Tara Bone, contributing writer
Believe it or not, summer adventures are just around the corner. School will be out, the sun will be blazing, and you’ll be ready to hit the road. There’s the favorite stops, such as Bear Lake, Yellowstone, and Zions National Park; these are all amazing places, but maybe your family is ready to explore lesser-known destinations that are right in your own backyard.
Our family started to do just that last year at the encouragement of one of our boys. He declared that he wanted to see more of the “awesomeness” around us. He didn’t want to go on a faraway vacation; he wanted to discover places closer to home.
Here are a few of our favorite spots. Most destinations could be fun day trips, but each one will get your family exploring Cache Valley and Utah’s vast backyard.
Approximately 40 miles from Logan, about an hour drive.
Visit paddling.com for more information and search Bear River (Oneida Narrows).
Grab a tube, kayak, or paddle board and head north of Preston, Idaho to float a stretch of the Bear River. The scenery is beautiful and wildlife sightings are frequent. The river can get busy with tubers, so hit the water in the morning. During the summer, a stop at Big J’s in Preston for a fresh strawberry shake is a must on the way home!
Downata Hot Springs
Approximately 50 miles from Logan, about a 70-minute drive.
Visit downatahotsprings.com or idahohighcountry.org for more information and search Preston and Downey.
Downata Hot Springs, near Downey, Idaho, offers year-round activities and unique camping experiences in addition to hot pools, a large swimming pool, and water slides. It’s perfect for a day trip or camping excursion. “The Black Hole” water slide is every adventure-loving kid’s dream — it actually goes underground before spitting riders out.
Add history to the drive by stopping at the Bear River Massacre site, or The Red Rock Pass marker where the ancient Lake Bonneville broke through.
City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rock State Park
Approximately 122 miles from Logan, about a 2.5-hour drive.
For more information, visit nps.gov or parksandrecreation.idaho.gov.
If your family is up for an adventure, City of Rocks or Castle Rock in Almo, Idaho is the place to go. Mountain biking, rock climbing, and hiking amidst dramatic scenery is accessible. Beginner climbers, ages 10 and older, can try the City of Rocks’ Climbing Experience Program. The program runs May 1 through the end of September, and includes instruction and all equipment. Archery and fishing ponds are available at Castle Rock. Contact the visitor’s center for reservations.
Thanksgiving Point Museum of Ancient Life and Ashton Gardens
Approximately 109 miles from Logan, about a two-hour drive.
Visit thanksgivingpoint.org for more information.
Thanksgiving Point is definitely not off the beaten path, but these destinations in Lehi, Utah are worth the drive. At the museum, budding paleontologists uncover dinosaur bones in a quarry, walk among huge dinosaur skeletons, or watch paleontologists in a working paleontology lab.
The 55-acre garden has an interactive children’s garden, boasts the largest man-made waterfall in the Western Hemisphere, and features the I Am the Light of the World Sculpture Garden. The annual spring Tulip Festival in April is also a must-see.
Capitol Reef National Park
Approximately 307 miles from Logan, about a five-hour drive.
Visit nps.gov for more information.
Capitol Reef has amazing geologic features to explore and a rich history to discover — minus the crowds found at other national parks. The park is referred to as a “hiker’s dream,” with trails for every skill level. The visitor’s center is a must-stop, and the park website provides detailed information about the trails.
Accessible campgrounds, ranger programs, petroglyphs, historic orchards, and quaint accommodations and restaurants in nearby communities can make this destination a family favorite.