6 family summer vacation adventures in Idaho

Follow our St. Clair family summer road trip of 4 weeks, 5 states, and 3,851 miles: All posts

How’s this for a family summer vacation combo? Mountaintop adventures just outside a major city. A mild-to-wild water park. Oregon Trail history. A natural mineral sparkling soda water spring. An every-hour-on-the-hour geyser. And a lake that looks like part of the Caribbean got dropped in the Rockies.

Hard to imagine these six things in one place? With a family summer vacation through Idaho, you’ll soon find, as we recently did, how easy it is to have an amazing family trip through the Gem State’s many treasures.

Our Idaho family summer vacation

We want to thank Visit Idaho for sponsoring our trip, and Bogus Basin and Roaring Springs Water Park for hosting our visits. Our opinions, however, are our own.

Where to stay in Boise (and what to do)

1. Summertime mountaintop play less than an hour from Boise

Family summer vacations are about choosing your adventure. Or, like the Blade Runner Mountain Coaster at Bogus Basin, you can also choose your own speed, great for the kids!
Family summer vacations are about choosing your adventure. Or, like the Blade Runner Mountain Coaster at Bogus Basin, you can also choose your own speed, great for the kids!

Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area, Boise

From downtown Boise, you can reach a summertime adventure playground in less than an hour.

During summer, Bogus Basin transforms itself into a snow-free fun zone. Mountain bikers and hikers ride the scenic chair lifts. A stage might be set for a free Music on the Mountain concert.

Connor picked a tricky climbing route to try to reach the button at the top. He didn't quite make it... but he's already for next time!
Connor picked a tricky climbing route to try to reach the button at the top. He didn’t quite make it… but he’s already for next time!

When Aster came off the Bungee Trampoline, she said it felt like she was flying. Then, from the Scenic Chairlift, we gazed at the yellow and purple wildflowers far below our dangling feet. Anthony especially marveled at the panoramic views of the Boise area. The lift operators were also attentive, and made sure to slow down our chair as we got on and off.

Jodie and Aster loved to choose their own speed on the Glade Runner Mountain Coaster, and Connor braved a tricky run on the Climbing Wall. Full of sunshine, fresh air, and a lovely dose of nature, Bogus Basin gave us a half-day trip full of memories too.

Directions to Bogus Basin

2. Wade, splash, and shriek on 20 mild-to-wild accessible water adventures

Not just for thrill-seekers: Aster loved flying out of these kid friendly waterslides at Roaring Springs Water Park in Boise.
Not just for thrill-seekers: Aster loved flying out of these kid friendly waterslides at Roaring Springs Water Park in Boise.

Roaring Springs Water Park, Meridian

A water park is a great way to have a summer cool-off. It even works great for an above-the-knee, single-leg amputee like Jodie: She could leave her computerized prosthetic leg back in our room and easily use her crutches to get around the wide, smooth, paved paths at Roaring Springs Water Park.

Having the option to chill or thrill was part of what our family enjoyed. Connor made a mental list of the slides he wants to go down when he’s a little bit older, like the dark twists and turns of the Pipeline Mines and the four-story Viper’s Vortex.

Accessible family summer vacations: Jodie got around Roaring Springs on her crutches, and the wide paths, plus accessible stairs and handrails, were a big help.
Accessible family summer vacations: Jodie got around Roaring Springs on her crutches, and the wide paths, plus accessible stairs and handrails, were a big help.

In between explorations of the Leisure Lagoon, Jodie and Aster made loop after loop through the Endless River. The accessible steps and handrails made it easy for Jodie to get in and out of the water on her crutches.

Roaring Springs kept us cool and laughing throughout our half-day visit, from the Kiddie Kowabunga slide to the White Water Bay Wave Pool. After all, who says there’s no surf in Idaho?

Directions to Roaring Springs Water Park

3. The deep canyon and high waterfall of Twin Falls

The deep, winding Snake River Canyon, with its vivid green waters, is a beautiful, awe-inspiring sight when you take a break from the road during your Idaho summer family vacation.
The deep, winding Snake River Canyon, with its vivid green waters, is a beautiful, awe-inspiring sight when you take a break from the road during your Idaho family summer vacation.

Perrine Bridge and Twin Falls Visitors Center, Twin Falls

Two hours southeast of Boise down I-84, from a plaza at the Twin Falls Visitor Center, the deep, winding Snake River Canyon stretches out far below. BASE jumpers are a common sight on the nearby, 486-feet-tall Perrine Bridge, which is the only legal, year-round BASE jumping site in the country. Inside the large-windowed Visitor Center, the kids wondered what it was like to ride in the horse-drawn Perrine Stagecoach.

