Traveling can be expensive, especially with gas prices higher than ever and destinations getting more expensive by the day. Idaho remains one of the most affordable locations to stay and there are so many free places to explore. We are here to help you find all of the free things to do in Southern Idaho so you can save money and still create memories!
1. Visit the Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls
The Snake River Canyon spans the entire north side of Twin Falls and is free to access. You can bike, run, walk or hike 8 miles along the canyon on a beautifully paved trail. There are many access points to get on this trail including the Twin Falls Visitor Center, the northern most point of Washington Street, and the corner of Poleline and Eastland. There is another one, at Shoshone Falls, but there is a fee to drive in.
*FREE TRAVEL HACK* If you want to see Shoshone Falls but don’t want to pay the vehicle admission fee to get in, walk down the Canyon Rim Trail to the falls! You will see more views than the people who only stay at the parking lot too. Head Downtown Twin Falls after your adventures to shop and dine at local businesses. Stay at the Fillmore Inn for an authentic B&B experience.
2. Check out Mermaid Cove in Jerome
The north side of the Snake River Canyon is worth exploring too, and its free! Mermaid Cove is located just past Jerome Golf Course on the Nellis & Irwin Grade (formerly known as the Yingst Grade). Park at the top of the grade and hike down into the canyon to see two waterfalls and expansive views of the Snake River.
While you’re on the Jerome side of the canyon we highly recommend going to grab coffee and food from Renew Coffee. A great place to stay nearby is at the Comfort Inn & Suites Jerome. The hotel is an affordable option and has two lovely pools and fitness center!
3. Drive through windy mountain roads up to Magic Mountain
In the spring, summer and winter time Magic Mountain Ski Hill is free to the public to wander and enjoy nature. Autumn brings the most beautifully colored trees around, vibrant red leaves fall generally by the last weekend of October. When the snow melts in the spring there is a beautiful waterfall near Magic Mountain called Ross Falls. Ross Falls is free year round, freezing in the winter and peaking around early summer. Magic Mountain also hosts a free learn how to cross-country ski day every year in January.
4. Hike at City of Rocks National Reserve
The City of Rocks National Reserve is one of the most magical places in Southern Idaho. The tall granite spires of rocks span through a valley beneath the Albion Mountains. There are plenty of fun hikes to partake on, or just drive the City of Rocks Scenic Byway to see views from the road. A popular place to stop is Window Arch that is only a short hike from the parking lot.
Camp in the City for the most affordable accommodation. Reservations can be made on the park’s website. Almo Inn just minutes from the park is a cozy, western themed hotel. Next to it is a lovely restaurant called the Outpost Steakhouse. Also in Almo is a hot spring! Check out Durfee Hot Spring for a small fee.
5. Marvel at the wonder of Balanced Rock
Balanced Rock is located south west of Buhl. The drive is quick and before the rock you’ll enter into a beautiful canyon. At the end of the canyon filled with hoodoos and rock formations the grand Balanced Rock stands high above the road. Hike up to the rock to see how incredible it truly is that the boulder balances on a 3 foot pedestal!
When back in the city of Buhl, check out the Antique and Thrift shops! Purchase one of a kind souvenirs at the locally owned businesses. Get food and drinks at Magic Valley Brewing, another locally owned business!