Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Ultimate List of Summer Activities in Pocatello Idaho


You might think I'm crazy when I say this, but Pocatello has been one of my very favorite places to live. One reason I love Pocatello is because of all the amazing summer activities available to do in and around the city.

My family moved to Pocatello at the end of August in 2017.  We'd spent the previous 12 weeks living in Yellowstone National Park.  Our time in Yellowstone had been an amazing, once in a lifetime experience.  I assumed we would never top that summer.

So imagine my surprise when the next summer, spent in Pocatello, turned out to be just as action packed as our summer in Yellowstone. We weren't spotting geysers or hunting waterfalls, but there were plenty of things in Pocatello and Southeast Idaho to keep my family busy and entertained.

I actually cried whenever I thought about how 2018 it would be our only summer in Pocatello.  In fact, I was so sad about leaving Pocatello after Brandon graduated from ISU that I ended up rearranging our plan.  Originally we planned to move as a family to wherever he got a job.  But I decided that I wanted another summer in Pocatello. So the kids and I are staying here through the summer while Brandon is working and house hunting in Twin Falls.

I want to share the fun things there are to do in Pocatello.  I've done this for other places I've lived and so its fitting to create a list for Pocatello.  I apologize for not having this list done at the beginning of the summer, but I got a little distracted by playing with my kids.

A little caveat: I'm writing this post based on information for the summer of 2019. Some of these activities may not be available every summer.  Be sure to check the links to official websites for updated information. You can also check the Activity Guide put out by the Pocatello Parks and Recreation department. There are also a handful of Facebook groups that post links to events that are happening around town. (Busy Kids in Bannock County is my personal favorite.)

Another thing to keep in mind, I know Chubbuck is a different city than Pocatello, but I've included things in that city on this list. The two cities are so intertwined that it makes sense to combine them on this list.

Without any further ado, Here is the Ultimate List of Summer Activities in Pocatello.

Go Swimming
Swimming is such a fun thing to do on hot summer days. Pocatello has several options for where you can take your kids swimming.

Ross Park Aquatic Complex - This Aquatic Complex at Ross Park is more than just a pool. There is a children's play area with lily pads and a net, a lazy river, and a zero depth play area for small children. There is also a water slide, but you have to pay extra for that. One day admission costs are free for children under age 1, $2 for children from 1-6, $5 for children from 7-17, $6 for adults, and $4 for Seniors. Season passes are available. On Monday's and Wednesday's there is half price admission after 5:00 pm. The pool opens each day at 12:00 noon. The pool is located at 2901 S 2nd Ave.

Bannock Reservoir at the Portneuf Wellness Complex -
This man-made lake is free to use all summer long. The reservoir is part of the Portneuf Wellness Complex located at the ends of Chubbuck road and Olympus Drive. There are no lifeguards on duty, but there are lots of shallow areas so you don't have to worry about the water getting too deep for your little kids.

Stuart Park Splash pad - Splash Pads are great options when you don't want to worry about deep water.  They are basically glorified sprinkler systems and kids love playing in them. The free splash pad is located at Stuart Park in Chubbuck near the library. The address is 5177 Stuart Ave. (It's located off of Hawthorn Road).

Swimming Lessons - If you'd like your children to learn how to swim you can sign them up for lessons at several different locations around town.  Some popular places are Reeds Gym at ISUGolds Gym, and the Pocatello Rec Center.

Rock Climbing
The lava cliffs at Ross Park are pretty awesome. They are the perfect height for a quick scramble up the cliff or for some bouldering.  If you are interested in learning how to rock climb there are several ways you can do that. The Parks and Recreation department offers classes for adults and children throughout the summer. ISU also has climbing equipment available on Thursday evenings. And you can always climb with your own gear.

Shady Side - is located off of 4th Ave at Terrell and Ifft Park. As it's name implies there is plenty of shade from large trees in this area.

Sunny Side - is located south of the zoo off of 2nd Avenue. There is a little dirt road that leads to the parking area.

Go for a walk, a hike, or a bike ride
Pocatello has many great places for getting outside and enjoying nature.  Trails range in difficulty.  Some will take you up a mountain, while others will give you a different perspective of your own neighborhood.

Portneuf Greenway Trails -
The Greenway trails throughout Pocatello are such a nice addition to the city. The Portneuf Greenway Foundation has been working hard to create these paved trails throughout neighborhoods. You can walk or bike on the trails.  Several trails are shaded while other's are best enjoyed in the cool mornings or evenings. Here's a map.

