanse stretching 410,000 acres, showcases the crawling destruction of an ancient eruption. At almost 15 million years old, the lava rock fields and one of the country’s best-preserved flood basalt plains are a sight to see.
While the park doesn’t resemble a “typical” volcano, Craters of the Moon is a wide-stretching park filled with black basalt, massive cinder cones, and extensive caves.
On your first visit, Craters of the Moon feels like you’ve traveled to another planet. In the winters, when that expanse of jagged, black lava rock is covered in snow, its alien quality nearly doubles, making it a one-of-a-kind shared experience for the entire family.
As the caves fill and snow blankets the Preserve, winter provides a unique opportunity: you can cross country ski and snowshoe through the dramatic landscape of white snow and twisted lava rock.
Craters maintains a 7-mile, groomed, cross-country ski track of mostly level terrain, perfect for adventurers of all sizes and skill levels. There’s also the one-mile Snowshoe Loop Trail for anyone eager to explore by foot.
You can stay on-trail or venture out into the park to climb a cinder cone—Craters is your snow-covered oyster. The Visitor Center even lends out pairs of snowshoes if you forget to pack your gear.
Depending on conditions and availability, the park also offers guided snowshoe walks. Always check the park calendar before heading out.
Family fun, remarkable adventures, and lifelong memories don’t need to freeze with the first snow.
Idaho is vast, beautiful, and delicate, and while the winters may linger, they also provide endless opportunities and unrivaled experiences. From quick day trips to full weekend excursions, no matter where you go or what you do, Boise is your hub for non-stop exploration.
Whether you’re testing your talents, strolling a city, or investigating a new hobby, how will you explore the beauty of an Idaho Winter?
Lisa is a top Idaho Realtor and creator of WeKnowBoise.com. Whether buying or selling a home, we provide full-service real estate solutions dedicated to helping our clients achieve their goals. 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.
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