Your Guide to the Most Astounding, Eye-Popping Sights and Activities in the Region
Southern Idaho is not flashy. She keeps her gems hidden, tucked out of the way and saved for those who are willing to seek her majesty. But as any true adventurer knows, the most spectacular finds are worth a little digging. Investing a little time and taking a little trek from the beaten track.
The question is: What treasures will you unearth? Travel through her broad deserts, deep canyons, and clear rivers. Use this guide to get started, and then let her spirit move you to your next destination.
#1 Wonder at waterfalls
Southern Idaho’s myriad waterfalls include secret spots like Mermaid’s Cove or water-accessible Pillar Falls. You’ll discover a huge variety of falls along or just off the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway. These waterfalls include Minnie Miller Springs, Niagara Springs, and the springs and falls at the Box Canyon Reserve. For legendary water, visit Cauldron Linn, Auger Falls, and Malad Gorge and Devil’s Washbowl.
Or, of course, see the mother of them all: Shoshone Falls. She is a 212-foot behemoth that attracts travelers from around the world. Visit in the spring for big flows or in the fall for amazing rock formations and sunsets.
#2 Marvel at geological wonders
Millions of years of volcanic eruptions, wind, and water have made Southern Idaho a true treasure trove for the geologically curious. City of Rocks National Reserve is a must-see destination for rock climbers and history lovers alike. Emigrants from Eastern towns named it and their wagon ruts still run through the reserve. Or don’t miss Little City of Rocks near Gooding, which features ancient rock art and great hiking trails.
Prehistoric volcanoes created the vast lava field known as Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. Lava tubes such as the Shoshone Ice Caves and Tea Kettle Cave offer a glimpse of Idaho’s explosive past. Balanced Rock near Castleford is an Instagram-ready destination that seems to defy gravity. For a true Western marvel, head to the deep Snake River Canyon, where you can explore geology from a stand-up paddleboard or kayak. Want to just admire the views? Enjoy the canyon from the comfort of restaurants Elevation 486 and Canyon Crest, both of which are perched on the edge of this wonder.
#3 Hit the water
The Snake River and its tributaries and man-made lakes make Southern Idaho a water lover’s paradise. Take in breathtaking scenery at your own pace while you paddle the waters of Hagerman’s Blue Heart Springs or under Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls. If you love lakes, escape to the high mountains of Lake Cleveland or Indepence Lakes.
Feel the need for speed? Check out the Snake River in Heyburn or Burley. Burley is also the site of the annual Wake the Snake wakeboard competition and the Idaho Regatta speed boat race. The whitewater of the Hagerman Reach and the Murtaugh Reach of the Snake River is thrilling for the whole family and attracts rafters from around the West. If fishing is more your speed, you’ll find plenty to catch at Salmon Dam Reservoir. It is the premier walleye fishery in Idaho — or Mormon Reservoir, a haven for trout and even elusive sturgeon.
#4 Get a history lesson
From Native American heritage to the Oregon Trail Southern Idahoans take pride in their rich Western history. Rupert Square is lined with buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, including the impressive Wilson Theatre and the Minidoka County Historical Museum. Other historical museums include Albion Historical Society, Cassia County Historical Museum in Burley, Hagerman Valley Historical Museum, and the Lincoln County Historical Museum in Shoshone.
Visit the oldest store in Idaho in Almo and a restored one-room schoolhouse in Gooding. Of course, a stay in the historic B&Bs of Albion and Gooding is a must.
For a truly eye opening look at World War II history, visit the Minidoka National Historic Site in Jerome. It is a former incarceration camp for Japanese-Americans and Japanese resident aliens. Or go way back in history at the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, where over 200 different species of fossil plants and animals have been discovered.
#5 Go thrill-seeking
Did you know that Southern Idaho is one of the top BASE jumping destinations on the planet? It’s all due to the I.B. Perrine Bridge on the Snake River, which offers death-defying opportunities for scenic jumps. Watch from the bridge or head out yourself on a tandem jump. The Milner Mile, which starts with a Class V rapid and 25-foot drop below Milner Dam, is for serious whitewater enthusiasts only. Another pro stretch, the Malad River, lies deep in the Malad Gorge.
Southern Idaho’s geology is perfect for climbers — there are more than 700 routes at City of Rocks National Reserve alone. Head deep underground and explore the cave system at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Mammoth Cave, Tea Kettle Cave, or the Shoshone Ice Caves. Or get a bird’s eye view of the massive Snake River Canyon on Zip the Snake.
