Taking in Idaho's unique summers
As proud Washingtonians, we’re no strangers to the great outdoors. We especially are enamored with our beautiful Pacific Northwest neighbors and the stunning summers we share. Chris’ family has a long tradition of heading to Idaho every summer to spend a few weeks on Lake Coeur d’Alene. They paddleboard in the mornings, play beach volleyball in the afternoons, and grill at night.
Fond memories from our time in Idaho piqued our interest into what else the state has to offer in terms of summer fun. The newly launched 18 Summers website allowed us to gain a fresh perspective on the state. We asked our friends at Idaho Tourism a few questions about what one can expect from summers in Idaho. Here’s an edited transcript of the chat.
Captain & Clark: First of all, how did you coin the term, “18 Summers?”
Idaho Tourism: 18 Summers is something we latched onto because of the emotional component it gives by putting a number to how many summers parents get with their kids before they become adults. Eighteen years can seem like a lot of time, but 18 summers really puts it into perspective. Summer is typically when family vacations happen, and it really seems to hit home.
C&C: We love the “choose your own adventure” style on the 18 Summers site for adventurers of every level. Can you elaborate on the choices that are offered?
Idaho: We wanted to provide a ‘shopping’ experience for adventures. We are actually in the process of building the brand new VisitIdaho.org and wanted to test out a couple of features and designs to see if they were resonating with people. The page has done really well for us this summer. We have made a couple of adjustments for Visit Idaho, but the idea is being able to filter by what people are looking for in shopping for a vacation: price, activity level, location, etc.
C&C: We’re big fans of off-the-beaten-path travel. What are your top recommendations for those who want to take the road less traveled?
Idaho is fun for the entire family
Idaho: Idaho has 31 scenic byways, but some of our favorites lead from the town of Stanley, in central Idaho, north, to the town of Salmon. The scenery is spectacular and the Land of the Yankee Fork State Park, with its focus on mining and Native American history, is very interesting. The Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural, and Educational Center is also located in Salmon. Idaho also has some of the most ‘soakable’ hot springs in the world.
C&C: What’s the ideal Idaho trip for families with kids under five years old?
Idaho: For the 5-and-under crowd Boise is a great option. There’s Zoo Boise, the M.K. Nature Center, Discovery Center of Idaho, Roaring Springs Water Park, Wahooz Family Fun Zone, Boise Art Museum (with a children’s area), and numerous parks with playgrounds. There are also plenty of lodging options that offer family-friendly pools and guest rooms, as well as restaurants with kid-friendly menu items.
C&C: From the 18 Summers site, we were surprised to learn that Idaho has a waterfall higher than Niagara Falls. What are some other unexpected wonders one might encounter in Idaho?
Idaho: There are plenty of unexpected wonders around this great state. Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park has the largest free-standing sand dune (470 feet!) in the United States. Hells Canyon is deeper than the Grand Canyon and a favorite location for thrilling whitewater rafting and jet boat trips. Wallace, Idaho, is the Center of the Universe, and the entire town is on the National Historic Register. Route of the Hiawatha is one of the country’s most celebrated Rails to Trails routes, with 10 tunnels (the longest being 1.66 miles long) and 7 trestles (the tallest at 240 feet high) and incredible scenery. Finally, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is a vast ocean of lava flows with scattered islands of cinder cones and sagebrush. A fun fact is that in 1969, NASA astronauts explored the monument while training to visit the moon. If that’s not unexpected, I don’t know what is.
The stunning Bruneau Dunes State Park
C&C: We noticed that Idaho has an abundance of dude ranches. What are some activities one can expect from a dude ranch experience?
Idaho: Cowboys and cowgirls can expect riding, roping, fishing, swimming, shooting clays, archery, hiking, campfire entertainment, eating, and more! You can check out a personal guest ranch experience here.
C&C: It appears that Idaho is full of water, land, and sky activities. What is your favorite activity for each?
Idaho: This is a tough one. It’s hard to narrow it down to one activity for each! For water, we’d have to choose whitewater rafting and jet-boating. Sky adventures could take you ziplining (there are 8 ziplines in Idaho!) and hot air ballooning (in southwest and east Idaho). And as for land, there’s a plethora of hiking and biking, both on mountain and paved trails.
C&C: There are rumors that Idaho is a great place for fishing. Any special watering holes that you would recommend?
Idaho: Of course! Henrys Fork of the Snake River and Silver Creek Preserve are considered Blue Ribbon trout streams. Other popular fishing locales are the Main Salmon River, Clearwater River, and numerous other large and small lakes and rivers.
Idaho boasts some of the best fishing in the Pacific Northwest
C&C: What is it that sets Idaho’s summers apart from summer in the rest of the United States?
Idaho: Idaho summers are unspoiled, uncrowded, and less expensive than many other destinations.
C&C: We personally know that Idaho is easy to get to and packs more punch than people expect, but what would you say to a first-timer who has never been to Idaho before to get them in the door?
Idaho: Idaho has beauty, activities, and attractions equal to the nation’s national parks but without the crowds and high cost. There is so much to see in Idaho, and each part of the state offers something different in scenery, activities, etc. It’s such a fun state to explore and we hope to welcome you here soon!
We’d like to extend a huge “Thank you” to Idaho Tourism for taking the time to answer our questions. Now, off to plan our epic summer vacation in Idaho!
What are your favorite ways to experience summer?
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Chris and Tawny have had articles and videos published on USA TODAY TRAVEL, BBC Travel, Matador Network, as well as appeared as guest stars on TLC Asia's Fun Taiwan television series. When not on the road, you can find Chris and Tawny nestled in their home in Tacoma, Washington fueling up on coffee and cat cuddles while planning their future adventures. You can follow their travels on their blog, Instagram, and YouTube