A&A Travel Review of Southern Idaho
This first time around in Idado we will only be in the lower portion of the state and only here for a total of 5 nights max, but we will be back again into northern Idaho next summer as we make our way to Montana. Driving for 7 hours yesterday brought us through some interesting scenery, as we left the lush pine tree mountains of Wyoming, crossed the majestic green-blue gem of Palisades Lake, went through the flat, windy hay fields of Idaho and entered a terrain of peaks and craters. Idaho’s landscape is strange guys! We drove by the Craters of the Moon National Monument, a humongous area in Idaho where everything turns to black volcanic, magma rock or something, I don’t even know the geology of it yet. But it was black rock, everywhere! With brown, sandy mountain peaks in the background. Weirdness!
We drove into Idaho from the southeast side, first coming in through the beautiful town of Palisades on the side of Palisades Lake. Holy gorgeous! That was a super nice drive and continued scenery we were used to seeing while in Wyoming. As we continued to progress through the state however, things quickly flattened out to dry hay fields with nothing in site at all …
This town hugs the Snake River and apparently has a waterfall nestled somewhere in hit, even though that is not something I knew until just a few days ago and well after we had been through there. The most prominent thing we noticed here are lots of roadside warnings about excessive winds, strong storms in the area and dust storms.
Maintaining a level of honesty about life – driving through this city was nothing I really cared to see again.
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Soon enough after getting through Idaho, the flat dry hay environment quickly changed over to a moody, still flat, but super rocky, BLACK rock war zone. It literally looked like a war zone! You could start to see the rolling hills and mountains of the southern tip of the National Forests to the north, but everything was just black and rocky, and full of craters!
Craters of the Moon that is! This National Monument is right off a main highway, really the only apparent highway or road through this area, and just sneaks right up on you. I had desired to take a day trip here but after driving through it we decided not to make the roundtrip 100 mile venture back. We didn’t stop, as we were hauling screaming bengal cats with us, but I took some photos out of the window while we were driving by!
A violent past, calm present, and uncertain future…
The area is a vast ocean of lava flows with scattered islands of cinder cones and sagebrush. There are hiking trails here, into what is known as the Craters of the Moon Wilderness – area untouched by man, completely wild. There are also cave systems for those that are beginners or those more advanced. You can also come watch the stars at night or do ranger led programs by day.
Craters of the Moon formed during eight MAJOR volcanic eruption periods between only 15,000 and 2,000 years ago. Lava erupted from the Great Rift, a series of deep cracks where the Visitor Center is placed now, and stretched 52 miles to the southeast. During this time the lava field grew to cover 618 square miles. The area as a whole continues to experience stretching, and has been for over 30 million years. Evidence of this is shown in a recent 1983 earthquake where the highest mountain in Idaho, Mount Borah, grew higher! The 6.9 earthquake pushed Mount Borah up another foot and the Lost River Valley near it dropped about eight feet! In this area all the tension and force beneath the surface isn’t making more mountain ranges, instead it is creating more stretching of the crust releasing pressure on hot rocks and causing them to melt. The magma then travels to the surface along weak lines such as the Great Rift. As long as these forces continue to occur then so will eruptions in the area. Typical time between eruptions is about 2,000 years and it has already been 2,000 years since the last eruption …
Geologists are able to predict that based off of past eruptions, an estimated amount of one cubic mile will erupt during the next explosion.
We camped in Bellevue for an extended 3 nights, which did end up being too much time here, but it was due to reasons we weren’t able to predict. We had thought we would do more exploring here and ended up mostly lounging around – which was needed too!
Where did we stay
Nothing to write home about, and much resembling a parking lot with trailers parked in it, we stayed in the Riverside RV Park, which was also next to a mobile home community. Bellevue is located in the Wood River Valley. We paid way too much to stay here based on what it was at an outstanding $30 per night. We did have full hookups and there were laundry services available, but still.
