Our National Parks annual pass is getting a workout on this trip! For a family who only had visited one National Park before this trip (the Grand Canyon), we certainly are making up for lost time now.

We purchased our America the Beautiful annual pass at our inaugural stop at Glen Canyon Dam, near Lake Powell. The $80 we spent for this is the best money we’ve spent on this trip for sure! The pass allows our family access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites. The pass covers entrance and standard fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle, including our big RV. Children age 15 and under are admitted free.

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We’ve already used our pass for entrance into Lake Powell, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Little Bighorn Battlefield, the Badlands and Mammoth Cave!

Another awesome program for families hitting the National Parks is their National Junior Ranger Program. This has been an awesome way for our kids to get involved by participating in the activity based program in each park.

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At the Park’s Visitor Center you pick up the Junior Ranger program workbook. Junior Rangers are typically between the ages of 5-13 and your age will determine how many activities you need to complete in order to earn your Park badge. I wondered if our kids would be too old for this program, but it has proved to be challenging and fun for them actually. It gives them something to look forward to with each park visit. All kids love a collection, so why not start one where they learn along the way and earn something free to take home at the end.

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Kids usually have to attend a park ranger event, take a hike and answer many questions on wildlife and aspects pertaining to each particular place. The great thing about my kids doing it at this age, is that they can do the book by themselves or at least work together, which is really nice!  I think these programs would be pretty tough to do with a 5-7 year old. At the end of each experience, the kids share their answers with a park ranger and are sworn in as Junior Rangers before receiving a badge or patch from that park. So far, they have ten under their belt!

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Getting sworn in by cool Ranger Marc Ankenbauer in West Glacier National Park. Check out his amazing endeavor on www.glacierexplorer.com!

It has been a fun way for the kids to learn things that they never would’ve known before. They now point out sagebrush bushes while hiking and know what the symbols on the National Park Service logo mean. Two months ago none of us could’ve told you that!

Mt. Rushmore KOA

This gorgeous campground in the Black Hills of South Dakota optimizes summer fun! It is truly a kids dream come true to be able to camp at the Mt. Rushmore KOA/The Lodge at Palmer Gulch. This activity-driven campground has a schedule of fun events throughout each day as well as innumerable mainstays in the Fun Zone to keep all kids busy and happy. This, in turn, means more downtime for parents to enjoy themselves as well.

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This was our kids first KOA jumping pillow experience! Now they are spoiled and search the KOA directory telling us where they want to stay next according to if they have a jumping pillow or not! 

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The free mini golf is always a big family favorite! Check out the water slide behind us too!

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A couple of other areas for fun! Can you see why our kids were off and running every day?

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Due to the unavailability of internet broadband, there is really limited wifi in the park. It’s a real test to see how long you can go without even being able to receive a text on your phone, let alone check email or the internet. It honestly is a good thing unless you really need to get some work done. Otherwise, it’s freeing! There are a few hotspots in the campground that you can go to, but I enjoyed heading to Grapes and Grinds for my wifi.

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The good thing is you can drive just past Mt. Rushmore into Keystone to Grapes and Grinds for perfect internet access in a really cute environment while sipping a coffee beverage by day or glass of wine at night.  As a guest at this KOA, you’re able to take advantage of the Holy Terror Mini Golf (behind the coffee shop) and the National Presidential Wax Museum free of charge. These three entities fall under the same ownership as the Mt. Rushmore KOA, making it a great deal for those of us who stay there!

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We were really surprised at how much we enjoyed this museum! Each of us had our own personal audio device that we could listen at our own pace as we walked through. We all learned a lot and highly recommend stopping into this unique museum!

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Now to the main reason we chose this campground for our Hill City, South Dakota stay. It’s proximity to Mount Rushmore can’t be beaten! The campground is only a 6-mile drive along a beautiful route into America’s monument. Our family took advantage of going to Mount Rushmore as soon as it opened at 8 am one day and again at 8:30 pm on another for the nightly lighting ceremony. Both were awesome! Your $11 parking gets you in for the entire year and admission into the park is free.

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On our 3rd visit to the park, we had a lot of fun worshipping with a group of college girls that are involved in A Christian Ministry in the National Parks. They come for the summer to work at the monument and hold Sunday worship services for guests. Very cool!

