cross country skiing in Craters of the Moon visiting in winter

Best Things To Do In Idaho In The Winter: Ski, Soak, and Sip

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This post is sponsored by Visit Idaho.

What are the best things to do in Idaho in the winter? In my opinion, it’s all about playing outside  in the snow and then warming up with a soak in a hot spring, followed by a local beer and tasty food. 

Fortunately there are a plethora of family-friendly winter activities in Idaho.

Idaho is known for the bigger winter destinations, including Sun Valley, McCall, and Boise.

We like to do things a little off the beaten path, so we searched out the places to visit in Idaho in winter that are less known by tourists. 

Family standing by "Welcome to Idaho" sign on an Idaho winter road trip

We visited a National Monument, two downhill ski areas, a Nordic Center, hot springs, breweries, and more on a five-day road trip around south-central and eastern Idaho. I think we found some of the best places to in Idaho during any season, but especially in winter. 

See this post on hot springs in Idaho for more soaking options in the Gem State.

You can use our itinerary when you visit Idaho or take pieces of it to create your own list of Idaho best places to visit. 

Things to do in Idaho in Winter – Itinerary

Best things to do in Idaho in the winter includes cross country skiing

Day One

  • Ski: Craters of the Moon National Monument
  • Sip & Sup: Milner’s Gate 
  • Stay: Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott

Day Two

  • See: Snake River Canyon
  • Soak: Miracle and Banbury Hot Springs 
  • Sip & Sup: Koto Brewery 
  • Stay: Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott 

Day Three

  • Ski: Pomerelle Mountain Resort 
  • Sip & Sup: Portneuf Valley Brewing 
  • Stay: Holiday Inn Express and Suites

Day Four

  • Ski: Kelly Canyon Ski Resort 
  • Sip & Sup: Heise Pizza 
  • Soak: Heise Hot Springs
  • Stay: Holiday Inn Express and Suites

Day Five

  • Ski: East Fork Mink Creek Nordic Center 
  • Soak: Lava Hot Springs 
  • Sip: Jim Dandy Brewing 

Idaho Winter Itinerary Day One 

  • Ski: Craters of the Moon National Monument
  • Sip & Sup: Milner’s Gate 
  • Stay: Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott
cross country skiing in Craters of the Moon visiting in winter

When we were deciding which things to see in Idaho on this trip, Craters of the Moon had to be at the top of the list. 

And when we visit Craters, we always stop at Pickle’s Place in Arco on the way through. There isn’t anywhere other than Arco to get food around the National Monument and we love their fried pickles, veggie burgers, and other diner food. It sounds strange, but I like to include it in what to see in Idaho. 

After our ski we drove to Twin Falls to spend the night. Again, there isn’t a lot around Craters of the Moon — that’s one of the reasons we love it — so you will probably want to find lodging in Twin Falls or Idaho Falls.

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

We’ve visited Craters of the Moon in every season except winter. I’ve seen pictures of the lava fields covered in snow and was itching to cross-country ski its groomed trails. 

The loop road through Craters is closed to vehicles in winter, but open to skiers and snowshoers. There are about 9 miles of groomed ski trail/road. The rangers recommend skiing it clockwise to avoid going down a steep hill. You can also telemark ski on the volcanic slopes of the cinder cones.

We skied to Devil’s Orchard as a family. It’s 1.8 miles each way and a short, scenic trip for those without the motivation to go farther. From there, I skied the rest of the loop while Henry and the kids returned to the visitor center. 

It was super fun and met my all my expectations. I highly recommend skiing the loop. It is about 6 miles total, including the Devil’s Orchard section, but not the trail to the Tree Molds (that’s another 3 miles).

If you don’t have skis, you can rent snowshoes at the visitor center for $5. Free guided snowshoe walks take place in January and February. The visitor center is open 8 am – 4:30 pm in winter and the Monument is free to enter during winter.

Tent camping is allowed in the campground in the Monument, as is backcountry camping with a permit.