#6 Log those birds
The region is a haven for waterfowl and migrating birds — and for the people who love to watch them. The Hagerman Wildlife Management Area and Billingsley Creek Wildlife Management Area, both located just a few miles from the town of Hagerman, are home to tens of thousands of ducks, bald eagles, trumpeter swans, shorebirds, and other waterfowl. Lake Walcott and the Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge, situated next to the Minidoka Dam on the Snake River, offers a safe space for nesting waterfowl, including hundreds of white pelicans in the spring.
In the South Hills and Albion Mountains, you might be lucky enough to see Cassia Crossbills, which use their unique crossed bills to crack lodgepole pines and fish out the seeds inside. For true majesty, head to Box Canyon Reserve and the rest of the Thousand Springs Complex in the winter for astounding numbers of bald eagles. Put on your scientist hat and see how many birds you can log at the annual Jim Sage Christmas Bird Count at City of Rocks National Reserve.
#7 Experience the culture
Bustling downtowns, Western rodeos, local fare — Southern Idaho has it all. Summer kicks off rodeo season: Take your pick of the Gooding County Fair and Pro Rodeo, Camas County Rodeo in Fairfield, Lincoln County Fair and Rodeo in Shoshone, Jerome County Fair and Rodeo, and Twin Falls County Fair & Magic Valley Stampede in Filer. Also check out the Minidoka County Fair in Rupert or the Cassia County Fair in Burley.
Art lovers flock to Shoshone Arts in the Park in July, the Thousand Springs Festival for the Arts in September, and the year-round performances at the College of Southern Idaho Fine Arts Center. Experience one of Southern Idaho’s immigrant cultures at the Gooding Basque Picnic in July or take in a feast of dancing and music at the annual Magic Valley Folk Festival. Southern Idaho’s many cities feature old-fashioned main streets and downtowns for fun throughout the year.
You won’t want to miss favorite eateries like the Oxbow Café in Bliss, Gossner’s Magic Valley Chalet in Heyburn, The Eagle’s Nest in Dietrich, the Yellow Brick Café in Twin Falls, El Sombrero in Jerome, or Stevo’s in Burley.
#8 Head to the mountains
You can find plenty of year-round outdoor entertainment in the hills and mountains of Southern Idaho. You’ll discover great hiking and camping at Lake Cleveland, Castle Rocks State Park, City of Rocks National Reserve, and the South Hills. Mountain bikers love trails near Auger Falls and Indian Springs, the mountains south of Burley. You can also try the Canyon Rim Trail in Twin Falls. Plus, the Auger Falls trails are great in the winter too. If you’re up for exploring the backcountry on an ATV/UTV, try Big Southern Butte, Snake River Canyon Park, and the Camas County trails.
Winter is no time to slow down in Southern Idaho — try Nordic skiing, cat skiing, snowshoeing, and downhill. The region has three resorts – Soldier Mountain, Pomerelle, and Magic Mountain. For snowmobiling, check out the area around Fairfield and the Diamondfield Jack area near Twin Falls. Of course, you can always take in the deep calm of winter by watching the wildlife at Lake Walcott and the Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge, the Hagerman Wildlife Management Area and Billingsley Creek Wildlife Management Area, Castle Rocks State Park, City of Rocks National Reserve, and the South Hills and Albion Mountains.
#9 Luxuriate in the hot springs
Southern Idaho is home to hundreds of ancient, dormant volcanoes that created the lava rock features of the region while trapping millions of gallons of water. What does this geology mean for you? Plenty of glorious hot springs! Check out Miracle Hot Springs and Banbury Hot Springs in Buhl or 1,000 Springs Resort in Hagerman for springs. These springs offer a mix of family-friendly pools and private bathing opportunities. Durfee Hot Springs in Almo has been soothing tired muscles for about a century and is a real treat.
For a more natural experience, trek to Warswick or Skillern Hot Springs near Fairfield. To get to Warswick, you’ll have to work for it — it’s a scenic six-mile hike, and you’ll be rewarded with the natural beauty of the remote setting and piping hot water to sink into.
#10 Ask the experts
When you’re ready for a deep dive into Southern Idaho’s hidden gems, visit one of the region’s friendly visitor centers. You’ll get insider information about local favorites and off-the-beaten-path getaways. Head to the Almo Visitor Center, the Twin Falls Visitor Center, Mini-Cassia Visitor Center, Buhl Visitor Center, Twin Falls Visitor Center, and the Shoshone Visitor Center (located in the 2nd Time Around Antique Mall).
Check out our other Top 10 Lists:
Top 10 Things to Do in Albion »
Top 10 Things to Do in Almo »
Top 10 Things to Do in Buhl »
Top 10 Things to Do in Burley »
Top 10 Things to Do in Fairfield »
Top 10 Things to Do In Gooding »
Top 10 Things to Do in Hagerman »
Top 10 Things to Do in Heyburn »
Top 10 Things to Do in Rupert »
The Top 10 Things to Do In Twin Falls »