Road Trip through Central Idaho

View of the Sawtooth Range from the Inferno Cone at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

A road trip through Central Idaho shouldn’t be rushed. A wonderful diversion from the 80mph views on Interstate 84 is the slower and picturesque expanse spanning Idaho Falls and Mountain Home along US 20.

I spent the better part of yesterday and today poking my way around the region, in the shadows of the snow-capped Sawtooth Mountains to the north and looking out onto the unworldly lava flow comprising the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve to the south.

North Crater Flow Trail at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

North Crater Flow Trail at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

Hub-and-spoking my adventure out from Hailey, a county seat of about 8,000 residents, a sunny morning forecast had me out in the direction of Craters of the Moon for the first part of the day.

Downtown Hailey, Idaho

Downtown Hailey, Idaho

Where to Stay

Find family-friendly accommodations in Central Idaho from traditional hotels to private vacation rentals through Stay22.com:

Using the America the Beautiful parks pass for a daily admission, exploration of the park started in the small, but interpretive, Visitor Center and then out through seven key points of interest along paved roads leading guests into the 750,000-acre preserve formed as lava flowed and cooled from volcanic fissures in the earth over 2100 years ago.

Craters of the Moon Visitor Center

Craters of the Moon Visitor Center

Park highlights include paved trails, lava tubes, caves, cones, fissures, and panoramic views. Leave between two and three hours to fully explore the park; noting camping is available if you want turn your visit into an overnight stay. Bring plenty of water and wear a hat—as you can imagine, reprieve from the sun is scarce in place where only the most determined trees dare grow.

Downtown Ketchum, Idaho

Downtown Ketchum, Idaho

With rain clouds off in the distance, I headed back through Hailey and continued north eleven miles in the direction of Ketchum and Sun Valley. I visited this popular wintertime ski destination in my college years and always wanted to come back and see the area without the snow and tourists.

Ernest Hemingway Grave in Ketchum, Idaho

Ernest Hemingway Grave in Ketchum, Idaho

As I predicted, much of the downtown shopping district was advertising sidewalk sales and many of the museums and summer attractions weren’t quite open for the pre-Memorial Day crowd. I embraced this good fortune and enjoyed a quiet stroll through the Ketchum Cemetery in search of Ernest Hemingway’s final resting place.

A light rain was falling and I eventually found a flat, marble, marker between two stately pine trees. Obviously, respect the sanctity of this venue if you venture out to find it on your own.

Tibetan Prayer Wheel at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden near Ketchum, Idaho

Tibetan Prayer Wheel at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden near Ketchum, Idaho

Perhaps my favorite discovery of the day was the festive Tibetan prayer wheel in the heart of the Garden of Infinite Compassion, one of eight beautiful gardens located within the Sawtooth Botanical Garden approximately three or four miles south of Ketchum.

Small, but lovely, look for garden expansion in the coming seasons; I spotted a children’s splash area in the master site design. If you have a picnic basket, stop here and spread out a blanket.

Mountain Views Flank the AmericInn in Hailey, Idaho

Mountain Views Flank the AmericInn in Hailey, Idaho

Back in Hailey and staying at the AmericInn, I’m enjoying the soft rustle of aspen leaves from outside my window. Families staying at this property will appreciate a heated pool/sauna/steam room, exercise equipment, laundry facilities, in-room refrigerator and microwave, comfortable beds, and hot breakfast.

A short walk to the stores and restaurants lining downtown Hailey, note a grocery store and movie theater are both conveniently located just across the street. If you go, look for a collection of board games and decks of cards in the treasure chest located near the fireplace in the two-story lobby. And if you are traveling with your dog, ask for one of the pet-friendly rooms.

AmericInn Lobby in Hailey, Idaho

AmericInn Lobby in Hailey, Idaho

I’m writing this story as part of a spontaneous adventure exploring the sites and scenery around AmericInn locations in Idaho, Wyoming, and South Dakota. AmericInn is giving away ninety-two $200 vouchers as part of the Fill-Inn-to-Win game running through August 31. Read more information here: https://www.roadtripsforfamilies.com/americinn-fill-inn-win-game/

Good luck and happy trails!

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About the Author

Julie Henning
Julie Henning is a freelance writer and journalist based out of Eugene, Oregon. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and owner of the family-travel website RoadTripsForFamilies.com. She is a recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. Julie is the Oregon Coast destination specialist for Bindu Media, an itinerary-focused website launching in Spring 2016 and featuring the work of 200+ professional, indie travel writers. Julie has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal, The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Illinois), the Rochester Post Bulletin, Wisconsin Natural Resources (DNR) Magazine, Sustainable Chicago Magazine, Group Tour Magazine, Student Group Tour Magazine, Silent Sports Magazine, Intercom Magazine, Roadtrippers.com, and FTF Geocacher Magazine. Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio and is an affiliate producer with the Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast. She has blogged for TravelWisconsin.com, Travel Oregon, and VISIT Milwaukee. Julie travels with her three kids and black lab as much as possible and lives by the motto, "Not all who wander are lost." Check out some of her best work at www.juliehenning.com.