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Idaho is one of the Rocky Mountain states of the United States of America. Idaho is a rugged state, with 10,000 - 12,500 ft (3000 - 3800m) snow-capped mountains, whitewater rivers (one running through the deepest river canyon in the U.S.), forests, high desert, and plenty of wilderness. Most of the land north of Boise is National or State Forest.


North Idaho is sometimes considered part of the Pacific Northwest. It's where the rolling grain-covered hills of the Palouse give way to the Bitterroot (Rocky) Mountains. South Idaho is usually considered part of the Intermountain West, and is in the Mountain timezone.

  • North Idaho -- Forested and mountainous, with "dry land" grain farming
  • South Idaho -- Mountainous, with arid basins to the south, irrigated farming and the state capitol, Boise


All of the following cities are good bases for outdoor activities within their regions.

  • Boise— Capitol and largest city in Idaho, some high tech employment
  • Coeur d'Alene— Northernmost Idaho city, surrounded by mountains and excellent recreational lakes
  • Idaho Falls— The commercial and agricultural center of Eastern Idaho, home of the Idaho National Engineering Labs
  • Moscow— Home of the University of Idaho, combination agricultural and college town
  • Shelley— Home of the Spud Day celebration
  • Buhl— Home of the Sage Brush Day's celebration, Snake River Canyon, and Balanced Rock.

Other destinations


Idaho's nickname is "The Gem State," although the motto on the license plates is "Famous Potatoes," with the unfortunate result that anyone who has heard of Idaho imagines the state as a vast expanse of potato farms, with grizzled inhabitants living in cabins with no running water. In reality, the cabins mostly have running water.

The other common misconception is that Idaho is somehow a racist or Neo-Nazi state. Around 1980, a Neo-Nazi and White Separatist brought a band of followers to Hayden Lake, Idaho and began regularly making the local and national news with his racist provocations. Although the local residents vigorously disapproved and regularly held much bigger counter-demonstrations, the Neo-Nazi image has stuck. Idahoans breathed a collective sigh of relief in 2001 when the 20 acre compound owned by the "church" was handed over to a woman who had filed a lawsuit against them after being assaulted by their guards, and many of the racists left the state.


It's all English, except that potatoes are called "spuds" and there's a bit of a rural twang as you get out to the logging and farming areas.

Get in

By plane

Flights come in to all cities, plus some of the towns. Alaska Airlines and its subsidiary Horizon Airlines are the best, but United, America West, and Southwest Airlines serve Idaho as well.

By car

You could also drive to North Idaho from Seattle or more easily from Spokane.

Get around

It's all driving or flying.

By car

There are two segments of freeway that cross the state, I-90 for roughly 60 miles across the panhandle in the North, and I-84 for a couple hundred miles in the South (ok, someone pointed out a few miles of I-15 in far Eastern Idaho). The rest of the roads are two lanes, and often curvy and hilly (but scenic!). A few "highways" aren't even paved. You know you're from Idaho when your elderly grandparents think it's normal to arrive at Christmas (or even just for a weekend visit) after driving 400 miles through blizzards and along winding two lane river roads.

To the East, the Continental Divide (West of which rivers flow to the Pacific, East of which rivers flow to the Atlantic) meanders down the spine of the Rockies, and defines the border with Montana. A handful of passes cross the Divide. In the winter, check with the highway department for pass conditions -- many passes are closed from the first snow until mid-April.

There is no convenient way to get from North Idaho (Moscow) to Eastern Idaho (Idaho Falls), since there are no roads that go directly through the rugged mountains (and the "Idaho Primitive Area.") Instead, you would have to drive 300 miles to Boise, then another 300 miles East to Idaho Falls. Or you could drive North to I-90, East through Montana, then South to Eastern Idaho. Either way, you'll drive 600 - 700 miles when it's something like 300 miles as the crow might fly.

By plane

Flying is an expensive but wonderful way to get around and see the majestic scenery. Backcountry flights are available from many airports in the state, and you get to fly through canyons and into remote airstrips that are nearly unreachable any other way. Examples are McCall Aviation and Selway Aviation in Central Idaho. If you just want to go city-to-city, call Horizon Airlines.


There are many bald eagles in the North. A good place to see them is Lake Coeur d' Alene. Take I-90 East and exit at the Harrison exit.


In the winter, skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, and even camping are popular outdoor activities, both with tourists and residents. In the summer, Idaho has world-class boating (try a jet boat leaving from Lewiston), whitewater rafting, camping, hunting, fishing, mountain biking, and hiking. Rodeo is also popular in the more rural areas.

The Lewis and Clark Trail runs through North Idaho, through the twin cities of Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Washington.

  • Calling all bikers!

There is now a bike trail running through the North. It goes from the east all the way to Montana. For more information go to


The food is pretty much middle American. There are a few ingredients that are Idaho specialties, like Idaho Rainbow Trout, and of course the Famous Potatoes. Moscow proclaims itself the "Dried Pea and Lentil Capitol of the World," so I guess those are Idahoan too. In the college towns (Moscow, Boise, Pocatello, Idaho Falls), it's pretty easy to find organic and vegetarian food, but in the rural areas you might have a hard time finding a meal without beef.


The college towns have a good selection of bars, including the occasional microbrewery. You're unlikely to find any kind of original live music scene, although there are generic pop cover bands in the bigger towns. Out in the sticks, Friday and Saturday nights will have country western bands playing in the rough logging town saloons.

Stay safe

The weather in Idaho can be fickle and extreme compared to other parts of the world. Mountains make their own weather, and it can be sunny one moment and stormy the next. If you are taking part in some outdoor activity, be prepared. For example, if you are hiking in the backcountry, take The 10 Essentials. Most importantly, use your common sense.

External links

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!