Southern Idaho Offers A 'Canyon Full' of Choices
When it comes to outdoor recreation, Southern Idaho is wide open for business.
Outdoor recreation opportunities in and around the majestic Snake River Canyon have been thousands of years in the making. Yet, there are always new ways to enjoy these natural marvels.
Trails lead the way, with an increasing number of hiking and biking options that show off the region's beauty, particularly the wondrous waterfalls that helped give Twin Falls its name. Add in kayaking, paddle boarding, rock climbing and snow skiing, and Southern Idaho presents plenty of activities for all types of outdoor enthusiasts.
"The canyon is magnificent, and it provides some special recreational opportunities," says Twin Falls Parks and Recreation Director Wendy Davis. "And they're all close. It's very easy to get to the water or one of the trails from downtown Twin Falls. During the summer, you can get off work and then go kayaking or mountain biking for a couple of hours."
A Rim With a View
Perhaps the easiest place to enjoy the great outdoors here is along the rim of Snake River Canyon. You can't beat the panoramic scenery from Canyon Rim Trail, and now, there are more miles of continuous pathways than ever, with a more than 7-mile stretch open to runners, hikers and bikers.
"It's a beautiful area that is very safe because there's no (automobile) traffic," says Jaime Tigue, director and founder of the Magic Valley Trail Enhancement Committee (MaVTEC), a nonprofit organization that raises funds to improve and extend the trail systems in the area. "We're passionate about outdoor recreation. We're continually trying to put together little pieces of trail connection throughout our community."
One of Canyon Rim Trail's connections leads to Auger Falls Heritage Park, a 680-acre natural wilderness space that features more than 20 miles of dirt trails for hiking and low-elevation mountain biking. In addition to the park's namesake waterfall, Auger Falls offers spots for fishing and bird-watching.
Auger Falls is a wetland rehabilitation project, and plans are underway to expand the park to include additional rehabbed wetlands. This expansion includes the Broken Bridge Project area, a grassroots effort to rebuild an abandoned bridge that used to cross over the Snake River and connect Twin Falls with neighboring Jerome County.
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Once completed, mountain bikers and hikers will be able to depart from the Twin Falls Visitor Center, travel down to the Snake River, cross it and then climb the Yingst Grade to the canyon rim and into a planned park on the Jerome side.
"We're putting in a $20,000 sponsorship to fix that bridge," Tigue says. "We're really excited about that, because it's just going to create another level of access for outdoor recreation. That's huge for us."
Falls, Trails & Parks
Southern Idaho has a number of large waterfalls, highlighted by Shoshone Falls, which at 212 feet is taller than Niagara Falls. But there also are several smaller, unnamed waterfalls in the area, stretching from Twin Falls toward Hagerman and Buhl. Southern Idaho Tourism recently announced a contest for the public to suggest names for 13 of these waterfalls.
In Fairfield, the Soldier Mountain Ski Area has been working to open four new mountain bike trails totaling 7.7 miles, with each track designed for a different skill level. Meanwhile, the Mini-Cassia area in Minidoka and Cassia counties offers a series of well-groomed snowmobile trails.
Parks are a big deal throughout the region, too. Jerome recently renovated its primary city park – the renamed Idaho Central Credit Union Park – to include a splash pad, an amphitheater, new picnic tables and an expanded skate park. And within the city of Twin Falls, there are 60 acres of neighborhood parks, 113 acres of community parks and 1,143 acres of large regional parks, with 12 miles of asphalt trails and 30 miles of dirt trails.
"We have all these great outdoor places that you can get to within 10 minutes," Davis says. "That makes it really easy for people to get out and enjoy them."
Heaven on Wheels
You don't need a rocket-powered cycle like Evel Knievel used to obtain breathtaking views of Snake River Canyon and surrounding areas.
A good ol' RV will do the trick, and there are plenty of places throughout the region where you can become well-wheeled, including retailers Bish's RV of Twin Falls and Southern Idaho RV and Marine in Jerome. RV manufacturer Jayco is also located in Twin Falls.
Wallace Keck is very familiar with the scenic beauty of Southern Idaho. For nearly two decades, he has been the superintendent of City of Rocks National Reserve, a 14,407-acre park located just north of the Idaho-Utah border. Keck offers a few tips for enjoying an RV trip in the area:
- When visiting City of Rocks National Reserve, take note that very few campsites accommodate RVs. However, just outside the reserve, you will find Castle Rocks State Park's Smoky Mountain Campground, which has water and electricity, asphalt parking pads, defined living areas with tables and grills, and an RV dump station.
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- The City of Rocks Backcountry Byway, from Albion to Almo (gateway to the City of Rocks), offers mountain scenery, charming ranch communities and a break from the rush of Interstate 84. The route from the interstate to Almo is paved, but it is graveled from the City of Rocks through Oakley. Call the reserve at 208-824-5901 for the latest road conditions.
The City of Rocks has become a popular destination to explore historic wagon trails, photograph the dramatic scenery or watch climbers scale the granite pinnacles and monoliths. A campsite reservation is highly recommended if you're planning to visit in May through September. Park roads are not suitable for RVs from November through March.
If you'd like to learn more about the Southern Idaho area, check out the latest edition of Livability: Southern Idaho.