Every ‘Thelma-and- Louise’ Style Girls’ Road-Trip Itinerary in Idaho Starts Somewhere Fabulous
In my own version of the ultimate road- trip movie “Thelma and Louise”; ( i.e. one where I don’t drive off a cliff), I teamed up with an adventurous and travel-writing doyen gal-pal for a girls’ road-trip itinerary in Idaho and to adventure. Our fabulous starting point was America’s first national park, Yellowstone National Park, in the Great American West , but our road-trip was to take us far beyond the park, headed west, north-west into our own private Idaho. After the scenic, natural and wildlife wonders of Yellowstone we depart the park at West Yellowstone, Montana, the western entrance to the park and a town dedicated to visitors of this natural wonder.
The top must-dos in West Yellowstone
Before departing the park and heading west demand at least a day’s exploration and possibly a night of glamping under the stars.
In this case the top things to do and places to see in West Yellowstone are;
- Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center: This not-for-profit, wildlife park and educational facility is an amazing opportunity to experience the world of grizzly bears and gray wolves. Furthermore, all the animals featured at the center are unable to survive in the wild and serve as representatives for their wild peers.
- Under Canvas glamping: Located only 10 minutes from Yellowstone National Park’s West Entrance, it is the perfect spot to experience Montana’s unique hydrothermal and geologic wonders, diverse wildlife and boundless means of outdoor recreation, with a large serving of style.
- Zipline Adventure Park: Well worth a trip to break up the biking and hiking by zipping through the trees. Especially in the summer when there is also a Ropes Course for the kids to do to.
Image: Zipline Adventure Park. Credit: Visit Idaho.
Yippee We Are Now in Idaho!
Of course we are excited to enter Idaho soon after leaving West Yellowstone and decide to head to Victor. Firstly, we backtrack towards the border of Wyoming and the Teton Mountain Range, via Mesa Falls Scenic Byway. Next, during this stretch, taking a detour for a breather at the wildly beautiful Lower and Upper Mesa Falls is a pitstop you will not regret.
Following on from Ashton, Idaho, the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway heads northeast into the lush landscape of the Targhee National Forest. This close- to- thirty-mile loop is hugely impressive, snaking all the way to the Island Park area. Along the way, visitors will spot the popular Warm River campground and two of the most magnificent waterfalls in the West — Lower and Upper Mesa Falls. Following this at the upper falls you can stop at the historic Big Falls interpretive center to learn about the geology and history of the area.
A Sidestep East
Without a doubt the backtracking east is well worth it as we are staying at the fabulous Teton Springs Lodge and Spa, a great option for families, golfers and skiers in winter as it’s located an easy drive from the Teton Mountains and both Grand Targhee and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (over the border in Wyoming). Next on the list, dining and drinks- check! And the spa- heaven for girls ‘roughing it’ in the ‘wilderness’! Of course you can’t forget the sensational breakfast; well a girl needs to keep her energy up on the road!
Girls in Idaho Gotta Go West
Finally we are again heading west; making our first stop at Idaho Falls for a visit to the oh-so-memorable Idaho Potato Museum. Even if you routinely ‘don’t do museums’, this one is a MUST! Hint: Marilyn Monroe and /or mashed-potato fans will love it!
Idaho’s ‘Strangest Little Town’
Following Highway 20 there is a whistle-stop in Arco, a tiny town with a big story. In 1955, tiny Arco won fame as “the first city in the world to be lit by atomic power”. Today, it mainly serves as a jumping-off point for excursions into our next destination, the nearby Craters of the Moon National Monument. Arco is one of Idaho’s strangest little towns. For instance, there are numbers painted on the rock mountain that towers above the town, and the sign in the park on Grand Avenue explains that graduating high school classes have been adding their class years to the monument since 1920, which makes for a spectacular, if odd, graffiti installation.
Next while exploring Arco, we manage to find the epitome of small-town America diners, Pickle’s Place, complete with an elderly ex-, or maybe current, biker chick with long grey hair and tattoos everywhere, rocking the counter. The Harley complete with a sidecar and American flag parked outside was only to be expected. Now we’re talkin’ Thelma and Louise, but sadly, still no sign of Brad Pitt!
Craters of The Moon National Monument and Preserve: To the Moon Alice! Well, here’s your chance without leaving earth…
Firstly we recommend you start your Craters experience with a stop at the Visitor Center for maps, trail suggestions and information about upcoming presentations, guided hike and events. Visitors to Craters can drive the loop road or hike a variety of trails. In the winter, it is a popular spot for snowshoe treks and cross-country skiing. Plan to stay as the sun goes down and check out the out- of- this- world night because the area is a designated International Dark Sky Park, which means there will be no shortage of stars to observe.
