Water Locations in Idaho

Packsaddle Lake

Packsaddle Lake


Unique Photo Locations in Idaho: Water Locations 

Idaho is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the United States. The state of Idaho rests between the west coast and the majestic Rocky Mountains. Idaho boasts stunning white topped mountains, sandy dunes, and mile after mile of lush forests. If you’re looking for a stunning location to take photos in Idaho, there are almost endless options. But there’s one kind of natural backdrop that’s often overlooked: Idaho’s water locations. 

As a portrait photographer, I’m always looking for the best locations to take memorable, unique shots. And the lakes, rivers, and waterfalls of Idaho are can’t-miss locations. Water backdrops are great for both casual photoshoots with friends and professional shoots. For portraits, water backdrops can provide a complementary natural backdrop if you’re going for a rustic, natural look. They’re also excellent for providing contrast. There’s something truly magical about shooting upscale attire in nature. Wearing a gown in front of a shimmering, rocky waterfall gives a photograph a whimsical, fairytale feel that’s nothing short of enchanting. 

Whatever vibe you’re going for with your photographs, the water locations of Idaho can enhance it. And as I mentioned before, many people overlook water locations when searching for a photo spot, which means your photographs will be more unique if you head to the water. 

In this post, I’ll cover six unique water locations in Idaho to use for photos. Because these are unique locations, some are a bit hard to find if you rely only on your GPS. So, I’ve also included directions for every location to help you actually get to your unique photo location of choice. 

Packsaddle Lake 

The blue waters of Packsaddle Lake are simply mesmerizing. Located in southeast Idaho (in Caribou-Targhee National Forest, near Driggs), Packsaddle Lake is surrounded by dense forests. The trees surrounding the lake reflect in its water, making this location particularly picturesque. 

Additionally, Packsaddle Lake often has driftwood at its edges, which can add a unique, rustic touch to photographs. Packsaddle Lake also has a rope swing, which is fun to swing on and can make for some fun photographs if you’re feeling adventurous. 

————>Directions to Packsaddle Lake<—————--

Packsaddle Lake can be a bit tricky to find if you’ve never been there before. But finding it is well worth the journey to get yourself some incredible shots by the lake. 

>>>To get to Packsaddle Lake, head north on Highway 20 toward St. Anthony. Take exit 339 toward Driggs and drive 25.3 miles until you see the sign that says “Hoopes, Echo Ranch.” Then, turn right. Just short of two miles down this road, turn right on Packsaddle Lake Road. Many people choose to hike to the lake from here but, if you’re headed to the lake to take photos, you’ll probably want to drive further down the road to save yourself from sweating too much. You can get much closer to the lake by continuing along Packsaddle Lake Road, which is beautiful in and of itself, for another 1.8 miles. At this point, you’ll reach a fork in the road. If you have a truck or SUV with four wheel drive, you can continue driving left at the fork for a bit longer. But, if you don’t, your short hike to the lake begins now. 

>>>>Head down the left fork and continue along the dirt road for half a mile to a mile, when you’ll reach the top of this hike’s hill. From here, you can see a trail with a steeper descent, which is the trail that leads to Packsaddle Lake. This trail does descend steeply, so make sure you’re wearing good hiking shoes as you walk to the lake (if you want to wear different shoes when you take pics, just have those in your bag). This part of the trail is steep but quite short. In around a quarter to a half a mile, you’ll find yourself at Packsaddle Lake, where you’re sure to get some gorgeous photos. 

Sheep Falls 

Sheep Falls is a low, rushing waterfall that rests along the Snake River. You’ll find Sheep Falls along the North Fork of the Snake River near Island Park. The area around Sheep Falls is loved by more advanced kayakers, thanks to its rushing rapids. These rapids make this part of the river excellent for a thrilling trip in a kayak, but also make it highly photogenic, especially at the waterfall itself. 

Sheep Falls cuts through the entirety of Snake River, so while the waterfall is low, it’s still quite dramatic. And at the waterfall, there’s a perfect spot to pose: the cliffs directly next to the falls. Sheep Falls is also rarely crowded, so you’ll probably have the waterfall to yourself if you choose this gorgeous photo location. 

———>Directions to Sheep Falls<————-

>>>>Sheep Falls can be reached by hiking the Sheep Falls Hiking Trail. From the trailhead, it’s only a short and easy 15 minute hike to Sheep Falls. 

To get to the trailhead of Sheep Falls Hiking Trail, travel along Highway 20, north of Ashton, Idaho, toward Sheep Falls Road. If you’re headed south on Highway 20, there’s a sign for Sheep Falls Road. But if you’re headed north on Highway 20, the road isn’t marked, so take the first right after milepost 369 to turn on Sheep Falls Road. Once you’re on Sheep Falls Road, you’ll drive for 2.45 miles until you reach a four way intersection. Turn left here and you’ll reach the trailhead for Sheep Falls in .2 miles. 

Transportation Consideration: If the weather is good, a two wheel drive car can drive down Sheep Falls Road. But if you’re headed to Sheep Falls when the weather is a bit rough, you may need to take a car with four wheel drive to be able to drive on Sheep Falls Road. 

Lake Pend Orielle 

Lake Pend Orielle is an enormous (and incredibly beautiful) lake located in northern Idaho. This massive lake has a surface area of 148 square miles, making it the largest lake in Idaho. With so much water to explore, there’s plenty to do at Lake Pend Orielle— and plenty of great spots to take pictures. 

Lake Pend Orielle has so many excellent picture spots. Lake Pend Orielle has campgrounds (like Whiskey Rock), gravel beaches (like the ones off the Sunnyside Loop), recreation sites (like Sam Owen), and miles of forests that run all around the lake. There are also mountains that run around the lake, which look stunning in photographs. 

