I grew up camping, I love to do it. Give me a tent with a sleeping bag and I’m happy as punch. There is just something about the fresh mountain air and the landscape that keeps me going back for more. I don’t even mind the bugs, smelly latrines, or possibility of wild life encounters. You can catch me walking to the bathroom in the middle of the night like it’s no big deal. But just so you all know, Chad is deathly afraid of bears.
When we purchased our tent trailer in November my heart was full and I knew many family adventures were awaiting us. I had flashbacks of my dad throwing all our bikes on the back of our tent trailer growing up and heading to the Sawtooth mountains for our family reunion. Those camping trips were the best! That’s what I want for my kids.
Because Chad and I are both teachers, we have the flexibility and freedom to vacation all summer long if we want to. We didn’t hesitate to plan a few camping adventures for our first summer as tent trailer newbs! Here’s a look at all the destinations we hit up and where we stayed. I had a lot of questions about it all so I figure all put it all in one place!
Mammoth Lakes, California
Our first destination in June was Mammoth, CA! We both had never been so we thought it was the perfect spot. We got an RV site for ourselves and my in-laws at Mammoth Mountain RV Park & Campground.
What We Loved:
- The RV park- It had an indoor pool and spa. The kids loved swimming every night and we were the only people in the pool most nights. It’s right next to town. Lot’s of restaurants, a movie theater, shopping, and the ski resort were a 3 minute drive from our campsite.
- Convict Lake- This lake has a paved walking path around it. We went around half of it or so and played on the beach a bit. It was gorgeous!
- Mary Lake- The road was closed due to snow so we hiked in from Twin Lakes below. It was BEAUTIFUL!
- June Lake- A friend messaged me while we were there and recommended this spot. It was a fun looking, touristy spot for sure. We went to a local park by the lake and soaked up some views. We then continued on to her next recommendation:
- Silver Lake Resort and Cafe– We went for breakfast and the biscuits and gravy she recommended did not disappoint! My boys got some French toast and pancakes that were great too. If we ever make it back to Mammoth, I’m going to look into staying here.
- The Rock Tub Hot Springs– It was tricky to find, but worth it. It also wasn’t real hot, but the kids got in and loved it!
- Hot Creek Geological Site– This site had a paved trail to walk and cool boiling water to look at.
- Yosemite National Park was less than an hour away. We didn’t get to go because it was closed for the season still, but it would be great to hit up in the later summer months!
What We Didn’t Love:
- The price $$$
- The lack of views- Just big tress all around us. They were gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but I would have loved some views of a valley or to overlook a lake.
Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Our next summer camping destination worth mentioning is Lava Hot Springs, ID. We have been here many times and knew exactly what fun we we’re getting into. We love to stay at the Lava Hot Springs KOA and have several times. The little town is adorable and we have had a great time every time we go. Here’s what you need to know:
What We Love:
- Lava Hot Springs KOA – it’s close to town and very big. There are a lot of different campsites to choose from and we’ve tried them all. They’re all great! It’s very well maintained and has the cleanest bathrooms of all the campsites I’ve ever stayed at.
- Lava Hot Springs Olympic Swimming Complex– Water slides, diving boards, diving platforms, large kiddie pool, indoor pool, and lots of grassy picnic areas. Go early in the day to get a good picnic spot or our favorite time is around 3:30pm when everyone usually takes off for the day.
- Lava Hot Springs Mineral Pools– These are a must! We typically go in the evenings and take everyone including the kids! You can actually purchase both the Olympic Swimming Complex ticket and the Mineral Pools together for a discount, that’s what we always do. One day we’re going to make it here in the winter. It’s open year round so it’s on our bucket list.
- Lava Hot Springs River Float– Don’t be fooled, this river is full of rapids and a great time! In fact, it’s always the highlight of out trip. Rent tubes right from the KOA or anywhere in town, they’re everywhere! Get a quad tube for all the little kids (Even Makenna who’s 3 went) and adults who don’t want to dump into the river. I warned you!
- Sweet Stuff Ice Cream & Candy– We love to take the whole family here for ice cream in the evenings. It’s adorable and the ice cream and fudge are great!
- Ziplining, biking, hiking, ATV riding, and fishing are some other summer activities in the area worth looking into.
