8 electrifying things to do in Idaho for thrill-seekers

Peter Watson

Whether you’re a newcomer or a Gem State guru, there's an adventure with your name on it in Idaho. Here are eight hair-raising things to do in the Gem of the Northwest.

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City Of Rocks National Reserve in IdahoGuy In Utah/Shutterstock

Wedged between Montana and Oregon in the Pacific Northwest, Idaho is sometimes overlooked for its neighbours. As such, it is one of Western USA's most underrated destinations.

Idaho is a big state. It’s been said if you flatten all the mountains in Idaho, the state would be the size of Texas. The state has an incredible 114 mountain ranges and some of the most rugged peaks in the contiguous USA.

Idaho covers two time zones, runs from Canada to Nevada, and encompasses the western side of the continental divide of the Rocky Mountains.

Idaho is great for outdoor adventures (Image: @visitidaho)

Rivers, mountains and farmland dominate the state’s landscape. The panhandle has emerald green hillsides, timbered mountains and pristine lakes.

Central Idaho is covered with jagged peaks. The Snake River Plain, with its wide-open vistas, irrigated farm lands and vibrant cities form the character of Southern Idaho.

Over 60% of the state is public land, and with 3.9 million acres of Wilderness, Idaho is the third-wildest state in the union and one of the West's premier adventure areas.

As such, it's a destination made for the adrenalin junkies of this world. So here are eight hair-raising activities just for you.

1. Rock climbing

Lying on the western edge of the Continental Divide, Idaho’s volcanic and tectonic history is to thank for the Gem State’s staggering, rugged geography.

The state's jagged landscapes provide a playground for all types of climbing. Hailed as one of Idaho’s top climbing locations for trad climbers, Elephant’s Perch is a 1,000-foot wall featuring roughly 30 routes – with ratings 5.9-5.12 – that loom over the scenic Saddleback Lakes (pack your license and rod for the trout!).

Rock climbing at the City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho (Video: Visit Idaho)

City of Rocks National Reserve is aptly named for the thousands of granite formations rising like skyscrapers across the southeastern Idaho desert.

Internationally renowned, this climbing mecca has over 600 routes ranging from 30 to 600 feet and with ratings of 5.6-5.14.

2. BASE jumping

Towering 486 feet above the base of the Snake River Canyon, the I.B. Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls provides the ideal setting for BASE (Building, Antenna, Span or Earth) jumping.

BASE jumping at Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls in Idaho (Video: Vitaly Cheresh)

Similar to skydiving, thrill-seekers equipped with a parachute leap from a fixed platform at a lower altitude and free-fall before pulling their chute and floating to the canyon floor.

Enthusiasts of extreme sports travel from all over the world to Twin Falls to experience the scenic view of the canyon with a heaping side of heart-pounding adrenaline.

Best of all: the bridge is one of a few open to jumpers year-round without a permit.

3. Cat & heli-skiing

When conquering black-diamond runs becomes a tad too familiar, it’s time to tackle new territory in Idaho’s backcountry.

Heli-skiing in Northern Idaho’s Selkirk Mountains (Video: Selkirk Powder)

Book a cat skiing trip at Brundage Mountain Resort, where local guides serve up plenty of waist-deep pow on bluebird days, or brace yourself for Schweitzer Mountain Resort’s heli-skiing — where you’ll descend 10,000-14,000 of vertical feet as you navigate alpine cirque bowls, powder fields, chutes, glades and covered tree runs.

4. Mountain biking

Offering thousands of miles of single-track around the state, you’ll find challenging trails wherever you go. The chairlift at Tamarack Resort’s Bike Park takes riders to mid-mountain where you’ll have access to 20 trails and 1,700 vertical feet packed with multiple rock slabs, steep runs, rocky chutes and other technical terrain.

Mountain biking at Tamarack Bike Park in Idaho (Video: Visit Idaho)

Silver Mountain Bike Park claims North America’s longest single-stage gondola, which provides access to 3,400 feet of some of Idaho’s best lift-served downhill trails.

5. Motorsports

From evergreen valleys and snow-covered hills to sand-swept desert landscapes, throttle-happy adventurers will find all kinds of designated off-road territory to get their motor running.

ATV riding in Snake River Canyons Park in Southern Idaho (Video: Visit Southern Idaho)

Big Southern Butte, near Arco and Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, features one of the largest dormant volcanic domes and breathtaking views along a 68-mile, an off-road loop that takes you to an elevation of 7,500 feet (pro tip: bring extra fuel).

Northwest of Idaho Falls, the St. Anthony Sand Dunes rise up to 400 feet above the valley floor, treating off-roading enthusiasts to a day of dune buggy fun, Idaho-style.

6. Ziplining

Nothing compares to the thrill of the wind in your face as you soar over forest canopies, creeks, canyons and valleys at speeds up to 55 mph.

Ziplining in in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho (Video: Visit Idaho)

Ziplining in Idaho offers some of the best vantage points for experiencing the state’s raw beauty as you zoom from platform to platform.

Outfitters are peppered across the Gem State, so you won’t have any trouble finding some high-speed fun.

7. Whitewater rafting and kayaking

Home to the most navigable miles of whitewater in the lower 48, it’s no wonder Idaho tops several lists when it comes to paddling adventures. Splash your way through Class III and IV rapids on the iconic Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

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Whitewater rafting on the Selway River in IdahoVisit Idaho

Promising 100 rapids over 100 miles, this is the definition of a wilderness trip, packed with spectacular scenery, wildlife, hot springs and trout fishing along the way.

Fans of big drops will want to experience Hells Canyon’s Granite rapid for an unrivaled adrenaline rush.

The Selway and Lochsa rivers promise early-season thrills while the Main Salmon is popular with families looking for half-day to multi-day adventures.

8. Skijoring

Welcome to winter’s wildest sport! Pairing a horseback rider with a skier, skijoring is a thrilling sport where the galloping horse pulls the skier at a fast clip (clocked as high as 47 mph) through an obstacle course consisting of jumps and gates — while sometimes collecting rings — for the fastest time.

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The Wood River Extreme Skijoring event in Bellevue, IdahoVisit Idaho

You’ll find intense competitions around the state like the Wood River Extreme Skijoring event in Bellevue. Or, if you prefer to be towed by an ATV instead, head to the Extreme SkiJor competition in the heart of downtown Wallace.

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Peter Watson is a writer, photographer and adventurer. A keen trekker and climber he can usually be found on the trails of the Greater Ranges. He’s visited over 80 countries and is currently focused on climbing the seven summits – the highest mountain on every continent. Four down, three to go... He has also travelled extensively around the US developing a penchant for American backcountry, abandoned buildings and natural wonders en route.

Phoenix, AZ
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