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The Mount Rushmore KOA also employs a team of 12 Summershiners to lead all of the kids’ activities and programs for the summer. These Christian college students come from all over the nation to Palmer Gulch to live, work, play and share the love of Christ! I am enjoying learning about all of these different summer ministries!

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This KOA is really perfect for multigenerational family celebrations. We saw many families enjoying life together here. The campground sees about 3,000 guests come through the park on each sold-out night between June 15-August 15. This means make your reservations early and realize that a lot of people will be joining you in the fun if you choose to come here during the height of the summer. It is a big, busy park. More like a cruise ship on land than your typical campground!

Mike Bauman, Mt. Rushmore KOA’s General Manager, works extremely hard to see that everyone is having a good time in the park. We always saw him around in many different capacities and he consistently had a smile and friendly greeting. We even caught him driving the tractor late one night for our ghost tour around the park. Hats off to him and his hard-working staff as they strive to help make special memories for all families who come to stay! Thanks for the fun!

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We have been on the road for almost 2 months now. Eight weeks and three days to be exact. Some days it seems like we’ve been doing this forever and other days I walk out of this motorhome door bewildered. We’ve spent our time in nine states so far- Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and a corner of Minnesota.

I have had friends write to me and say, yeah, but I want to know the truth. I want to know what’s really going on behind this blog of yours. The truth? I’ve been giving it to you. If you know me, you know I am not one to sugarcoat things. I am absolutely ok with being vulnerable.

On the other hand, I am a pretty positive and flexible person (as much as a Type A first-born woman can be) who can acclimate to most surroundings and happenings that come my way. I think this comes from the sporadic lifestyle I lived for years moving around for modeling. Then, I marry an NHL guy and life continued to be on the move forcing me into embracing changes I really didn’t want to make. I’m pretty good at regulating my positivity and happiness and quickly getting myself out of any funk I may find myself in. With that being said…

The truth is….

This is my master bedroom by day. There is nothing Pinterest worthy about it whatsoever. It also sometimes serves as my laundry room and storage unit for the kids’ beds and bedding. I just try to look past it all because it could make me nuts if I didn’t.

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We have been having as much fun as you have seen here. I keep us moving. I keep us adventurous and exploring. We had a lot of downtime in Coeur d’Alene, ID because two of the boys were in a hockey camp taking up most of our family time there. I actually enjoyed the downtime as we have been on the go ever since we pulled out of our driveway on June 2. I’m not sure what this camping lifestyle is doing to me. Hmmm..

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I have only threatened to drive this rig back to Paradise Valley one time in the 4000 miles we’ve traveled. Not bad out of 8 weeks on the road in a small amount of living space with four children and a husband. Thank goodness there are no pets in this equation. We are good with the 6 breathing beings we have here. In my head I do sometimes question our sanity and if we can actually keep this up. I don’t really voice it though because I feel it’s like using the word divorce during your worst marital spat. You just can’t do it. Once you put the negative out there, it’s hard to take it back. Read more

One of the places that I was most excited about staying along our journey was on the Serenity Sheep Farm in Belgrade, Montana. Mind you, I am not a farm girl. When you grow up in Indiana everyone concludes that you must’ve grown up surrounded by Kubota tractors and pigs. Sorry to disappoint, but growing up in Indianapolis kept me a city girl!

But, I wanted our family to experience staying on a working farm during our US travels as I think it’s such a beautiful part of our countries culture. With the unbelievable internet at my fingertips, I found what looked like the perfect farm for us. Lavonne’s Serenity Sheep Farm was exactly what I had hoped for and more.

Also, one of our best friends is a farmer and is always talking about how important it is to introduce your children to the rural way of life so I wanted to show her that we could give it our best shot. Just the other day she was telling us about how she has purchased a new tractor after finding kubota tractors for sale online. With this in mind, and with my newfound farming skills in tow, I am already thinking that next time we go to visit her I might be able to take a ride on her tractor!