Twin Falls 

When you are thinking about Twin Falls, Idaho, what to do may not be immediately apparent. With a little research we discovered a bunch of things to do in Twin Falls, starting with checking out a couple breweries. There are a lot of craft breweries in Idaho, so I wasn’t surprised to find two in Twin Falls.

breweries in Twin Falls Idaho, Milner's Gate

Both Idaho breweries are family-friendly and everyone can find something good to eat while the adults taste local craft beers. 

The first night we ate at Milner’s Gate, one of the fun places to go in Idaho. The atmosphere is industrial/cozy. I don’t know if that’s a proper description, but I am going with it. 

Henry and I sipped our beers by the fireplace (I recommend the Idahop IPA) while the kids played cards at the table. Everything we ordered was great, but we especially recommend the butternut squash ravioli (Anders’ pick) and the try-tip ramen bowl (without the tri-tip for me).

Fairfield Inn and Suites

We stayed at the Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott. It was clean, modern, comfortable, and well located. Plus, complimentary breakfast got us going in the morning.


Idaho Winter Itinerary Day Two

  • See: Snake River Canyon
  • Soak: Miracle and Banbury Hot Springs 
  • Sip & Sup: Koto Brewery 
  • Stay: Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott 
Things to do in idaho Shoshone Falls State Park Twin Falls

We started day two with a walk along the Canyon Rim Trails and the Centennial Trail. There are a couple places to access these trails. Seeing the dramatic Snake River Canyon, waterfalls, and adrenaline junkies, is one of the fun things to do in Idaho. We added this to our itinerary, even though it doesn’t involve skiing, soaking, or sipping (unless you count drinking from our water bottles). 

Stop for lunch at Elevation 486 and enjoy panoramic views of the Snake River Canyon or picnic outside Miracle Hot Springs, like we did. 

We finished the day at another brewery and spent the night at the Fairfield Inn again. 

Snake River Canyon

The Canyon Rim Trails start near the Twin Falls Visitor Center and can take you all the way to Shoshone Falls if you want to make the trek into the Snake River Canyon. Along the way, you can look for base jumpers leaping off the Perrine Bridge, views of the canyon, Pillar Falls, and the site where Evel Knievel attempted to jump across the Snake River Canyon on a steam-powered rocket. 

Overlooking the Snake River at Shoshone Falls State Park, Twin Falls Idaho

We started at Shoshone Falls Park and followed the Centennial Trail along the rim of the canyon 1.5 miles to the Evel Knievel jump site. The falls are a mere trickle in winter, but in spring it’s known as the “Niagara Falls of the West” thanks to the vast amounts of water plummeting over cliffs. The geologic features are stunning with or without water.

This is one of the Idaho places to visit that we’d like to come back to. Like Craters of the Moon, each season offers different views and various splendors. 

Parking is free in both places in winter.

Miracle and Banbury Hot Springs 

Miracle and Banbury Hot Springs are in in Buhl, about a 40 minute drive from Twin Falls. Either one makes a perfect addition to an Idaho winter trip. I think hot springs are a must see in Idaho (a must soak?) as there are more accessible hot springs here than any other state.

We soaked in Miracle Hot Springs and stopped at Banbury Hot Springs on the way back to Twin Falls to see what it was all about. Read more about Idaho hot springs.

Miracle Hot Springs near Twin Falls

Miracle quickly became one of our favorite hot springs in Idaho thanks to its clean pools and private soaking tubs. There are four big pools and several “VIP rooms,” which are small changing rooms with a little tub that four people can fit in. They also have a couple bigger private tubs. 

We moved between the four public pools, including one covered pool, and our private pool. The hot water was amazing. 

If you are so motivated, you can tent or RV camp, or rent a geo-dome for glamping. 

Banbury Hot Springs is owned by the same people and about a six minute drive from Miracle. It’s situated on the banks of the Snake River and also has a campground. Banbury was less crowded when we stopped by and had a huge log floating in the middle of the pool. I guess you can hang on it to stay afloat. Or maybe you try to run on it, as they do lumberjack competitions. 

