There is enough out here in South Idaho to explore for a lifetime, but here are a few places we love and take our students to all the time.
Alturas Lake is a crystal clear lake tucked away in the Sawtooth Valley and about 21 miles south of Stanley. It’s the second largest lake in the Sawtooths with sandy beaches surrounded by an alpine forest. This area has tremendous hiking and access to trails in the beautiful Sawtooth Wilderness and the Hemingway-Boulder Mountains.
680 acre natural park located next to the Snake River. The Auger Falls waterfall can be found about a mile into the park on the Snake River. Other waterfalls, including Mermaid Falls can be seen there too. It is a great destination for hiking and low elevation mountain biking. All together there are about 20 miles of trails but the most popular trail is a 4-mile loop.
Blue Heart Springs is a natural spring water oasis. The only way to Blue Heart is by water transportation, making it even more of an exclusive location. Once we’ve paddled through the passage on the Snake River, a large opening emerges, filled with the purest, bluest, clearest water you have ever seen. The water is so clear it appears as if you are floating in the air. This is Blue Heart Springs.
This 350-acre canyon features 250-foot-high vertical walls and the 11th largest spring in all of North America. Boasting the bluest water you’ve ever seen. The trail makes about a 4.3 mile loop.
Bruneau Dunes park boasts the tallest single-structured sand dune in North America with a peak rising 470 feet above the surrounding desert floor. Geologists believe the dunes seen today may have started with sands from the Bonneville Flood about 15,000 years ago. There is endless hiking available as well as two small lakes to kayak or swim in and an observatory.
City of Rocks is one of the finest granite-face climbing sites anywhere. Climbers find the younger granite of the Almo Pluton to be some of the best rock they’ve ever ascended. About 700 routes have been developed to date. City of Rocks also has ample access to hiking and mountain biking. The winter months provide excellent opportunities for snowshoeing and skiing.
Craters of the Moon is a vast ocean of lava flows with scattered islands of cinder cones and sagebrush. Craters currently has 5 different caves to explore and in the winter, Craters is a great location for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The area is a designated International Dark Sky Park, which means there is no shortage of stars to observe.
Dierkes Lake is located above Shoshone Falls and is a popular place to rock climb, boulder and just enjoy the water. There are over a hundred established climbing routes to choose from. There is also a 1.8-mile loop trail for hiking.
Little City of Rocks is a unique geological area that contains a number of interesting rock formations, including towers, hoodoos, mushroom caps, spires and natural arches. There is a main trail that penetrates the heart of the Little City of Rocks that takes a couple of hours to explore. Side trails lead to more interesting rock formations. There also are some ancient rock art in the Little City of Rocks, petroglyphs carved by Native Americans several thousands of years ago.
Lower Salmon Falls Park is a beautifully groomed 4-acre day-use area nestled in the scenic Hagerman Valley along the Snake River. This area is full of plenty of recreational opportunities, including canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, and hiking.
Niagara Springs and Crystal Springs are a few of the natural springs emerging into the Snake River Canyon in a larger area known as Thousand Springs State Park. These springs are the result of runoff from the snowmelt and precipitation accumulated in the mountains of southerneastern Central Idaho, which fall into the porous lava plains separating those mountains from the Snake River.
The Perrine Coulee Waterfall is an unexpected wonder. The fall drops almost 200 feet and runs year round. This is a popular trail for hiking and walking that is about a 2 mile round trip hike.
Pillar Falls is located on the Snake River and is an easy paddle about 1.5 miles upstream headed towards Shoshone Falls. The great part about paddling to Pillar Falls is the awesome view of the IB Perrine Bridge from below. The IB Perrine Bridge is nationally known for adventure seeking BASE jumpers.
A two-mile path circles the island and showcases beautiful views of the Snake River. When the weather is warm, it’s an ideal swimming hole or place to paddle a canoe or kayak. There are two beautiful waterfalls ( Lemmon Falls & Minnie Miller Falls) as well as a handful of smaller minor springs.
The most massive river in Idaho and one of the largest in North America, the Salmon wends its way through the second deepest canyon on the continent. It passes through 85 miles of remote wilderness, and is a world-renown river adventure, offering one a unique chance to disconnect from civilization and become immersed in a virtually untouched natural wonder. Its banks are graced with expansive, white sandy beaches for unbelievable overnight camping experiences.
The Sawtooth National Recreation Area (Sawtooth NRA) consists of 756,000 acres of scenic mountain country and includes over 700 miles of trails, 40 peaks rising over 10,000 feet and more than 300 high mountain lakes that add to the spectacular scenery and vistas. Outdoor recreational pursuits include camping, hiking, backpacking, canoeing, rafting, and observing nature.
Shoshone Falls is among the most spectacular of natural beauties along the Snake River. At 212 feet, the falls are higher than Niagara Falls. Shoshone Falls is located on the Snake River as it carves its way through a deep basalt Canyon on its way to the Columbia River. This area offers hiking trails, climbing and kayaking.
Stanley, Idaho is surrounded by the pristine Sawtooth mountains. The snow capped mountains provide a playground for nature, wildlife, and outdoor recreation surrounded by the Sawtooth, White Cloud, and Lost River ranges, Stanley has become a basecamp for some of the best hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing in the country and cross country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.
Southern Idaho is known for its secret caves, scattered from place to place. These caves exist because of lava left from volcanoes years ago! When the lava flow stopped and the rocks cooled, Tea Kettle Cave was formed. The name of the cave comes from its shape. Imagine a teapot; then, envision the “spout” as the entrance to the cave. The cave is open just like the top of a teapot!
The Thousand Springs Scenic Byway winds through 67 miles of the most remarkable geology and natural beauty in Idaho. There are waterfalls and hot springs everywhere. The vast Snake River Plain Aquifer flows 2,308 miles beneath volcanic rock from the St. Anthony to the Snake River, where it flows over the cliffs at Thousand Springs. There are countless places to hike, mountain bike and kayak in this area.
This 451-acre park has spectacular canyon views where the Malad River crashes down stairstep falls and into the Devils Washbowl, then cuts through a beautiful 250-foot gorge on its way to the Snake River, 2-1/2 miles downstream. You can take a short hike to discover nearby fingers of the gorge where crystal-clear springs produce ponds and streams.