It doesn’t cost much to have a good time here in Idaho. After all, one of the best things about Gem State living is the abundance of natural beauty and unique destinations, many of which don’t cost a thing to see. Below is a list of eight great natural wonders in our state that you can witness free of charge. No admission fee – just Mother Nature doin’ its thing. How many have you had the pleasure to see?
1. City of Rocks National Reserve
As one of the most unique landscapes in all of Idaho, City of Rocks National Reserve (or, "the Silent City of Rocks") is one of those places you have to see to believe. The tall spires, the steeple-like rocks, the quiet atmosphere - you'll be in utter awe of this place from the moment you step foot in it. There is no fee to visit City of Rocks. Among some of the park's most popular activities are hiking, climbing, camping, birding, hunting, and even archery. There's simply no end to the type of adventure you can have here!
2. Hells Canyon
Idaho is home to quite a few significant canyons, but nothing beats the dramatic scenery of Hells Canyon along the western border of the state. Considered North America's deepest river gorge, the canyon runs even deeper than the way more famous Grand Canyon! Boasting 652,488 acres of beauty and adventure, the sheer size of this magnificent canyon is enough to take your breath away. Hells Canyon National Recreation Area is a great place to start your adventure at this natural wonder. You can also take a drive down the
Hells Canyon Scenic Byway
for some of the most dramatic windshield views our state has to offer.
3. Sawtooth Mountains
It's hard to choose a favorite mountain range in Idaho - we have so many of them! However, the Sawtooth Mountains have won the hearts of many and it's no wonder why. This rugged mountain range in central Idaho is part of the Rocky Mountains and encompasses an area of 678 square miles. With 57 peaks boasting an elevation over 10,000 feet, the Sawtooths make for an epic backdrop to alpine lakes, lush meadows, valleys, and more. And with over 700 miles of hiking trails, exploring them is a must! Simply put, this jaw-dropping mountain landscape is one of Idaho's best-kept secrets.
4. Lake Pend Oreille
We just had to add one of Idaho's many spectacular lakes on this list, and Lake Pend Oreille is the chosen one for myriad reasons. It's Idaho's biggest lake, after all, at 43 miles long and 111 miles of shoreline. But that's not all! It's also the deepest lake in Idaho at 1,158 feet deep. For comparison, there are only four deeper lakes in the entire nation. Tucked along Pend Oreille's shores are tons of great parks, beaches, and trails that are open to anyone and everyone. It's by far one of Idaho's greatest wonders and seeing it is an experience that belongs on your bucket list.
5. Elk Creek Falls
For waterfall lovers, Elk Creek Falls in North Idaho is a natural wonder that should be on your radar. It's touted as the tallest waterfall in the state of Idaho. Consisting of three separate cascades that total over 140-feet, this beautiful waterfall makes for a scene that you won't soon forget. Surrounding it is a lush canyon filled with basaltic formations and bright green foliage. This is North Idaho beauty at its finest! A developed Forest Service trail takes you to all three of the falls' cascades so the next time you're up for a hike, consider the trek to Elk Creek Falls.
6. Salmon River
Flowing for 425 miles through central Idaho, the Salmon River is one of our most beloved rivers. Often referred to as "The River of No Return", its rugged and wild nature evokes awe from anybody who happens to come across it. The river originates from the Sawtooth and Lemhi Valleys and winds its way through the vast, scenic expanse known as the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. It's photogenic, that's for sure! On top of its stunning appearance, the river is highly regarded for its recreation opportunities, including everything from whitewater rafting to fishing.
7. Snake River Canyon
One of Southern Idaho's most iconic landscapes, the Snake River Canyon stretches east-west on either side of Twin Falls. It can be viewed from dozens of different overlooks, most notably at the famous Perrine Bridge. Its claim to fame may be from
Evel Knievel's world-famous (yet failed) stunt
that occurred decades ago, but there's definitely a lot more to the canyon than that. It's a striking setting for fishing, hiking, boating, and so much more. Nothing beats seeing the Snake River Canyon with your own eyes, especially at sunrise/sunset!
8. Hagerman Fossil Beds
One cool destination that most people don't know you can see for free is Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument. Located near the town of Hagerman, the site is home to the largest concentration of Hagerman Horse fossils in North America - hence, it is the official state fossil of Idaho! At the park, visitors can see the famous excavation site for themselves, on top of fossils from over 200 other species.
This attraction closed in 2021, but is set to reopen in Spring 2022,
as per the NPS website
What do you think? Are you ready to plan a road trip to any of these delightful natural wonders? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
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