Idaho - Nature and Scientific Wonders

South Central Idaho

Science and Geology in South Central Idaho

A trip to South Central Idaho isn’t complete without a stop at The Herrett Center, located on the campus of the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls. This facility houses a collection of artifacts including pre-Inca textiles, Mayan jade and Peruvian pottery. In 1995 the college added the Faulkner Planetarium, a 151-seat, state-of-the-art multi-media domed theater offering programs emphasizing space and science. Children of all ages enjoy learning about space and science at this interactive museum.

Traveling Interstate 84 there is much to see right off the road. The Great Rift, Balanced Rock and the City of Rocks are just a few places to stop along the way for family fun and adventure.

The Great Rift is a geological national landmark located in the Snake River Plain and one of only two such features in the world. At 635 square-miles, the Great Rift is considered as the largest, deepest and most recent volcanic rift system in the continental United States. A tremendous fissure extending 65 miles opened up to emit successive lava flows some 15,000 years ago resulting in spatter caves, ice tubes, and cinder cones. It contains undisturbed and unusual geologic features throughout the 380,000 acres of the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Wapi lava flows. Many of Idaho's most fascinating geological features lie along the Great Rift awaiting the adventurous desert hiker. The only other such geologic area in the world is in Africa.

Traveling southeast the City of Rocks’ granite columns - some reaching 60 stories tall - loom high above Circle Creek Basin and are popular with climbers. Many of the granite rock formations are over 2.5 billion years old, some of the oldest found in North America. Established in 1988 as a national reserve, the City of Rocks encompasses 14,407 acres of land (about one quarter is privately-owned) and renowned for its scenic, geologic and historic significance. Take a walk to see inscriptions on the spires written in axle grease by pioneers traveling through on the California Trail. There is a visitor center at Almo.
Finally driving west towards Buhl, visit world-famous Balanced Rock. Standing over 48 feet tall and weighing more than 40 tons, the wind-carved rock balances precariously on a pedestal only 3 feet by 17 inches. Nearby Balanced Rock Park is an excellent spot for a picnic.

Idaho’s Best-Kept Secret: Mountain Biking

If mountain biking down picturesque pathways, across high-mountain tresses and along alpine lakes is your idea of a great family vacation, start out your family adventure following the Route of the Hiawatha. Once a railroad passage called Milwaukee Railroad, this span was noted as one of the most scenic stretches in the country. With the rails removed and construction complete, the wilderness biking and hiking trail path winds through ten tunnels and seven trestles on this 15-mile route which crosses the Bitterroot Mountain Range. It’s best known for the long, cavernous St. Paul Pass, or "Taft" Tunnel, which descends into darkness for 1.66 miles underneath the Idaho/Montana state line. This relatively easy trail is great for riders of all ages and ability levels from beginner to novices alike, so there’s certainly something for every member of the family.

Your next day’s adventure should include the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, a spectacular, 73-mile scenic trail of paved asphalt running through Idaho’s Panhandle, perfect for mountain biking, hiking and inline skating. This trail, created through a partnership between the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Union Pacific Railroad, the U.S. government and the State of Idaho, begins in the historic Silver Valley and runs along rivers, Lake Coeur d’Alene and past scenic farmland. This is another trail great for all ages and abilities and offers plenty of trailheads, picnic tables and benches for an afternoon break.

Cool Down and Warm Up in Southwest Idaho

A day at Brundage Mountain Resort should calm the need for speed. With a vertical drop of 1,800 feet the mountain has a little something for everyone. It certainly is a skier’s mountain with plenty of adventurous runs for both beginner and expert. There are acres of untracked powder for dare devils and beautifully groomed runs for the less adventurous. Enjoy beautiful views of the valley below as you take it all in.

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