Michael Bonocore worked in partnership with Visit Idaho to create this Travel Tip.
Idaho is like no other state when it comes to geological diversity. For example, in southern Idaho, you’ll find Twin Falls, a desert town with all of the amenities you and your family might need after a road trip through Idaho’s remote landscapes. It’s also a great base camp location for exploring some of Idaho’s best springtime adventures—waterfalls. Here are nine you’ll want to have on your adventure list.
1. Shoshone Falls
The “Niagara of the West” sure does live up to its name, especially after a wet winter when the powerful 212-foot wall of water can literally leave you speechless. Since the water flow size is controlled by Idaho Power, be sure to check current conditions before planning your trip. Even at lower levels though, the falls are still a mesmerizing sight. During the long Idaho spring days, I like to arrive after dinner and watch the low sunlight up the falls as the cascading golden light tumbles down the Snake River Canyon. Mid-day light, however, will generate rainbows in the mist if you get lucky. Shoshone Falls is one of southwest Idaho’s most impressive sites, so this is a must-do on your trip.
2. Perrine-Coulee Falls
The first time I saw this incredible waterfall, I had flashbacks to the times I had stood behind the monstrous Seljalandsfoss waterfall in Iceland. There are two ways to see Perrine-Coulee Falls. The first, and most popular is the turnoff on Canyon Springs Road, where you can make the quick walk behind the waterfall. Be prepared to get a little wet if it is windy!
But perhaps an even more impressive view is one that doesn’t get utilized enough. Head to the Canyon Crest Dining and Event Center parking lot on Canyon Crest Drive and walk behind the building to the walkway. Find the viewpoint and check out a surreal view while avoiding the crowds.
3. Pillar Falls
Perhaps more exciting than Pillar Falls itself is how you GET to Pillar Falls. From downtown Twin Falls, head down the canyon and rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard from AWOL Adventure Sports in Centennial Waterfront Park. Once you get your life vest strapped on, start paddling east down the wide and calm Snake River, where you quickly arrive at the Perrine Bridge. As you paddle underneath, be sure to look up—this is one of the few structures in the United States where it is legal to BASE Jump. Brave jumpers can be seen throwing their parachutes and landing on the south side of the river. This makes for some great photo ops, provided you have a way to make sure your camera doesn’t get wet, in the unfortunate event that you fall out of your kayak from excitement.
Continue down the river for about two miles until you reach the two 100-foot tall Rhyolite columns that look like pillars. You’ll know you are there as it becomes impossible to paddle through the rock area. If you’re looking to continue on to Shoshone Falls, you’ll have to carry your gear around Pillar Falls. However, if this is your final destination, it’s one of the easiest and most family-friendly adventures in the Twin Falls area, so grab the kids and supplies for a picnic and paddle down to Pillar Falls!
4. Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon Springs Nature Preserve
Just west of Twin Falls is Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon Springs Nature Preserve, just one of the six units that make up Thousand Springs State Park. Keep your eyes peeled for the turnout to the parking lot, as it’s a bit tucked away. After a mile-long hike from the road that will have you questioning your directions, you’ll come to an overlook of the nation’s 11th largest spring, where a pool of bright blue water shines in the midday sun. As if this site in front of you wasn’t impressive enough, follow the trail and hike down into the canyon to reach a 20-foot waterfall that is simply beautiful. Most times, you will be the only one here, making it a great place to get away from the bustle of Twin Falls. Make sure to read the welcome sign which contains loads of interesting information about this unique canyon, including what Box Canyon has in common with Mars.
5. Auger Falls
Auger Falls is worth the view alone, but the real draw of this area within the Snake River Canyon is its extensive trail system. Head to Trek Bicycle Twin Falls and grab a mountain bike to load in your car before descending the canyon. The trails range from beginner to intermediate in difficulty. It’s a great place to take the whole family, especially if you want to introduce your kids to mountain biking, but without the steep mountain terrain as the majority of the trails are just gentle rolls. You will see numerous waterfalls while experiencing some unique views of the Snake River and Auger Falls.
6. Devil’s Punchbowl
Usually, names never really fit but in the case of Devil’s Punchbowl, whoever came up with the title was spot on. This incredible waterfall comes to life when massive amounts of water surge through a very small gorge. Getting here is easy—simply follow the signs from Interstate 84 to Malad Gorge State Park (another part of the Thousand Springs State Park). The washbowl is so close to the interstate you can actually get photos of semi-trailers passing over the bridge behind Devil’s Punchbowl from the viewpoint, which is a short walk from the parking area. In the right conditions, keep an eye out for ultra brave kayakers tempting fate. After seeing Devil’s Punchbowl’s strong power, turn around and check out the waterfall down the canyon.
7. Niagara Springs
Deep inside the Snake River Canyon is another section of Thousand Springs State Park known as Niagara Springs. While not the biggest of the falls, it is certainly one of the most photogenic. The steady flow of water over countless rocks and between lush green vegetation will have a photographer playing with the composition for hours. Turn around after viewing the falls and you will be greeted with a beautiful view of the Snake River.
8. Ritter Island
Besides Shoshone Falls, Ritter Island houses one of the best waterfalls for catching last-minute daylight and colorful clouds during sunset. The south-facing view of the waterfall is accessible via the steep road down to Ritter Island known as the Thousand Springs Grade. The falls can also be seen under moonlight from the 1000 Springs Resort across the river, where you can watch and listen to the waterfall as you light the night’s campfire during the blue hour.
9. Cauldron Linn
Cauldron Linn is home to two scenic falls that are very close to each other. The view can only be accessed from the top, but it’s a pretty peaceful sight, especially when you are the only person for miles. The pair of falls, sometimes called ‘Star Falls’, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 as it caused the Overland Party of the Pacific Fur Company to abandon its river expedition to the Pacific Ocean in 1811.
So there you have it. Nine waterfalls you can’t miss in southern Idaho this spring. Did we miss any? What’s your favorite?
Feature image credited to Michael Bonocore.
Michael is a Boise, Idaho-based photographer who has been working in the photography industry for over 10 years. He is the editor in chief of Resource Travel and the Travel Editor for Resource Magazine, a job that often has him jet-setting around the world. Michael also leads international photography workshops for The Giving Lens and teaches photography in private and small groups with his company Idaho Photo Workshops.
This story was originally published in May 2018. Updated in October 2021.
Published on May 7, 2020