This spring is a great time to scratch three jaw-dropping natural wonders off your Idaho bucket list. These gorgeous sites — one famous, two lesser-known — aren’t very far off the beaten track, but they’ll make you feel like you’re in another world.
Hidden in Plain Sight
Malad Gorge. You’ll definitely want to exit the interstate for this one. Interstate 84 crosses over Malad Gorge, but the angle of the view from the road obscures the natural drama below. The Malad River, a tributary of the Snake, muscles through this 250-foot, 2.5-mile canyon. In the spring, it makes for some of the most wondrous river views in Southern Idaho as the Malad River plunges down a stairstep waterfall into Devil’s Washbowl.
Views of the gorge are best from the slender-but-sturdy bridge that arcs across the canyon. Take a short hike to discover nearby fingers of the gorge, where crystal-clear springs produce ponds and streams. To get to Malad Gorge, take exit 147 (marked “Tuttle”) from I-84.
Balanced Rock. World-famous Balanced Rock near Castleford is a true Southern Idaho icon. This mushroom-shaped rock measures 48 feet wide at the top and only 3 feet, 17 inches at the base. Thousands of people have climbed up to the rock over the years to take a unique photo.
Spring is a great time to visit Balanced Rock. The park, managed by Twin Falls County Parks and Waterways, is situated in a beautiful box canyon shaded by cottonwood trees along Salmon Falls Creek. You can bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the quiet setting in the park for an afternoon. Feeling adventurous? Camp overnight there (just remember: there are no RV hookups available). The fishing is great at nearby Salmon Falls Creek, too.
Caldron Linn. At this site near the Oregon Trail, the Snake River is forced through a passage less than 40 feet wide. The result is one of the most intimidating, spectacular waterfalls in Idaho — and spring is when it’s at its full-force best. Also known as Star Falls, this site proved perilous to the Wilson Price Hunt party in 1811. Employed by John Jacob Astor, Hunt’s party traveled overland using information gleaned from the Lewis and Clark expedition. But Caldron Linn proved too rough — Hunt’s party lost a man and two canoes in the area, forcing them back on land. Scottish members of Hunt’s party gave the area its name.
Not much has changed since 1811: The area is still natural and untamed, and you won’t find safety features like guardrails or paved paths. Upstream, anglers will find great bass fishing; downstream, daring kayakers will find Class IV and V rapids with huge drops.