Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Garden Valley, ID

  • Published 2023/03/19

Garden Valley is an unincorporated census-designated place in Boise County, Idaho.

Spanning 7.632 square miles, the mountainous community is mostly land, terrific for hiking, ATV/AUV adventures, whitewater rafting, and fishing.

The village also becomes a winter wonderland, attracting tourists for a cozy weekend getaway in its hot springs.

The Valley becomes a bed of wildflowers and a haven for rare birds and wildlife species during the spring and summer.

Historically, the people of Garden Valley have relied on logging, mining, and ranching as the primary source of livelihood.

More recently, guided hunting has become one of the village’s main attractions as tourists discover the place.

Here are the best things to do in Garden Valley, Idaho:

Grab Dinner at Dirty Shame Saloon

Located on South Middlefork Road is the bar and grill Dirty Shame Saloon.

The casual restaurant is known for its cowboy-style menu, specialty drinks, and all-wood interior that will transport you to a late 1800s watering hole.

Order one of Dirty Shame Saloon’s pizzas, made with hand-rolled crust and topped with fresh ingredients.

You can even build your gluten-free pizza and choose the ten-inch broccoli and cheese crust toppings.

If you’re craving a burger, try the Elk / Wagyu Burger made of a seven-ounce mixed elk and wagyu patty, topped with chopped smoked brisket, and served with house-made onion rings.

Other must-tries are finger steaks and fried pickles.

The saloon has perfect patio seating during the warmer months and live music on select nights.

Explore a Winter Wonderland with Idaho Sleigh Rides

Located on Banks Lowman is tour organizer Idaho Sleigh Rides.

Every winter, the tour company conducts sleigh rides and elk viewing, taking visitors through the snowy forests of Garden Valley.

Old-fashioned sleighs pulled by black and white spotted draft horses will bring you close to herds of wild elk roaming freely around the snow-covered terrain.

Large sleighs can fit up to 12 passengers, while miniature sleighs accommodate four.

You’ll receive hot drinks and snacks at the lodge at the end of the tour.

The lodge also offers Dutch Oven Dinners, which, as you might’ve guessed, are dishes cooked in Dutch ovens, thick-walled cooking pots.

Conquer the Payette River with Idaho Whitewater Unlimited

Idaho Whitewater Unlimited is a whitewater raft outfitter, rental, and tour company located on Banks Lowman Road.

Founded in 1988, IWU conducts professionally guided river trips along the Payette River.

You can choose from seven guided river trips, depending on how much challenge you can take.

There are full-day trips, including the eight-mile Cabarton Float, which will take you from Cabarton Bridge to Smith’s Ferry, and the Combo Full-Day Float from the IWU Office to Beehive Bend.

For newbie whitewater rafters, the Main Payette half-day trip is recommended.

The eight-mile float begins from the Banks and goes through family-friendly class III rapids on the Main Payette River.

Book your trip with Idaho Whitewater Unlimited and experience the rapids of the Payette River.

Catch a Show at the Starlight Mountain Theatre

Located on South Middlefork Road is the Starlight Mountain Theatre.

The outdoor theater stages small musical productions and conducts summer camps for kids who want to explore theater.

Founded by R. Ed Davis, its executive and artistic director, Starlight Mountain Theatre produces local adaptations of well-loved musicals like The Wizard of Oz, Footloose, and High School Musical.

The theatre rotates different plays and musicals every summer on various nights.

With the gorgeous Valley as the backdrop, catching a show at the Starlight Mountain Theatre is a unique experience.

Also on the theatre’s grounds are camping and RV sites for those who want to spend the night on the banks of Middle Fork Payette.

Explore the Trails with Garden Valley UTV Rentals

Located on South Middlefork Road is ATV rental service Garden Valley UTV Rentals.

Rent your own UTV and explore the mountainous terrains of Garden Valley.

Six-seater passenger UTVs can fit the whole gang for a day of off-road adventure and sightseeing.

For leisure hunters, you can rent a side-by-side for a quick hunting trip down the banks of Middle Fork Payette.

Garden Valley UTV Rentals also offers fat tire e-bikes for solo travelers and kayak rentals for those who want to try Payette River’s whitewater rapids.

Try Fine Dining at the Two Rivers Restaurant

The Two Rivers Restaurant is located on Old Crouch Road.

Founded by Robert and Elizabeth Harold, the restaurant is known for its relaxed atmosphere and log cabin-style interior.

Two Rivers has a hearty lunch menu with favorites like the Chef Salad and the half-pounder burgers made with char-grilled American Kobe bend patties.

For a healthier alternative, go for the salmon burger, made with a wild-caught salmon patty and drizzled with house-made aioli sauce.

The dinner menu includes the best-selling Rock Salt Roasted Prime Rib, made with seasoned aged rib and buried in rock salt.

Another must-try is the Alaskan Halibut, grilled to perfection and served with flavored butter.

Grab Breakfast at Wild Bill’s Coffee and Bistro

Located on South Middlefork Road is the café and restaurant Wild Bill’s Coffee and Bistro.

It serves all-day breakfast staples, including omelets, sandwiches, wraps, coffee, and tea.

Wild Bill’s Coffee and Bistro’s omelet is made with two eggs and your choice of meat, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, and shredded Monterey jack cheese and served with toast or steamed red potatoes.

Try the Wild Alaskan Salmon Breakfast consisting of fresh wild Alaskan salmon, two eggs, and toast or steamed red potatoes.

The turkey club panini is also a must-try, made with turkey ham, bacon, and cheddar cheese.

