Most travelers seem in a big hurry to complete their drive on I-84, through the lava fields of the Snake River Plain. Their destinations are often Boise to the north, Yellowstone National Park to the east or Salt Lake City to the south. I’d encourage people to slow down and use Twin Falls as their base of operation if they want to explore places in south-central Idaho like Craters of the Moon National Monument or the Sun Valley area.
Twin Falls is a small, clean neat city — typical of so many in the heartland. It provides very reasonably priced services to travelers (a large assortment of restaurants and motels) and shoppers (people from northern Nevada and southern Idaho will come here to shop at Costco and the mall). It’s not a fancy place but is a typical small American city that has two main and worthwhile tourist sites that I’d encourage you to make a small detour to see:
1) Snake River Canyon. The Snake River, as it winds its way west and north to its junction with the Columbia River, has carved some momumentous canyons. The grandest of these is Hell’s Canyon, the deepest gorge in the United States, situated along the Idaho/Oregon border. The canyon near Twin Falls is not nearly as impressive as Hell’s Canyon but is easily accessible and still very deep. It’s worthwhile stopping here to take it all in. It was across this gorge that legendary stuntman Evil Knievel attempted his “Sky-Cycle” rocket motorcycle jump several decades ago (his parachute engaged right away and he crashed 600 feet into the canyon but lived to talk about it). Knievel had wanted to jump the Grand Canyon, but the government wouldn’t allow this so he bought land along the Snake River and did a canyon jump here instead.
2) Shoshone Falls Known as the “Niagara Falls of the west”, this lovely cascade of falls is situated in the desert just east of Twin Falls. The falls are 212 feet tall and about 900 feet wide and drop in a series of steps; I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how beautiful this waterfall is. A bonus is the brilliant rainbow you’ll be guaranteed to see in the mist on a sunny day. Stroll along the edge of the gorge and you’ll find a natural arch and if you look downriver you’ll see the Evil Knievel jump site. A pleasant park adjoins the falls and provides a nice setting for a picnic or place for the kids to stretch their legs and play.
The Shoshone Ice Caves is just north of town, on the way to Sun Valley. It’s one of many lava tubes on the Snake River plain but interesting because it provides access to a permanent underground icepack. A wooden bridge leads you over the ice. Also near Twin Falls is Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument. For those enjoy learning about fossils (like yours truly) — this monument is interesting because it has yielded 30 complete (extinct) horse fossils and is home to a large assortment of extent mammalian fossils including mastodons, otters and camels.
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