Elko NV to Bend OR - Anything for kids to do along this stretch to break up the trip?

As the title says, we will be traveling from the Elko, NV area (Wild Horse Reservoir SRA) to Bend, OR in July and are looking for something to break up the 8+ hour trip with our kids (3 girls, ages 2 to 10), preferably an activity to get some "wiggles out" that isn't just a hike. We haven't fixed a route yet, either north through Idaho or south and around through Elko/Winnemucca. Unfortunately this trip will be in the mini-van not the land cruiser so anything beyond gravel roads is out.

Any ideas? Route recommendations?

Thank you!


[Back] Roads Scholar
Wow! No replies to you yet?

Wow! No replies to you yet? Could be cause maybe you're asking a tough question. Mainly, going from Elko west then north into SE Oregon means lots of pretty boring dry dirt country....not very scenic unless you enjoy rock and dirt formations and distant high dry mountains!

Seriously, this is a tough route to find breaks and entertainment for kids. I've taken variations of the latter part of your route for over 35 years almost annually and can't recommend much helpful advice here. I'm not being unrealistically myopic or a too pessimistic ...We have a summer place in Bend and go up there almost every year. These routes simply aren't ones that have big scenic views that might distract bored, younger kids.

If you take I-84 up through Boise, there should be plenty of things to stop and do there in Boise to take a break though. Going further north and west, the Oregon Trail Museum at Baker City would be a fun and informative stop, but you're kinda off of the most direct route to Bend by then.

From Boise through Ontario to Bend there's basically nothing. Winnemucca to Bend, about the same...just desolate country, few cars, and high and dry desert with sage and rocks mostly.

Perhaps the best bet might be to keep the kiddies focused on all of the fun just ahead in Bend waiting for them.....a lively downtown with street fairs and free concerts almost every week (all of which have specific activities planned youngsters), the shallow Deschutes River flowing right through town for tubing and floating, the great High Desert Museum, bikes trails along the river or in Shevlin Park, the lava fields and interpretive center, short hikes to Behham Falls and Paulina Falls, the Cascades Lakes to paddle on, etc.

But if you zig zagged a bit, you could go up thru Alturas CA and hit Lava Caves NM by the Oregon border (numerous lava caves to explore, some lighted) and a great campground, and then going up past Klamath Falls, the Collier Logging Museum (good interpretive site and campground there too).

Sorry I cannot think of more along the way though...
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If you go through Twin Falls (which means back tracking east a little), you can stop at Shoshone Falls which are pretty spectacular. Not sure if it would be worth the detour though.
You can go up through Fields, OR and visit the Alvord Desert or take the Steens Mountain loop drive (highest maintained dirt road in Oregon). Carry some extra fuel with you though, there is not much out there. You can probably get out and drive on the Alvord playa.
I am seeing this a bit late, I missed the notification in February somehow, but Thank you!

We are going to NV through Boise and are hitting some of the highlights that direction on the way there and were hoping for a different route on the way home. I think we are going to go back the same way (through Boise) but plan to hit more of the Oregon Trail stuff on the way back (Oregon Trail museum and possibly Whitman Mission) instead of taking the alternate route. My eldest is in 4th grade and learning Oregon Trail history this year so she has been asking to see some of it.
Having just returned home, to Boise. We spent the Weekend in greater Hagerman Valley. So a little history opportunity, and a Geology opportunity, and a Fun Game for the whole family. The Snake River @Ontario is boring, however by to time you get to Gleens Ferry, (has an Oregon Trail Museum, & Camping), at 3 Island Crossing State Park. As you proceed East toward Bliss, You cross the Snake River twice, at the 1st you Could Exit the Free-way, take the trip North along the River to Kings Hill, a town that was "Abandoned" when I-84 was put in. You then return to Highway at the 2nd Highway crossing. Pay attention to the "Scard Lands twin the Road and River" Just to the South side is a boulder debris field of Stones "Left by the Bonneville Flood"... Instead of going to Twin Falls, Exit at the 2nd Bliss Exit, and travel down Hwy 30, down into the Hagerman Valley. As you cross the "Malad River" [Which is Idaho shortest River], you will agian see Boulder debris fields on both sides of the road. SLOW down going into Hagerman. It's a great litte community. If it's lunch time, the Snake River Grill has great food. From Hagerman, headed East you drop into the 1000's Springs scent route, there are at least 4 Public Hot-Springs. We prefer Miracle. There are two Fish Hatcheries. The National Hatchery has a nice display on "Steelhead", a Visitor display pool of White Sturgeon and Rainbow Trout. There is another Boulder debris field at the State Hatchery going to the Bridge. The trip from Miracle to beyond Filer is just down-right boring. BUT so is the route into Twin Falls and doubling back to get ya South on 93. If you have time in Boise, Let me know, I can escourt you guys to a great "River Display" behind the Game and Fish Center. GREAT display of Riparian habitat.

The "Game" to keeps the kids focused outside the vehicle - is to play the License Plate game. Mom plays ref., documenter, A high-lighter for each Kid. They see a State "Not Called" they say "Wyoming", "New Mexico" - keep track over and back, award the winner with some-sort of atta-boy, girl, etc.

David C. Gibbs
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How bold are you, and How Much Time do you have to return back to Bend. If you have 4 days, and an extended fuel capability (500 miles at a time)... There are lots of Low and Slow paved, County graded roads; with lots of scenery & Heritage. From Ontario to Hagerman, you are on the Old Oregon Trail, there are several detours on both sides of the Snake. Add the Historic Bonneville Flood debris fields, you could turn the route truly into a geology & why history matters. Your fastest route back from Wild Horse SRA - is back to I-80 @ Elko, head west to Winnemucca, North on 95 to 78, into Burns, and back to Bend.
The "Game" to keeps the kids focused outside the vehicle - is to play the License Plate game. Mom plays ref., documenter, A high-lighter for each Kid. They see a State "Not Called" they say "Wyoming", "New Mexico" - keep track over and back, award the winner with some-sort of atta-boy, girl, etc.
Yes, we have liked this game in the past and for my older girls this would be ok but my youngest is the issue. She just doesn't travel as well as my other girls did at this age.

As for the long route, we (unfortunately) won't be taking the LC for this and don't have teh range for some of that.

I will take a look at some fish hatcheries though. They have enjoyed Bonneville and i think there are actually a couple I have worked on close to the route...hmmmm.