Road Trip: Warm Lake

After a successful first outing, we found a more traditional campsite in the wilderness for our second overnight trip in the van. Right now, our goal is to find reservable campsites. There are plenty of great opportunities for dispersed camping (or boondocking) in Idaho, but it’s one more thing to worry about. And when we have small children, as we do, minimizing any potential pain points is key.

While we won’t be visiting a National Monument this time, we wanted to ensure we had fun things to do. As soon as I saw this opening online, I had to book it. You can’t go wrong with a hot spring and a lake, right?

Warm Lake, Idaho

Trail Creek Hot Springs

We had a one-night campground reservation over Saturday night, so we hit the road in the morning to maximize our time away from home.

We weren’t sure what to expect after passing through Cascade and heading up into the wilderness, but the entire road is nicely paved and well maintained. A smooth ride with no bumps at least allowed our kids to nap along the way.

Check-in time at the campsite wouldn’t be until 2 p.m. (though you can always set up before that as long as the previous campers have moved on), so we had to find a spot for lunch. We figured we’d do that by the lake or try to find a hot spring along the way.

As it happens, Laura was watching Google Maps for our proximity to one of her many dropped pins related to hot springs and the like. She gave me a heads-up that it should be coming up, and before I knew it, we saw another vehicle pulled over in a good-sized parking area. We pulled up, set up some chairs and Xander’s playpen, and made some sandwiches before exploring the hot springs.

Once we finished eating, we explored the steep trail down to the creek, and it was pretty easy to spot. Two pools, filled by a natural flow or some expertly laid PVC pipe, gave a couple of temperature options. We didn’t take any photos, but Google has plenty. It was a lovely way to spend an hour or two, and we’ll definitely be back. Probably earlier in the day, as the afternoon brought a bit of a party crowd (when the guys double-fisting Coors Light showed up, that was our cue to leave).

Shoreline Campground

The lake, campground, and other amenities weren’t too much further up the road. Shoreline Campground is a pretty typical setup: a looped one-way road with nicely spaced sites and several vault toilets.

There is nothing else special to note about the campground. This is bear country, so we made sure not to leave food, cooking equipment, etc., unattended or out overnight.

If we forgot any necessities, it was nice to know there was a lodge next to the campground where we could purchase food or other items.

The kids did great at camp, generally speaking. Sleep was a bit rough, as our 1-year-old has been regularly waking up in the middle of the night to drink a bit. For some reason, he was WIDE AWAKE on this particular night for about an hour and a half around 3 am. Fun times, but it is what it is. Gotta take it in stride!

Warm Lake

In 2022, we took a long road trip with Willow and brought our inflatable raft with us to have some fun floating on lakes. A major plus of traveling in the van is ensuring we still have room for our toys, and this trip gave us a good excuse to bring along Laura’s stand-up paddle board.

Again, that playpen came through for us, as we could drop Xander in, set up a beach umbrella, and relax a bit while taking turns out on the water.

I was so proud of little Willow. Recalling that 2022 trip again, she was kind of terrified of going out on the water in a raft. But now? She was super comfortable joining us on the SUP and impressed me when she decided she wanted to stand up while we were in the middle of the lake.

The lake here is great. It’s pretty calm, and there are some fun sandy areas for the kids. Plenty of folks are also enjoying time out on SUPs and kayaks.

On the way home, we felt like burgers, so we made a quick stop to a favorite of ours, Spring Creek Brewing Company, in Avimor. The beers there aren’t anything to write home about, but it’s a nice option with plenty of space for the kids and dog. Plus, we don’t have to worry about looking/smelling like dirty campers out on the patio.

Given the proximity to Boise, we’ll definitely be back to Warm Lake and the surrounding area. The hot springs are probably pretty amazing during winter weather, so we’ll need to try that. And with the family-friendly beach area, our little ones will undoubtedly ask when they can return to build more sandcastles.

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June 2024

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