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Take a ride down Idaho’s only natural water slide

Editor’s note: This fall, BoiseDev will feature some great destinations you can visit around Idaho. Sophia Doumani’s Hidden Gems in the Gem State airs on local TV twice per month – and now you will see some of her stories, along with video, here on BoiseDev.com, and in Idaho First!

Looking for a fun way to spend your weekend? Look no further! Tucked away deep in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest is a slide that mimics a scene straight out of a children’s book.

This geological marvel is composed of a few hundred feet of pure granite. The constant flow of water descends from a beautiful terraced waterfall, accessible only by foot.

Waterslides are already fun, but when you factor in the constant babbling of the creek, the rustling of the trees encapsulating your path, and the fresh mountain air, it suddenly becomes a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

This is one of the only natural water slides safely accessible to the public in all of Idaho, but it barely lies within state lines. This enchanting stretch of forest is only several miles away from the Canadian border.

The Slide

The natural waterslide at Lion Head Creek

Don’t expect any help finding this place. There are no signs, no indicators, and a scarce amount of people. Truth be told, that’s what I believe is so special about it.

I was apprehensive about highlighting this tiny oasis, I still am. I think what makes it exceptional is how undisturbed it is. There have been far too many natural spectacles that have been destroyed by those who lack the respect and appreciation required to truly enjoy them.

That being said, I know many of you reading this also possess a deep admiration for Idaho’s serene environment. If you’re willing to make the journey out there, I hope you allow yourself to bask in the surrounding splendor. Just please, don’t take it for granted.

The bottom of the natural waterslide at Lion Head Creek

A rope is the only non-naturally occurring entity you’ll find here. Despite the intrusion, its presence is absolutely necessary.

I did this slide with my fiance (pictured above). Neither of us are exactly small people. As the laws of physics suggest, the bigger you are, the faster you’ll go. For us, that means we were traveling at lightspeed.

The smooth granite surface shouldn’t rip your clothes and provides a surprising amount of padding to accommodate your journey down the slide. That being said, most people (including myself) bring trash bags as a means to go faster and to avoid any potential scrapes.

There is a small divot at the end of the slide that is filled with water. It brings smaller people to a halt with a splash. If you bring children, they shouldn’t slide past it. If you go yourself, there’s a good chance you may. That’s where the rope comes in.

There are no regulations here. This slide doesn’t need to be “up to code.” There is no one for you to blame if you get hurt. There is no lifeguard on duty. The rope is the only thing standing between you and the giant boulder pictured below. Moral of the story? Slide at your own risk and always grab the rope!

What is waiting for you if you miss the rope

I found the minor prospect of danger weirdly thrilling. As I shot past the pool, water flew up my nose and into my eyes. I hit my bottom on a rock (an act that would later form a very lovely bruise). I barely managed to grab the rope with one hand. I laughed so hard I cried.

Still wearing my hiking shoes, I picked myself off the ground and attempted to walk back up the granite, sopping wet. I slipped.

At the time, I was wearing a trash bag I had poked holes in and stuck my legs through to protect my clothes. It formed something that can only be described as a highly off-putting adult diaper. I was drenched, shivering, and wearing a garbage bag.

As I laid on the ground, I looked up at my fiance, temporarily bewildered. We both started hysterically laughing. It was one of the most ridiculously funny and distinct experiences I’ve ever had. I’m so grateful for the memories we made here.

If you’d like to watch our experience on the slide, it’s documented in the video below. It will also walk you through what to expect and how to prepare!

Hiking to the Slide

Temple Mountain

The natural water slide at Lion Head Creek lies at the base of a massive, barren, granitic mountain face. I remember looking up at Temple Mountain in awe of its unique structure. It looked so smooth, and suddenly I understood what this “slide” would be like.

A tiny, would-be parking lot near Temple Mountain is going to be your starting point for the 3.1-mile out-and-back hike to the slide. The trek comes with phenomenal views, but no good thing comes without a bit of work. This is a true hidden gem, so you’ll have to do some searching.

Lion Head Creek

You’ll be hard-pressed to do this hike without getting wet. About a mile and a half in you’ll approach Lion Head Creek. While it looks like there is a path around it, that route will not lead you to the slide. You must go through the creek. No matter what time of year it is, the water is going to be very cold. 

Any pool, slide, or waterfall you’ll stumble across is going to be composed of snowmelt and groundwater. The cold tends to be a theme, but if you’re like Elsa from Disney’s ‘Frozen’ and it doesn’t bother you, you’re in luck. There are multiple bodies of water that break off along this hike that you can swim in.

The base of the waterfall that pours into the slide

This pool is part of what provides a constant flow of water to the slide. If you see it on your hike, you’ve gone too far. Although it may not be your final destination, this charming and quaint little spot is definitely worth exploring.

There’s something that feels inconceivable about this place. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the notion that this all formed so beautifully, so perfectly, on its own. Pictures don’t do it justice. I’ve spent a lot of time hiking throughout Idaho, and I can honestly say this was one of my favorite trails.

Top of the natural waterslide

What to Wear

I saw a questionable amount of people doing this hike in swimsuits and flip-flops. I would not recommend it. You’ll have to cross multiple streams, creeks, and other bodies of water, so it’d be ideal to bring a pair of shoes you don’t mind getting wet. If you don’t want to hike in a swimsuit, there are multiple secluded spots along the trail to hold up a towel and change. Just make sure you have everything you need ahead of time, including four-wheel drive!

The Drive

The drive to the natural waterslide is not easy. The road is windy, unpaved, narrow and riddled with potholes. Make sure your vehicle is equipped to handle tough terrain before you make your way out to Lion Head Creek.

It may be a bumpy ride, but the route leading up to it is absolutely breathtaking. The trailhead for the slide is only 5 miles away from the northern shore of Priest Lake, so you’ll get to enjoy views along the water before the road breaks off.

Priest Lake State Park

Priest Lake State Park is one of Idaho’s most tucked away and delightful destinations. The 19-mile-long, 300-foot-deep body of water has a similar feeling to Redfish Lake. If you’re headed up here to experience the natural waterslide, I would definitely recommend spending time at Priest Lake as well.

This pristine spot is only two hours away from Coeur d’Alene. Enjoying Priest Lake, tackling the natural waterslide, and biking the Hiawatha all make for the perfect northern Idaho weekend. 

Inside Idaho