Scott Kranz worked in partnership with Visit Idaho to create this Travel Tip.
I spotted the smiling faces of my friends at the restaurant patio in downtown Boise, the starting point for our journey through southern Idaho. Having each traveled from our respective homes in Washington state, Oregon, and Colorado, we were eager to kick off our unique fall four-day road trip along the Snake River in southern Idaho.
Although we tackled our road trip over four days, all of the stops described below can be enjoyed as your schedule allows.
A Fall Road Trip in Southern Idaho
Our four-vehicle caravan – a motley fleet of “adventure mobiles” – headed eastbound on I-84 towards the town of Mountain Home. Thirty minutes past the small town of Bruneau, we pulled up to our first destination: Bruneau Canyon Overlook, which has a parking area with a restroom and is open to wild camping on Bureau of Land Management land. Coined by some as the “Grand Canyon of Southwest Idaho,” Bruneau Canyon cuts through the plains and low hills of the Snake River Plain, leaving a deep, vast expanse that made us feel wonder and awe.
In the morning, we resumed our drive east along the Snake River. Enjoying the curves along old Highway 30, we could peer out our right windows and see the Snake River’s emerald waters hugged by lush greenery. The route took us to the quaint, historic town of Glenns Ferry, where we enjoyed espresso and baked goods from Lobby Bakery and met the friendly owners. It was the perfect stop to stretch our legs and fuel up.
Beyond Glenns Ferry, we stopped at Malad Gorge State Park, conveniently right off I-84. At the Devil’s Washbowl parking area, we opened our doors and immediately smelled the rich fragrance of sagebrush from a recent rainfall. Along the short walk to the bridge and overlook, we passed by purple asters and bright yellow rubber rabbitbrush basking in the sun. We soaked in all the details: lichen-covered rocks, the flowing water below, and flocks of sparrows flying from one side of the gorge to the next.
After Malad Gorge, our caravan continued down the road, and within 30 minutes, we arrived in the Twin Falls area. Snake River Canyons Park is situated between I-84 and the north side of the Snake River Canyon, just north of Twin Falls. The north rim is a destination for motor sports including ATVs and motorcycles along with mountain biking and family activities. Topping it off was the extraordinary dispersed camping area with jaw-dropping views of Pillar Falls and Shoshone Falls.
From our campsite, we soaked up the sunset and sunrise views. The vista down to Pillar Falls was a highlight. We were fascinated by watching the river’s intricate waterways weave through rock pillars and other formations. At times we could make out small human figures who hiked down onto the rocks for a closer view.
With the sun next to the horizon, golden light filled the entire area and the canyon below. When we left in the morning, we made sure to “leave no trace,” keeping the site as pristine and welcoming as possible for the next visitors.
After enjoying a delicious Honey Cinnamon Latte at Twin Beans Coffee Company, we decided to check out one last Twin Falls area attraction before heading to Mount Harrison. Driving northwest, we passed through Gooding, then made full use of our high-clearance vehicles in approaching Tea Kettle Cave. First, we peered down through the cave’s opening, created by lava flow thousands of years ago, and were left speechless by the extraordinary sight. The entrance requires a short scramble through the “spout” into the “kettle” itself. From the cave’s interior, we saw the magical grove of lush ferns that has managed to grow with the help of the shaft of light from the opening above. In the cave, we treaded lightly to avoid trampling the fragile ferns.
Glowing from our unique cave experience, our four-vehicle caravan continued on I-84, and eventually turned south toward Mount Harrison, passing through Albion. Pulling onto Howell Canyon Rd (Road 549), we drove the 11 exciting miles of steep, paved road up to the summit. The 9,265-foot summit of Mount Harrison boasts 360-views and a historic fire lookout. From the summit we witnessed and photographed the full moon, glowing in front of a pink and purple sky above southern Idaho’s rolling hills.
That night, we drove a few miles down from the summit and camped at Bennett Springs Campground, which sits among a grove of aspen with their silver-dollar leaves quaking in the gentle wind. At daybreak, we explored the colorful groves next to our campground, which were popping with vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows. The morning sun eventually rose above the ridgeline to our east, creating a spectacular show of color and light, a fantastical finish to a surprise-filled journey in southern Idaho and along Idaho’s Snake River.
Looking to add another fall-focused stop on this Idaho road trip? Learn how to explore the City of Rocks during fall.
Feature image credited to Scott Kranz.
Scott Kranz (@scott_kranz) is a full-time photographer based in Seattle, Washington, specializing in outdoor sports, lifestyle, landscapes, and travel photography and storytelling. Partnering with the world’s leading outdoor brands and destinations, Scott’s professional work includes hiking and alpine climbing in the Cascade, Sierra, Sawtooth, and Rocky mountain ranges; trekking in both the European and New Zealand Alps; canyoneering and mountain bike expeditions in the Southwest desert; and backcountry skiing among the active volcanoes of Japan.
Published on September 20, 2022