Perfect Park’ing Spot
Exploring SW Idaho’s State Parks
Idaho’s State Parks are the gems of the Gem State — and fortunately, a whole lot of them are located right here in Southwest Idaho.
Camping. Boating. Fishing. And so much more. Whether you’re looking to get away from it all or do it all, state parks in Idaho, particularly Southwest Idaho, are the place for you. Let’s explore a handful of must-visit parks…
EAGLE ISLAND STATE PARK
Eagle Island State Park: Bordered on both the north and south by the stunning and wild Boise River, Eagle Island is a unique “urban” state park. Here, you can swim, fish, float, hike, and even horseback ride. It’s a perfect mix of developed recreation (disc golf!) and nature’s beauty.
Many people use Eagle Island State Park as a quick escape on hot summer days. Or as a peaceful escape in the shoulder seasons when summer crowds die down. Special seasonal activities, including a zipline and tubing hill, are also often open. Call (208) 939-0696 for the schedule.
BEFORE YOU EXPLORE, ALWAYS REMEMBER TO RECREATE RESPONSIBLY. STAY ON THE TRAILS, RESPECT THE WILDLIFE, PACK IN & PACK OUT, AND KEEP SOUTHWEST IDAHO WILD.
PONDEROSA STATE PARK
Ponderosa State Park: A legendary Southwest Idaho state park located along the banks of stunning Payette Lake. Or more precisely, set upon a peninsula that juts out into the lake. A local favorite for camping, hiking, swimming, and boating, its namesake Ponderosa Pines shade the bulk of the park and create a feeling of being in “the middle of nowhere” — even if you’re just a five-minute drive from town.
In fact, it’s possible to camp here — in either a trailer, tent, or yurt — and never cook. Restaurants, ice cream, breweries, and more are all nearby.
When the snow starts flying, the fun doesn’t stop at Ponderosa State Park. Snowshoeing, cross-country and skate skiing, and photography become popular here.
Ponderosa has public docks. Rent a boat & “park it” within walking distance
BRUNEAU DUNES STATE PARK
Bruneau Dunes State Park: With one of Idaho’s natural wonders as its focal point, this state park invites you to climb an otherworldly sand dune (the largest single-structured dune in North America!)… then get down via foot, sandboard, or a good ol’ fashion somersault.
But this park is more than a big dune. There is a pond with bass and bluegill (with loaner fishing rods available!). And an observatory that opens to the public seasonally on Friday and Saturday nights for stargazing. Plus birding, hiking, and a campground and cabins so you can enjoy it all for a few days.
It does get hot here in the summer — like really hot — so plan accordingly. Spring and fall are prime times for visiting. Call (208) 366-7919 to get details on hours for the observatory and special programs.
LUCKY PEAK STATE PARK
Photo Credit: Christian Nafzger
Lucky Peak State Park: Located just 15 minutes east of Downtown Boise, Lucky Peak is a reservoir that has been transformed into a state park for swimming, fishing, boating, and picnicking. You can even ride your bike here via the Boise Greenbelt!
The park is divided into several sections:
- Sandy Point, a lush, shaded park with a large, sandy swimming beach.
- Discovery Park, a riverfront park with horseshoes, volleyball, and lots of room for picnicking.
- Spring Shores Marina, a full-service marina that provides access to enjoy boating on the lake.
There is so much to do at Lucky Peak, we can’t fit it all here. But the highlights include boat rentals, SUP rentals, large group picnic areas, hiking, and a robust Jr. Ranger Program. All in a scenic, close-in location. Lucky Peak State Park is definitely worth a visit!
THREE ISLAND CROSSING STATE PARK
Three Island Crossing State Park: If you love history, you’ll love Three Island Crossing. Set along the mighty Snake River at a historically significant Oregon Trail river crossing, this park celebrates both its heritage and its spectacular natural beauty.
There are two campgrounds here, as well as river-view cabins to stay in. But what really shines is the park’s Oregon Trail History & Education Center, which is chock full of interesting exhibits and experiences to help visitors learn more about the perils and triumphs of the pioneers. This Center provides a great break from the heat in the summer and shelter from the occasional off-season storms.
Even if you’re not staying overnight here, the well-maintained day use area is a great stop to hike, relax, or fish. Be careful, though, this stretch of the Snake River can be unpredictable. Treat the water with the respect it deserves.
Glenns Ferry’s Heritage Trail connects this park with other parts of the city. Explore it!
LAKE CASCADE STATE PARK
Lake Cascade State Park: This state park is one SW Idaho’s most beloved. Why? Well, there’s just so much to do. It starts with boating, swimming, kiteboarding, paddle boarding, as well as extraordinary and varied fishing on the namesake lake.
But Lake Cascade State Park has so much more to offer. There is camping ranging from full-service to primitive to yurts, as well as equestrian, hiking, and nearby ATV trails. And out here, wildlife abounds. Eagles, foxes, elk, black bears, owls, skunks, and more call this area home.
In the winter, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and snowmobiling are favorite activities.
Given the sheer size of Lake Cascade, each visit — or even a single visit — can feel unique. From the meadow-like campgrounds along the southwest corner of the lake to the quiet, motor-free sections in the north part of the lake, whatever outdoor experience you’re looking for, you’ll likely find it in and around Lake Cascade State Park.
Southwest Idaho is known for its “Still Wild” outdoors. The state parks embody this. From museums to yurts and cabins, these parks are accessible to users of all types and all abilities. Get out there and enjoy them.
STATE PARK PROGRAMS
Idaho State Parks feature a number of interactive and experiential programs to help visitors get the most out of their stay. When visiting, ask a ranger if these or other programs are available:
- Junior Ranger Program
- Loaner Fishing Rods
- First Time Adventure Program
- Experience Idaho Loaner Backpacks
- Life Jacket Loaner Station
- Guided Walks
- Paddle Board and Other Rentals
Where you stay can be a defining memory of any trip. So choose wisely. We’ve assembled some ideas and inspiration for unforgettable places to stay on your next visit to Southwest Idaho.