City Creek Trails- 
This trail network is on the west side of the city in an area surrounding City Creek Canyon. This is a popular area for hiking and biking. There are over 50 miles of trails in the City Creek trail system. Most people only follow the main trail that stays near the water. If you venture off on some of the side trails you'll be rewarded with a feeling of being almost alone. It's hard to believe that you are so close to the city.

Here are two ways to access the trail system:

The Lower City Creek Trail head Parking Lot is located off of South Grant Avenue just south of an LDS Church. The approximate address is 800 South Grant. That parking lot is often full so you may want to park at Centennial Park and then cross Grant Ave to reach the trail head.

The Upper City Creek Trail head is located at the end of City Creek Road. You reach City Creek Road by following South Lincoln Ave up the hill. Turn left onto City Creek Road and follow that for about half a mile. The road ends in a parking circle. During the summer months the gate across a dirt road is open. You can drive on the dirt road to reach some small parking pullouts closer to City Creek. The dirt road leads to some fun places to go for a drive – but be aware that 4 wheel drive is recommended.

Red Hill - This hill rises above the ISU campus and gives an impressive view of the University and city. The four pillars at the top of Red Hill are a great photo background. You can start your hike from a trail head located on 8th Ave just east of the Student Union Building.  If you want a slightly shorter hike you can park by the student housing on Bartz Drive and hike from there. 

Stairway to Heaven -
This stone staircase is a short (yet surprisingly strenuous) way to get an amazing view of Old Town Pocatello. The staircase is located at approximately 400 South Lincoln Avenue. When you park please be courteous of the people who live around the staircase. Also the staircase doesn't really go anywhere other than a subdivision so please be respectful of the property located at the top of the staircase.

Cherry Springs Nature Trail -
This paved trail is located south of the valley on Mink Creek Road.  The area is easy to find and has a good sized parking lot. The trails at Cherry Springs aren't very steep or long so this is the perfect place to bring young children to introduce them to hiking.  Plants are labeled along the way so you can learn a little bit about nature as you hike.

Nordic Center - In the winter the Nordic Center is a great place for skiing or snow tubing.  In the summer it is a fun place to go hiking.  The center is located about 7 miles south of Pocatello on East Mink Creek Road.

See a Play
Add some drama to your summer without stirring up any trouble. Pocatello has several great options for seeing plays.

ISU Theater - Every summer Idaho State University puts on a play in June.  This year the play was Bye Bye Birdie. Dates were June 12-22.  Ticket prices are $15 for an adult and $10 for a child.

Old Town Actors Studio - This local theater is located at 427 North Main Street Suite G. 2019's summer show is the Great American Trailer Park Musical. It is showing throughout the last week of June. Tickets are generally $12.00.

Shakespeare in the Parks (preformed on the ISU Quad): This free event will be held on July 19th and 20th starting at 6:30. It is held on the Quad at Idaho State University.  You can park in the large parking lot near Humbolt Ave and 5th Ave. Parking is free after 4:00 on weekdays. This year they are showing the Merry Wifes of Windsor and Henry the IV Part 1.

Palace Playhouse - This dinner theater is located at 158 E. Chubbuck Road. 2019's summer show is Newsies and is running from July 9th through August 10th. Tickets range from $10 to $41.50 depending on the night and if you include dinner with your ticket.

See a Movie
Movies and summer are nearly synonymous. Watching a movie is a great way to escape the heat and reality for a little while.

AMC Classic Pine Ridge 11 - This is your best bet if you want to see a new release movie, but expect to pay big bucks for the experience. (They charge you a convenience fee whether you pay for your tickets at the theater or online) The movie theater is located behind the Pine Ridge Mall by Home Depot at 4335 Yellowstone Ave in Chubbuck.

Reel Theater - If you can wait a few weeks to see a movie you will save some money by seeing the movie is at the Reel Theater.  Prices range from $2.00-$3.00 depending on the day and time.  There is also a summer movie program where you pay $9.00 for access to special showings of kids movies throughout the week. The theater is located at 310 East Oak Street

Bengal Theater at ISU - Movies shown at this lecture hall/movie theater have generally already been released on DVD. Still it's fun to watch them on a big screen. The theater shows movies that aren't big box office draws so this is a good place to see more artier flicks - although they often show blockbusters too.  ISU students can see movies for free while the general public will pay $2.00 for children under 12 and $5 for adults.

