Twin Falls, Idaho

Photo: Charles Knowles from Meridian Idaho, USA [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Charles Knowles from Meridian Idaho, USA [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Your road trip through the Western U.S. is all mapped out. You plan to see national parks and rugged mountains, deep canyons and high arches. You’ll drive along scenic byways and vast rivers. You’ll go hiking, camping, and fishing. You’ll see herds of bison crossing the plains, a bear and her cubs walking along the side of a glacial lake, and maybe even a bald eagle flying high overhead. But there’s one thing missing from your list: a magnificent waterfall.

Shoshone Falls, in Southern Idaho’s Magic Valley region, is just a short detour from your already scheduled route. It’s part of the Snake River, which runs between Wyoming and Washington. The waterfalls were probably created at the end of the last ice age, when the Snake River Canyon was created. It later became the fishing grounds (salmon, sturgeon, trout) of numerous Native American tribes. Today, Shoshone Falls is called the Niagara of the West. They’re actually higher—by nearly 50 feet—than the waterfall along the New York and Ontario borders.

You arrive to find a green park, Shoshone Falls Park, along the river. It’s full of picnic tables, hiking trails, and scenic overlooks. Everyone is making a beeline for the one overlooking the falls, of course. They’re quite spectacular. Water rushes over many layers of rocks across the nearly 1,000-foot rim. The surrounding rock formations were carved out over many centuries. Clouds of white foam pool at the bottom of the falls. Rain-like mist rises from those clouds. While rainbows reflect off the water in every direction.

Unable to contain your excitement—or stay in one spot—you follow the Canyon Rim Trail to get different perspectives. First, look down at the falls and listen to the thunder-like noise as the water crashes below. Then, farther along trail, look back at the falls, the rocks, and the wide canyon. The breathtaking view becomes, surprisingly, one of your favorites on the entire road trip.

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