IDAHO was the last of the states to be penetrated by white settlers, and in 1805, Lewis and Clark declared central Idaho’s bewildering labyrinth of razor-edged peaks and wild waterways the most difficult leg of their epic trek. Though much of its scenery deserves national-park status, its citizens have long been suspicious of the government. It remains one of the country’s most environmentally compelling places, despite widespread anti-environmental attitudes. Indeed, the name “Idaho” was promoted by a mining lobbyist, who claimed it was a Shoshone word meaning “gem of the mountains”; he later admitted to making it up.

Idaho is a great destination for the outdoors enthusiast: natural wonders in its five-hundred-mile stretch include Hells Canyon, America’s deepest river gorge, the dramatic Sawtooth National Recreation Area, and the black, barren Craters of the Moon – not to mention the skiing mecca of Sun Valley. Beyond these, hikers and backpackers have the choice of some eighty mountain ranges, interspersed with virgin forest and lava plateaus, while the mighty Snake and Salmon rivers offer endless fishing and whitewater rafting.

To this day, there is no east–west road across the heart of the state, and the central wilderness divides the state in half. The heavily forested north is interspersed with glacial lakes fronted by resorts like Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene; in the south, irrigation begun in the 1880s has transformed the scrubland along the Snake River into the fertile fields responsible for the state’s license-plate tag of “Famous Potatoes”.

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  • The Sawtooth Mountains
  • The Nez Percé