Enjoy Endless Outdoor Activities in Southern Idaho
Few places can match the broad range of fun and connectivity that Twin Falls and the surrounding Magic Valley offer residents.
Whether you are climbing up a canyon wall or rafting down a river (or BASE jumping off a bridge!), having a recreation partner (or group) can make the activity even more enjoyable. And thanks to the endless outdoor activities in Twin Falls and Southern Idaho, residents and visitors can enjoy an area that’s perfect for combining picturesque places with a cheerful community.
“It is easy to make friends when you are rock climbing or on a group hike,” says Kim DePew, operations manager at Gemstone Climbing Center in Twin Falls. “It promotes an overall sense of well-being and connection and creates a healthier life both mentally and physically.”
DePew doesn’t have to look beyond Gemstone to see this attitude in action. The facility offers three types of climbing walls that can accommodate both beginners and longtime climbers. DePew says it is not unusual for newcomers to meet experienced climbers while training Outdoors at Gemstone and then go on outdoor climbs together with them.
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Scale New Heights in Southern Idaho
There certainly are plenty of climbing opportunities throughout Southern Idaho, ranging from easily accessible Dierkes Lake in Twin Falls to the challenging City of Rocks National Reserve in Cassia County near the Utah state line. The Southern Idaho Climbing Coalition provides regular updates.
In addition to the climbing walls, Gemstone also has a yoga studio and a general fitness gym.The facility holds classes for youth and adults, team-building sessions, birthday parties and training sessions in preparation for Spartan obstacle-course races.
“Gemstone is more than just a fitness facility. We are a community,” DePew says. “We promote a very open, accepting environment of welcomeness.”
The same type of environment can be found at the Jerome Recreation Center, which holds a variety of group activities including an adult softball league, youth sports clinics and a popular exercise program called Over 60 and Getting Fit.
“Outside of the schools, we’re probably the biggest gathering place in Jerome,” says Recreation Director Gary Warr. “This is a great place to come if you want to get to know people. The Over 60 and Getting Fit program is just as much about our seniors having the opportunity to be social with one another as it is about the exercise. You can play sports with your co-workers, meet new people, take on new challenges. It’s what community is supposed to be about.”
Enjoy One Big Playground
There are so many outdoor recreation options throughout Southern Idaho that it is difficult to know where to begin. Of course, the Snake River Canyon is the most obvious attraction, but it is far from the only one.
Other highlights include the sprawling 2-million-acre Sawtooth National Forest (a hiker’s paradise) and Perrine Coulee Falls (with a drop of nearly 200 feet), not to mention the scenic views of Soldier Mountain in Camas and Little City of Rocks in Gooding.
Tea Kettle Cave and Dead Horse Cave in Gooding are popular destinations, not just for caving but hiking and off-roading. If you appreciate a warm soak, head to Worswick Hot Springs in Camas County, where 100-degree waters await.
You also can take part in one of the fastest-growing sports in the country at the new lighted pickleball courts recently installed in the City of Rupert, which is now starting to hold regular tournaments.
Jump (Safely!) Off a Bridge
Sean Chuma prefers to not keep his feet on the ground – literally. Chuma has made more than 7,600 BASE jumps (off bridges, cliffs, etc.) and 4,000 skydives in his life. As the owner of Tandem BASE in Twin Falls, Chuma helps others experience the same type of adrenaline rush he still receives all those jumps later.
Through Tandem, participants can leap from the 486-foot Perrine Bridge, then enjoy (or endure) a brief freefall before floating by parachute the rest of the way and coming to rest on the floor of the Snake River Canyon.
“We can all get wrapped up in doing the same thing every day. Sometimes you just want to go out and do something different and exciting that will get the blood flowing,” Chuma says. “And also, build memories. BASE jumping is the type of thing that when people do it, they’ll never forget it.”
More subdued – yet still active – experiences can be found through Big Green Adventure Tours. Founder Gabrielle Burton created a half-dozen different tour itineraries designed to showcase the beauty and adventure of Southern Idaho.
Sites on the various tours include such popular attractions as Dierkes Lake, Shoshone Falls, Craters of the Moon and Shoshone Ice Caves.
“I can’t tell you how many times I hear people say they had no idea that Idaho is so beautiful,” Burton says. “It’s such a surprise for people when people get here.”
Pedal Among Pristine Scenery
One of the best ways to see a variety of the area’s outdoor recreation offerings is by bicycle. The Magic Valley Chain Gang meets nearly every Tuesday at a different location – usually a restaurant or a person’s home – for a group ride followed by a group dinner.
Chris Cawthra, one of the owners of Bull Moose Bicycles in Twin Falls, says he enjoys a ride that runs along the Snake River toward Buhl, and then can be extended to include a trip to a swimming hole at Box Canyon Springs Nature Preserve in Wendell. “That’s an incredible road ride, with minimal traffic and great scenery,” Cawthra says.
For mountain biking, Cawthra recommends the South Hills Single Track System near Kimberly, as well as the trails around Auger Falls, Ketchum, Sun Valley and Stanley Basin.
“On some of these rides, you’ll feel like you’re in two very different areas,” Cawthra says. “You’ll start in the desert and end up in the trees at 7,000 feet elevation.”
“We have everything needed for cycling at all levels. You don’t have to have a bunch of fancy stuff. Just get a bike and have fun. There’s riding for everybody around here.”
Now Open: Visitor Center in Hagerman
The $2.3 million Thousand Springs Visitor Center opened in April 2022 in Hagerman along Highway 30. Besides welcoming tourists to the Hagerman Valley, the 3,400-square-foot building serves as a headquarters for rangers and equipment resources affiliated with running area attractions like Thousand Springs State Park and the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument.
The Center is a partnership between the National Park Service and the Idaho Department of Parks & Recreation. Hagerman’s location on the Snake River makes it ideal for residents and tourists who like fishing, boating, kayaking and whitewater rafting.
To further accommodate visitors to Hagerman Valley, the $5 million, 50-space Billingsley Creek Campground is slated to open in late 2022 in Thousand Springs State Park.
– Kevin Litwin contributed to this article.
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