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Day Trips: National Park Properties Adventure Planner

From fossil beds to waterfalls, Southern Idaho is a great place for a vacation.

By Lisa Battles on December 16, 2020

Southern Idaho
Twin Falls / Courtesy of Visit Southern Idaho

City of Rocks National Reserve

Highlights: Ancient granite spires looming over remarkable biodiversity sets the scene for miles of hiking, wildlife watching and world-renowned rock climbing on over 600 routes. Also known as the Silent City, just imagine if these awe-inspiring formations could talk.

Trip Prep: Stop at Tracey’s General Store to stock up on supplies and be sure that includes their delectable homemade cookies. Pack a swimsuit for a soak at nearby Durfee Hot Springs. 

Along the Way: From around July through October, take Howell Canyon Road to the 9,265-foot summit of Mount Harrison for incredible views, mountain biking and more. In the winter months, stop by Pomerelle Mountain Resort for skiing. 

Eat: Do lunch at the newly remodeled Albion Cafe, and don’t skip the pie. But do save room for dinner at Rock City Pizza in Almo.

Stay: Find Western-themed accommodations at The Almo Inn, or check vacation rentals for many other options that even include a teepee. The adjacent Castle Rocks State Park has rentals for campsites, a lodge and yurt with starry views before you snooze.

Go: From the Mini-Cassia Visitor Center, take Idaho 77, which becomes City of Rocks Back Country Byway in Albion. 47 miles; approximately 1 hour.

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Twin Falls / Victor Aerden

Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve

Highlights: This International Dark Sky Park is ideal for stargazing and pondering the Apollo 14 astronauts’ pursuits who studied volcanic geology here in 1969 to prepare for visits to the actual moon. The otherworldly landscape took shape from volcanic flows over 15,000 years ago.

Trip Prep: A warm, cozy hoodie and a bright headlamp are musts for exploring one of five developed lava tube caves at the park.

Along the Way: Explore Mammoth Cave, the world’s largest public volcanic cave, and Shoshone Indian Ice Caves just north of Shoshone, and stop in Bear Claw Trading Post for unique souvenirs.

Eat: Savor breakfast or lunch as Ernest Hemingway did at Manhattan Cafe in Shoshone and top it off with a mile-high ice-cream cone at Shoshone Snack Shack. Another go-to dish is the chicken-fried steak at Eagle’s Nest in Dietrich.

Stay: The closest developed lodging is 18 miles east on Arco, and there are 42 first-come, first-served campsites near the visitor center. 

Go: From the Shoshone Visitor Center, take US 26 East; 63 miles; approximately 1 hour. 

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Twin Falls / Courtesy of Idaho Tourism

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument

Highlights: Indulge in history with a side of hot springs by first stopping by the visitor center in Hagerman to see rare prehistoric horse fossils and learn about this lush landscape before viewing it at the two byway overlooks. Journey on for a rejuvenating soak at hot springs destinations that include Miracle Hot Springs, Banbury Hot Springs and 1000 Springs Resort.

Trip Prep: Rent or bring along your paddling gear to explore the waters around Ritter Island and get a closer look at the awe-inspiring natural springs waterfalls in this part of the Thousand Springs complex. 

Along the Way: Balanced Rock near Castleford is an 8-million-year-old marvel, not just for its age but its position. It weighs 40 tons and is 48 feet tall yet appears perched atop a pedestal that’s only 3-feet-by-17-inches.

Eat: Whatever’s on special at Snake River Grill in Hagerman is sure to hit the spot for lunch or dinner. Stop by for ice-cold brews, pizza and a friendly retro vibe at Wilson’s Club, which dates to 1943. 

Stay: For sparkling creek and sweeping state park views, book with Billingsley Creek Lodge in Hagerman. 

Go: From the Buhl Visitor Center, take US 30, a.k.a. Thousand Springs Scenic Byway; 22 miles; approximately 30 minutes.

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Twin Falls / Courtesy of Visit Southern Idaho

Minidoka National Historic Site

Highlights: A new visitor center powerfully memorializes and interprets the somber history of this site, which was a detention center for Japanese Americans relocated during the last three years of World War II. 

Trip Prep: Traveling with kids? Pack sunscreen, towels and swimsuits to cool off at the new splash pad at Jerome’s ICCU Park. 

Along the Way: Visit the lava rock Mountain View Barn for coffee, scrumptious food and fun specialty gift items.

Eat: Arrive hungry for a hearty breakfast or local favorite grilled Angus burgers at Fat Clarence’s Pub and Grub, or dig into authentic Mexican dishes at El Sombrero Restaurant, both in Jerome.

Stay: Book a cabin or campsite at the Twin Falls/Jerome KOA, and set aside time to sample fare at the cafe, shop for gifts and play a round of mini-golf.

Go: From the Twin Falls Visitor Center, take US 93 North to go east on Fall City Road, then Idaho 25 East to Hunt Road. 17 miles; approximately 25 minutes.

If you’d like to learn more about the Southern Idaho area and plan your next trip, check out more ways to Discover Southern Idaho.

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