So many people think this is a long boring drive, but this edition of our Road to Adventure series will show you just how much more there is to see. A major part of this trip takes you through southern Idaho, which is a place that we at Advanced Primate are fond of.
You would think we would start at one end or the other but NO! Let’s start somewhere in the middle just in case you aren’t making the whole trip. There is a magnificent, hidden stretch of road called Thousand Springs Scenic Byway. It begins in a place named Bliss. How can you not want to go?
This 67-mile route truly defines scenic and there really are at least a thousand springs. The incredible geology and beauty of the waterfalls, hot springs, canyon, and river will have you pulling over time after time to take amazing photos or just stare in awe. Bring your day pack because there are some fantastic short hikes along the way.
Begin your trip by taking US 30, just off Interstate 84 at Bliss, Idaho. You will drop immediately into the geologic wonder that we call the Snake River Canyon. The Canyon runs up to 500 feet deep and a quarter mile wide.
The Malad Gorge State Park should be your first stop. Spectacular views from a footbridge that spans the gorge 250-feet above the canyon floor. Don’t miss the remarkable spinning caldron called the Devil’s Washbowl. People drive past and over this gorge on the interstate all day long but unless you stop for this short drive and hike you will miss it. Walk over the narrow but safe pedestrian bridge 175 feet above the gorge. Look back from the other side to gawk at the impressive Devil’s Washbowl.
Malad Gorge is just one of several parks that make up the Thousand Springs State Park System. The others are day use, some allow fishing, others are just a nice place for a rest stop.
Throughout your entire drive, you will see springs cascading over the rocks of the canyon walls. The best time to see the most incredible waterfalls is in the late Spring after an exceptionally wet winter when all the snowpack is melting and rushing through the rocks to the river. Boat tours and dinner cruises in the Hagerman area will let you get super close to some of the dazzling Thousand Springs.
As you meander through the Hagerman Valley, you will drive past 30 miles of hatcheries. Seventy percent of the trout in the United States come from this single area. The Snake River Plain Aquifer flows 1300 miles beneath volcanic rock before reaching the cliffs and cascading down into the river. This pure, clean highly-oxygenated water maintains a constant temperature of 58 degrees – perfect for growing trout. You’re welcome, fishermen.
Before you leave Hagerman, you have to stop at the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument. Did you know that the Hagerman horse is the first real one-toed horse in the world? It is certainly the most famous fossil in the park and the Idaho State Fossil but there is evidence of hundreds of species with everything from a saber-toothed cat to a mastodon. Swing by the Visitor Center to get your bearings and check out some displays before heading out to one of the two overlooks.
Miracle Hot Springs is the next stop on your scenic tour. Amazing geothermal water will ease your road-weary bones, cool yurts for not-so-rough camping, and alligators! Not kidding.
A base jumper opens his chute after jumping off of Perrine Bridge near Twin Falls, ID
Shoshone Falls & Shoshone Falls Park are last on your list. Head north of US 30 and east of Twin Falls to investigate the incredible Shoshone Falls. In the spring, Shoshone Falls, or the Niagara of the West, turns into a 1000-foot wide torrent dropping a wild 212 feet (45 feet higher than the other Niagara Falls).
Some of the other short adventures:
- Balanced Rock Park is home to the 48-foot tall and 40 ton wind-carved rock balanced precariously on a pedestal that is only 3 feet by 17 inches. Just about 20 miles south and east of US 30. A nice quiet place for a picnic or a little fishing.
- Perrine Bridge crosses the Snake River just as you enter Twin Falls. The Visitor Center is wonderful, and you get a great view of the base jumpers that frequently jump from this magnificent 1500 foot bridge that spans the canyon almost 500 feet above the river. And you’re not far from the infamous Evil Knievel attempt to jump the canyon.
- The Canyon Rim Trail System has miles of trails for hikers and mountain bikers.
- Historic downtown Twin Falls: Depending on how often you stopped and how long you stayed at each location, make your way to downtown Twin Falls for lunch or dinner. Make some time for a little shopping in the unique shops and galleries.
- Set up a tee time at Canyon Springs golf course that through the Snake River Canyon with views of the Perrine Bridge and still more incredible waterfalls.
You can make the drive in as little as an hour and a half …. But why would you? The Scenic Byway is a chance to slow your life down for a short time. Nature has a way of making you breathe easier. And that is pretty much always the right idea.
If you liked this entry stay tuned for the next in our series, which will feature the Oregon Trail, Farwell Bend, and Glenn's Ferry.