Banbury Hot Springs Twin Falls

As part of our things to do in southern Idaho agenda, we will be back soon to soak in Banbury and check out nearby Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument and Ritter Island State Park.

Koto Brewery 

Back in Twin Falls, we found out that another traveling family, our good friends from Let’s Travel Family were just back from southeast Asia and passing through Twin Falls. We all met up at the Koto Brewery for dinner. 

Kyoto Brewery beer tasting in Idaho

The six kids loved playing foosball, while Henry and I enjoyed a tasting flight of beers and we all ate. My favorite beer was the West Coast IPA and popular meals included blackened salmon tacos (me), beef ribs (Jill and Tony), and the rice bowl (Anders).

Fairfield Inn and Suites

We stayed at the Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott. It was clean, modern, comfortable, and well located. Plus, complimentary breakfast got us going in the morning.


Idaho Winter Itinerary Day Three

  • Ski: Pomerelle Mountain Resort
  • Sip & Sup: Portneuf Valley Brewing
  • Stay: Holiday Inn Express

Winter getaways in Idaho need to include downhill skiing, right? For our third day we checked out some of the best Idaho snow at Pomerelle Mountain Resort. 

Then it was on to Pocatello for dinner and two night’s stay. 

skiing in Idaho at Pomerlle

Pomerelle Mountain Resort 

Pomerelle is about halfway between Twin Falls and Pocatello and tucked back in the Albion Mountains. As intermediate skiers, this ski area suit us perfectly. 

Pomerelle Mountain Resort caters to beginning skiers/snowboarders and families. The runs are wide and gentle. Even the black diamond (most difficult) runs were pretty manageable, and I am an intermediate skier. 

We appreciated the emphasis on learning to ski or snowboard and having fun on the hill. Anders and Finn took a lesson and skied away better than they started. We think it’s so important to learn the right form and skills as they progress. Spending time perfecting the basics now will make them much better, and safer, skiers in the long run.

learning to ski at Pomerlle in Idaho

Because Pomerelle sits at 8,000 feet, the snow comes earlier and stays later than some of the other resorts in the area. Even during a dry winter, the snow was pretty great.

We found 24 expertly groomed slopes, two terrain parks, and a vertical drop of 1,000 feet, serviced by two triple chairlifts and the 450’ Magic Carpet beginners lift.

Days like we had at Pomerelle make me really like skiing. Whenever I think of Idaho things to do in winter, this will be one of the first things to come mind.

Portneuf Valley Brewing 

Once again we answered the question, “What to do in Idaho?” with “beer tasting and dinner.”

This family brew pub is owned by beer mistress Penny Pink. She’s been brewing beer since 1996 and the brewery is now in a cool old building that was once home to the East Idaho Brewing Company.

Portneuf Idaho craft brewery

As usual, I leaned toward the IPA, here called Grog. For food choices, we went with a California Dreaming pizza that we all enjoyed. Portneuf Valley Brewing

Find other fun things to do in Pocatello, Idaho.

Holiday Inn Express

We spent the night at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Pocatello. It’s our second time staying there and we love the view from the top of the hill. The new hotel looks good and has a great lounge for hanging out or working in. 

We got the family suite, which is two connected rooms (no door between them). One room had a king bed and the other had a bunk bed. Both had TVs and the kids’ room had an X-Box, much to the delight of Finn and Anders. 


Idaho Winter Itinerary Day Four

  • Ski: Kelly Canyon Ski Resort 
  • Sip & Sup: Heise Pizza 
  • Soak: Heise Hot Springs
  • Stay: Holiday Inn Express

We had a leisurely morning at the hotel, working and playing X-Box games, since Kelly Canyon doesn’t open until 12:30, but you could do one of the other fun things to do in Pocatello.

