From bubbling hot springs, tranquil lakes and rushing rivers to awe-inducing waterfalls, Idaho is big on water. Whether you just dip a toe or dive in headfirst, here are five great places for families to cool off this summer.

1. Miracle & Banbury Hot Springs

A child jumping off the paddle board into the Snake River to swim.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Snake River, Near Banbury Hot Springs. Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism.

Nestled along the historic Thousand Springs scenic byway sits a set of sister hot springs offering a geothermal oasis for those seeking recreation and relaxation. Miracle Hot Springs offers 25 public, private and VIP pools. Just a mile and a half down the road lies Banbury Hot Springs. Rent one of the six-person, 15-foot Megladon paddleboards and take the whole family out on a cruise down the easily accessible, gently flowing Snake River (paddles and life jackets are included). After splashing in the river, warm up in Banbury’s large artesian pool, equipped with a diving board and a play-log everyone will enjoy. Snacks and beverages are available, but both locations are great for enjoying a family picnic. Visitors can choose from a selection of overnight accommodations, including campsites or canvas-covered domes with heated floors (we recommend booking in advance).

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2. Shoshone Falls

Considered “The Niagara of the West,” Shoshone Falls is 212 feet tall — 45 feet taller than Niagara. Boasting spectacular views of the falls and the surrounding canyon, be sure to snap a family selfie at the scenic overlook. A snack shack and restrooms are available onsite, and there are multiple trails for hikers and bikers to explore. Nearby Dierkes Lake is a great spot for a family picnic, offering a child-friendly swim area, docks and restrooms (and it’s all included with the $3 parking fee for the park).

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3. Fall Creek Falls

Breathtaking is one word to describe the sight of Fall Creek Falls plunging 60 feet into the Snake River below. A must-do daytrip in eastern Idaho, the top of the falls is easily accessible from the parking lot for all family members. With a panoramic view of the surrounding foothills, sunrises and sunsets are equally spectacular, and the area around the falls is perfect for fishing, kayaking, canoeing or wading through the river and exploring the small islands. Please note: there is a steep ledge and no railings at the top of the falls, so hold hands with small ones to keep them safe. Looking to camp? Check out Falls Campground a quarter-mile from the falls. When you’re done, treat the family to a scoop of world-famous, square ice-cream at the Rainey Creek Country Store in Swan Valley.

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4. Pine Flats Hot Springs

Marvel at jaw-dropping views of the South Fork of the Payette River as you sit in a steaming, geothermal pool and let a hot, mini-waterfall flow over your sore muscles. With several natural, rivers-edge pools of varying sizes and temperatures, Pine Flats Hot Springs offers a source of rejuvenation for soakers of all ages. A splendidly scenic 1.5-hour drive from Boise, the springs are accessible from nearby Pine Flats Campground (an easy, quarter-mile walk), so the destination is great for a daytrip or as a multi-day camping excursion. Accessing the waterfall pool is a bit steep and rocky, so closed-toe shoes with traction are helpful. The campground offers restrooms, garbage service and surrounding hiking trails. This is a popular spot in summer, so weekday visits are recommended, if your schedule permits.

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5. Rafting the Payette River

Splish-splash your way through some of the world’s best whitewater on an Idaho river-rafting trip. Home to the most navigable miles of whitewater in the lower 48, Idaho is a playground for families seeking a paddling adventure. The Main Payette River is ideal for first-time rafters and young families alike, offering Class II and Class III rapids (plenty of big splashes where you’ll get a little wet and feel some adrenaline, but still easily maneuverable so you’re less likely to be swimming downstream). Between the bigger rapids, enjoy smooth stretches with wildlife watching or take a quick dip beside the raft. Cascade Raft & Kayak and other nearby outfitters provide the boat, lifejackets and paddles, in addition to professional guides and safety instructions, to ensure a memorable experience you’ll be talking about for years to come. Parents and big kids can get in on the action of helping to paddle the raft, backed by a savvy guide ready for heavy lifting and keen maneuvering. Just be sure to reserve your half- or full-day trip in advance.

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A father and son carrying their canoe down to the lake.
Canoeing, Payette Lake, Near McCall. Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism.

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Published on February 15, 2019