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When early pioneers reached the high desert of southern Idaho, they quickly realized they’d need a way to distribute the region’s main water source, the Snake River, to establish agricultural communities. So in the early 1900s, farmer Ira Burton Perrine and a wealthy financier, Stanley Milner, combined forces to build a dam and irrigation works so extensive that they transformed the area into a verdant “Magic Valley” full of spectacular water features.
More than 100 years later, water continues to be a central focus in the Snake River Valley, which is best explored from Twin Falls, a city of 50,000 people perched on the edge of the river’s dramatic gorge. From paddleboarding and kayaking to mountain biking, rock climbing, and BASE jumping, the City of Waterfalls combines a glut of outdoor activities with inspired restaurants, local breweries, and small-city charm to create an ideal warm-weather destination.
And now, thanks to nonstop daily flights from Denver International Airport to the Magic Valley Regional Airport in Twin Falls, which United Airlines made available starting May 12, the region is now easier to reach than ever. Here, a guide to exploring the southern Idaho gem.
Among the city’s 30-plus waterfalls, Shoshone Falls stands out as the clear highlight. The 212-foot “Niagara of the West” plummets over the dark volcanic cliff into the misty, rainbow-filled Snake River Canyon far below. You can enjoy the spectacle from a viewing platform in Shoshone Falls City Park, which also has a great picnic area.
If you don’t mind getting a little wet, you can also kayak or paddleboard to the base of Shoshone Falls. Beginning in Centennial Waterfront Park, the eight-mile roundtrip adventure to reach the picturesque location takes six to seven hours to complete. But the up-close views and sense of nature’s power you feel at the falls’ base make the trip well worth the effort. Along the way, you’ll get to follow a portage around Pillar Falls and go underneath the graceful Perrine Bridge, named for the valley’s pioneer farmer. You also travel past the site where professional daredevil Evel Knievel tried (but spectacularly failed) to jump the quarter-mile-wide gorge in a specially designed, steam-powered ‘Skycycle’ in 1974.
Southwest of the bridge, Perrine Coulee Falls, another local landmark, plunges 200 feet from the rim to the river. For the best photo op, hike to its base from Centennial Waterfront Park. In addition, about a mile east of Shoshone Falls, Dierkes Lake is an ideal place to kayak, canoe, and swim on a hot day. The lake is also a popular scuba-diving spot.
A bit further afield, but deserving of a trek, you can visit the stunning Caribbean-blue waters of Blue Heart Springs. This oasis is only accessible via a 45-minute paddle from Banbury, which is also home to some popular hot springs.
Twin Falls boasts many other land-based outdoor activities. From Shoshone Falls Park, you can walk or bike along the seven-mile-long Canyon Rim Trail, which offers great views of the gorge, Shoshone Falls, and the Perrine Bridge. A few miles northwest of the city, Auger Falls Heritage Park offers a moderate four-mile mountain biking or hiking loop with views of both Auger and Mermaid falls.
Golfers will enjoy the 18-hole Canyon Springs Golf Course, and rock climbers can scale the steep basalt cliffs by Dierkes Lake or the more than 600 trad and sport routes on granite at City of Rocks National Reserve. The reserve also features excellent birdwatching, hiking, and mountain biking.
If you enjoy living life on the edge, be sure to give tandem BASE jumping a try from the nearly 500-foot-high Perrine Bridge.
Eat & Drink
Before starting your adventure-packed day, fuel up with a filling breakfast at one of Twin Fall’s quaint eateries, such as the farm-to-table Yellow Brick Café. Located in the heart of downtown and dedicated to promoting a sustainable food culture, the restaurant offers cold-pressed juices and reasonably priced meals, like apple pie oatmeal, wicked burgers, and bacon mac n’ cheese.
Abracadabra’s serves some unique breakfast and lunch options, such as Captain Crunch–encrusted French toast and firecracker salmon. Coffee aficionados will delight in following southern Idaho’s coffee trail, which includes Twin Beans, a local favorite that features ethically sourced and house-roasted craft coffees, along with a large variety of savory and sweet crepes, salads, and sandwiches.
The best happy hour hangout is the spectacular patio at Elevation 486, a bistro located 486 feet above the river on the south rim of the Snake River Gorge. The menu features numerous craft beers and locally inspired cocktails like the BASE bomber and bourbon-spiked Knievel’s Coffee, as well as a sampling of pub grub.
Twin Falls currently features two craft breweries: Koto Brewing Company, a favorite among IPA lovers, and Milner’s Gate, which is named for the financier who helped turn the valley green. A third option, Magic Valley Brewing, is expected to open a Main Avenue location soon. Two pubs, O’Dunken’s Draught House and Scooter’s, each offer more than a dozen brews on tap and extensive menus.
For a cool treat on a hot day, swing by the Canyon Rim Creamery for locally made ice cream cones, sundaes, shakes, and floats. Daisy’s Olde Time Confections also features an extensive selection of sweets, from brittles and toffees to fudge- and fruit-topped banana splits.
In addition to plenty of tried-and-true hotel and motel chains, downtown Twin Falls has a notable bed and breakfast: The comfy Fillmore Inn, which is open to guests over the age of 10, offers freshly baked cookies and a relaxing patio, as well as a lavish, home-cooked breakfast.
If You Do One Thing…
Ride a zip line through the Snake River Valley. The exhilarating, 45 mph ride is a great way to catch a bird’s-eye view of the amazing scenery in Twin Falls’ dramatic river canyon, as well as the perfect selfie.
Because local health regulations are subject to change during the pandemic, be sure to check the latest rules before you steer north.