From potatoes to Yellowstone National Park, if you’re wondering, “what is Idaho known for?” or “what is Idaho famous for?” then you’ve come to the right place!
This is a state of ski resorts, popular universities, the history of Lewis and Clark and the natural wonders of places like Hells Canyon and the Snake River Plain.
Idaho is truly one of America’s hidden gems, and I can say this as someone who has traveled all around the US.
Whether you’re a local or you’re thinking of visiting, enjoy this deep dive into the things Idaho is known for, including foods that Idaho is known for, people that Idaho is famous for, and lots more.
Idaho’s association with potatoes is so strong that it’s often referred to as the “Potato State.”
The state’s ideal climate and volcanic soil provide perfect conditions for potato cultivation.
Idaho is a major producer of potatoes, particularly the famous Idaho russet potatoes, which are prized for their texture and taste.
2. Scenic Landscapes
One of Idaho’s most captivating features is its diverse and breathtaking landscapes.
From the majestic peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the tranquil beauty of its lakes and rivers, Idaho offers a rich tapestry of natural wonders.
The Sawtooth Range, for instance, boasts rugged peaks and alpine lakes that attract hikers and backpackers.
Take a boat tour of Lake Coeur d’Alene for some seriously awesome views.
3. Yellowstone National Park
While the majority of Yellowstone National Park lies within Wyoming, a portion of this iconic park extends into Idaho.
This extension includes the famous West Thumb Geyser Basin, offering visitors a chance to witness geothermal wonders like hot springs, geysers, and colorful pools.
The park’s diverse wildlife, including bison, elk, wolves, and grizzly bears, further enhance the experience.
4. Outdoor Recreation
Idaho’s abundant natural beauty is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts.
The state offers a wide range of activities, from hiking and mountain biking in the summer to skiing and snowboarding in the winter.
The Salmon River provides thrilling white-water rafting opportunities, while the Clearwater National Forest beckons with its pristine wilderness.
The Sun Valley area is a mecca for winter sports enthusiasts, boasting world-class ski resorts and picturesque mountain landscapes.
5. Sun Valley
Nestled in the heart of the state, Sun Valley is a renowned resort town that has drawn celebrities, artists, and outdoor enthusiasts for decades.
Its claim to fame began with its association with skiing, as Sun Valley was the first ski resort destination in the United States.
However, it has evolved into a year-round destination, offering activities like hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding during the warmer months.
6. Shoshone Falls
Often referred to as the “Niagara of the West,” Shoshone Falls is a natural wonder on the Snake River, near Twin Falls.
The falls are higher than Niagara Falls and are particularly impressive during the spring when the snowmelt increases the volume of water flowing over the precipice.
7. Hells Canyon
Carved by the Snake River, Hells Canyon is the deepest river gorge in North America. Straddling the border between Idaho and Oregon, the canyon offers breathtaking views of its rugged terrain and the winding river below.
Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Hells Canyon for activities like hiking, camping, fishing, and white-water rafting.
8. Lewis and Clark Expedition
Idaho played a role in the historic Lewis and Clark Expedition, which aimed to explore and map the newly acquired western territories of the United States.
The expedition passed through parts of present-day Idaho, leaving behind landmarks and historical sites that connect the state to this pivotal moment in American history.
9. Salmon River
Known as the “River of No Return,” the Salmon River flows through some of the most remote and rugged landscapes in Idaho.
The river offers thrilling white-water rafting experiences that range from leisurely floats to challenging rapids.
Its clear waters and picturesque surroundings make it a sought-after destination for outdoor adventurers seeking both excitement and natural beauty.
10. Craters of the Moon National Monument
This otherworldly landscape is a testament to the volcanic activity that shaped Idaho’s geology.
The monument features a vast expanse of lava flows, cinder cones, and unique geological formations that create an eerie and lunar-like atmosphere.
Visitors can explore hiking trails that wind through this rugged terrain, learning about the area’s geology and natural history.
11. Idaho State Capitol Building
Located in the capital city of Boise, the Idaho State Capitol Building stands as a symbol of the state’s governance and history.
The neoclassical architecture and intricate detailing of the building’s design reflect the importance of the government institutions housed within its walls.
