Idaho’s Top 6 Day Trip Destinations
Idaho weather is weird. The most predictable thing about winter here is that it gets dark early and it will be mostly cold. So, whether you’re going to brave the elements now, or eagerly await the coming of a warm spring, take a look at these outdoor hotspots. Get the kids together, leash up the family dog, and Go! to any of these top six day-trip destinations in Idaho. Don’t forget to take photos!
This historic Boise landmark is a short drive from anywhere in the Treasure Valley. It’s a popular spot and sees lots of hiking traffic from all over the Valley. There are several different trails in the general area, all of which welcome dogs and horses. Get to know a little about Idaho history at the same time and start your hike to Table Rock at the Old Penitentiary.
When the snow has all melted and Bogus Basin has closed its winter sports attractions, Shafer Butte becomes a beautiful mountain trail not to be missed. The hike is pretty gentle, and it leads further into the mountains for evermore outdoor adventure opportunities. Right next to the Butte is Mores Mountain, which has its own serene hiking trail minus all the powered-off ski lifts. Between the two hills lies a picnic and camping area. All-day use for hikers and picnickers is $5, overnight camping is $15.
Malad Gorge State Park
The Malad Gorge is only one of the areas that make up Thousand Springs State Park. The Gorge itself is one of Idaho’s most remarkable natural wonders. If you have ever traveled along I-84 in southern Idaho near Twin Falls, you have passed right over it. Sometimes, passengers can get a small glimpse of the gorge below, but the best view is at the Devil’s Washbowl Overlook. Once you get off the freeway, park your vehicle for $5, and walk the trail to the end. Along the way, you will see fantastic views, but nothing will compare to the Devil’s Washbowl.
This fascinating and unique park holds some of Idaho’s deepest history. Much of the park is a vast boulder field that sits silently as the Snake River carves through it. The Guffey Railroad Bridge which stands over the Snake is old and can tell its own tales, but the boulders can tell one much more interesting.
Many of the boulders scattered across the plain are covered with petroglyphs. Archaeologists believe the Shoshone and Bannock tribes carved them over an enormous span of time. The carvings are between 400 and 12,000 years old, which is how Celebration Park earned the title of Idaho’s first and only archaeological park.
To get the best experience out of this park, you really should Go! to the Visitor Center. Schools and scout troops can schedule field trips. Staffers there teach the kids about the fascinating history behind the petroglyphs, give a tour of the area to show what life was like for native peoples living there, and let them have a Go! at the Atlatl range. Families and other groups are also welcome during the summer for science camps and other programs. When you Go!, don’t miss Map Rock, an astoundingly large and elaborate petroglyph in Celebration Park.
Bruneau Dunes State Park
Another natural wonder in Idaho are the Bruneau Sand Dunes. The dune there is North America’s largest single-structure sand dune. Two lakes are also near the dunes. Here you can fish, kayak, canoe, tube, and float using electric motors only. There are plenty of camping spots if you want to make a weekend of it with tons of RV hookups, camping spots, and even a couple of cabins that can hold up to five people.
Summertime offers a lot of things to do, but it tends to start baking you if you are out in the sand for too long. The weather at Bruneau Dunes is most forgivable during the spring and early fall. Sometimes the blazing heat of summer can make the trip much less fun.
If you get the chance, Go! visit the Bruneau Dunes Observatory. Fridays and Saturdays they have star-gazing sessions, as long as the weather allows. Download this schedule from the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation website to find out when star viewings are set up.
Swan Falls Park and Recreation Area
One of the main features of this stop is the Swan Falls dam. It was built in 1901 to provide electricity to nearby Silver City. It has since been powered down and is now an old Idaho relic that you schedule a visit and tour. Get in touch with Idaho Power if you are interested.
The whole area is quite a sight to see. The dam is a testament to human ingenuity and skill, but the remarkable canyon walls of natural rock touring above it have a tendency to remind the observer that the human race is, in fact, quite small.
Something else that makes this park fantastic is that it’s near the Birds of Prey Wildlife Reserve. It is not uncommon to see hawks, falcons, and eagles flying and perching throughout the area as you hike along the well-kept trails. The dam created a large reservoir, so don’t forget to bring all your fishing gear, and nab that lucky catch.
In a lot of ways, Idaho is still the wild west. Civilization has clearly blossomed here, but you’re never too far away from some awesome outdoor fun. Go! get some sun and air at any of these top six day trip destinations in Idaho.
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