The next town north, heading toward the Sawtooths, was the town of Hailey. Decked out and modernized, this town was cute and cozy and built up! We joked that as you got closer and closer to the Sawtooths, each town was better and better.
In the town of Hailey we did find an affordable grocery store to get all natural and organic products – something that is super important to us! Natural Grocers offered us enough supplies for an upcoming week or so before we make it to a Costco, and we got out of there with only spending $50.
Not too far from the grocery store was a cute little brewery/restaurant that we decided to stop and have one beer at since it was such a hot and muggy day out. Two craft beers only cost us $10 and the bartenders and locals drinking were quite entertaining too. I hate to say it but I can’t remember what the place we went to was called, and I can’t seem to find it on google either – what the heck!
Ketchum & Sun Valley
These are the resort towns of the area, thriving on summer tourists and winter snow activities. Located right near Bald Mountain, a popular ski destination, but also with hiking trails, fishing activities in the nearby rivers and creeks, equestrian trails, wildflower displays and picnicking areas.
Sawtooth National Forest
This forest covers over 2 million acres in the center of Idaho, and is another reserve proclaimed by Mr. Theodore Roosevelt (that man was really helping to save the beauty of America at the time!)
Maybe it’s because we just came from Wyoming and our reaction to mountains was all skewed and jaded, or maybe it just wasn’t the best mountain range we had seen ever. Either way, coming into the forest from the south first is just a long series of what looks like dirt rolling hills before it finally breaks out into more mountainous peaks. There is a scenic byway you can travel for 112 miles north, but we only went about 30 before turning around and coming back. We saw a lot of fishermen in the nearby creeks, and we saw a lot of available campgrounds to stay at all. There were signs for hot springs and summer cabins, and it really was pretty too – it just wasn’t Wyoming.
Next up on our list, heading south, was Twin Falls Idaho, where we would stay for just one night. This city is known as a gateway into the Snake River Canyon, which lies just to the north. At the eastern shore of this canyon is where you will find the cities majestic waterfall, Shoshone Falls.
This was a pretty large city with a lot of shopping centers, and restaurants and such. We were able to even find a Grand Design RV dealer where we were able to pick up a part for our rig. We did not think we would find a place in Idaho so we were happy that worked out!
Where we stayed
As we were driving through the industrial area of the main city, it was hard to picture where this RV park might be ‘stored’. As the GPS told us to take a right we eventually zig zagged right down the side of a hill into a canyon that you wouldn’t even really notice as all the area around the top of it was just flat vastland. We camped one night at Rock Creek Campground, right on the creek, for $20. The spot we took was not very level and we had a scary night with the tongue of the trailer like 4 feet in the air – super rocky you guys and totally not something I would suggest! This campground was quiet and pretty popular, it was a self pay, had water and electricity and pit toilets. Since we just stayed the one night we did not hook up our water supply.
This is another area of southern Idaho where it appears you are just driving along in a residential area, flat and vast, and all the sudden you dip down into a canyon that you didn’t even know was there in the first place! A hidden treasure, that was essentially below ground – this was the most beautiful thing we saw in all of southern Idaho! Unfortunately they do charge you $5 to enter the area and look at this beautiful piece of nature, and hopefully someday they will use that $5 to clean up litter in the area.
Shoshone Falls is a brilliant set of waterfalls that cascade over rocks with lookout areas across from it in the canyon for you to take a peak. The waterfall is about 212 feet high and is often referred to as the “Niagara of the West” as it is technically taller than Niagra Falls!
I’m not sure how it exactly works, as it is considered a Park, but there are a ton of rich looking homesteads just behind the waterfall and along all the roads to get to the waterfall. Not sure how you go about securing that kind of real estate but I can see why it’s worth it!
We plan to launch our Nomadic Newsletter ASAP. I hate to say it again, but this will be delayed until September 2019, due to high amounts of adventuring and low amounts of a 4G connection. I swear I’m just still getting into my groove of things – this delay will not continue!
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