This unusual canyon north of Shoshone was carved over thousands of years by the Big Wood River, leaving twisting, almost supernatural lava rock sculptures behind.

It’s not easy to get to Black Magic Canyon — in fact, many locals don’t even realize that this geological treasure exists — and it is not for the faint of heart. First, you will need sturdy walking shoes capable of scrambling over smooth basalt, which can be slippery.

Second, you will absolutely need to call the Big Wood Canal Company, which controls the flow of water through the canyon, before leaving. (The company’s number is 208-886-2331.) Water created the canyon, and irrigation water still floods its narrow passage most of the year. Starting in the late summer, however, the canyon begins to dry as the need for irrigation water slows. It becomes accessible in late July and August and remains so through the winter, though test flows may be released as early as February. If you explore Black Magic Canyon without calling ahead you may find yourself trapped in a fatal flash flood.

Third, the canyon is a popular spot for rattlesnakes. You’re most likely to spot them in late summer.

If you’re willing to brave it, though, Black Magic Canyon offers some of the most interesting and unusual geological specimens in the United States.

Trip Itineraries

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