Idaho April 09, 2017
11 Amazing Natural Wonders Hiding In Plain Sight In Idaho — No Hiking Required
Idaho is home to some of the country’s most spectacular natural scenery, magnificent natural oases, and sublime wilderness areas. However, many of those natural wonders are tucked away in secluded areas, requiring visitors to embark on a hike. The good news? Idaho’s landscape has more than just epic geologic formations and beautiful panoramic views. Here, in our forever-stunning Idahome you’ll discover some incredible, beautiful, and intriguing natural wonders and witness unique natural phenomena that require little to no hiking at all. Here are 11 of them.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Big Springs
Idaho is home to its fair share of natural springs, but it just so happens that Big Springs in Island Park is one of the largest in the country. Here, you can camp, walk the nearby trails, fish... or just enjoy the beauty from the accessible bridge overlook. The water is so clear, you can see every move the fish make!
2. Warm River
Welcome to the river that winter can't touch. This Snake River branch almost never freezes; instead, it maintains a comfortable and constant 50-degree temperature that is perfect for fishing... if you're brave enough to venture out in the dead of winter, that is!
While this gorgeous natural phenomenon isn't limited to just Idaho, when our state's brilliant sunshine meets our stunning mountain ranges (all 80 of them!), magic happens. A reddish pre-dawn or pre-sunset light that wraps mountain peaks in an extraordinary glow, thought to be the sun reflecting off of the mountain's edges while they're still in the earth's shadow. Both Sun Valley and McCall are well known for their distant glows, but the Sawtooths - as always - are remarkable in their own light.
4. Snow Rollers
Just the right combination of wind and snow can create these adorably mobile tubes. While not a 'natural wonder' as we traditionally think of the term, Idaho is a hotbed for these little wonders due to our open landscape and rolling hills... no pun intended. Keep your eyes peeled for snow moving on its own on your next winter drive!
5. Black Magic Canyon
This hidden black basalt volcanic trail is beyond epic to say the least, and completely unexpected. It's a photographer's dream, a natural sculpture garden, a volcanic remnant, and an explorer's paradise that is accessible only at certain times of the year. You can hike or climb through the canyon as much as you like, or simply look down from above. Either way... WOW!
More info and directions
6. Ice Caves
While all of Idaho's caves are chillier than the temperature aboveground, our ice caves are a wonder of their own. These frigid caverns are often natural lava tubes, which trap pockets of cold air permanently beneath the surface. Depending on the cave, icicles, iced over streams, and ice-covered walls are what you'll find. Check out the Niter Ice Cave, Paris Ice Cave, and Shoshone Ice Cave just to start! More details to come as we head into summer!
7. Soda Springs
Eastern Idaho's unique man-made Soda Springs geyser may not be natural the way you typically think about it, but the geologic power, concentrated gases, and heavy minerals that propel the water is all "Idaho." You can watch this fascinating Yellowstone-ecosystem wonder from Geyser Park, where plenty of benches and trees surround the fountain.
More info and directions
8. Mesa Falls
Mesa Falls in Ashton, much like Soda Springs, is a part of the same Yellowstone ecosystem, but its uniquely un-dammed and un-diverted waters give these falls impressive, photo-worthy cascades. Both the upper and lower falls are visible from paved walkways and overlooks, where you can see them both cataracts dropping well over 100 feet into the Snake River.
9. Chimney Rock
To get a view like this, you can bet that some hiking is required to see this unique rock formation up close in Coolin. But to check out this beauty from a distance, there are plenty of places that have sweet views without ever leaving your car! Or, feel free to start the hike - where inclines are moderate and the going is easy - and drink in the sight from the trail without the strenuous 10.5-mile climb.
10. Green Monarchs
Green Monarchs - These beautiful green landforms seeming to rise out of Lake Pend Oreille are a true treasure, a small part of the Coeur D’Alene Mountains in the Kaniksu National Forest. Aptly named for the lush green flora that covers the rugged hilltops every spring, these magnificent peaks are often encased a distant blue glow, reflected from the sparkling water that they overlook.
But these beauties also take quite the hike to explore via the Green Monarch Ridge Trail, which is just shy of 9 miles, with a few steep grades for good measure. For those wanting to explore the Monarchs from a distance and without the hike, a lake cruise or boat excursion is the perfect answer.
Of all of Idaho's unique natural phenomena, this one is quite possibly the most fascinating to witness in person. While "terraforming" actually refers to reshaping another planet to be more earth-like, when it comes to Idaho's landscape, this is an otherworldly natural wonder worth mentioning. As Idaho's lakes freeze, the heat and currents below the surface is pushing upwards and outwards. The result? Layered plates of ice that move, shift, rotate, and seem to crawl up the sandy beaches. It's a little eerie - the sound is almost haunting - and if you look closely, you might just see large chunks of ice shoot across the solidly-frozen portions of the water as though thrown by an underwater entity.
See it for yourself! Guy Berghoff captures multiple videos
here and here of this rare and incredible lake movement.
Do you have any other natural wonders or phenomena to add to this list? Let us know!