Directions to Twin Falls Visitor Center and Perrine Bridge

Shoshone Falls, Twin Falls

Even during a lower-flow time of year like the summer of 2021, Shoshone Falls remains an incredible sight and lovely place to visit, complete with its green grassy park and dramatic cliffs and canyons.
Even during a lower-flow time of year like the summer of 2021, Shoshone Falls remains an incredible sight and lovely place to visit, complete with its green grassy park and dramatic cliffs and canyons.

Taller than Niagara Falls, the thousand-foot wide Shoshone Falls wasn’t even at its max flow during our summer visit. Yet the multiple falls, wide pools, high canyon rocks, and green, vivid water make Shoshone Falls a must-stop—especially with the grassy picnic spaces and shade trees that are part of the local park.

Directions to Shoshone Falls

4. Oregon Trail history on your family summer vacation… right off I-86

Aster's report on what she did on her family summer vacation: "Sagebrush smells like lemony carrots!"
Aster’s report on what she did on her family summer vacation: “Sagebrush smells like lemony carrots!”

Massacre Rocks State Park, American Falls

Just off I-86, we got out of the car and considered a far more arduous journey.

Massacre Rocks State Park builds out a picture of Oregon Trail life through stations, trails, and interpretive signs. From an overlook, we discussed how hard it would be to cross the Snake River. With a wagon. 

Also check out the sagebrush station. According to Aster, the famous plant smells like “lemony carrots.”

Directions to Massacre Rocks State Park

Register Rock, Massacre Rocks State Park

Throughout the late 1800s, Oregon Trail settlers scratched their names and the year of their crossing into the large Idaho boulder now known as Register Rock.
Throughout the late 1800s, Oregon Trail settlers scratched their names and the year of their crossing into the large Idaho boulder now known as Register Rock.

A couple of miles away, amidst a grassy picnic area in Massacre Rocks State Park, the people of the Oregon Trail come to life. At the large boulder known as Register Rock, people scratched (or etched) their names, and a year as they passed through the area. It was their way of saying that no matter what happened next, they had been there, pursuing their American Dream.

Directions to Register Rock

5. A tasty spring and a timely geyser

Whether a spring water fan or spring water skeptic, the waters of Hooper Springs are delicious, especially according to Aster and Connor. They wanted to run a pipeline from southeast Idaho to our home in western Oregon!
Whether a spring water fan or spring water skeptic, the waters of Hooper Springs are delicious, especially according to Aster and Connor. They wanted to run a pipeline from southeast Idaho to our home in western Oregon!

Hooper Springs, Soda Springs

Just outside the small town of Soda Springs, a green, lush park (and playground) await. But the main attraction is a delicious, sheltered pool of potable spring water, free for the taking.

Skeptical about mineral water? Hooper Springs waters have slight fizziness, a touch of tang, and a refreshing flavor. We filled every water bottle we had, and Connor wondered how hard it would be to pipe the water to our home in Oregon.

Directions to Hooper Springs

Soda Springs Geyser, Soda Springs

The 8 p.m. showing of the Soda Springs Geyser was one of the highlights of our drive from Boise to Southeast Idaho—especially the bonus summer evening rainbow!
The 8 p.m. showing of the Soda Springs Geyser was one of the highlights of our drive from Boise to Southeast Idaho—especially the bonus summer evening rainbow!

Every hour on the hour, Soda Springs Geyser jets 70 feet into the air. Making our way around a boardwalk to a viewing area on a late summer’s evening, we could see both the bubbling promise of low waters, and the mineral deposits left behind.

Directions to Soda Springs Geyser

6. An inland beach surrounding crystal blue waters

"Daddy, I'm going to meditate now," says Connor, Bear Lake's newest biggest fan.
“Daddy, I’m going to meditate now,” says Connor, Bear Lake’s newest biggest fan.

Bear Lake

Limestone in the water gives Bear Lake, better known as the “Caribbean of the Rockies” its light blue color, but the gentle waters and fine sand beaches make Bear Lake like being at the ocean, only inland.

The long, narrow lake pools at the bottom of gentle hills between southeast Idaho and northern Utah. From Idaho’s North Beach Bear Lake State Park, we drove right onto the beach, and joined other water lovers in wading, swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, and boating. 

Directions to Bear Lake North Beach State Park

Six family summer vacation adventures are just the beginning

The Gem State is full of treasures. During our all-too-brief summer family vacation time in Idaho, we sampled but a few. We left Idaho not only with a relaxed feeling and a lifetime of memories, but a hunger to return.

Do our family travels have you curious about having your next family vacation in Idaho? Start your Gem State adventure at Visit Idaho.

About the author
Learners and Makers
We are the St. Clair Family: Anthony, Jodie, Connor, and Aster. As Learners and Makers, our family of four slows down, connects, and enjoys the world and each other's company. We have been traveling full time since 2022.

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