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It was after watching the incredible Idaho: The Movie documentary that Eddie and I chose Idaho for our honeymoon destination. An Idaho road trip would never have been on my radar, but with all of the Idaho scenic byways and diverse landscapes, we couldn’t resist. I challenge anyone to find a more quiet, uncrowded, and absolutely gorgeous destination in peak summer travel season. Seriously, if you know of somewhere, leave a comment down below, because I don’t think there is anywhere as beautiful as Idaho, and with fewer tourists.
After watching the documentary a few times, I realized we had a lot of ground to cover. Days of searching led me to the blog of my now friend Katie, also known as, Traveling Spud. While she spent quite a few years traveling the world and living in San Francisco, she is back in Idaho and sharing the wealth of her favorite spots. The funny thing is, no matter which way I tried, I couldn’t get to McCall, Ketchum, and fly out of Boise without some backtracking. Since we didn’t want to waste a moment, we had to pass on every recommendation from Katie and forge our own path. The reason? Our visit coincided with the yearly Allen and Company Investment conference!
Idaho Road Trip Day 1: Technically Washington
Like many people wanting to visit Idaho, Coeur D’Alene was on the top of my wishlist. Before my mom got sick, I had planned on taking her there for a birthday getaway. It is mountainous and on a lake, and home to the only AAA four star resort in the state. I figured this was where we would want to stay, so I booked our outbound flight into Spokane, Washington, the nearest airport to Coeur D’Alene. Unfortunately, the resort where I wanted to stay was more money than I wanted to spend, especially for the first few days of a 12 day trip. Then, I discovered a nearby ski mountain….
Idaho Road Trip Days 2-4: Ponderay, Sandpoint, and Lake Pend Oreille
To stay for three nights at the White Pine Lodge of Schweitzer Mountain cost less than one night in Coeur D’Alene. It was a no brainer! Just take a look at the views from the White Pine Lodge:
How to Spend Three Days in Sandpoint
- The peak height at Schweitzer Mountain is 6,400 feet, meaning it’s not too high for my altitude sensitive husband. At this height, not only could we hike comfortably, but we also had the best views of Sandpoint, Idaho. We hiked every morning, and then went into town each day.
- Because Schweitzer is a quaint mountain village, we spent quite a bit of time at the bottom of the mountain. Both Ponderay and Sandpoint encompass the land at the bottom of the mountain. While both fun, Sandpoint is the place to be. Frequent visitors and people who live in the area say it is akin to 1970’s Lake Tahoe.
- The most fun thing that we did was rent a boat for a day on the lake. Since it was just the two of us, we chose the smallest boat with a sun shade. I looked on TripAdvisor and found Sandpoint Watersports. Lake Pend Oreille is no piddly body of water; it’s so large and so deep that the U.S. Armed Forces test submarines there. We boated out to the Green Monarch range.
With so many islands and an enormous lake, you can’t cover the entire lake from end to end on with a three hour rental. That being said, our goal was to get to the Green Monarchs mountain. This stunning section of mountain was about an hour boat ride from Sandpoint, but worth the trip.
Where to Eat in Sandpoint, Ponderay, and Schweitzer Mountain Resort
Over the Fourth of July holiday, many of the shops at Schweitzer Mountain Resort were closed. Some were closed just for the three or so days around the holiday, and some for the season.
- There is a Walmart at the base of Schweitzer Mountain Resort. We stocked up on breakfast items and snacks here.
- The best ice cream in Sandpoint is at Panhandle Cone and Coffee.
- We ate a delicious Mexican lunch at Fiesta Bonita on our way to Lake Pend Orielle. Cheap, quick, and authentic.
- In Sandpoint, we loved getting beers at Idaho Pour Authority. There were so many drinks to try, and you could even buy individual beers, four, or six packs to take home with you. For brews with live music, try MickDuff’s.
- Venture into the Cedar Street Public Market to see local artisans selling their wares.
- We asked locals where to eat in Sandpoint. They recommended The Fat Pig, which has a great patio and shares a building with Pend d’Orielle Winery. We also ate at Baxter’s on Cedar, which we both enjoyed.
Related: What to Wear For 10 Days in Idaho
Idaho Road Trip Day 5: Lolo, Montana
The next part of our Idaho road trip actually took us to Montana! The drive from Sandpoint to Missoula, Montana is the most beautiful drive I’ve ever experienced. I believe it is the most gorgeous of all Idaho scenic byways. It was stunning mountainous cliffs next to the glittering blue sheen of the Clark Fork River. We decided to stay in Lolo in lieu of Missoula because I really wanted to stay in a cabin in the woods.
