Category Archives: Idaho

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument

Overview

More than 3.5-million years ago, this section of southern Idaho was on a floodplain of a giant lake.  Lush grasslands and forests attracted camels, llamas, mastodons, zebra-like horses, and a variety of birds.  Their fossils were not discovered until 1928, on the steep bluffs on the west bank of the Snake River, now Lower Salmon Falls Reservoir.

Highlights

Museum, film, Snake River Overlook, Oregon Trail Overlook

Must-Do Activity

Numerous mammal fossils from the Pliocene Epoch are on display at the National Park Service visitor center, located on the main drag in the small town of Hagerman, Idaho.  Scenic overlooks of the Snake River and Oregon Trail are located further south, but there is no public access to the fossil beds.

Best Trail

The 3-mile long Emigrant Trail parallels the Oregon National Historic Trail, which has wagon ruts accessible from both the Snake River Overlook and Oregon Trail Overlook (where there is also a half-mile interpretive trail).

Instagram-worthy Photo

Interstate 84 passes directly over Malad Gorge State Park, north of Hagerman, Idaho.  Take the freeway exit and walk to the canyon rim to see the beautiful waterfall you missed from the bridge.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/hafo/planyourvisit/visitor-center-operating-hours-seasons.htm

Fees

None for Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, but there is a day-use fee at Malad Gorge State Park.

Road Conditions

The main access roads are paved.  There is a one-lane bridge crossing the Snake River off Highway 30 that was closed during our visit so we took the Gridley Island Bridge instead.

Camping

There are places to camp along many sections of the Snake River, but not within the National Monument.

Explore More – How many complete skeletons of zebra-like horses were discovered within Hagerman Fossil Beds?

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

Overview

If you seek an otherworldly experience right here on Earth, look no further than Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in southeastern Idaho.  In the 1800s, this massive lava flow proved an obstacle to avoid for immigrants on the Oregon Trail.  In 1969 it truly earned its lunar label by serving as a field school on volcanic geology for NASA Apollo astronauts. 

Highlights

Boy Scout Cave, Indian Tunnel, cinder cones, tree molds

Must-Do Activity

The 7-mile loop road is paved and provides parking at several trailheads, including the wheelchair-accessible Devils Orchard Nature Trail.  Cinder cones, lava tubes, and tree molds are some of the unique volcanic features seen from the trails.  If you come here in the winter the loop road closes due to the amount of snow they receive at 6,000 feet elevation, but you can still explore on snowshoes and cross-country skis.

Best Trail

If you cannot make it to the incomparable Lava Beds National Monument in northern California, you can explore a couple of short lava tube caves here.  To explore Indian Tunnel you will need a free permit, but you do not even need a flashlight.  That is not the case inside the pitch black Boy Scout Cave.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Unlike the moon, there is life here despite its blackened, rocky appearance.  Hearty syringa bushes and limber pine trees sprout from cracks in the lava providing food and cover for sage grouse, pika, and other animals. 

Peak Season

Summer, but it can get very hot on the black rocks without any shade.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/crmo/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$20 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

The 7-mile loop road is paved, but other all roads into the monument require a heavy-duty 4×4 with excellent tires.

Camping

There is a first-come, first-served campground near the visitor center off Highway 93 that provides water, but no RV hookups.  Backpacking is allowed in the wilderness area.

Explore More – In what year did the nearby town of Arco, Idaho became the first community in the world to utilize nuclear power?

Yellowstone National Park

Overview

The geothermal features here inspired the creation of the world’s first official “National Park” in 1872.   Most of Yellowstone is actually a supervolcano where the magma heats up underground water producing 10,000 hot springs, fumaroles, and mudpots on the surface, as well as 300 geysers.  Incredibly, over 50% of the geysers in the world occur within this one park, which is equally famous for its wildlife diversity, including grizzly bears, bison, gray wolves, and elk.

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Highlights

Old Faithful geyser, Norris Geyser Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs, waterfalls, wildlife

Must-Do Activity

The most famous geyser here is Old Faithful, which can shoot water up to 185 feet in the air.  Since the occurrence of several earthquakes it is no longer as consistent as its name suggests, but its eruptions can be accurately predicted every 60 to 110 minutes throughout the day.  Arrive early to get a seat or take the trail up the nearby hill to watch it from above.  Afterwards, hike the boardwalks through colorful Upper Geyser Basin.

Best Trail

A hike into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone on Glacial Boulder Trail is one way to find the solitude lacking at the drive-up overlooks (you should still hike to the Brink of Lower Falls with the crowds).  Instead of staying in the packed campgrounds, consider getting a permit to backpack camp in the canyon.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The trail is steep, but paved down to the Brink of Lower Falls on the Yellowstone River for unforgettable view of the canyon, especially on sunny days when a rainbow appears in the spray.

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Peak Season

Summer, but Old Faithful Village can seem busy in the winter with all the snowmobiles during the day.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$35 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

Very few roads are not paved, but the majority close for seven months in the winter.

Camping

There are many campgrounds in the park, but they fill up quickly the summer (especially at primitive Slough Creek).  The surrounding National Forests offer campgrounds and dispersed sites as well.  We have enjoyed backpacking at designated campsites in the park with a permit, especially in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Looking back at Lower Yellowstone Falls
A rim view of Lower Falls on the Yellowstone River.

 

Dropping down into the canyon
Backpacking into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone on Glacial Boulder Trail.

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Two ravens
Ravens love Yellowstone, just like Raven About The Parks!

 

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Bison in front of Old Faithful Inn in February.

 

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View of Old Faithful erupting from the hill overlook.

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This design we created to celebrate Yellowstone National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – How many of the park’s 4-million annual visitors arrive in June, July, and August?

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WONDON WAS HERE …TWICE …THRICE

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City of Rocks National Reserve

Overview

In the high desert of southeast Idaho stands a collection of granite spires that served as a welcome rest stop along the California Trail.   At the height of the gold rush in 1852, some 50,000 pioneers passed this site in a single year.  Many left their names painted in axle grease, still legible on Camp Rock and Register Rock.  Today it is a popular destination for rock climbers from around the world, but also has 22 miles of hiking and equestrian trails.

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Highlights

Rock climbing, Register Rock, Window Arch, primitive camping

Must-Do Activity

Rock climbers flock here from around the world to take on the granite spires that inspired emigrants on the California Gold Rush Trail to name it City of Rocks.  The grippy granite is fun for any skill level to clamber around on and easily accessible from all campsites.

Best Trail

Trails snake through this area leading to different climbing routes, especially around Elephant Rock, which is a great place to watch other climbers.  Keep watching the skies, too, as a variety of raptors (and pigeons) enjoy the thermals here.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Window Arch is a great place to watch the sun come up, just try not to wake up campers in the neighboring sites.

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Peak Season

Summer, since it is very cold at this elevation (7,000 feet) in other seasons.  Autumn briefly turns aspen leaves yellow.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/ciro/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

Free to enter and only $12.72 to camp per night (so bring exact change)

Road Conditions

A dirt road winds through the park and is accessible to passenger vehicles.

Camping

78 primitive campsites located off the dirt Emery Canyon Road, with several nice sites sit right next to Window Arch.  For more upscale accommodations try the Lodge and Bunkhouse at nearby Castle Rocks State Park.

Lots of fins

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One of the more famous inscriptions
Emigrants on the California Trail passed right through here.

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Explore More – How many billions of years ago did the oldest granite here form?

1WonsTiny

WONDON WAS HERE