12. Sawtooth National Recreation Area
Spanning over 700,000 acres of pristine wilderness, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area is a haven for nature enthusiasts.
The rugged peaks of the Sawtooth Range are complemented by clear alpine lakes, meandering rivers, and verdant forests.
Hiking, camping, fishing, and horseback riding are popular activities that allow visitors to immerse themselves in this natural wonderland.
13. Idaho Gem State
Idaho’s nickname, the “Gem State,” reflects its rich deposits of precious and semi-precious gemstones.
The state is known for producing gems like garnets, opals, jasper, and star garnets—the latter being a unique variety that is only found in Idaho and India.
These gems have both economic and aesthetic value, making them a point of pride for Idahoans.
14. J.R. Simplot
John Richard Simplot, commonly known as J.R. Simplot, was an entrepreneur and innovator who made significant contributions to Idaho’s agricultural and culinary landscape.
Simplot played a crucial role in the development of frozen French fries, revolutionizing the fast-food industry.
His company, the J.R. Simplot Company, became one of the largest potato processors in the world.
15. Bitterroot Flower
The Bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva) is Idaho’s state flower, known for its delicate pink or white blossoms that grace the state’s landscapes in the spring.
The flower holds cultural significance for Native American tribes in the region, who used it as a food source and for medicinal purposes.
16. Idaho Shakespeare Festival
Set against the backdrop of the Boise foothills, the Idaho Shakespeare Festival offers a unique cultural experience for theater enthusiasts.
The festival stages a variety of performances, including Shakespearean plays, contemporary works, and musicals, in an open-air amphitheater.
17. Coeur d’Alene
Coeur d’Alene is a picturesque lake and resort town located in northern Idaho.
The clear waters of Lake Coeur d’Alene attract boaters, kayakers, and anglers, while the surrounding mountains provide opportunities for hiking and outdoor adventures.
The town’s quaint downtown area features shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions that cater to visitors seeking relaxation and leisure.
18. Idaho State University
Located in Pocatello, Idaho State University (ISU) is a prominent educational institution that has played a significant role in the state’s academic landscape.
ISU offers a diverse range of programs in fields such as healthcare, engineering, business, and the arts.
19. Pioneer History
Idaho has a rich history of westward expansion and pioneer settlement.
Historic sites and trails like the Oregon Trail and the California Trail pass through the state, offering a glimpse into the challenges and triumphs of those who ventured west in search of new opportunities.
20. Ski Resorts
In addition to Sun Valley, Idaho boasts several other notable ski resorts that attract winter sports enthusiasts.
Bogus Basin, located near Boise, offers a range of ski and snowboarding trails, along with stunning views of the surrounding landscapes.
Schweitzer Mountain Resort in northern Idaho offers diverse terrain and family-friendly amenities.
21. Snake River Plain
The Snake River Plain is a vast and fertile region that stretches across southern Idaho.
This flat plain is flanked by mountain ranges on either side, including the Sawtooth Mountains to the north and the Owyhee Mountains to the south.
The Snake River meanders through the plain, providing water for agriculture and contributing to the state’s economic vitality.
22. Hemingway Memorial
Ernest Hemingway, the renowned American author, spent time in Ketchum, Idaho, and tragically ended his life there.
The Hemingway Memorial, located near the Sun Valley Lodge, commemorates his legacy and impact on literature.
The memorial includes a bronze bust of Hemingway and a contemplative space that invites visitors to reflect on his contributions to storytelling.
23. Idaho Steelheads
The Idaho Steelheads are a minor league ice hockey team based in Boise.
The team competes in the ECHL and has a dedicated fan base that supports them at home games.
The Steelheads’ presence contributes to Boise’s sports culture and offers residents and visitors a chance to enjoy live hockey games and support local athletes.
24. Idaho’s State Fish
The cutthroat trout is the official state fish of Idaho.
This native species of trout has a distinctive red or orange slash mark on its throat, giving it its name.
Cutthroat trout are prized among anglers for their fighting spirit and the challenge they provide.
25. Idaho Historical Museum
Located in Boise, the Idaho State Historical Museum serves as a repository of the state’s history, culture, and heritage.
The museum’s exhibits showcase artifacts, documents, and interactive displays that provide insights into Idaho’s past.
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