Wide open expanses, springtime skiing, bubbling hot springs, and sky-scraping sand dunes set the scene for Idaho with plenty of manly eats to give you energy for more. Reward yourself with a hoppy craft beer in Boise at the end and it’s hard to imagine a better state to spend a mancation with your favorite group of intrepid travelers.
Explore Boise For Urban Adventure[caption id="attachment_48245" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Photo by Visit Idaho[/caption]
Unless you are driving into Idaho, chances are your adventure is going to begin here in Boise. Idaho’s growing capital city has all the amenities you’d expect of a much larger city, but with hotels that can fit virtually every budget (though the ultimate mancation option would be to pick up a campervan and enjoy the private and public campsites throughout Idaho’s 26 state parks).
Boise stands out for its contribution to the craft beer boom by way of Payette Brewing where you’ll want to start off with a Rodeo Citra Pale Ale. Hop heads will be happy to know that Idaho is the third largest hops producer in the country and it shows in the city’s most popular beers.[caption id="attachment_48251" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Photo captured by the author[/caption]
Idaho’s weather is still going to be a bit cold come springtime, but Boise has a surprisingly diverse food scene that blends “Wild West” flavors with unique cultural traditions and of course you’re going to find potatoes too!
Boise has one of the largest Basque populations in the United States, a people that emigrated to Idaho from a region between France and Spain to work in the Idaho mines and as shepherds. Today, this community features several restaurants including Bar Gernika where you can enjoy this unique cuisine featuring hearty dishes including a Solomo Sandwich with pork loin and sweet pimentos, a hearty lamb stew, and other variations of traditional French mixed with Spanish cuisine. The brave food explorers will also want to try a Kalimotxo, which is equal parts of Basque red wine and coke. Those less adventuresome should at least try some Basque red wine as it’s a staple of their culinary culture.[caption id="attachment_48257" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Photo by John Drake CC BY[/caption]
If American food is more your style though you can grab a game burger featuring an elk or buffalo patty at a number of downtown eateries. However, no visit to Boise is complete without a visit to the Boise Fry Company, where they are known for a rotating selection of six different types of potatoes served five different ways. The potato obsession might seem odd in any other state, but this Idaho we’re talking about. Potatoes rule the Gem State.[caption id="attachment_48254" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Photos captured by the author[/caption]
A stay with an extra neat-o factor is in order at Boise’s Modern Hotel and Bar. An old Travelodge in the city’s Linen District has been reimagined with mid-century furnishings, soak tubs, bicycle rentals, a courtyard with firepits and a bar with both inventive dinner options and shaken elixirs.
[caption id="attachment_48239" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Photo via trivago[/caption]
Craters of the Moon
Idaho is one of the few states with no national parks, but Craters of the Moon National Monument is an absolute must visit. The alien-looking landscape was created by a vast ocean of lava flows with scattered islands of cinder cones, sagebrush, and other plants that have somehow found a way to survive the harsh environment.[caption id="attachment_48248" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Photo by Visit Idaho[/caption]
You’ll still find snow covering much of the landscape in early spring, but the trails will open up to visitors looking to explore the park as the snow recedes throughout April and May. If you’re just driving through, make sure to take the Loop Road for a breezy overview of the park.[caption id="attachment_48246" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Photo by Visit Idaho[/caption]
Of course the best way to experience the park is to lace up a pair of sturdy hiking shoes and hit the trails. You won’t want to miss the hike at the end of Loop Road where you can go underground into one of the lava tubes at Dewdrop Cave.
Spring Skiing in Sun Valley
Anyone can do spring skiing at Tahoe or Vail, but be a mountain man and head to Sun Valley for some snow sports and celebrity sightings. (Yes, even men like to catch a glimpse of the rich and famous.) Sun Valley is typically open until the third week of April, but you should call the resort or Idaho Tourism for the most up-to-date schedule. This year’s winter season has been plentiful with nearly 100 inches at the base and 132 inches at the summit. In other words, conditions are perfect for some solid spring skiing.
There’s no driving back to Boise after a full day pounding the pow. That’s where an overnight (or two) at Knob Hill Inn come into the picture. Get whisked away by the Inn’s on-demand shuttle where you’ll have you skis and boots packed away from the moment you arrive., then head straight to the hot tub or sauna for some decompression. trivago users rave of the first class service and a breakfast spread to remember!
[caption id="attachment_48242" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Photo via trivago[/caption]
Rafting, Fishing, and Mountain Biking
Idaho is a paradise to the outdoorsy type thanks to its bounty of beautiful mountains with melting snow sparkling off the side and crystal clear water bubbling up from the hot springs constantly rushing down any number of the state’s legendary rivers. The Snake, Salmon, and Boise rivers are well suited to any group of guys looking for adventure. As the weather warms, the water becomes more enjoyable but even in the spring you can enjoy some fantastic rafting, fly fishing, and mountain biking along the banks.[caption id="attachment_48247" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Photo by Visit Idaho[/caption]
Whitewater Rafting is prime from late spring through early fall, but you’re going to have the highest water and roughest rapids in the spring due to the snow melt. Only the bravest of men need apply, so make sure to pick a great guide and pay attention. You don’t want to be the nerd who gets launched out of his seat. Your buddies will never let you hear the end of it.[caption id="attachment_48249" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Photo by Visit Idaho[/caption]
The aforementioned Salmon River winds its way from the Sawtooth Valley to the Snake River through charming towns like Stanley, Idaho with its estimated exploding population of 67 (up from 63!). Stanley is the perfect place for adventure junkies to establish a basecamp. Here you’ll find a number of outfitters and guides ready to help you take on the most challenging rapids in North America or you can simply wade out into a calm mountain stream to catch some salmon, trout, or mountain whitefish.
trivago Tip: Guides generally limit expeditions to Class II-IV.[caption id="attachment_48250" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Photo by Visit Idaho[/caption]
Shred Some Sand on Legendary Sand Dunes
There are a few different places in Idaho where you can explore gigantic, ancient sand dunes. While you might think that sand dunes rising hundreds of feet towards the sky only exist on the coast, you’ll see that St. Anthony Sand Dunes and Bruneau Dunes are going to challenge that assumption. At Bruneau Dunes, you’ll find 4,800 acres of land and the highest single-structured sand dune in the United States at 470 feet. While hiking and sand boarding are allowed, no off-road vehicles are permitted here.[caption id="attachment_48579" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Photo by Charles Knowles CC BY[/caption]
However, at St. Anthony Dunes, there are 600 acres of white quartz sand and 400-foot-high dunes where off-road vehicles are welcome. It’s also home to a wilderness area that is the winter home to one of the largest elk herds in the United States.
No matter where you choose to go in Idaho, you are certain to find a state that is warm and welcoming with plenty of craft beer and man-friendly food ranging from buffalo steaks to elk burgers to keep you warm — even if it is a bit cold outside.
Feature image courtesy of the Southwest Idaho Travel Association