You’ll be blown away by all of the adventures that lie ahead for you and your crew in this underrated family vacation spot, where you can climb record-breaking sand dunes, explore underground lava worlds, and raft some of the most pristine rivers in the country. Do we have your attention? Here are eight Idaho family vacation ideas that we think will excite the whole fam.
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The ultimate family vacation is waiting for you in Idaho
1) Bike the Route of the Hiawatha
It was one of the most scenic railways in the country, and now it’s a bike trail like no other. Rent bikes for the whole family and grab a Hiawatha Trail pass from Lookout Pass Ski Area. Then, ride the exhilarating 15-mile, relatively flat trail through 10 covered tunnels and seven canyon-spanning trestles in the Bitterroot Mountains. Don’t forget your headlamps for the 1.6-mile long St. Paul Pass Tunnel. The trail is typically open the end of May through mid-September and advanced reservations are encouraged.
2) Board down a sand mountain
Rising 470 feet high, Bruneau Dunes State Park is home to the tallest single-structured sand dune in North America. Explore the dunes on foot, or try out sandboarding! You can rent a board from the park visitor center. Besides massive amounts of sand, the park is also home to Bruneau Dunes Observatory. Stay the night and take advantage of the observatory’s late night star-gazing program which runs April through mid-October on Friday and Saturday nights.
3) Conquer the rapids
A Lower Salmon River rafting trip offers exhilarating Class III rapids through four distinct gorges, a variety of boat options, and camp life that can’t be beat. Huge sandy beaches in the middle of nowhere offer up the ideal playground for families to swim, start a game of beach volleyball, or once the sun goes down, cozy up together for epic stargazing deep in Idaho’s wilderness. Four- and 5-day trips are available July through September.
4) Stay at a dude ranch
Have an authentic western vacation, filled with plenty of adventure, at Idaho’s Red Horse Mountain Ranch. During their summer all-inclusive family weeks, kids can learn how to kayak, fly fish, shoot a bow and arrow, ride a horse, or even go climbing as part of the ranch’s Kids Program. You can join in on the fun and watch them step outside their comfort zones, or head out for an adventure of your own like a tranquil paddle on nearby Thomson Lake.
5) Hike a mountain
The mountain resort town of Sun Valley may be best known for its skiing, but with nearly 400 miles of singletrack trail nearby, hiking options abound in the warmer months. For families who want to get all of the glory of making it to the top of 9,159 foot Bald Mountain without the 11-mile roundtrip trek, take the chair lift to the top, soak up the panoramic view of some of Idaho’s tallest peaks, and then make the shorter trek down to the bottom. Or, vice versa if you’re family is up for a challenge.
6) Visit the Moon
You’ll feel like you’ve landed on the moon when you visit Craters of the Moon National Monument, a one-of-a-kind volcanic masterpiece. The 60 distinct lava flows found here range in age from 15,000 to 2,000 years. Want to go below ground? The 1.6-mile Caves Trail gives you access to four different lava tubes that you can navigate through. Make sure to grab a cave permit and headlamp before heading underground.
7) Climb through a city…of granite
Impressive arches, granite spires and pinnacles scattered throughout a vast and otherworldly landscape, plus more than 500 climbing routes, make City of Rock National Preserve a worthy playground for families. New to climbing? No problem. Sawtooth Mountain Guides offer customizable half- or full-day intro to rock climbing adventures. If you prefer to stay more grounded, the reserve boasts Native American cultural sites, historic wagon trails, and no shortage of hiking opportunities.
8) Try to break a record
At 43 miles long and 1,152 feet deep, Lake Pend Oreille makes the list of top five deepest lakes in the U.S. This picturesque glacial gem, which rivals California’s Lake Tahoe in scenic beauty, offers families 111 miles of shoreline to explore, beautiful beaches, abundant hiking trails and more. It’s also home to the 37-pound record-setting Kamloops rainbow trout caught in 1947. Rent a boat or hire a fishing charter and try your luck at catching trophy mackinaw or rainbow trout. Maybe you can break the record?
Explore Idaho Adventures
Photos – Idaho family vacation inspiration: Biking the Hiawatha Trail, Bruneau Dunes State Park, Climbing at City of Rocks, Fishing on Lake Pend Oreille – courtesy of Idaho Tourism; Lower Salmon River rafting trip – Rob Aseltine; Bald Mountain hiking courtesy Sun Valley Resort Photographer Steve Dondero; Indian Tunnel cave entrance – Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve