Idaho is home to some beautiful outdoor areas. From north to south you will find thick forests, raging rivers, pristine lakes, and some of the most unique landscape you have ever seen. A lot of the best of Idaho’s protected natural areas have been set aside in the state park land that is there. If you are going to Idaho, check out these five great state parks you should see when you are there.
Castle Rocks State Park
Castle Rocks State Park is one of the newer state parks in Idaho, having just been established in 2004. It’s located in Cassia County, in about the southernmost part of the state. This was once a working ranch at the base of Cache Peak in the Albion Mountains and is now preserved and protected for generations of future Idahoans, as well as those who visit the state. The two major draws here are the early 20th century ranch and the dramatic granite spires. If you go here, you should also take the time to check out the nearby City of Rocks National Reserve. If you are lucky enough to go there, don’t forget your camera.
Heyburn State Park
Heyburn State Park is not only the first state park in the state of Idaho, it’s the first established in the entire Pacific Northwest; that’s reason enough to visit if you’re a history buff. Heyburn State Park has more to offer than that though. The park is located in the northern part of the state and protects three pristine lakes in the area. You can enjoy horseback riding, picnicking, fishing, boating, camping, and hiking while you are there. Of course, you can also just drive through it or get out and soak in the scenery. If you are into bicycling, the 72 mile long Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes goes right through the park. This is just an exceptional example of the best of what state parks can be.
Hells Gate State Park
Located on the western border of Idaho, Hells Gate State Park is a place that should not be passed up on if you are visiting there. The park sits right at the northern entrance to Hells Canyon so it is easy to incorporate a visit to it as part of a visit to Hells Canyon too. An interestion fact: Hells Gate State Park has the lowest elevation of any state park in Idaho at just 733 feet above sea level. Enjoy the view or have a picnic here, make sure you have your camera along, and then move on upriver and see more of the spectacular Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.
Bruneau Dunes State Park
You can tell from its name that when you travel to Bruneau Dunes State Park you will be experiencing something you can’t really find just anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. The park is located in southwestern Idaho in Owyhee County and was founded in 1970. The main reason for the park’s existence is to protect what is North America’s highest single structured sand dune. The main sand dune measures in at more than 470 feet high. This is simply not the type of terrain someone expects to see in the Pacific Northwest. While you are there, take some time to check out the Bruneau Dunes Observatory where you can use the telescope for some serious stargazing. You can also take part in swimming, hiking, fishing, birdwatching, and camping while you are there. This is an unusual experience that won’t be erased from your memory anytime soon.
Land of the Yankee Fork State Park
Established in 1990, Land of the Yankee Fork State Park is located in Custer County, Idaho and is home to a one of a kind experience. If you appreciate history and the great outdoors, this is the state park for you. As you make your way through the park’s facilities, you will see some impressive scenery all around. You will also be treated to something truly special as Land of the Yankee Ford State Park is not only an extremely long name, it protects the ghost towns of Bonanza, Custer, and Bayhorse. The park is the go-to place in Idaho to learn about the state’s frontier mining history as it comes complete with a museum and gold panning station. Whether you are traveling for yourself or with your entire family, spending part of the day exploring old ghost towns and learning about what life was like there more than a century ago is time well spent indeed.