Family Vacations in Idaho


Nestled in the heart of the Northwest, Idaho offers many options for a memorable family vacation. The region, shaped by the Rocky Mountains and extensive rivers, is both beautiful to look at and exciting to explore.

On the following pages, you’ll find profiles of some of the state’s attractions, from otherworldly landscapes to national forests to one of the best rafting sites in the country. To help with your trip planning, you’ll also find contact information, as well as photographs of each destination. Here’s a preview:

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Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

Pockmarked with cinder cones, lava tubes and deep fissures, this remarkable volcanic landscape is so strange and lunar-like that American astronauts have actually trained at the site.

River Rafting on the Salmon River

The longest river without a dam in the lower 48 states, the legendary Salmon River is considered one of the continent's premier rafting destinations.

Sawtooth National Forest

Located in south-central Idaho, Sawtooth National Forest is named for its sharp, serrated peaks that can be seen silhouetted against the sky like the teeth of a saw. This region features some of the wildest country in North America.

Hells Canyon of the Snake River

Originally formed from part of a Pacific island chain millions of years ago, the Snake River cut through miles of rock to join the Columbia River, leaving the awe-inspiring canyon in its wake.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Idaho State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Idaho, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives:For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Idaho: Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

Ancient volcanic activity created the lunar-like landscape at the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.

Called by an early visitor the strangest 75 square miles on the North American continent, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is a remarkable volcanic landscape pockmarked with cinder cones, lava tubes, deep fissures, and lava fields. Rather than one large volcano cone, there are many small craters and fissures through which lava flowed at one time. In some places, the molten lava encased standing trees and then hardened. Eventually, the wood rotted, resulting in bizarre tree-shape lava molds. The landscape is so strange and lunarlike that American astronauts have actually trained at the site.

Drive the seven-mile road that loops through the preserve to discover the spatter and cinder cones, lava flows and fields, and craters. The park also has a network of fairly easy trails that provide access to its odd geological features. Plants and wildlife have adapted to the unusual environment and are present in surprising numbers, including several hundred species of plants and about 2,000 insect species. Mammals, reptiles, and two varieties of amphibians make their homes in the stark setting as well.

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Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve Information

Address: U.S. Rte. 26 and Craters Loop Rd., Arco, ID

Telephone: 208/527-3257

Hours of Operation: Dawn - Dusk

Admission: $8

After visiting the moon, consider sneaking down the Salmon river on a raft -- read the next page to find out more.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Idaho State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Idaho, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives:For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Idaho: River Rafting on the Salmon River

Rafting down the Salmon River is a great way to see the natural beauty of Idaho's mountainous landscapes.

The longest undammed river in the lower 48 states, the legendary Salmon River is considered one of the continent's premier rafting destinations. It's too rough and dangerous for families with small children to run early in the season. But beginning about mid-July, the water warms up and calms down, and it settles into an excellent river for family rafting trips through one of nature's most breathtaking wilderness areas.

A number of outfitters offer special trips in both the main and the middle forks of the river that focus on family fun. Year round, the Main Fork of the Salmon River is best for children ages seven and older. Its spacious sandy beaches are perfect for making camp, and it features great swimming holes and glimpses of abandoned mines and pioneer homesteads. The river has just enough white-water thrills to entertain the kids without being intimidating. The Middle Fork of the Salmon River is usually a bit more challenging, but during mid- to late summer, lower water levels make it ideal for families with kids younger than seven years old.

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In many places, this powerful waterway slices a path through steep canyon walls that are completely inaccessible except by water -- it's the second deepest river gorge on the continent. The Salmon River has more than 100 sets of rapids over a distance of about 105 miles, and its varied elevation and terrain keep kids delighted. The wildlife viewing on both river trips is legendary, and you're likely to see bighorn sheep perched high on the canyon walls, mule deer grazing in soft meadows, and river otters playing in the foaming waters.

On all trips, the river guides set up camp and prepare dinner, including child-friendly fare. Most family trips are four to six days long and include plenty of stops to get out and play, explore historical sites, take short hikes, fish, and swim -- even in the mild rapids.

River Rafting on the Salmon River Information

Address : Various locations along the Salmon River, ID

Continue reading to explore more natural highlights of Idaho's forested regions.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Idaho State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Idaho, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives:For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Idaho: Sawtooth National Forest

The Sawtooth National Forest gets its name from the jagged skyline created by the landscape's trees and mountain ranges.

Located in south-central Idaho, Sawtooth National Forest is named for its sharp serrated peaks that can be seen silhouetted against the sky like the teeth of a saw. These jagged mountains and forests feature some of the wildest country in North America.

Some 1,100 lakes and more than 3,000 miles of rivers famous for their salmon, steelhead, and native trout run through Sawtooth National Forest and make it a perfect spot for young fishing enthusiasts in your family. Numerous hiking trails wind through its rugged terrain.

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During the winter months, downhill skiing is a favorite pastime, particularly in Sun Valley. There are also plenty of trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.

Read on to learn about more outdoors destinations in Idaho, such as Hells Canyon. 

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Idaho State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Idaho, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives:For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Idaho: Hells Canyon of the Snake River

The view of the Snake River from the                                  rim of Hells Canyon is nothing short of                                                  spectacular.
The view of the Snake River from the rim of Hells Canyon is nothing short of spectacular.

A huge lake once covered the area now bisected by the Oregon-Idaho state line. The rocky bulge of the Owyhee Mountains kept the Snake and Columbia rivers separate until giving way roughly a million years ago. Then the Snake rapidly cut its way through as much as ten miles of igneous rock to join with the Columbia, chiseling out the chasm now known as the Hells Canyon of the Snake River. Today, Hells Canyon is one of the continent's most dramatic landscapes.

The adjacent mountain ridges rise an average of more than a mile above the canyon floor, towering over the whitewater below. The pinnacle of He Devil Mountain is almost 8,000 feet higher than the river, making for the deepest gorge in the United States.

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The oldest rocks in the canyon originated from underwater volcanoes when Hells Canyon was part of a Pacific island chain. Rivers eroded some of the lava, carrying it downstream, and the Seven Devils and Eagle Cap Mountains were pushed skyward. The result is the spectacular Hells Canyon.

Hells Canyon of the Snake River Information

Address: Information Center

189 Hwy. 95, ID

Telephone: 208/628-3916

Hours of Operation: Dawn - Dusk

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Idaho State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Idaho, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.