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Easy access to some of Idaho’s most spectacular scenery often puts exploring the Gem State near the top of the agenda for many travelers venturing through the Northwest. Yet, many families avoid extreme trips here because they have children. Well, we’re here to tell you that if you are bringing the kiddos along for your journey, there are plenty of exciting adventures suitable for the whole family. Here are three of our favorite Idaho adventures to do with your kids this summer that are bursting with adventure and natural beauty.

1. Whitewater Rafting on the Main Payette River

Rafting on the Main Payette River is the perfect opportunity to get a rush while keeping the activity family oriented. This classic stretch of whitewater has ample amounts of drop and pool rapids that range between Class II and III.

Many families journey here to train and become familiar with kayaking and rafting. The main raft put-in location is in Banks, along the confluence of the Payette’s North Fork and South Fork. The drops are simple to navigate, and during the hot summer months, many people are decked out in bathing suits, shorts, t-shirts (or heavy sunscreen), and water shoes.

A family whitewater rafting.
Riding down the Main Payette River. Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism

Make sure you bring bottled water for you and the kids – sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen. Avoid wearing denim or cotton clothing as they absorb water and dry slowly. Life jackets are also provided on all outfitted trips.

A family enjoying a ride down a river on a raft.
Enjoying the ride down the Main Payette River. Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism

To find a rafting outfitter visit the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association here.

2. Hiking to Blue Lake

Blue Lake is the perfect family-friendly hike, only a short two-hour drive from Boise, and manageable for kids seven years or older.

A scenic view of a lake on top of a mountain.
Exploring the shores of Blue Lake in the summer. Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism

Blue Lake is located just outside of McCall and Cascade back in the Boise National Forest. The hike is fairly easy and accessible during the spring and summer.

Getting there is simple – follow National Forest Service Road NF-446 to its end and you will reach a turnoff 20 miles before you hit Cascade. This road is a National Forest Service road that is unpaved but extremely well maintained and easy to drive on. There are also spectacular views on the drive up the mountain – you’ll want to pull over a couple of times and snap some pictures.

A scenic view of a lake on top of a mountain.
Hiking down the trail to Blue Lake. Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism

Begin your hike to Blue Lake in the morning. Avoid beginning your hike around noon, it will be much hotter, which can make for grumpier kids. The descent down to the lake is very manageable and the trail is a little rocky with a gradual decline. During your hike down you’ll see towering pine trees, droves of wildflowers, and, of course, the infamous Blue Lake.

A scenic view of a lake on top of a mountain.
Soaking in the views at Blue Lake. Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism

There are a bunch of ideal camping spots near the shore of the lake and plenty of places to skip rocks, swim, or cast a line. Blue Lake’s glass-like water is the perfect place to catch some dinner. Just make sure that if anyone in your group plans on fishing, that they have their Idaho fishing license. Fishing license tags, fees, and where to pick them up can be viewed here.

3. Jet Boating in Hells Canyon

We can almost guarantee you’ve never experienced something quite like this before. Jet boating through Hells Canyon is the ultimate way to explore one of the lower 48’s most iconic natural attractions. The area offers the family a wide variety of things to do, including jet boating tours, hiking, camping, fishing, kayaking, and rafting.

A river running between a canyon.
A view looking between the towering walls of Hell Canyon. Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism

Most of these activities take place on the mammoth Snake River, which over time has carved its way deep into the Earth’s surface to create the staggering walls of Hells Canyon. The Snake River is known for massive, vigorous rapids but you will be safe on a jet boat with your kids exploring the river in one of the most thrilling ways possible.

A jetboat cruising down a river.
Jet boating in Hells Canyon. Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism

Hells Canyon is easily accessible with Lewiston, Council, and White Bird close by. Make sure you pack water bottles, hats, and sunscreen – life jackets are provided on all outfitted trips. Be sure to bring your bathing suit too, you’re bound to get splashed!

A jetboat cruising down a river.
Jet boating in Hells Canyon over whitewater rapids. Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism

To find the jet boating outfitter and guide that is right for your trip, visit Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association here.

Trip Tips

  • Pre-Approve your kids hiking apparel. Before you set out on your hike for Blue Lake, make sure your little one is dressed appropriately – thick socks and properly fitting shoes go a long way for a happy camper.
  • Pack lots of snacks for all three of these adventures. Fruit snacks and granola bars are easy to pack for the kids and seem to add a little pep in their step.
  • Bring lots of water. Keeping your minions hydrated is your best bet to keep them going. On average, kids one to eight years old need four to five cups of water per day. If you’re hiking Blue Lake in hot or humid weather, plan on a bit more.

Published on April 19, 2016