Two nights in Idaho Falls, ID

Bugsy at the falls in Idaho Falls, ID

Arriving in Idaho Falls was a bit of a shock after a week in the Tetons. There are no mountains. But it’s a nice enough little city, with walkways with artistic benches following the river through downtown, backdropped by a pretty temple.

sculptural wolf benches along the river in Idaho Falls
sculptural gem benches along the river in Idaho Falls

But that’s about it, no offense. Basically nothing was open downtown on a sunny Saturday, except outdoor gear store Idaho Mountain Traders and Great Harvest Bread, but maybe that’s Covid’s fault.

Bugsy across the river from the temple

The drive from Wilson to Idaho Falls over Teton Pass is extra exciting with a trailer, so make sure you’re up for that before hitting the road. (There’s a longer route that’s less hair-raising.)

Campground

Airstream in the campground in Idaho Falls

Snake River RV Park is a quiet place a short drive from downtown. Our campsite had the biggest yard we’d had in a long time.

Drinking

We learned a new travel lesson in Idaho Falls: if you’re looking for a town with a fun beer scene and bars serving creative cocktails (or good coffee, for that matter), perhaps a mostly-Mormon town isn’t your best bet.

beer at Snow Eagle Brewing

We had bad beer at Snow Eagle Brewing, where nobody but us wore masks inside.

beer on the patio at Idaho Brewing

We had not great beer at Idaho Brewing, but at least they had a dog-friendly patio.

drinking beer on the patio at Tap-N-Fill

We had good beer at Tap-N-Fill! Tap-N-Fill is a beer bar with a zillion taps pouring beers from Idaho and beyond. We enjoyed beers from Anderson Valley Brewing in CA and Melvin Brewing in WY on the dog-friendly patio.

Our cocktail research turned up two possible options: Jakers and Sandpiper. We didn’t go to either: Jakers didn’t seem to have outdoor seating, and Sandpiper, which does have nice-looking outdoor seating, wasn’t open while we were in town. If you’re reading this far in the future, remember that we visited during Covid, and weren’t interested in spending much time indoors.

Eating

quinoa salad from Arugula Deli in Idaho Falls

Takeout from Arugula Deli was so good our first night in town that we tried to get it again our second night! Alas, they are closed on Sundays. They have healthy options–the quinoa salad was delicious–and with your healthy food you must get the decidedly less-healthy pães de queijo (TIL that the plural of pão is pães). YUMMMM.

Since Arugula Deli was closed, we settled for Noodles & Co for our second dinner. Boring. It’s nice that they offer veggie noodles, though, for when we’re trying to be healthy.

Hiking

North Menan Butte hike

North Menan Butte is a fun 3.5-mile hike around and into an extinct volcano a half hour north of Idaho Falls. The Menan Buttes are two of the world’s largest tuff cones, which are formed when lava erupts into water. The heat forces the water to steam, and the resulting explosion shatters the solidified lava into ash. The Menan Buttes are the only volcanoes in the US to erupt through freshwater. I love geology.

Hells Half Acre Wilderness Study Area lavafield

For another short geological adventure (with a longer option) check out Hells Half Acre Wilderness Study Area. There are access points 25 miles west of Idaho Falls and 20 miles south; I went to the probably less-crowded western area. Note: don’t just type Hell’s Half Acre into Google Maps and follow without sanity-checking! A couple options will send you along some super sketchy sandy ranch roads where you have no cell service and see no other signs of life. Yes, that happened to me; use the directions in this trail description instead. From the western trailhead, you can hike a short loop over wacky lava structures, or a longer out-and-back into the wilderness. The southern trails are right off the interstate and easier to find.

Both of the above hikes would be fun for kids, and Bugsy enjoyed North Menan. She didn’t go to Hell’s Half Acre for fear she’d tear up her feet, but technically dogs are allowed.

Idaho Falls with the temple in the background

Idaho Falls was a fine place to catch our breath after the go-go-go of Jackson Hole, but I can’t see us returning.

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