What we did with Less than 24 Hours in Missoula and Lolo:
- We walked around the University of Montana campus to see some of the interesting buildings and the stadium. As it was a weekend in July, the campus was dead and most buildings were closed.
- Obviously we had to check out Big Sky Brewing Company to get some Moose Drool!
- Locals recommended that we eat at Taco del Sol when we visited. To be honest, it was sort of average, but I can see why a college student would love it!
- The log cabin where we stayed had a pretty tricky trail behind it. After stumbling over a full skeleton of a deer or elk, we got a bit spooked and found another trail. We instead used the AllTrails app and found a nearby trail with an unexpected guide.
- We had the most hearty and fabulous meal at an old truck stop, River City Grill.
Idaho Road Trip Days 6-8: Salmon, Idaho
Our few days in Salmon, Idaho were our favorite. We were surround by nature, in a gorgeous bed and breakfast, and bonus: there were cats! We stayed in the Bitterroot Room at the Syringa Lodge, which I cannot recommend enough! The Syringa Lodge is a bed and breakfast in Salmon that has delicious breakfasts, gorgeous common rooms, and balconies on every room. The views are stunning, the coffee is plentiful, and the kindness of the owners is unforgettable.
How We Spent Three Days in Salmon, Idaho:
- We hiked to natural hot springs in Elk Bend, Idaho. It was a moderate hike that is flat until the last quarter mile, when it is precipitously steep. There were only three other people there, and the views were spectacular.
- In the 100ºF sun of the high desert, something about cold beer couldn’t be beat. We stopped each night at Bertram’s Brewery for some food, drinks, or huckleberry ice cream.
- A vacation isn’t a vacation without a round of golf! Eddie and I rented clubs and played nine holes at Salmon Valley Golf Course. It was fairly affordable, quite beautiful, and we enjoyed our time.
- The Salmon River is known as the starting point to the Frank Church Wilderness. It is great for rafting, fishing, and general wildlife. We did a full day rafting with Rawhide Outfitters. It was family friendly and fantastic.
- We ate at Junkyard Bistro twice because the food was so tasty!
Idaho Road Trip Days 7-10: Boise
We spent the last leg of our trip in the state capital. Because it was the longest drive of our time in Idaho, we split it up by making a quick lunch stop at Redfish Lake in Stanley, Idaho. It was incredibly crowded, and incredibly beautiful. When I tried to get a room at Redfish Lake Lodge, our dates were sold out by February. It was quite crowded when we stopped, so I was glad that our plans took us elsewhere.
How We Spent Three Days in Boise:
- We ate our way through Boise. The food scene is awesome, and just like the Idaho license plates say, we had “Amazing Potatoes.” Places we really enjoyed were Txikiteo, Boise Fry Company, St. Lawrence Gridiron, and Richard’s. We made a reservation three months in advance at State and Lemp and it was totally worth it.
- One of the best parts about staying at Inn at 500 Capitol was that the cost of a night includes access to their bicycles. We road around the Green Belt Line exploring Boise and the urban Boise wineries.
- We couldn’t be in Boise and not visit “The Blue” at Boise State University.
- The Idaho Shakespeare Festival is so much better than I imagined. We saw Misery and even with only two actors, we were spellbound.
- Eddie golfed again at Banbury Golf Course while I spend the day in Caldwell, Idaho exploring the Sunnyslope Wine Trail.
- Freak Alley is a can’t miss.
All in all, it was the ideal honeymoon for us. Of course, if I had the chance to do it again, I’d change some things. I wasn’t disappointed in anything that we did, but there were some places that stood out.
Things I Would Have Done Differently:
-I would have extended our boat rental in Sandpoint, ID to a half day so that we could have anchored in Hope and gotten some lunch. It seemed like the thing to do!
-I would have driven straight through from Sandpoint to Salmon so that we had an extra day on the Salmon River for fishing or a two day raft trip. We didn’t have enough time to enjoy Lolo or Missoula, but could’ve used an extra day in Salmon.
-I would have brought a collapsible cooler bag. We ended up buying one while we were there, but already had one at home.
-I might have cut one day off of Boise to add a night in Stanley to hike the Sawtooths.
If nothing else, our trip made us fall in love with the state of Idaho, every bit of it. I can’t wait to go back, and would love to see it both in the winter, and again in the summer.