Christina McEvoy worked in partnership with Visit Idaho to create this Travel Tip.
Looking for a fun, inexpensive outdoor activity to do with the whole family in winter? Give snowshoeing a whirl! Snowshoeing is gaining popularity across the U.S. and is a winter activity that appeals to all ages and abilities. It’s easy to do (if you can walk, you can snowshoe!), a good workout and one of the best ways to enjoy the beauty and magic of Idaho winters.
If you live in Boise or are visiting the area, we have some of the best places in the country to hit those snow-covered trails.
How to Pack for Snowshoeing
Depending on how long you plan to be out on the trail, it’s always good to familiarize yourself with the Travel With Care principles and be prepared with a few items for your adventures snowshoeing in Idaho.
- Snowshoes and poles
- Warm layers of clothes including base layer, fleece and waterproof insulating jacket and pants
- Waterproof boots or snow/winter boots
- Wool socks and extra socks
- Warm gloves and hat
- Backpack: food, water bottles (at least one liter per person), small first-aid kit, toilet paper and bags, hand warmers
- Map of area and compass (cell service may be limited, which can make it challenging to check a map once out on the trail)
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- Headlamp in case you end up on the trail at dark
1. Bogus Basin Nordic Trails
Have a day off school or looking for a weekend adventure away from the city? Look no further than Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area. Bogus is our favorite local place to play in the winter for skiing, tubing and snowshoeing in Idaho. It’s situated in the beautiful mountains high above Boise, extremely family-friendly and accessible from town.
Bogus has a Nordic Center that can be found by going past the main lodge parking area. From here you can explore more than 20 miles of groomed trails through the forest, including four miles of lit trails at night. Nordic skis and snowshoes are allowed, and there are designated trails for both. Our favorite family-friendly snowshoe trails are the Nordic Highway (easiest), Red Tail and Sapper’s Return, which you can combine for a loop with the Nordic Highway. If you don’t have your own snowshoes, you can rent equipment at the Nordic Center. Dogs are not allowed on trails here.
2. Star Riverwalk
If you’re pressed for time and want a quick break outdoors, head to the Star Riverwalk along the Boise River in Star. We discovered this place last winter after a friend told us about it and fell in love! After a big snowstorm one day, we grabbed our snowshoes and headed out the door for a quick snowshoe walk on the trails along the river at this park. It was so beautiful and serene, and we were the only ones there!
3. Idaho City Park N’ Ski Trails
Idaho City offers more than 50 miles of marked trails with about 28 of those groomed each week, but the best part of snowshoeing on the trails here is the powder and the epic views. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, make a weekend out of it and reserve one of the backcountry yurts in the area, such as the Stargaze Yurt. This yurt is only 1.5 miles from the parking area up the Stargaze Trail at Beaver Creek Summit off State Highway 21. We love this yurt because it sits on top of a mountain and offers amazing 360-degree views. It’s magical in the winter!
Another great snowshoe trail near Boise and one of our favorites for the family is the loop at Banner Ridge because it’s a relatively easy two-mile loop. Whoop Um Up Loop is another excellent snowshoe trail for families, accessed from the Whoop Um Up parking lot. Parking permits are required and should be purchased online and printed off to display on your dashboard before you arrive. Dogs are allowed on all of the trails in the Idaho City Park N’ Ski trail system except the groomed trails at Banner Ridge.
Snowshoe rentals are available at Idaho Mountain Touring, REI and Greenwoods or can be purchased at any outdoor consignment store such as Play-It-Again Sports in Boise.
4. Gold Fork Hot Springs Service Road
Years ago, we accidentally discovered a great place to snowshoe that isn’t even a trail but a service road. If you’ve been to Gold Fork Hot Springs in Donnelly, then you might know what I’m talking about. Once you get to Gold Fork Hot Springs, you can park, strap on your snowshoes and head up the road (they don’t keep it plowed past the hot springs in the winter). The road is relatively flat and follows along the river. It is quite beautiful and peaceful and makes for a great family friendly snowshoe trail. We found several places to wander off the road and explore, but be cautious near the river.
The best part about this snowshoe hike is the reward after the work, soaking in the relaxing hot springs at Gold Fork. These hot springs consist of several natural, alkaline-rich pools of various temperatures with waterfalls, rocks and, of course, the wooded forest surrounding them. It makes for a gorgeous winter setting and great fun for the whole family. It’s a must-do!
5. Ponderosa State Park
Saving the best family-friendly snowshoe trails for last! Ponderosa State Park in McCall is the ultimate getaway whether you want a long day trip or a weekend up in the mountains. Ponderosa State Park lies on the edge of Payette Lake and has 13 miles of groomed Nordic trails and a little more than three miles of snowshoe-only trails (groomed trails can be used by snowshoers as well). This park is absolutely stunning because of the huge ponderosa pine trees that tower over the trails (making it all the more gorgeous covered with snow) and views that overlook Payette Lake and the surrounding mountains.
One of our favorite snowshoe walks in Ponderosa is Meadow Marsh Loop (snowshoe-only trail). It’s a nice, easy loop, and if you’re feeling good, you can add on the Lily Marsh Trail to Fox Run or Lily Marsh to Ridgeline, which climbs to the top of Osprey Point for an amazing view of the lake. We also love Northern Lights Trail, which winds along the lake, and Rover’s Round-About, which is a pet-friendly trail. Make sure to download and print the map of the Nordic trails in Ponderosa State Park before you go. An entry fee is required to explore the park.
If you are looking to stay a night or two in the park, campgrounds are closed in the winter, but Ponderosa State Park offers five fully equipped deluxe cabins nestled along the shore of Payette Lake that can accommodate anywhere from six to eight people. The cabins can be reserved year-round, and reservations are accepted up to nine months in advance. Note: To reserve, call 1-888-922-6743, since reservations for these cabins cannot be made online.
If you need snowshoe rental equipment, check out Gravity Sports or Hometown Sports in downtown McCall.
Don’t let the cold weather and snow deter you from getting outside and enjoying the winter wonderland of Idaho. It’s a magical time of year, and there is so much waiting for you to explore.
Feature image credited to Christina McEvoy.
Christina McEvoy is an outdoor travel blogger, photographer and content creator at Adventure Together and can also be found on Instagram where she documents her family’s outdoor adventures and travels. She and her family live in Boise, Idaho.
Updated on October 21, 2022
Published on February 8, 2018