Idaho may lack the National Parks and well-known landmarks of its neighboring states. But for those in the know, Idaho is an incredibly beautiful state with diverse landscapes just begging to be photographed.
Idaho is packed with stunning natural wonders and fascinating man-made marvels to explore — from otherworldly volcanic landscapes and dramatic jagged peaks, to the world’s only regulated geyser and fascinating remnants from the atomic age.
Idaho’s relatively undiscovered status also makes it a great place to find a little solitude. The state is home to some of the largest wilderness areas in the U.S., second only to Alaska.
Whichever part of the state you choose to explore, you’ll find spectacular scenic views, endless outdoor recreation possibilities, and a friendly and relaxed vibe. Here are our favorite spots to photograph in Idaho, with breathtaking views from every corner of the state.
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Craters of the Moon National Monument is a little-known national preserve in the center of Idaho. This monument is made up of huge lava flows, cinder cones, lava tubes, and other interesting volcanic features. The strange and dynamic landscape is a delight to photograph.
In 1969, Apollo 14 astronauts visited Craters of the Moon to prepare for their mission to the moon. Since much of the moon is covered with volcanic materials, it was important for the astronauts to understand volcanic geology. Craters of the Moon was as close to the moon they could get without actually going there.
There are five caves you can explore within Craters of the Moon, each with their own unique features, making them all worth a visit. The Indian Tunnel might be the most photogenic, since light shines through a collapsed ceiling and creates an interesting scene. And the top of the Inferno Cone is a great place to be at sunrise or sunset.
Soda Springs Geyser
The Soda Springs Geyser is a fun roadside attraction in southeastern Idaho. This geyser was accidentally created in 1937 when a well-drilling operation attempted to find a hot water source for a swimming pool, and unleashed the 100-foot geyser.
This man made Geyser is now “regulated.” It’s the world’s only captive geyser, capped and controlled by a timer which erupts every hour.
The geyser is reported to reach heights between 100 and 150 feet most days of the year. Today, the Soda Springs Geyser erupts every hour on the hour, all year long. The geyser is located on Pyramid Spring right in the middle of the small city of Soda Springs.
Historical signs tell the story of how this man-made geyser came to be. A trail winds along the travertine terraces created by the springs, and rainbows often accompany the geyser during the early morning and late afternoon hours.
Just northeast of the city of Twin Falls, Idaho, the waters of the Snake River crash over a rim nearly 1,000 feet wide. Known as the “Niagara of the West,” Shoshone Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in the U.S., and actually surpasses Niagara Falls in height.
Spring is the best time to see Shoshone Falls, when the snow begins to melt and only a minimal amount of water is diverted for irrigation purposes. Sunset is a great time to visit, but keep in mind that the sun stops hitting the steep walls of the Snake River Canyon well before sunset.
To get a closer look at the falls, you can paddleboard or kayak to the base of the falls from Centennial Falls in Twin Falls. The paddle is eight miles roundtrip, and requires a portage at Pillar Falls. But this is well worth the all-day journey for the up-close view of Shoshone Falls.
The Perrine Bridge is a massive arched bridge spanning the Snake River Canyon downstream from Shoshone Falls. The bridge is 1,500 feet long and nearly 500 feet high, and is the only man-made structure in the U.S. where base jumpers are legally allowed to jump off. Jumpers can often be seen diving off the bridge and parachuting to the Twin Falls Visitor Center down below!
There’s a pedestrian walkway on both sides of the bridge offering fantastic views of the Snake River. There’s also a monument to Evel Knievel on the south rim of the canyon to mark the spot where he unsuccessfully tried to jump the canyon on his steam-powered rocket motorcycle in 1974.
Sawtooth National Recreation Area
Named for their jagged peaks, central Idaho’s Sawtooth Range is a wonderland of picture-perfect alpine lakes without the crowds. This mountain region is just teeming with natural hot springs and picturesque fly fishing streams.
Photographers won’t want to miss a stop at Redfish Lake, a gorgeous crystal clear alpine lake surrounded by craggy mountain peaks. Adventurous travelers can hike or mountain bike the 14-mile loop trail around the lake or you can rent a kayak or paddleboard and paddle your way around the lake.
Other popular photo stops in the Sawtooths include Stanley Lake, Alice Lake, and the Sawtooth Valley Mountain Chapel.
Bruneau Dunes State Park
Located in southwestern Idaho sixty miles south of Boise, Bruneau Dunes State Park is home to the tallest single-structured sand dune in North America. This nearly 500-foot dune sits above a collection of small lakes in the high desert, and is a fascinating spot to photograph.
Visitors are welcome to wander through the ever-changing dunes, but no vehicles are allowed on the sand.
Bruneau Dunes State Park is also home to Idaho’s largest public observatory, thanks to its incredibly dark skies. Night sky photographers will enjoy the challenge of photographing the Milky Way.
You can also view the night sky through the observatory’s collection of high-powered telescopes.
City of Rocks National Reserve
Just over the Utah border in south central Idaho, the City of Rocks National Reserve is a unique geological area where granite pinnacles rise abruptly from the valley floor.
California wagon trains passed through this area in the mid-1800s. One early traveler, James Wilkins, thought the area looked like “a dismantled, rock-built city of the Stone Age.”
Today, City of Rocks is one of the nation’s most popular rock climbing areas, with over 500 sport, trad, and multi-pitch routes. It’s also an amazing place to photograph— and not just for photographing climbers.
The pinnacles of Castle Rocks and the monoliths of the Inner City appear to glow at sunset, and the meadows along the Creekside Towers Trail put on quite the wildflower show in late spring.
Carved by the powerful waters of the Snake River near the Oregon border, Hells Canyon is North America’s deepest river gorge and a wild playground for adventurous travelers.
The Hells Canyon National Recreation Area offers world-class whitewater rafting and fishing amongst the spectacular peaks. No roads cross Hells Canyon, and few roads lead into the wilderness area on the Idaho side of the river.
The 231-mile Hells Canyon Scenic Byway weaves around the eastern side of the canyon, and provides access to several of the canyon’s most stunning viewpoints.
River rafting and jet boat tours provide the easiest access into the remote reaches of Hells Canyon. You can also hike a section of the Snake River National Recreation Trail #102, which leads through some of Hells Canyon’s most amazing scenery.
Lake Coeur d’Alene
Pristine lakes, rivers, and streams dominate the landscape in Idaho’s Panhandle. And Lake Coeur d’Alene is likely Northern Idaho’s most famous lake.
This glacially-carved wonder is over 25 miles long and up to three miles wide. Lake Coeur d’Alene offers a wealth of recreational opportunities from biking, hiking, and swimming, to world-class sport fishing and golfing at award-winning resorts. You can even try your hand at the world’s only floating island green!
For fantastic photos of the lake, head to Tubbs Hill, a 120-acre natural area with gorgeous lake views and a hidden beach. You can also drive the Lake Coeur d’Alene Scenic Byway which hugs the eastern coast of the lake for 36 miles and provides access to numerous scenic viewpoints, hiking trails, and historic spots.
VISIT IDAHO AND BEYOND
With unending miles of scenic vistas, Idaho’s natural beauty lures outdoor enthusiasts from all over. While less well-known than some of its neighboring states, Idaho brings together the best of the Pacific Northwest and the Mountain states to offer a scenic mix of rivers, jagged peaks and endless opportunities for outdoor adventures.
And if you’re planning a road trip around the region, why not check out Montana’s most iconic photographer pit stops along the way?