This was our first time boondocking ( def: To camp in a dry brushy location; To stay in a recreational vehicle in a remote location, without connections to water, power, or sewer services.) We are able to go a couple of days without hooking up and relying on our generator. I don’t understand the process at all, but I just know we did it with no problem. We can proudly say that our big rig was the first of it’s kind to stay on the property! LaVonne, her husband Chris and her father-in-law were amazingly accommodating and made us feel very relaxed and welcome.

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The cool surprise for us was the amazing outdoor shower and fun outhouse right in front of our RV that we could use. Animals were always just wandering around us at all times.

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The kids just loved the friendly goats on the property! They were able to pet them anytime they wanted as well as milk one both mornings we were there!

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The kids couldn’t keep themselves away from Lavonne’s backyard where all of the poultry animals live! They helped collect eggs and chased the chicken around for hours!

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After the morning farm chores, Lavonne sat down with the kids and taught them a needle felting project. They all made adorable little owls from the sheeps wool, all under the beautiful shade trees in her backyard.

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The turkeys kept a close eye on Morgan’s work!

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The finished project!

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More and more animal fun…

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The kids also loved riding bikes just up the street to jump off the bridge into the East Gallatin River!

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We had to drag the kids out of here and they are already asking if we can stay on another farm or definitely come back here one day! We all highly recommend visiting Serenity Sheep Farm if you are looking for a relaxed, really affordable authentic farm experience. LaVonne has these two adorable wagons on the property that you can stay in or set up your own tent stay! I’m even thinking of coming back here with just a girlfriend to relax and visit the nearby town of Bozeman. We feel so blessed to have been surrounded by such beauty, even for only a couple of days!

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Our time was short, but oh so sweet in the beautiful city of Seattle, Washington! Keith and I had both been to the city before but not with the kids. It was fun to see everything through their eyes and enjoy beautiful sunny weather here as well!

Here’s how we enjoyed our first 24 hours in Seattle

Sea glass hunting and fish and chips for a sunset dinner at Alki Beach!IMG_5697

A perfect way to start any day in Seattle… in Pike Place Market

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and you of course have to have a coffee drink at the original Starbucks!

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I love wandering around the market. There’s amazing art and foods. Frank’s is one of my favorites for produce. I bought one of their hand painted canvas shopping bags the first time I came to Seattle and I use it for my groceries at home all of the time!

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I’d never been to the gum wall, let alone heard of it, until the kids took me here! Yuck!

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Can you spot the Carney crew amidst the mayhem of ABC gum? If you too want to visit this lovely spot when you come to Seattle, just take the stairs down from the popular Pike Place Fish Co., where they throw the fish around, and turn left down Post Alley.

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We ended our day with the infamous Ride the Duck Tour, which takes you on a tour by land and then into Lake Union for part of the trip. It was lots of fun and we enjoyed seeing Gasworks Park from the Lake. We even had a picnic over there the next day!

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Our 2nd 24 hours…..

We are a family who loves our donuts, so we had to try Seattle’s Top Pot Donuts. They used to make the donuts for Starbucks until a few years ago.

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We then headed to Fremont for most of the day. Our kids are big into the Geocaching craze and we were able to set up a visit to the Geocaching Headquarters here. It’s a pretty hip and fun place with over 70 employees now working for their parent company Groundspeak.

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There are beautiful views of the waterfront behind the Geocaching Headquarters too.  You could see Mount Rainier in the distance. Can you spot it?

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Fremont’s Troll Under the Bridge is a fun find! I’m so glad Geocaching brought us over to this side of the city. It was a fun area with interesting shops and restaurants too!

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We decided to catch the monorail from Westlake Center Mall over to see the Space Needle. It was a quick, inexpensive and fun way to get over there. We did not spend the money to go up to the top of the Needle or to do any of the awesome museums in that area. It gives us a good reason to come back one day!

From the Space Needle we walked down to Olympic Sculpture Park for another gorgeous sunset.

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Goodnight Seattle! We had a blast exploring your beauty!

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  1. Check out Kampgrounds of America’s website to read all about what’s happening around their almost 500 locations, and find your next camping adventure!
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  1. VKR RewardsPurchase a Valuekard Rewards Membership for only $27 a year. You save 10% off every KOA stay with this as well as other additional benefits! VKR Member Appreciation Weekend is coming up September 12-13, so it’s the perfect time to purchase your membership, if you haven’t already
  2. You definitely want to have a copy of KOA’s campground directory for yourself. You can view/download it online or order a hard copy. Our kids even love to flip through our hard copy while on the road!
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  4. Want to purchase your own KOA? Check out how to go about it here!