Discover Twin Falls
Undoubtedly one of the best things about a girls’ road trip itinerary in Idaho is the unplanned stops or places that delight and exceed your expectations. On this trip, one of our most exciting ‘discoveries’ was the stunning Twin Falls. We enjoyed its many delights so much that we found ourselves wanting to set up camp and stay awhile. To start with, Twin Falls is one of those road trip ‘finds’ that you simply can’t believe you didn’t know about before.
Moreover, while there we had a dinner fit to civilize even the most ardent of adventuring fast-food girls; at the top of the canyon at Elevation486! With that view and the spectacular food, we felt like royalty. We loved the fresh Northwest Seafood linguine and Idaho Ruby Red trout, but the Canyon-cut rib eye will be next on our hit list when we make a return journey. Especially good for the girls who need their iron boost! Not ones to skip on dessert, we topped it off with homemade Apple-Blackberry crisp washed down with Koenig Vineyards Idaho Ice wine. This was a truly fine-dining experience to rave about!
It should be noted when in Twin Falls a stop-off at Snake River is essential. With so many adventure options on our girls road trip itinerary in Idaho, the thrill- seekers among us are sure to have a fantastic time. In our opinion, the kayaking (which was our absolute favourite) is not to be missed. Another fun find was the Blue Lakes Inn; with its quirky 50’s,road-trip style, motel accommodation and friendly family service, it is a recommended stay for all travellers passing through.
The Shoshone Falls: who knew?
Located at the edge of Twin Falls, Shoshone Falls is a the stand-out attraction and scenic beauty on the Snake River. At 212 feet, the falls are higher than Niagara Falls and offer a unique blend of recreational facilities, including playgrounds, hiking trails, picnic areas, a boat ramp, swimming area, and a scenic overlook. Try a picnic in the shaded, grassy areas which provide a perfect vantage point for viewing Shoshone Falls. We never wanted to leave! But the highway calls.
Let’s hit the road!
Following this was stop two! The next leg of our girls’ road-trip itinerary is the easy 2.5 hour drive on Thousand Springs Scenic Byway: it had us increasingly excited to be heading to Idaho’s capital city of Boise, for a much needed girls’ night out on the town.
What a detour; gotta love these dunes!
Before we could make it to Boise we were again distracted; so much to see, so little time. Who doesn’t love a detour, though? Especially when the tallest freestanding sand dunes are calling us to stop at Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park. With the highest dunes reaching 470 feet, we channeled out inner children and hiked to the very top of this adult-sized sandpit. The view and bragging rights make the climb well worth it. The dunes at Bruneau Dunes State Park are unique in the Western Hemisphere. While other dunes in the Americas form at the edge of a natural basin, the Bruneau dunes form near the center. The dunes started with sands from the Bonneville Flood which occurred about 15,000 years ago and, unlike most dunes, the sands here do not drift far from the peaks which overlook the surrounding plains and picturesque lakes.
Back on track
Last but not least we tiredly (but happily) finally get back on track for Boise. We were very ready to frock up and see the sights and lights of such a green and beautiful city.
Too many things to delight and discover about Boise:
First up: a two-night stay at Hotel 43 in downtown Boise was just what the road doctor ordered; perfect plush robes, free wifi, Caffe D’Arte coffee AND close to everything. We’re talking right next door to the one and only Chandlers, Boise’s best steak and seafood restaurant where Boise’s upper echelon, folk- in- the- know head for sophisticated cocktails and to be seen. An added bonus for the morning after; free bicycles we could explore on!
Exploring Boise’s Green Belt
With the free bike, why not ride the Boise River Green Belt? Our highlight was the spring blossoms that fell as we rode past, looking like summer ‘snow’. That, tied with startling two gorgeous fawns in the bushes beside the river (which was as startling for us as for them)! Scooters, bicycles, roller skates, running or walking; these 25 miles of pathway and green oasis is one of the city’s most loved assets, providing wildlife habitat, scenic views and pedestrian access to the city’s popular riverside parks.
Calling all culture and history buffs; here are our top Boise suggestions for things to see and do:
Wildlife and conservation your thing?
If you answered yes, we have the perfect suggestion: The Worldwide Center for Birds of Prey. Wonderful and wild, you can drop in to hear the heartwarming story of how they saved the Peregrine falcon from extinction; a joyous tale of conservation success. Now home for raptors who cannot be returned to the wild, this is a haven for unique animals and a glimpse into the world of some of the most fascinating and rare birds from around the globe. Or learn more about the ancient art of falconry; it will have you pining for the romance of the desert and your very own Lawrence of Arabia.
Girls Road-trip Itinerary in Idaho: Your FAQ
- Suggested entry point airports: Denver, Jackson, Salt Lake City.
- For car or camper rental Alamo, DriveAway and other companies are readily available to book your favourite car or camper van out of any of the entry cities.
- More about Yellowstone National Park here
- Discover more about planning your own private road-trip to Idaho here
Image: Rafting the Payette River. Credit: Visit Idaho.