However, the crowd drawer is the flakey homemade biscuits that pair well with butter.

Try Coffee and Pastries at the Mud Room

Located on South Middlefork Road is the café and restaurant, the Mud Room.

The family-owned and operated coffee house offers an all-day breakfast and a rotation of pastries made fresh every day.

The Mud Room is known for its breakfast menu, which includes hefty breakfast sandwiches and wraps, burritos, and pies.

A must-try is the breakfast burrito filled with sausage, cheese, and egg and served with salsa and sour cream.

Another best-seller is the breakfast sandwich, a house-made English muffin filled with sausage, egg, and American cheese.

Don’t forget to check out the pastry display and grab a freshly baked muffin with your latte or hot chocolate.

Hit a Birdie at Terrace Lakes Resort

The Terrace Lakes Resort has a tour-level golf course on Holiday Drive.

The 18-hole golf course is set against the beautiful Boise National Forest, offering well-maintained greens and scenic mountain views.

Garden Valley’s natural hilly terrain adds to the challenge of the course, which golfers of all skill levels will surely appreciate.

The course is designed to blend in with the forest surroundings, so don’t be surprised if you see some wild deer and elk roaming around.

The first nine holes are open areas, while the others are scattered throughout the mountainside and creeks.

If you feel like shopping, Terrace Lakes Resort’s Golf Shop has the latest gear and equipment.

And if your muscles are feeling a bit tight, you can use the geothermal pool for a post-game treat.

Experience Ranch Life at Walk on the Wild Side Bed & Breakfast

Walk on the Wild Side Bed & Breakfast is on River Ranch Road.

The bed & breakfast is a renovated 1930s Idaho ranch house set against the Middle Fork of the Payette River.

Originally called Beck Ranch House, Walk on the Wild Side Bed & Breakfast has two private rooms that you can book for overnight stays.

The Shadow Room features antique furnishings, a queen size Victorian bed, and a stock tank Jacuzzi whirlpool spa with a view of the mountains.

The cabin-themed Call of the Wild Room is handicap-friendly and has adaptive equipment in the bathroom.

Wild Side is just a few miles from the Boise National Forest entrance and the Payette River South Fork entrance if you want an adventure.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Cross the Rainbow Bridge

Daytime view of Rainbow Bridge

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Take a 39-minute drive from Garden Valley to reach the Rainbow Bridge on Highway 55 in Cascade, Idaho.

Officially named the North Fork Payette River Bridge, the Rainbow Bridge was constructed in 1933 using emergency relief funds granted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The bridge crosses over the North Fork of the Payette River above Smith’s Ferry, spanning 410 feet.

It has an open-spandrel design and is made of concrete, becoming the longest bridge in Idaho.

The bridge is still widely considered an engineering marvel, showcasing the cutting-edge technology of the time.

Drive along the Payette River Scenic Byway

Located 37 minutes from Garden Valley is the Payette River Scenic Byway on Highway 55 in Smiths Ferry, Idaho.

The byway is 112 miles and spans four counties, taking around two hours to get from the City of Eagle to the City of New Meadows.

The Payette River Scenic Byway has access to thousands of miles of recreational trails, whitewater adventures, and picturesque viewpoints.

The two-lane road follows the Payette River and takes you through a valley surrounded by mountain peaks.

Along the way, there are plenty of viewing decks where you can pull over, take photos, and appreciate Idaho’s natural beauty.

Challenge Yourself at Cascade Rope Challenge and Ziplines

Located 23 minutes from Garden Valley, Cascade Rope Challenge and Ziplines is in Horseshoe Bend, Idaho.

The high ropes course features a 17-element ropes challenge set against the scenic North Fork of the Payette River.

The course is a mixture of rope challenges and six zip lines that will take you from one tree to another.

The whole thing takes two to three hours to complete.

It has obstacles like rope bridges, moving platforms, swinging log steps, and aerial tightropes directly above the lush Idaho forests.

Cascade Rope Challenge and Ziplines will test your physical and mental fitness, so this is the perfect activity for thrill-seekers.

Spend the Day at the Montour Wildlife Management Area

Located 49 minutes from Garden Valley is the Montour Wildlife Management Area on Montour Road, Emmett, Idaho.

The 1,100-acre wildlife protection area was established in 1976 after the construction of Black Canyon Dam blocked the water in the Montour area.

The Montour Wildlife Management Area comprises wetlands and ponds home to rare wildlife species, including waterfowl, raptors, and other upland game.

Fishing can be done along the Payette River, stocked with rainbow trout, cutbow, and arctic grayling.

The Black Canyon Dam Park offers plenty of shade, picnic tables, and grills for those wanting a picnic.

Dine by the River at Locking Horns Riverside Restaurant

Thirty-four minutes from Garden Valley is Locking Horns Riverside Restaurant on Payette River Avenue, Horseshoe Bend.

The restaurant serves classic American dishes with a picturesque view of Horseshoe Bend and surrounding areas.

Locking Horns Riverside Restaurant is housed in a historic train depot that will transport you back in time.

There is ample patio seating if you want to enjoy drinks overlooking the Payette River.

The finger steaks, sockeye salmon, and the Riverside Burger are must-tries.

Final Thoughts

Garden Valley may be small but it has heart-racing adventures and filling culinary finds.

Thrill-seekers will surely enjoy a quick getaway to this community thanks to its beautiful terrains and the whitewater rapids of Payette River.

So, if you’re up for some adventure, try the best things to do in Garden Valley, Idaho.

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