Kids with KOA SLC sign

We spent the last two weeks in Idaho hanging out in Wallace and Coeur d’Alene. Wallace was a cute, small town walkable from our RV park, which was great. We had a blast conquering the Route of the Hiawatha bike trail. We just came out of the first tunnel here and I was very happy to see the sunlight again. The ride starts out with almost 2 miles of riding through a pitch black and wet tunnel, meaning you have to have headlamps attached to your helmet to see in front of you!

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 The 15-mile trail is quite bumpy, but the scenery was gorgeous. It takes you through ten tunnels and seven high steel bridges. We opted to take the last shuttle of the day to take all of us back up.

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The town of Wallace is an adorable stop and has some fun antique shops and restaurants. We were able to do another bike trail from here, the Trail of the Coeur d’Alene’s. We got a lot of bike time in here!

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This is honestly how we spent most of our time in Coeur d’Alene. Hockey camp took up our weekdays while Keith played in his first NHL charity legends game on the Friday night, which was a lot of fun to watch him having fun on the ice again!

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We took the boat across the lake a couple of times to Gozzer Ranch to hang out with our old hockey friends.

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You can see why the kids loved going over to Gozzer’s Lake Club!

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There is so much to do in Coeur d’Alene that we left untouched. Lots of amusement and waterparks and plenty of indoor fun to be found too. Luckily, we didn’t encounter any bad weather so we spent the majority of our time hanging out at the beach at our RV park and riding bikes into downtown. The kids loved renting canoes and water bikes and heading out on their own.

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And of course nighttime smores around the campfire with friends can’t be beat after a long week of hockey camp.

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Tubbs Hill is a fun little hike right past the Coeur d’Alene Resort and Marina. The kids loved jumping from the different cliffs and rocks, while we floated in tubes in the lake to watch them.

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We loved Saturday’s Farmer’s Market in Hayden. Plenty of organic produce to take home, treats to eat right away and all under beautiful shade trees!

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What are your favorite things you’ve done in this area?

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We didn’t know that our visit to West Glacier, Montana was just a bit too early in the summer season for nice weather. Unfortunately, it rained the entire three days of late June that we were here. Our Jackson Hole, WY weather must’ve conditioned us, because we didn’t let the rain keep us down!

We headed into Glacier National Park and found out that the infamous Road to the Sun was closed as they were still trying to remove all of the snow from a recent avalanche! This meant we were only able to drive 14 miles in to Avalanche Creek and hike the Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake. It was gorgeous and just slightly drizzling on our hike in. Once we got to the lake, it down poured and continued all the way back getting us completely soaked and muddy. What can you do but laugh and go with it?

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This is for my soccer mom friends. Thought you would enjoy seeing my Lululemon pants and Ecco boots soaked in mud. Definitely out of my league here.

Our final day in the area we spent in Whitefish. What a gorgeous area this is! We chose to spend the day at Whitefish Mountain Resort. They invited us to try the Aerial Adventure Park and the kids were stoked to try another mountain adventure. I was a bit apprehensive to do the course, but figured since I was going to write about it, I’d better join in on the fun. I was good with all of the climbing apparatus’ but it was the zip lining platforms that I had a hard time throwing myself off of. I don’t think I ever got 100% comfortable with it but I did have a great time and am proud of myself for testing my limits. How can you not enjoy yourself amidst such beauty?

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We honestly went through all four seasons in our time on this course. It started off like fall, with cool, but pleasant temperatures. Then, it turned really hot before the weather took a change and we found ourselves in the middle of a rain/hail storm. How in the world did I end up zip lining through hail and rain? Thankfully it wasn’t much and it’s a good job really as the chances of people who live in the area needing construction work done to their roofs could be very high. I’ve been told to use a company similar to Ace Roofing Company who are based in Texas if I needed to have any work done. Hopefully, I won’t need too though.

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I had to take a picture of the hail falling on my platform as proof.

