Idaho May 31, 2017
This Road Trip To Idaho’s Most Awe-Inspiring Ice Caves Is The Perfect Summer Adventure
It’s easy to grumble about brutally cold winter weather, or even the soaring temps and cloudless skies that much of Idaho is known for during summer. But why not embrace a perfectly cool activity that combines the two into dazzling, unexpected underground displays?
Ice caves here in Idaho may not be the iridescent, crystal-clear wonders that can be found in other countries, but they’re truly spectacular just as they are. From secret caves in northern Idaho to secret caverns dotted with pristine ice crystals in the depths of the desert, here are a few unbelievable ice caves that are worth a visit.
View Google Map here.
1. Niter Ice Cave, Grace
The Niter Ice Cave is a geological feature approximately 3 miles south of the small of Grace in Caribou County, Idaho, a short distance off Hwy. 34.
Scientists believe the cave was formed thousands of years ago by a volcanic eruption which formed a huge lava tube that eventually cooled, leaving this cave. Ice collects on the walls of the cave in winter. Early settlers in the area found the cave a great place to store their food and collect ice all year around. It continues to be a popular picnic spot and recreation site.
2. Q'emiln Park Caves, Post Falls
We wrote about Q'emiln Park a few weeks ago - and for good reason. This expansive city park is quite possibly one of the most unique in the state! The trail system that is included within the parks takes explorers up and down rocky crevices, and into high pinnacle areas that overlook the Spokane River. Here, among the rocks, you'll find outcroppings of permanent ice. While no "official" cave exists that we know of, some of the rocky cutouts can fit an average-sized person within them for photography and amazement's sake. Of course, be careful not to get stuck!
3. Shoshone Ice Caves, Shoshone
While on the surface this geologic natural wonder has all the markings of a tourist trap, don't be discouraged. A lengthy set of stairs and a wooden walkway carry visitors down into what looks from the surface to be a mere pile of rocks, and into a frigid, 1700-foot cavern that holds over 20,000 pounds of ice. As legends go, this old lava tube was discovered by a young boy in the 1880s, ruined in the 1930s (i.e. melted), and rebuilt a few decades later to remake the original, natural airflow that allowed the ice to form in the first place. Believe it or not, it's the largest ice cave of its kind in the world. In fact, the owners have to pump water out regularly to keep the ice from building up to the point of blocking the cave.
4. Craters of the Moon, Arco
The trail system at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is spectacular to say the least. But with such intense desert surface conditions in the summer, few people realize just how cold the monument's caves can get. While it's rare to see them iced over year-round, as the caves first open to the public in early spring, icy remnants from the winter are easy to find. In fact, photographing the beautiful and unique icicles found along the Cave Trail is an ongoing project.
5. Paris Ice Cave, Paris
The Paris Canyon, an overlooked part of Southeast Idaho, is a rocky, marvelous treasure that doesn't get a great deal of attention. But the two-tier natural ice cave nestled within the recesses of the canyon is truly incredible! A bit of scrambling is required to get down into the cave (after a lengthy ATV ride or hike on a rough and boulder-laden road), but to get to the heart of the cave - the second tier - squeezing through an easy-to-miss opening in the floor makes getting here a bit of a challenge. according to legend, pioneers stored many of their good down here centuries ago.
BONUS: Darby Wind and Ice Caves
While these incredible caves are right on and slightly over the Idaho-Montana border, they are definitely worth the hike. A scenic, meadowy canyon trail first leads to an incredible (and chilly!) cavern that pours out frigid air, while an extended hike also takes you over the border to a magnificent ice cave.
You can read more about this stunning
cave hike here
For many, Memorial Day is the unofficial start to summer – no matter what the calendar says. With temperatures throughout Idaho warming up, it’s time to start planning ways to stay cool and entertained over the next few months – what are your favorite summer trips? And where in Idaho should we explore next?
And, since hiking is only one of the awesome outdoor activities the Gem State has to offer, here’s
another epic adventure you’re sure to love this season.