Expedition Southern Idaho
The road trip is the preferred holiday during the pandemic. The national parks are bulging at the seams with visitors this summer. It’s hard to enjoy the outdoors when there are more people than wildlife. I’ve always loved taking the road less travelled so I included a visit to Southern Idaho. The state is one of the least populated and without a true national park, Yellowstone is truly in Wyoming, so the trails would be less crowded.
From The Grand Tetons, I made my way to the city of Idaho Falls. I wouldn’t spend much time here as this was my lunch stop but I did get to see Idaho Falls as I walked along the river walk. I continued to Twin Falls, Idaho, where I spent three nights.
Little City of Rocks
My first visit would be the Little City of Rocks. It’s a canyon strait out of The Lord of Rings. The canyon entrance has a wall made of stones and the canyon is surrounded by rocks resembling skyscrapers. With a little imagination, it’s a city of rocks meant for another world.
The city is on Highway 46 just north of the city of Gooding. There is a sign along the highway and you can park near the highway or continue on the dirt road. The road gets rough as you get closer to the entrance and I would recommend a four wheel drive vehicle if you want to park at the stone wall. I decided to park near the highway and hike an extra mile to get to the trailhead. In hindsight, I could have driven a little further, past a fence, and reduced the extra hike by half. I made it to the trailhead and realized there were no other cars in the area and I would have the little city to myself. I entered the canyon and saw the rock formation on each side and my jaw dropped. It’s an other-world landscape, one where you can imagine a colony of elves fighting off a marauding band of orcs behind the wall.
In reality, it was just me hiking and soaking up this landscape. The creek was dry but my objective was to hike to the waterfall, which I knew would be dry as the creek. I continued on and hiked a mile to the location of the waterfall. My total hike would be a total of four miles, round trip. I didn’t see a single person the whole time until three hikers entered the canyon as I was leaving.
Thousand Springs State Park
Southern Idaho sits atop one of the largest aquafers in the country. The water bubbles out of the ground through hundreds of springs and, in some cases, forms a waterfall as it drops into a deep canyon. Thousand Springs State Park puts this fact to light. The park is made up of five sections, unfortunately they’re not connected.
I decided to visit three of the five and the first one I visited was Malad Gorge. The park consist of a drive along the Malad River with multiple stops. Some stops provide trails to crystal clear springs that produce ponds and streams. Unfortunately, the trails were closed during my visit. The native grass and other flora were being protected from hikers. The stop a liked the most was the first one. I got to see the origin of the gorge as the water carves its way through the rocks just below highway 84. I crossed the gorge via a foot bridge to the gorge overlook. From here, I saw the waterfall I just passed without realizing it. It was below the walking bridge I crossed and down river was a waterfall that dropped the whole 250 feet of the gorge.
I wanted a closer look so I took a dirt trail that paralleled the river. It was a short trail to the front of the falls and I stood on the cliff to get an unobstructed view of it. I didn’t stay long on that cliff, It was windy and that rocky bottom was really far.
I moved on to my nest stop. Ritter Island offers a short trail around the island and it’s a great place to bird watch. Birds frequent the springs and the Snake River where Ritter Island is located. Unfortunately, the park was still closed for the season. It would open the following week during Memorial weekend. I knew that but I wanted to visit anyway.
I went to see the beautiful cascading waterfall at the front of the park. I got the entrance and took the trail to the left. The short walked passed some trees and once the trail cleared it opened to the waterfall. The source of the falls was another spring above the cliff.
On the other side was a serene portion of the Snake River and a great place to birdwatch. I wasn’t the only person with the waterfall on their itinerary, there were probably six other people there. Seeing this waterfall made the visit, even though the park was closed.
Earl Hardy Box Canyon
Just five minutes away from Ritter Island is the third of the Thousand Springs State Park that I visited. Earl Hardy Box Canyon is another waterway formed by a natural spring. The spring produces a torques colored water that flows down the canyon and into the Snake River.
I took the trail along the the river, a top the cliff. I hiked for about a mile before I made my way back. I spoke to some local hikers who told me that there was a trail to the bottom of the canyon and swimming was allowed in the canyon. I didn’t have my swim trucks and it was getting late. It was now 6 p.m. and the sky had turned gray with rain clouds. This was the end of my time in Thousand Springs State Park.
I chose to stay in the Twin City during my visit because it’s central to the locations I wanted to visit. But, the city isn’t just a place to sleep, it also has some spectacular sites of its own.
The most famous one is Shoshone Falls, just a few minutes from the center of the city. The travel broachers call it the Niagara of the West. It’s a lofty claim and if you squint, really hard, you might think so. All kidding aside, It’s still a beautiful waterfall and definitely worth he visit.
The city also sits along the Snake River and you can kayak, zipline, or base jump of of Perrine Memorial Bridge. I wanted to kayak in the river but the water was still cold so I decided to hike along its shores.
Mogensen Trail is short but provides a great view of the bridge above. If your lucky, you can see the base jumpers leaping off the bridge and watch them, and their parachute, make their way to the bank of the river. They actually land near the other end of this trail, on the opposite side of the bridge. The jumpers will use this trail to make there way out of the gorge. There’s also a small waterfall along the trail and you’ll get a closeup of it as the water passed the trail as it makes its way to the Snake River.
If you take a short drive from the Mogensen Trailhead is an amazing waterfall, Perrine Coulee Fals. Actually, it’s about a 60 second drive. It’s a unique waterfall that you can see from all angles. You can view it from behind and from above. In fact, before I drove to the little trail, I went to a viewpoint at the top of the falls and got a great view of it. There’s a small turnout near the front of the falls where I parked. From here, the trail to the falls is short but very steep. I still can’t believe this volume of water is coming from a spring at the edge of the cliff above.
I had the falls to my self and walked around it, then I did it again. how often can you walk behind a waterfall, of course I did it again. I had such an amazing time and I felt like I cheated. The trail was so short and it was just a five minute drive from my hotel. It was like rolling out of bed easy.
I didn’t really know what to expect when I decided to visit Southern Idaho since there is little information of the area. I had seen some beautiful photos, of course, but that could be misleading at times. My experience was one of amazement! The Little City of Rocks was straight out of a fictional book and the number of spring waterfalls was above expectation. The small population base and the low number of tourist in the area, added to my joy as well. It was like an empty playground that I explored. There were more on my list that I could have done in the area and I’ll have to review that list next time I’m in the area. Most of the places I visited took very little effort so the area would be an ideal place for a family vacation as well. I had such an amazing time here that I highly recommend a visit.