Day Trip Destinations from Idaho Falls

          Deciding it’s time to head out for a road trip is an excellent start to some of Idaho's best exploration opportunities. There is so much to be found and enjoyed that can go easily missed as there is a lifetime of attractions and area destinations waiting to be discovered. When it is finally time to take a break, there is a host of Southeastern Idaho scenic destinations that await.

Destination: Harriman State Park - Silver Lake

City: 3489 Green Canyon Road, Island Park, ID 83429 

Distance from Idaho Falls: Approx. 71.5 +/- miles

Best time of year to visit: Year-Round

           The drive to Harriman State Park from the Idaho Falls area can make for quite the scenic road trip and the traffic, for the most part, is light. Offering some of Southeastern Idaho’s best scenery, the landscapes found at Harriman State Park boast scenic views of delightful lush meadows, area ponds, lake waters surrounded by forest pines, winding trails, vast and dramatic sprawling landscapes decorated with dense wildflowers that seemingly stretch out as far as the horizon, and the striking waters of Henry’s Fork. Harriman State Park is rich with fascinating history as this 11,000-acre wildlife refuge is a master-planned state park and sits as part of a geological wonder called the Henry’s Fork Caldera. 

          Exploring Idaho's Harriman State Park reveals some of its incredible charm starting with wildlife, including moose, elk, trumpeter swans, loons, pelicans, deer, owls, and bears, to name a few. In addition to the wonderful wildlife that roam this location, there is also abundant plant life and flowers for the finding. 

         During the Spring season the sea of flowers that blanket the park offer opportunities for wildflower adventures. The park is home to flowers and plant life that includes the golden Mules Ear and Heartleaf Anica, Shooting Stars which vary in color, the wildly white Woodland Star, sensationally detailed Spring Beauties, and Yellow Violet to name a few. Fields of flowers provide a tremendous array of colors that flow together like a perfect quilt of colors. Some of the more vibrant colored plant life that may be found include the deep reds of the Indian Paintbrush flowers, the brilliant blues of the Common Camas flower of the Lily family, and the pleasant purples of the Silvery Lupines. Taking a moment to bask in the beauty that surrounds within the Harriman State Park leaves many with memories that last a lifetime.

          Discovering what you enjoy doing the most at the Harriman State Park might include boating, kayaking, fishing, or perhaps a relaxing evening by the fire while camping at one of the on-site cabins or yurts, or possibly take a hike,  enjoying area birdlife and wildlife, and for some, enjoyment of this area may come as simply as taking in the surroundings. There is undoubtedly something to be found at the Harriman State Park for everyone to enjoy. Many nature studies take place here, as well as a host of interpretive signage on trails, as well as displays reviewing in-depth information about the area. Historical areas & sites will keep the questions coming as there is so much information to learn more about Idaho and this fascinating area. There is an information center and gift shop located near the entry to the park that makes for a great start to any significant length of time spent at the park and is also a great place to ask any other questions that may have come about while exploring. Discover easy to moderate walking trails, as well as trails ideal for horseback riding, with scenic viewing overlooks that will put to good use a camera, scattered throughout the park. Delight in water access to the river, lake, and stream. The park is a swell location for a day of exploring and a picnic as there are picnic areas with tables ideal for taking a midday break. Trail rides are typically available for one hour, two hours, and half-day rides from June through October. In the wintertime, this area comes alive with snow-topped trees and those out enjoying cross country - nordic skiing, fat tire biking, snow snowing, and classic skiing across 24-miles of groomed trails. The dirt roads sometimes do waterboard and get potholes in the winter. Fall is among the favorites for many who enjoy visiting this area as most of the tree life transforms into a magical array of colors that reflect beautifully across the top of the lake waters. 

          Features Activity Opportunities that include: Boating, hiking, photography, equestrian use, biking, birding, trail exploration, nature viewing, photography opportunities, picnicking, and nearby campgrounds for camping; as camping is not allowed at the Harriman State Park. Find water and vault toilets near the visitor's center at the entry to the park. 

          Pets are not allowed on trails, in buildings, or yurts. Pets are only allowed on a leash in the parking lots, with exception to the wintertime on the Harriman Hounds Trail when the trail has been groomed.  

* Subject to Change. Park Fees: Idaho State Parks require a $5 motor-vehicle entrance fee. However, you may consider the Idaho State Park's annual passport, which is available at any county Department of Motor Vehicles or by calling 208.558.7368. The annual passport is $10 with in-state vehicle registration or $40 for out of state users online or by calling. If you’ve already registered your vehicle in Idaho, you may still purchase an annual passport by visiting or getting online to the local Department of Motor Vehicles. There is an entrance fee to enter the preserve without a motor vehicle during the wintertime, as a $5/per person rate called the Winter Access Fee, payable upon arrival at the park.

Destination: Harriman State Park - Upper & Lower Mesa Falls

City: Ashton, Idaho, 83420

Distance from Idaho Falls: Approx. 70 +/- miles

Best time of year to visit: Prime viewing May - October, though open year-round. Winter access is only by snowmobile or skis.

          Features: Scenic waterfalls, photography opportunities, area trails, interpretive displays, and a visitor center. Find a Mesa Falls Activity Booklet available online for printing and bringing along on the journey. The booklet outlines the area with a map, area plant life names and species, common wildlife and birdlife, and a few games to keep passengers entertained while making this delightful Idaho road trip to this spectacular location. 

          Occupying over 3 million acres of rugged sparsely populated territory, the Caribou-Targhee National Forest stretches across Southeastern Idaho with an array of attractions that bring visitors from across the nation. Situated within the dense forest pines and majestic wilderness that surrounds Upper Mesa Falls is as wild as its history. Starting at the visitors center which is ideal for gathering additional information on how this area developed into the remarkable destination that it is today as well as getting a feel for where you want to venture next, the adventure begins. Journey along area trails to various scenic overlooks to gather multiple perspectives of how genuinely marvelous the 114 feet high and 200 feet wide Upper Mesa Falls is. Traveling on to the Grandview Overlook provides panoramic views of Lower Mesa Falls, which in hindsight are much smaller than the upper falls, though nevertheless just as pleasant to enjoy. Don’t forget to reserve a moment to take in the Mesa Falls Nature Trail, an enjoyable delight for many.

Sources:

https://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/parks/harriman

https://idahostateparks.reserveamerica.com/camping/harriman-state-park/r/campgroundDetails.page?parkID=315061

https://www.reserveamerica.com/explore/harriman-state-park/ID/315061/overview

https://visitidaho.org/things-to-do/state-parks/harriman-state-park/

https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/ctnf/specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5196020

https://visitidaho.org/things-to-do/natural-attractions/mesa-falls/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper_Mesa_Falls

https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/idaho/mesa-falls-nature-trail

https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/ctnf/specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5196020

https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/idaho/mesa-falls-nature-trail

https://visitidaho.org/things-to-do/natural-attractions/mesa-falls/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper_Mesa_Falls

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