The 15 Best Idaho Hiking Trails

Idaho has a stunning bounty of hiking trails, from dusty paths through sage and juniper to switchbacking routes that lead to alpine lakes and towering peaks. From easy hikes to backcountry adventures, these are Idaho’s top trails.

A meadow filled with wildflowers with a mountain rising in the distance
Sawtooth Lake. Photo © Stevehymon/Dreamstime.

Lakes, Rivers, and Creeks

An alpine lake surrounded by towering evergreens under a deep blue sky.
Blue Lake. Photo © Rdboes/Dreamstime.

1. Hull’s Gulch Interpretive Trail

6.7 miles (10.8 km); moderate

On the fringes of downtown Boise, this route traverses Hull’s Gulch, a creek-cooled canyon speckled with colorful wildflowers in spring. Here, you’re far enough from the city to feel like you’re in the wilderness. The views on the way back stretch all the way to the Owyhee Mountains.

2. Crooked River Trail

7.5 miles (12 km); easy-moderate

Take the path along the Crooked River, enjoying the gurgling of the water as you hike. This area burned in a wildfire in 2016; while the trees are a bit blackened, the wildflowers are a kaleidoscope of color. Hike to a high saddle with wide-reaching views down into the canyon you were just in.

3. Blue Lake Trail

2.6-5.6 miles (4.2-9 km) round-trip; moderate

This moderate hike is an excellent option if you’re out with kids or a dog. The trail is relatively short and ends at the brilliantly colored Blue Lake, which is surrounded by fir and pine trees. Make it a longer trek by hiking all the way around the lake. Note that the hike in is downhill; be prepared to go up on the walk back out.

4. Duck Lake Trail

2.8 miles (4.5 km); easy

Little elevation change makes this trail a pleasant high-altitude hike. Starting at 6,600 feet (2,010 m), you’ll amble along a well-maintained trail through wildflowers to Duck Lake, a lovely spot for a picnic.

5. Palisades Creek Trail

7.8 miles (12.6 km); moderate

The willows and brush close in a bit on this well-traveled, undulating trail. A good choice for hikers with dogs, the trail follows the rushing Palisades Creek all the way up a canyon to the bright blue Lower Palisades Lake. Creekside beaches offer stopping points for a shorter hike.

Picturesque Photo Ops

Sandy-colored rock formations rise up from desert hills covered in scrub brush.
City of Rocks National Reserve. Photo © Pix569/Dreamstime.

6. City of Rocks Loop

6.8 miles (10.9 km); moderate

See the best of the City of Rocks National Reserve on this loop. Get close enough to touch the beautiful rough granite. High points along the way also provide sweeping views across this otherworldly landscape. Hike at sunrise or sunset to capture magical light on the stone formations.

7. Bloomington Lake Trail

8.4 miles (13.5 km); strenuous

Alpine scenery, wildflowers, a thigh-burning climb—this trail has everything a hardcore and photo-happy hiker could ask for. The crystal-clear Bloomington Lake is worth the trek, surrounded by sheer cliffs dotted with snow and high green meadows.

8. Washington Lake Trail

5-6.5 miles (8-10.5 km); easy-moderate

Capture the majesty of the White Cloud Mountains through your camera’s viewfinder on this popular route. Alpine lakes, views of the peaks, wildflower-filled meadows, and a moderate grade make this a fun hike for trailblazers of all ages. Stop at Fourth of July Lake, or go farther to picturesque Washington Lake, which is surrounded by a jagged ridgeline and a few idyllic campsites.

9. Sawtooth Lake

10 miles (16 km); moderate-strenuous

This hike is a photographer’s dream, with granite cliffs that rise precipitously above a wide canyon, a waterfalland Alpine Lake, a peaceful blue gem. Not to be outdone, Sawtooth Lake, with Mount Regan presiding gloriously above it, is majestic. Catch it on a calm day for a spectacular reflection.

Backcountry Adventures

A vista overlooking a mountain range and craggy hills covered with bare trees and hints of snow.
Hells Canyon Wilderness Area. Photo © Brian Welker/Dreamstime.

10. Summit Creek Trail

6.4 miles (10.3 km); moderate

Hike along a spongy, needle-covered pathway up to a wide meadow bisected by Summit Creek, dotted with stubby pines and flanked by high pink and tan ridges. Look for beaver activity along the creek. Savor the peaceful wildflower-filled wilderness and views that stretch to Devils Bedstead. Only 11 miles (18 km) from Sun Valley, this trail feels far removed from the bustle of the resort area .

11. Seven Devils Loop Trail

27 miles (43 km); moderate-strenuous

In the high country above Hells Canyon, the alpine lakes, sharp ridgelines, and wildflower-filled meadows of the Hells Canyon Wilderness Area are worth the long trek. This is a bucket-list backpacking loop that links picture-perfect lakes and awe-inspiring views of the lofty Seven Devils.

12. Selway River Trail

8-26 miles (12.8-42 km); moderate

In the remote Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, hike this undulating waterside trail through the narrow Selway River Canyon. Lush cedar and ponderosa forest, fern grottos, and fragrant syringa flowers color the landscape here. Pick a sandy beach to stop and soak in the solitude. There are many great camping spots along the trail should you want to make this into a backpacking trip. 


Black volcanic dirt in the foreground of a vista overlooking rolling green and black hills.
View from Inferno Cone. Photo © Andreas Wass/Dreamstime.

13. Independence Lakes

6 miles (10 km); moderate

Near the City of Rocks, find a less-traveled slice of solitude in the Cache Peaks area. Wend through mostly open and rocky terrain to a saddle between the soaring Mount Independence and Cache Peak. The lakes are down below in a high cirque. It’s a good spot to fish. Peak-baggers can continue to either of the summits from the lakes.

14. Gibson Mountain Trail

8.8 miles (14.2 km); moderate-strenuous

Easily accessible from Pocatello, this loop hike climbs through sageland that explodes with colorful wildflowers in spring. High on grassy slopes, you’ll take in sweeping valley views. Gibson Peak can be summited from a spur trail on the route. The small, babbling creek near the trailhead offers a spot to cool sore feet afterward.

15. Inferno Cone Trail

0.8 mile (1.3 km); strenuous

It’s a short but heart-pounding exposed climb to the top of Inferno Cone, elevation 6,181 feet (1,885 m). The views that sweep across Craters of the Moon National Monument are out of this world. Take the challenge and earn an eagle-eye panorama of the volcanic landscape. Don’t forget water and sunscreen.

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out our list of the top 9 things to do in Idaho!

Teresa Bruffey Kaufman

About the Author

Growing up in Seattle, Teresa Bruffey Kaufman regularly visited Idaho to see her grandparents on their farm in Buhl or at their little cabin in Ketchum. As an adult, she would go to Idaho for backpacking and climbing, and after every trip into the Sawtooths or the City of Rocks, she would return to Washington having left pieces of her heart behind in Idaho. She made the decision to relocate there in 2012.
After years in Boise, she and her husband moved to the town of Garden Valley, where they live on a small ranch growing produce for the local farmers market, welcoming guests to stay in a yurt they built, and caring for a parcel of forestland.
A writing and marketing professional for over 20 years, Teresa has spent the last 13 years in the outdoor adventure and small ship adventure cruise arenas. Her goal has always been to help people get the most out of their own adventures by providing valuable, useful, and inspiring information. She is excited to share the very best of her home state, where she never tires of the beautiful views, endless places to explore, or the spectacular night sky.

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