A Wild 72-Hours in Southwest Idaho

in Southwest Idaho

Spend three days snowshoeing in the heart of the Boise National Forest, hiking to snow-soaked hot springs, and casting a line into an ice-covered mountain lake. Adventurous families, rejoice; this three-day itinerary is the perfect way to spend a winter vacation with the kids.

What to Do

Day 1

Attend the Famous McCall Winter Carnival

The McCall Winter Carnival began in the 1960’s and continues to draw over 60,000 people each year to this lakeside mountain paradise. This year’s “1 Valley, 100 Years” themed event takes place January 27th through February 5th. Bring the kids to see the famous snow sculptures, Torchlight and Mardi Gras Parade, fireworks show over Payette Lake, McPaw’s Monster Dog Pull, or one of the many food events held throughout the carnival. You can view the full list of events by clicking here.

Six-Pool Fun at Gold Fork Hot Springs

A must-visit hot pool for the kids is Gold Fork Hot Springs - a six-pool Idaho secret that’s perfect for family adventure. Each crystal clear pool varies slightly in temperature, starting with a 110º soak at the top that pours down subsequently into each cooler pool below. To get there, head south from McCall on Highway 55 for 17 miles. After you pass Donnelly, you’ll turn left at the marked blue sign. Follow the road for 8 miles to the resort.

Take a Family Hike in Boise

You don’t have to be a snowboarder, skier, or snowshoeing enthusiast to enjoy winter in Boise. You just need some warm clothing, a pair of boots, and an adventurous spirit. Magnificent parks and never-ending trail systems make the City of Trees a perfect place to take a winter stroll.

One of your best bets for winter adventure is the Ridge to Rivers trail system in the Boise Foothills. There are a wide variety of trails for every skill level and with close to 200 miles of trails to explore, you’ll likely run of time before you run out of trails. You can pick your path here to get started. Once you breathe the cool winter air out in the foothills, you may forget to count down the days until spring.

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Day 2

Soak in Kirkham Hot Springs

Start your second day in Southwest Idaho with a hot springs adventure. To kick start your day, check out Kirkham Hot Springs, perhaps the most well-known natural hot tub in the state of Idaho. This hot spring is located 5 miles north of Lowman on Highway 21 and features numerous pools of varying temperature and a warm waterfall that cascades down from the cliffside.

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Take a Dip in Burgdorf Hot Springs

Relaxing in the pools of Burgdorf Hot Springs is something everyone should experience. This particular hot spring is only accessible via snowmobile in the winter, but it is well worth the journey if your kids are up for a little snow-packed excursion. Stay in one of the historic cabins or go for the day to enjoy a hot spring large enough to hold an entire football team (or two). You can find snowmobile rentals at Cheap Thrills or CM Backcountry Rentals in McCall and riding directions by contacting Burgdorf Hot Springs here.

If you are looking for a guided tour experience for the kiddos, two outfitters are offering guided snowmobile trips in the McCall area this winter. Brundage Mountain Resort offers family-friendly tours and full-day trips from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., while CM Backcountry Rentals & Adventures provides mix of kid-oriented outings and full-day trips from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with “steep and deep” tours for more advanced riders.

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Day 3

Ice Fishing in Cascade

Idaho sits atop the list of fantasy fishing destinations. While many anglers think of the Gem State as a great place to fish during the warm spring and summer months, Idaho’s fish are plentiful year-round.

Taking the kids to Cascade Reservoir is easy and close to both McCall and Boise. The Perch population has skyrocketed in recent years and catch rates at the reservoir are excellent. Ice fishing can be a perfect getaway from the typical winter vacation – a great chance to teach the kiddos a new skill and to make some memories out on the lake.

When you journey over to Cascade Reservoir, make sure your vehicle is ready for winter conditions as travel will likely include snow-packed roads. Reliable snow tires or chains are advisable, and parking space is limited at the reservoir but additional parking can be found up near Tamarack Resort.

Additional Southwest Idaho Adventures

If you’re looking to extend your stay in Southwest Idaho for a few more days, check out this list of other winter activities:

Option 1: Ski and Snowboard Trifecta

Southwest Idaho boasts some of the most frequented ski areas in all of the state including Brundage Mountain Resort, Tamarack Resort, and Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area. All destinations are within 45 minutes to a few hours drive of Boise and offer rentals and affordable day passes.

Option 2: Holiday Entertainment with Idaho Sleigh Rides

Glide peacefully through the winter wilderness of Garden Valley in an old-fashioned sleigh pulled by magnificent spotted draft horses. It's a magical, memorable experience perfect for small, intimate groups and larger gatherings as well.

How to Get Here

By Air

Boise Airport (BOI) is a major Northwest airport served by non-stop flights from several large cities in the western United States. You can view all non-stop flight options here and see other information about the Boise Airport and surrounding accommodations here.

By Car

Driving to Boise is simple and filled with gorgeous views. From the west, take the Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway or the Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway. If you’re coming from the east, you can journey over the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway and the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway - located off of the frequently traveled Interstate 84.

What to Pack

  • Bring lots of layers!
  • Comfy Footwear (and extra socks).
  • Eyewear (sunglasses or goggles).
  • Camera to capture family fun.
  • Binoculars to spy on Idaho wildlife.
  • Water bottle to stay hydrated.
  • Sunscreen and lip balm.
  • Safety gear if you don’t plan on renting.
  • Lots of snacks for the kiddos!
  • A small first-aid kit catered to your personal needs.
  • Download the 511 app or call 5-1-1 while traveling for the latest information on Idaho winter road conditions.
  • Idaho Fishing License.

Where to Stay

Looking for a place to stay in Southwest Idaho? Whether you prefer boutique lodging, hotels or upscale suites, our guide for places to stay will help you find the perfect place to rest your head.

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