If you aren’t familiar with Lake Pend Orielle and aren’t sure which part of the lake you might want to head to for photos, taking a scenic drive around the lake would be a great way to scope it out. The city of Sandpoint (which is right on the edge of the northern edge of the lake) has a great map on their website that can help you find a scenic drive near you. 

———>Directions to Lake Pend Orielle<————

Unlike some of the smaller locations on this list, Lake Pend Orielle is quite easy to find. And it’s also very easy to drive to. While there are hiking trails that head to the lake (such as the Maiden Rock Trail), you can also drive directly to the lake and park nearby. Since Lake Pend Orielle is so large and easy to access, I’d recommend just looking up driving directions to the lake from your home. But here are some of the highways that’ll take you there: 

If you’re coming from the east, you’ll travel along Highway 200 to reach the lake. From the south or north, travel toward the lake on Highway 95. From the west, you can take either Highway 2 (to reach the top of the lake) or Highway 54 (to reach the bottom of the lake). 

Big Fiddler Creek Falls 

With a height of over 250 feet, Big Fiddler Creek Falls is Idaho’s second highest waterfall. Located along the southern edge of the Sawtooth National Forest, Big Fiddler Creek Falls cascades down a rocky, boulder laden precipice and is surrounded by tall trees. 

Big Fiddler Creek Falls makes a stunning backdrop for photos. It’s also often deserted, so you should have no trouble with bystanders edging their way into your photos. 

It is very important to note, however, that this waterfall is seasonal. It runs only in the early spring, after winter’s ice begins melting. If you head there in the winter, fall, summer, or sometimes even in late spring, you might find that there’s only craggy rock where the waterfall should be. So, be sure to time out your trip to Big Fiddler Creek Falls to make sure the waterfall will be flowing when you’re there for your shoot. 

Directions to Big Fiddler Creek Falls

Big Fiddler Creek Falls is located at the southern edge of the Sawtooth National Forest, around an hour and half from Boise. To get there, take I-84 and exit at Mountain Home, then continue for around 20 miles north on Highway 20. Then merge onto Road #134, which you’ll take for 5 miles. Turn left on Road #113 and continue 2 miles to Prairie, where you’ll hit a junction. Then, turn left and drive for 2.4 miles til you hit the Road #189 junction. Then, turn west onto Road #189 and head into South Fork Canyon drive for 5.7 miles. There, you’ll find Big Fiddler Creek Falls. 

These directions are a bit complicated, I know. Big Fiddler Creek Falls is a less well-known waterfall and getting to it can be a bit challenging if you’ve never been there before. However, if you get lost, just stop in the small town of Prairie and ask one of the friendly locals to guide you to the Falls. 

Fall Creek Falls 

Fall Creek Falls is a waterfall location that actually features many waterfalls, which are grouped together in a picture-perfect arrangement. Fall Creek Falls flows into the winding Snake River and is located in eastern Idaho next to Swan Valley. This water location is great for portraits or couples shots but is also an excellent option for larger group shots, thanks to the width of the falls. 

For the most dramatic pictures, head to Fall Creek Falls in the spring, when the most water is flowing. Fall Creek Falls is also particularly breathtaking during golden hour (at Sunrise or Sunset), when the golden glow of the rising or setting sun graces the Falls. 

Directions to Fall Creek Falls

You won’t need to hike to Fall Creek Falls, as there’s a road a mere 20 to 40 feet from the falls. This road (Snake River-Palisades Dam Road) is south of Snake River, so it’s on the opposite side of the river from Swan Valley. 

To get to Snake River-Palisades Dam Road, take US-26 E (head west if coming from Swan Valley or Alpine and east if you’re coming from Idaho Falls). Then, take the exit for Snake River-Palisades Road (which is a gravel road). Drive for a short 1.4 miles until you see a wide spot in the road, where you can park very close to Fall Creek Falls. 

Shadow Falls 

While the waterfall at Shadow Falls isn’t the tallest on this list, there’s something that makes Shadow Falls an utterly unique photo location: the moss that covers everything around the waterfall. The mist that comes off this waterfall lets the moss that grows on its surrounding rocks and trees thrive. The bright green hue of the moss contrasts beautifully with the dark color of the rocks and the bright white color of the waterfall, giving Shadow Falls an otherworldly beauty. 

Shadow Falls is one of the most popular locations on this list. It’s easy to access and is absolutely stunning, so it draws a little more traffic. If you head to Shadow Falls to take photos, just remember that you may have take breaks to let other passersby take some shots of their own. It’s never really crowded at Shadow Falls but you’re more likely to see other people here than at some of the other waterfalls on this list. 

Directions to Shadow Falls 

Shadow Falls is one of the easiest waterfalls on this guide to find. Shadow Falls is located near Wallace, Idaho and rests along the Couer D’Alene River in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. To reach Shadow Falls, you’ll need to hike a short trail, which is less than a mile long. Along this trail, you’ll first see another waterfall, Fern Falls, but keep going a bit and you’ll reach Shadow Falls. 

To reach the top of the trail to Shadow Falls, take I-90 to Kingston Exit #43 (you’ll be heading east if you’re coming from Coeur d’Alene). Then, travel north on Forest Highway 9 for 23.1 miles to Forest Road #208. Take this road for 14.4 miles until you reach Beetle Creek Road, where you’ll turn off. From here, you’ll see signs that will lead you to Shadow Falls (you’ll drive for 4.5 more miles on Beetle Creek Road). At the trailhead, there’s a small parking lot where you can easily park. Then, make your way along the trail by foot until you reach Shadow Falls.