15 Fun Things to Do in Southern Idaho
Southern Idaho is a diverse area of the state with plenty of beautiful parks, scenic drives, and great cultural attractions to explore. Boise, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, and Rexburg, the major cities in the region, 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 not only America’s First National Park, it is also one of the most gorgeous. Park highlights include beautiful hiking trails, abundant wildlife viewing opportunities, geysers (Old Faithful is the most predictable) and waterfalls. The 140 mile Grand Loop is the best way to cover all of the park’s main attractions in a single day. Plan for a full day of exploration.
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). This is also the best time to see a bear as they come out of hibernation!
Additional information on Yellowstone.
2. Drive the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway
Idaho’s Targhee National Forest is home to 2 spectacular waterfalls: Upper and Lower Mesa Falls. To get to the falls, you take the equally gorgeous Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, a 28 mile route featuring grand views of forests, streams, and mountains (including an amazing 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 a visit 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. It’s easily one of the cleanest & most well-maintained multi use paths in the state.
Early morning is the best time for a ride, jog, or long walk, due to the reduced traffic 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 constantly to refill water.
Additional information on the Greenbelt
4. Enjoy a cross country skiing adventure at Harriman State Park
Harriman State Park offers a serene wilderness setting within 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 breathtaking groomed cross country and snowshoe trails available. This park is ideal for beginners due to the variety of novice trails. 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 are new to winter recreation. Although easier for newbies, it’s still a monster workout! 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 pastime. 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, especially during the spring season after the winter snow melt, so head over to Shoshone for a relaxing spring outing. Note – no more than a light walk is required to see this gem. Also, there are many scenic picnicking area so skip the chains and pack a picnic lunch! Tip: Plan a visit during the spring months when water flow is highest. Note that a $5 vehicle fee is in effect from March 1st-September 30th.
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 small, 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.
Additional information on Zoo Boise.