31 October, 2021

Top Places to Visit in Idaho, USA


Idaho, the less popular state is a land of many waterfalls, mountains, rivers, and hot springs. 80% of the state is public land. Idaho is known as The Gem State as it produces 72 types of precious and semi-precious stones. Idaho is also a number one Potato state producing almost 1/3 of all U.S Potatoes.

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We could visit Idaho after our Yellowstone trip. 

You can read about Yellowstone here:

How to Plan A vacation to Yellowstone

Yellowstone Itinerary Day #1 - Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and West thumb geyser basin

Yellowstone Itinerary Day #2 - Midway Geyser Basin and Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook

Yellowstone itinerary Day #2 (Part 2) - Upper geyser basin and Lower geyser basin, Old Faithful

Yellowstone Itinerary Day #3 - Mammoth Hot springs, Roosevelt Arch, and Norris geyser basin

From the Yellowstone's North Entrance at Gardiner, we drove up to Mesa Falls, which is 2.5 hrs. 

Alas, the Idaho board is full of stickers :-)


Mesa Falls:

To reach Mesa Falls, we took US 20 to Mesa Falls Scenic byway at Harriman State Park. The entry is $5 per vehicle and this trip is completely worth the time and money.

From the Mesa Falls visitor center, it is a short hike to the Upper Mesa falls view. When we visited this in June, the place is roaring with the sound of gushing water and the falls are majestic with a rainbow. The viewpoint gives a fantastic view without the need for a hike. 

The Lower Falls is a 10.4-mile moderate hike. We couldn't take that hike with kids.

After visiting the falls, we drove to The Craters of the Moon National monument and Reserve. This monument is around 3 hrs from the Mesa falls scenic byway.

The Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve:

The drive is mostly along the drylands without any towns or civilization. The National monument preserves around 50,000 acres of volcanic formations and lava flows. This place is desolate and lifeless, but yet it amazes us with the peculiar landscape which looks like the surface of the moon.

The entry to the monument is $15 per vehicle. In this monument, you can see cinder cones, lava tubes, lava rivers, spatter cones etc., 

We took the map from the visitor center and started our 7-mile scenic loop drive. Our first hike is Devil's Orchard nature trail. This is a paved easy 0.5-mile loop that gives a good introduction to the park and features like lava fragments sitting amidst beds of cinders. 

We stopped at all the points mentioned in the scenic loop. The next interesting hike was to Inferno cone.

Inferno Cone:

An Inferno cone is a cinder cone. Climbing the steep 0.5 miles out and back cone trail is a bit tough when it's windy. But, the climb is very interesting to us and to kids. When we reached the top at the elevation of 6,181 feet, the 360-degree views are amazing.

Cinder cones form when gas-rich volcanic froth erupts high into the air and then piles in a mound.
This is the most interesting hike in the whole monument. 

The next stops are Snowcone and Spatter cone trails. 

These "miniature" volcanoes form during the final stages of a fissure type eruption. As gases escape and pressure is released, the lava becomes thick and pasty. When these sticky globs of lava plop to the surface, they pile up to form spatter cones. Most spatter cones are much smaller than cinder cones. They are rarely more than 50 feet high. The steep sides of a spatter cone protect the ice and snow inside from the hot summer sun. One spatter cone, Snow Cone, has been known to hold ice all summer.
Next, we hiked to see the caves through the Caves trail. To go inside the caves, we need a permit. 

There are more than 500 caves discovered in the monument. There are 3 types of caves - Lava tubes, fissure caves, and differential weather caves.

Lava tubes are formed when the cooling exterior of an active lava flow insulated the molten river within allowing it to continue to flow. In this way lava sometimes flowed for many miles underground until the source was cut off or diverted leaving behind an empty space or “cave.”
Fissure caves are found within the the deep cracks that make up the Great Rift. Some of these caves are remarkably deep, including one particular fissure that may be passable to a depth of 650 feet (200 meters) from the surface. The King's Bowl area is an excellent place to view the Great Rift but entry into these caves is restricted due to extreme safety hazards within the caves.
Differential Weather caves were formed when volcanic material was hollowed out by wind, rain and frost. These caves are relatively rare and difficult to find.

We drove to Idaho falls and stayed there for the night.

Shoshone Falls:

The next day we drove to Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls. These falls are known as 'Niagara of the West.
At 212 feet long and 900 feet wide, this is one of the largest natural waterfalls in USA.

Perrine Bridge:

On the way to Shoshone falls park, we got down near the Perrine bridge which is 1500 ft long across the Snake river canyon. This bridge offers pedestrian walkways with beautiful views of the river and canyon. 

This bridge is near Twin falls, about 10 mins south of I-84. Perrine Coulee Falls is around 10 mins from the Perrine bridge. So, if you have time, please plan to visit it. On the highway, there is a parking lot near the hairpin bend to get a view of these falls and it is very easy to miss it. 

We reached Shoshone Falls park by 11 am or so. The entry to the park is $5 per vehicle. It was not as spectacular as we expected. It seemed like the water flow is completely controlled by the dam. So, water is not released from all sides yet when we checked from the viewpoint. 

It is definitely a beautiful waterfall, but after watching the majestic Mesa falls and the Grand canyon of Yellowstone, these fell short of the expectation.
The drive to Shoshone falls is scenic though.

After Shoshone falls, we started our return journey to Colorado Springs.

We feel fortunate to have visited these beautiful places in the least visited state of Idaho. How do you like this travelogue? Let me know in the comments.

See you next with more travelogues..

Until next time,


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