Southeast Idaho: Road Trip on the Water

Technically I drove my way through Southeast Idaho, but I connected all points of interest following the allure of the state's fresh, natural waters. I found turquoise blue water, naturally carbonated water, and even natural hot springs that seemed to cure every ail imaginable. With a swimsuit and a pair of water-ready sandals, I hit the road.
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This article was created in partnership with Southeast Idaho High Country Tourism, Idaho. All photos by Emily Sierra Photography.

Bear Lake

On the lake

I was so excited to explore this bear of a lake by kayak (pun intended!). Seriously, the lake is massive, measuring in at 109 square miles! The water shimmers a turquoise blue thanks to the refraction of limestone deposits in the lake. Bear Lake is commonly referred to as the “Caribbean of the Rockies” for the color. Back to kayaking, I was determined! It was a bit windy the afternoon I chose, but that didn’t stop the kind folks at Epic Rentals from outfitting me for the afternoon. They warned about staying close to shore, and I quickly understood why. Even with the breeze, I loved floating over the crystal blue water, mesmerized by the snowy mountains in the distance.

Off the lake

Be sure to grab a raspberry shake in Garden City, then head north to visit the Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge. In the evening, the birds were quite active. I was lucky enough to see baby geese swimming alongside their mothers, caught glimpses of the Yellow-headed Blackbird, and I even spotted an owl! Detouring to this wildlife refuge was a bit spur-of-the-moment, but I’d highly recommend a visit.

Soda Springs & Hooper Springs

The world’s only “captive geyser” (Guinness Book of World Records, legit) is in the middle of town in Soda Springs. Geyser eruptions take place every hour, on the hour, shooting carbonated water 100 feet into the sky! Just up the road from downtown is Hooper Springs, another fascinating water stop. There, naturally carbonated water bubbles up from a spring. You could actually mix your own soda if you want! Visiting these sights are a super easy stop on a road trip through southeast Idaho, and totally worth it.

Sampling naturally carbonated water at Hooper Springs, Idaho

The Snake River

Wow, this river is simply one of the most scenic rivers that I have been to. Fish, float, or just get near the water to appreciate it. Massacre Rocks State Park near Pocatello is a great place to take in the views of the river, and you can even rent a stand up paddle board (SUP) to take out from there!

Lava Hot Springs

The picturesque downtown of Lava (locals pronounce it LAH-va, as in “LAVender”) has been welcoming visitors for years. On one end of town, super-soakers can indulge in the variety of hot pools. Temperatures in the hot pools range from 104° to 112°F. A few blocks away, Lava claims the only facility of its kind in the Intermountain West, the Olympic Swimming Complex. Swimming lanes, a diving tower, and slides galore will bring enjoyment for the whole family.

Lava Hot Springs, Idaho - Olympic Swimming Complex

While there are several boutique hotels in Lava, I opted for a stay in a yurt down the road at Downata Hot Springs (pronounced “down-at-a”). There are also hot and cool pools there to enjoy, and I loved the down-home, family atmosphere. New in 2019, the resort will be offering covered wagons that you can sleep in. With tipis and a variety of other lodging, Downata is bringing “glamping” to a whole new level!

Downata Hot Springs Resort, Idaho - Hot Pools

At the end of my trip I felt rejuvenated, yet still wishing I had more time to explore southeast Idaho. Beyond the dreamy waters I encountered, there were so many other points of interest I couldn’t see. Until next time!

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