Escape to the Great Idaho Outdoors

An escape to the higher elevations of Sun Valley and the Sawtooth Range, McCall and Payette National Forest and Stanley

Article by Greg Gewalt

Photography by Charles Knowles

Originally published in Boise Lifestyle

Without being able to rely on popular annual events, our Idaho mountain communities are thinking about how to attract visitors and revenue, while keeping everyone safe. They're starting with highlighting, perhaps obviously, the outdoors. “The mountains and the rivers attracted us here, kept us here, and are now intrinsic to what will help us through these unprecedented times," said Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw.

We’ve put together the Great Central Idaho summer getaways for you to get out and see some of the best parts of the state. Be sure to call and visit online to learn more of the details of your favorite mountain activities and accommodations.


Tamarack is a convenient getaway for Treasure Valley residents looking to get out of the city and into the great Idaho outdoors with ample recreation and relaxation around every corner.

TRAIL, ZIP LINE AND WATER ADVENTURES: Bike or hike Tamarack Bike Park’s nearly 50-mile trail network, where you’ll find both lift-served lightning downhill or leisurely cross-country trails for any age or ability.  

If your need for speed requires jaw-dropping views, then book a heart-pounding Canopy Zip Line Tour, where you’ll soar high above creeks, canyons and rugged mountain terrain. 

When it’s time to cool off, head to Lake Cascade, where you can rent kayaks, paddleboards, pontoons or wakeboats. Professionally guided whitewater rafting trips are available on the renowned Payette River.  

ACCOMODATIONS: Guests can enjoy luxurious onsite lodging at cottages, chalets, townhomes or estate homes, along with dining at three family-friendly restaurants, a spa, a market, coffee shop and even a daycare. 


OFF ROADING: The only thing better than taking in the backcountry sights of McCall is heading out into them! For this particular pursuit and if you’re fond of ATV’s you can head off-road and explore the wilds of Western Idaho with trails and routes suitable for riders and drivers of every skill level.

RAFT THE RAPIDS: Salmon River offers rapids ranging from Class I for beginners, straight through the white-knuckle Class IV experiences. Meanwhile, Payette River turns it up with a renowned, 15-mile Class V run.

MAKE A SPLASH: 5,330-acres of pristine glacial Payette Lake water at an elevation of 5,000 feet provides adventures by canoes, standup paddleboards and kayaks. For those in search of larger vessels, take a lake tour on a lake cruise or head out on your own on one of the rental sailboats.

BIKING: Summer is the perfect season some of the best mountain biking trails the country has to offer. Whether you prefer a scenic ride through downtown McCall or exploring the biking trails available nearby, mountain bike rental are easily accessible to help you get started.

HIKING: With over 500 hiking and mountain biking trails in McCall ranging from easy to moderate and varying in length from one to six miles and a perfect time to head out on those longer adventures in Payette National Forest or the Frank Church Wilderness.

HOT SPRINGS: Three hot springs are located within a 25-mile radius of McCall, including Burgdorf, Zim’s and Gold Fork — each with their own unique qualities.

PONDEROSA STATE PARK: Enjoy the full lineup of summer offerings that this expansive peninsula has to offer, including guided walks, a group area for BBQs, picnic tables, beaches, biking and hiking trails.

ACCOMMODATION: With Summer well underway, Shore Lodge the boutique lakefront hotel is accepting reservations for overnight stays, strictly adhering to the guidelines set by the state of Idaho. Information:


Tucked away in southwestern Idaho in between two national forests sits the tiny hamlet of Stanley—elevation 6,250 feet; population around 70. It’s an outdoor lover’s paradise, with endless acres of forests and three separate mountain ranges, including the Sawtooth Range, which has 57 peaks higher than 10,000 feet. The application process has begun for the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, with the goal to “preserve and enhance our superior nighttime ambience.” It will consist of 140,000 acres in the Sawtooth Valley and will be the first of its kind in the United States.

HIKING: There are 700 miles of trails that range from beginner to advanced levels, 40 peaks over 10,000 feet and 300+ alpine lakes.

FLY FISHING: Solitude with a mountain backdrop and crystal clear waters has brought angling fame to the Sawtooth Valley along the banks of the Salmon River or at a high alpine lake.

REDFISH, STANLEY, ALTURAS AND PETIT LAKES: Glacial moraines formed these stunning lakes, accessible by car, with camping, hiking, picnicking, and lounging that pull people back year after year after year.

MOUNTAIN BIKING: Explore the Sawtooth Valley from the seat of a mountain bike. Pedal your way through meadows, natural obstacles, creek crossings, grueling climbs and white-knuckle downhills. 

HOT SPRINGS: Many of Idaho’s accessible springs are right off the road from Boise to Stanley.

HORSEBACK RIDING: Local outfitters offer rides that range from one hour to all day or go on a multi-day pack trip to dramatic landscapes in the backcountry. 

ACCOMODATIONS: An excellent stop during any Sawtooth Wilderness escape – The Mountain Village Resort Lodge, Restaurant, Bar/Saloon, Mercantile, and Full Automotive Service Station are sure to have everything you need for a fun Sawtooth Mountain Experience – all in one convenient location. Information:


A short drive from Stanley and the Sawtooth Wilderness, Sun Valley enjoys a pleasant mountain desert climate, a northern latitude creating long days, 15 hours of sunshine and an average 78 degrees in summer, giving the resort community its well-deserved name. Aside from the outdoor activities, Sun Valley has a lively arts community offering a variety of opportunities through over thirty presenting organizations. Local, regional and nationally known artists are represented through gallery exhibitions, concerts, theater productions, dance productions, film festivals, lectures, opera and symphonic performances.

ACCOMODATIONS: For the perfect Idaho staycation Sun Valley and Ketchum has various lodging options such as Hotel Ketchum, offering an exclusive to Idaho residents of 30% off during their summer stay. Jeff Bay, managing director of Hotel Ketchum said that customers are returning as a slew of new safety measures have been put in place including contactless check-in options, text communications and remote key pick-up and outdoor entry to all guestrooms. Information:

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