Kelly Canyon is closer to Idaho Falls than Pocatello, but since we wanted to do other things near Pocatello it made more sense for us to stay there. It makes for a perfect Idaho Falls winter excursion, if you choose to stay there.

After our ski, we stopped at a hot spring resort we noticed on the way in and learned a lesson in always being prepared.

riding the lift at Kelly Canyon ski area in Idaho

Kelly Canyon Ski Resort 

Because of its proximity to Rexburg, home of a university, and Idaho Falls, Kelly Canyon is one of the more popular things to do in eastern Idaho. That said, it wasn’t crowded at all on the Thursday we visited.

Kelly Canyon offers a variety of terrain for all ability levels. Four double chairs and one surface lift service 688 skiable acres and 1,000 feet of vertical drop. The slopes are rated 35% easiest, 45% more difficult, and 20% most difficult. 

Like Pomerlle, there is a family-friendly atmosphere at Kelly Canyon and the views from the top were outstanding. 

They don’t open until the afternoon during the week, and are closed on Sundays, but they offer night skiing on two-thirds of the 51 runs until 9:30 pm.

In addition to alpine skiing, they offer trails for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and fat biking.

Kelly Canyon Idaho Ski

Heise Hot Springs Resort

On the way down the hill from Kelly Canyon, we stopped at Heise Pizza for dinner. While not a brewery, they have several craft brews on tap and in bottles. 

The homey atmosphere is complete with a friendly cat on the deck and huge wood stove in the middle of the room. There is a game room downstairs. We scarfed down two yummy large pizzas before driving back to Pocatello. 

The hot springs are adjacent to the pizza place. In a total rookie move, we left our swimsuits at the hotel and didn’t get to soak. You, however, should take a dip and tell me about it in the comments. It looks quite inviting.

Heise Hot Springs Resort 

Holiday Inn Express and Suites

We spent another night at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Pocatello.


Idaho Winter Itinerary Day Five

  • Ski: East Fork Mink Creek Nordic Center 
  • Soak: Lava Hot Springs 

One of the fun things to do in Pocatello, Idaho I have been wanting to check out is the cross-country ski trails in the Mink Creek area. That’s how we started our final day of our winter adventure road trip.

A hot spring should always follow a ski, so I recommend a stop at Lava Hot Springs on your way out of town. 

cross country skiing near Pocatello

East Fork Mink Creek Nordic Center

As we wound our way up the Mink Creek drainage, it was hard to believe we were only seven miles from Pocatello – it seems like another, wilder world. This is one of the really lovely places to see in Idaho with aspen groves, conifer stands, and open sagebrush meadows.

East Fork Mink Creek Nordic Center has about 20 kilometers of groomed classic and skate cross-country ski trails, snowshoe trails, a sledding hill, a warming yurt, plus ski and snowshoe rentals and lessons. 

The terrain varies from flat trails along the creek to hills as you ski into the mountains. Since there are many loops and cutoffs, you can create whatever distance and type of ski tour you want. 

Cross-country skiing is our family’s go-to winter sport and we loved checking out this area. The skiers of Pocatello are lucky to have this in their backyard. East Fork Mink Creek Nordic Center 

Nordic skiing in Idaho winter road triip

Lava Hot Springs 

If you look up where to go in Idaho, no doubt Lave Hot Springs will come up. It’s definitely one of the most well known hot springs in a state full of hot water. 

The town of Lava Hot Springs is built around tourism to the mineral pools. There are restaurants, bars, hotels, campgrounds, souvenir shops, and sunken gardens.

There are both indoor and outdoor hot springs pools open in winter. Lava Hot Springs has a whole complex of pools from a kiddie pool to soaking tubs.

Lava Hot Springs 

Heading Home

That was it for us. We had a wonderful time playing in the snow and hot water as a family. As the kids get older it hits me more and more that they won’t be living with us forever. It won’t be long before they have their own stuff going on and won’t be available for these kids of trips. 

Thanks to Visit Idaho for hosting us and giving us to opportunity to be together in a gorgeous setting. 

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