Southern Idaho is a diverse area of the state with plenty of beautiful parks, scenic drives, and great cultural attractions. Boise, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, and Rexburg, some of the great cities of the area, offer numerous opportunities for entertainment and outdoor recreation. Next time you find yourself vacationing or traveling through Idaho, be sure to keep in mind my list of 15 fun Southern Idaho attractions!
1. Take a scenic drive through Yellowstone National Park
Although most of Yellowstone lies in Wyoming, small sections of the park reside in both Montana and Idaho. Yellowstone is one of the most gorgeous national parks in the country, consisting of beautiful hiking paths, abundant wildlife viewing opportunities, geysers and waterfalls, and beautiful natural landscapes.
Idaho Falls, known as the Gateway to Yellowstone, is the closest city to a park entrance (approximately 2 hours), and hence, an excellent place to look into while planning your vacation. Tip: A drive through the park during the late spring/early summer months is a must (crowds and traffic will be lower). Additional information on Yellowstone.
2. Drive the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway
Idaho’s Targhee National Forest is home to 2 spectacular waterfalls: The Upper and Lower Mesa Falls. To get to the falls, you take the equally gorgeous Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, a 28 mile route with grand views of forests, streams, and mountains (including an overlook of the Grand Tetons). The drive technically only takes about an hour, however, you will want to plan at least a few hours for photography, a picnic lunch, and visits to the Falls gift shop. It’s not uncommon for cows to back up traffic was well!
The Upper Falls, surrounded by beautiful pine forests and the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, are particularly stunning at a height of 114 feet. Tip: Take a side trip to Mesa Falls on your way to Yellowstone. It doesn’t add much extra time and the views are well worth the short detour! Additional information on Mesa Falls.
3. Bike or walk the Boise Greenbelt
Take an all day adventure on the scenic 25 mile long Boise River Greenbelt. This extraordinary path features gorgeous views of the river and passes by many of the city’s top attractions. Along the way, plan for stops at the Boise Zoo, the Anne Frank memorial, and Julia Davis Park. One of the cleanest most well-maintained multi use paths in the state. Early morning is the best time for a ride, due to the reduced crowds and ample deer sightings. Tip: Stay at the Shilo Inn Riverside for great views and direct access to the path! Also wear a hydration backpack – it’s important to stay hydrated in a dry desert climate. This handy water backpack will keep you covered the whole way without needing to stop to refill a water bottle. It’s also great for hiking and running. Additional information on the Boise Greenbelt.
4. Enjoy a cross country skiing adventure at Harriman State Park
Harriman State Park offers a serene wilderness setting in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (the park is located just 28 miles from the West Yellowstone, MT park entrance). Fly fishing is popular due to the presence of Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, one of the top rated fly fishing streams in the US. At Harriman you will find 20+ miles of scenic trails, open year-round for hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing.
Winter is the premier time to visit with 25+ miles of groomed cross country and snowshoe trails. This park is ideal for beginners due to the variety of novice trails and breathtaking views of the park. Intermediate and advanced trails are also available. Snowshoeing is a real blast and a real workout too! It’s a great alternative to cross country skiing for those who want an easier winter activity. Although by easier, I do not mean workout wise! Bring with your own pair of snowshoes – although the upfront cost is higher, you will save a lot of money on rentals if you plan on making snowshoeing a regular winter past time. Tip: Check the Harriman website for trail conditions before heading out. Additional information on Harriman State Park.
5. Take in the beauty of Shoshone Falls
In Twin Falls lies a beautiful 212 foot tall waterfall that is actually taller than Niagara Falls. Shoshone Falls, located on the beautiful Snake River, is often called the “Niagara of the West.” The view is outstanding, so pack a picnic lunch and head over to Shoshone for a relaxing spring outing. Tip: Plan a visit during the spring months when water flow is highest. Additional information on Shoshone Falls.
6. Visit Zoo Boise, Idaho’s Best Zoo
Although not the largest zoo in Idaho (Tautphaus Park in Idaho Falls claims the title), Zoo Boise is a nice well-maintained zoo with an ideal location on the city’s beautiful Greenbelt. Here you will find a nice variety of animals, well-maintained exhibits, and nice landscaping. This zoo is walkable with fewer crowds than most major city zoos, making it the perfect place to take a summer stroll. Tip: Visit on Thursdays for discounted admission prices ($4.25 instead of $7). Additional information on Zoo Boise.