Then, the weather cleared and it was gorgeous. We wanted to check out Whitefish’s alpine slide but it was closed due to the rain. The Whitefish Mountain Resort is awesome and offers many options for summer fun. We want to come back and try the zipline course and the alpine slide for sure but next time we’ll come in July!

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Of course our travel day leaving West Glacier to Wallace, ID was perfectly sunny. We stopped at The Amazing Fun Center so the kids could try out their mile and a half long maze and bankshot basketball. The kids had a blast here before the adults said enough is enough and off to Idaho we went!

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We’ll be back West Glacier and Whitefish. We only scratched the surface of your beauty!

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There is no denying the beauty of this West Glacier, Montana KOA. The property is quite special in many ways. Greg and Theresa McClure’s campground received KOA’s President’s and Founder’s Awards for 2013. “Excellence always happens on purpose and this campground is cutting edge with a strong vision, said Mike Atkinson, KOA’s Senior Business Development Consultant. One morning I was able to grab breakfast with Mike, who was on property working for the week, and owner Greg. One of the things that I love about KOA is the friendliness of their owners and staff and the pride that they have in their properties!

West Glacier grounds

This Holiday branded KOA is unlike your run of the mill campground in many ways. The kids loved Scoops ice cream shop being on site as well as the game room, heated pool and park. You can come to the lodge to have breakfast or dinner with Gene. The grounds are gorgeously landscaped and meticulously maintained. Many pull thru RV sites were redone over the offseason and ground has been broken for the addition of 36 more spots to open up next summer. The owners are constantly looking for areas to improve on their already gorgeous park. Obviously, their location can’t be beat if you’re here to explore Glacier National Park. The West entrance is only 2 1/2 miles up the road. 

KOA Bench at West Glacier

New friends and family tent spots just opened up while we were there and are the first of their kind in the KOA brand. They feature 3 pads for tent camping so you can be right next to your favorite people, which sounds like fun. Or at least the kids would have a ball doing this! There are lots of cabins to stay in here as well!

West Glacier worship

We loved that this KOA offered non denominational worship service here in the log-fashioned pavilion lodge. Sue, who has been an employee at this KOA for almost 30 years, led the worship and we just loved starting out our Sunday morning with her.

West Glacier Tepee

The kids loved working on this tepee nestled in the lodgepole pine trees right behind our RV site. We had a hard time pulling them away from there to head into Glacier National Park! We did have a lot of rain and cold temps during our few days here unfortunately. We still thoroughly loved our time in this area, but will have to come back in July next time!

Rainy day in West Glacier

Rainbow at West Glacier

The kids are sure going to miss walking out their front door to this rope swing over the Portneuf River! It has definitely been one of their highlights of staying at the KOA here in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. As beautifully fun as it is, I will not miss the muddy clothes and bloody toes that have come from this. But, isn’t that what camping is all about? Carefree fun times that we definitely can’t get outside our front door in Arizona!

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We have loved our past couple of days in Lava Hot Springs. This KOA is quaint and oh so pretty nestled right on the river amongst many mature trees. We met the owners, Kody and Andi, several times during our stay and they were really nice and accommodating. They have really turned this campground around in the past two years they have owned it. Look at our gorgeous spots backed up to the river!

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The KOA is just a short walk/bike ride to Lava’s World Famous Natural Hot Pools as well as to everything in the little town. We also were able to rent float tubes right here at our KOA at a discounted price! We just picked them up in town and down the river we went over and over. So much fun!

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Our first full day in Lava we spent at the Olympic swimming pool/waterpark. We all had a ball here and the kids loved their first time jumping off the diving boards and various platforms. We bought day combo passes good for both the waterpark and the Hot Pools. What a deal at only $12.50 each person for the entire day!

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Our kids and their friend, Andy, loved synchronizing their jumps off the various boards and platforms!

This Lava Hot Springs KOA offers options for every type of camper.  There are several adorable cabins for rent as well. The kids loved watching the trains go by on the tracks just next to the main road into the campground as well.

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Can you spot Ally B way back there?

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I loved the convenience of this drying rack right at the back of our spot!

If you happen to be traveling along the I-15 , definitely take the 12 mile detour to Lava Hot Springs for a couple days of family fun at this KOA! We recommend going during the week as we hear that the weekends can get a little crazy.