What We Don’t Love:
- The train- It runs through town all day and night. Not a deal breaker for us, but worth disclosing. You’ll hear it during the night.
- We didn’t love when Makenna split her chin open at the pool. We had to drive 40 minutes to Pocatello, ID for stitches. That was a bummer but luckily we found a great medical clinic that took care of her.
Idaho Falls, Idaho
We didn’t stay in Idaho Falls overnight, but we drove through and had to stop. We went to the River Walk to take a driving break and show the kids the falls. It was beautiful and therefore worth at least mentioning! I highly recommend making a stop if you ever pass through like we did.
- Another quick stop that was a hit with the kids was Yellowstone Bear World. We paid a hefty price ($80) to drive through and see the bears along side our car. But it also included the petting zoo and the kids carnival rides. We spent about 1.5 hours total here and grabbed some amazing fudge on the way out.
- An Instagram friend suggested we go to Millhollow Restaurant and boy was it great! It was super cute too! Chad and I loved the sandwiches (we both got the Italian) and the yogurt that came with the kid’s meals was a hit too.
West Yellowstone, Montana
This was our first time taking the kids to Yellowstone National Park so we didn’t quite know what to expect. Our kids are only 8, 6, and 3 so we were mostly just hoping they wouldn’t die of boredom. More about how that park experience went below. We stayed at the Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park for two nights. Here’s what we thought about this place!
What We Loved:
- Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park -it sits right on the boarder of Yellowstone National Park! It had a large kids grass area and playground and there were tons of kids riding bikes all around the campground. Our kids we’re in heaven playing with all the other kids! The sites were a decent size and the bathrooms clean.
- West Yellowstone Main Street was super cool and fun to walk around. In fact, we would walk over right from our campsite.
- The City Creamery Homemade Ice Cream– We may have went here more than once for a few scoops.
- Yellowstone National Park – the west entrance was down the street from the RV park. We packed up the car with snacks, drinks, and Ipads to hit up the lower loop one day. It took 6+ hours but the kids didn’t hate it! When they got bored occasionally they would just play on the Ipads. Our favorite stops were the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone & Yellowstone Lake.
What We Didn’t Love:
- The RV park didn’t have a ton of bathroom stalls. We we’re also far from the bathrooms so that was a bummer when you don’t have a toilet in your tent trailer!
- The bugs at Yellowstone Lake.- We got eaten alive hiking the short path to the lake. I wish we would have known, we would have brought some bug spray.
This is was the climax of our summer adventures. We met my family here for our annual summer trip. My brother in law found this home in Sagle, ID right on the river that was perfect for our week long stay! Because the place was a little smaller than anticipated, we popped our trailer up right next to the house. It was perfect. We also rented a jet ski and pontoon boat from the home owners, and my brother in law brought his fishing boat. We had so much fun on Lake Pend Orielle and will no doubt make it back there one day.
What We Loved:
- Vrbo Home– This place was great and the hosts were wonderful. This is their home they rent out in the summer months. It sells out each summer so you have to book way in advance. That seems to be the case all over that area so plan way in advance! The home has a private boat dock that was convenient. We came and went all day long and the kids loved swimming right there off the dock.
- Paddle Boarding- Because the waters were so calm in the wake free zone where our rental was, it was perfect for paddle boarding any time of day.
- Tubing- riding the tube behind my brother in law’s boat was the highlight of the trip for sure. Both kids and adults had a blast!
- Sandpoint City Beach Park– We were able to dock all the boats and jet skis right at the park dock here free of charge. They had swim area and sandy beach we played at one day.
- Panhandle Cone & Coffee– We went here for ice cream 2 or 3 times. The chocolate, vanilla, and cookie dough were everyone’s favorite flavors.
What We Didn’t Love:
- The long drive home to Las Vegas. 16 hours is a lot of time spent in the car, especially with young kids. We split it up into 2 days and it actually went quite smoothly. Minus the 1 queen bed at our hotel (thank you Priceline) that made for a less than ideal sleeping situation, and the rock that cracked Chad’s windshield! All just part of the adventure I suppose!
We’re already trying to put together some more great adventures with our tent trailer for next summer! We’re thinking about beach camping in California and traveling up through Oregon and into Washington. Let us know if you know any great spots we need to visit!