The Southern Idaho desert feels like going back in time to an old wild west film set. Wide open spaces that go on for miles with nothing in sight but old wooden fences and real life tumbleweeds blowing across the plains. It’s beautiful in a desolate, please don’t let our van break down here, kind of way.
On the interstate the scenery becomes blurred in the 85mph window views, but where we were headed required exiting the fast lanes of the freeway and winding down Highway 30. Our exit took us to the town of Bliss, which like many small towns we have encountered, has seemed to have lost the sparkle of it’s golden days. Unfazed by the dull start of our journey, we carried on with our sights set on Thousand Springs.
As we entered the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway something magical happened. Like an oasis rising from the heat of the desert, the springs suddenly appeared into view. Hundreds of falls pouring out of the rocky canyon walls, lush with greenery fed by the pristine spring water. This place looked like something out of dream.
Bound and determined to get up close and personal with the water, we ventured off the highway and onto some backroads. After several wrong turns, accidentally trespassing on private property and almost giving up we found ourselves winding down an extremely steep road through a ravine with fresh spring water pouring out of every crevice of the rocky hillsides around us. By this time I was already overflowing with excitement, but we had no idea how much more amazingness we were in for.
When we reached the bottom we were pleasantly surprised by the easy parking accommodations and the option to either enter the Thousand Springs State Park, or stay outside - both options allow incredible exploration opportunities. If you choose to cross the bridge into the park, you enter Ritter Island, which is home to an old dairy farm that was the original homestead of the area and is now a museum. If history is your pleasure, this place is full of interesting information about the area and how it went from a dairy farm, to nature conservatory, to a state park.
However, we were on a mission to get closer to the falls and once we reached the parking area, it was in sight! We turned left at the parking lot and took a short road to a dead end, where we parked. From there we followed a short trail (maybe 5 mins walking), came through the trees were met with this view:
Dreams do come true! This waterfall is epically beautiful and we were close enough to feel the spray of the water hitting the rocks at the bottom. Of course I wanted more! The most incredible thing about this particular access point is that you can literally hike INTO the waterfall and be showered with some of the most pristine spring water in the world!
As it turns out, this oasis in the desert is a result of the end of the Snake River Aquifer, which travels more than 100 miles to it’s outlet at Thousand Springs. The geology of this area is fascinating and the falls are just one part of all of the interesting things to see if you have the opportunity to make this trip.
Here are directions to help you avoid taking my law breaking, confused route to get there.
Traveling from Boise:
- Head E on I-84 toward Twin Falls
- Take exit 141 (Bliss)
- Take Hwy 30 toward Hagerman
- Turn Left on Vader Grade (E 2900 S)
- Ease Right on S 1175 E (Still also called Vader Grade)
- Left on E 3000 S
- Right on S 1200 E
- Right on S 1300 E
- Right on Thousand Springs Grade
** If you type it into Google, make sure you write in Thousand Springs Preserve, otherwise it will take you to the wrong place. Also make sure you google it ahead of time because you will most likely not have cell service once you’re headed out there. **
This trip is less than 2 hours outside of Boise, making it a great day-trip getaway. Also noteworthy is that very close by is the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument. If time allows, definitely check it out! A variety of hot springs are also in the nearby area, so if you want to make a weekend of it, camping at the hot springs is lovely!