Float the Portneuf River
I'm so excited that Pocatello is working to increase access to and awareness of the ability to float the Portneuf River.  The Portneuf is the same river that flows through Lava Hot Springs.  The water quality in Pocatello is safe for swimming and recreation. However, it's hardly ever used for those purposes.  The Portneuf River Vision is working to change that. They will be holding the Poky Portneuf Paddle on Thursday, July 18th at Centennial Park from 5:00-8:00 pm.  They will have free shuttles for getting you and your gear to the launch point. Consessions will be available.  It sounds like a great way to get acquainted with the river. 

Go Fishing 
There are several places in town where you can go fishing.

Edson Fichter Nature Area -
This area is one of my favorite places in Pocatello.  It's still inside the city limits, but the views of the mountains are spectacular.  The area has a community fishing pond as well as access to the Portneuf River. The parking lot is located off of Cheyenne Avenue just north of Indian Hills Elementary School. From the parking lot you walk along a short trail to reach the pond.

Bannock Reservoir at the Portneuf Wellness Complex - This man-made lake is stocked with trout.  There are several docks that give you access to the deeper parts of the lake.

Take Me Fishing Trailer - Idaho Department of Fish and Game provides free fishing supplies for people to go fishing even if they don't have gear or a licences. These supplies are available wherever they have the Take Me Fishing Trailer.  The trailer makes many stops around the state of Idaho. In the summer months it is in Southeast Idaho.  Check the website for times and locations where you can find the trailer.

Visit a Zoo
Pocatello is located near quite a bit of wilderness and occasionally wild animals venture down from the mountains. Deer are the most frequent visitors but moose, cougars, and even bears have been spotted inside city limits. Pocatello also has a few places where you can safely see animals.

Zoo Idaho - 
Our local zoo isn't very large nor does it hold exotic animals, but it does have a lot of charm. The zoo provides an up close way to see animals that are native to Southeast Idaho. Of particular note are the black bears and grizzly bears. Admission is $4.00 for children and $6 for adults
Once a summer the zoo has a free admission day. There are a variety of camps and educational experiences offered all summer long. The zoo is located at Ross Park at 2900 South 2nd Avenue. The zoo is open every day throughout the summer from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

McKee's Pets in Chubbuck-

The McKee's store in Chubbuck has a free petting zoo located behind the store. Children love coming here to see the farm animals. The store is located at 130 Evans Lane in Chubbuck. It is open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Monday through Saturday.

Visit a Park
There are so many great parks located throughout Pocatello and Chubbuck. I've set an unofficial goal to visit them all this summer.  Click these links for access to lists of  Pocatello's parks and Chubbuck's parks. There are also several events held at the parks through the summer.

Lunch in the Park - Free lunch is provided to children from ages 0 to 18 at several parks throughout Pocatello and Chubbuck. Lunch is served from 11:30 to 12:30. This year Lunch in the Park is held at Ross Park, Caldwell Park, Raymond Park, Alameda Park, Hawthorne Middle School, Hawthorne Park, O.K. Ward Park AKA Brooklynn's Playground, and Bicentennial Park. This is done through School District 25. Adults can purchase lunches for $4 and water for $1. This a great way to ensure children are eating healthy all summer long.

Friend Zone at Caldwell Park - Every Thursday in June a local church puts together some fun activities for kids to do during lunch in the park at Caldwall Park. There are bubbles, little crafts, temporary tattoos, and games. All the activities are free.

Chubbuck Movie in the Park - The City of Chubbuck has a fun line up of movies that they will show on Friday evenings in Stuart Park from July 12th to August 16th. The park is located at 5161 Stuart Ave. Movies start at dusk, but plan to arrive earlier for good seats.  Bring your own blankets and camp chairs.

Cool Rain in the Park - This is a very fun activity.  Pocatello City Firefighters use a firetruck to spray water into the air where it rains down on children who frolic in the water.  This will be held at three parks this summer.  Alameda Park on Thursday June 27th,  Raymond Park on July 18th and Caldwell Park on August 15th. All events start at noon.

No Child Left Inside - This is a program of the Idaho Museum of Natural History. The program is designed for children ages 5 and under to help them learn about nature. They meet every other Friday and various locations throughout the city.  Check the Facebook page for dates, times, and locations. 

Visit a Library 
The library is always a good option for a place to go during the summer because it's a free place with air conditioning.  Of course you can check out a book or a movie at the library, but there are also some really fun activities going on at our local libraries.

Marshall Public Library (Pocatello Library) - There is something fun happening at the Marshall Public Library every day.  Crafts, movies, story times, special speakers, and clubs - there is something for every age group.  The address is 113 South Garfield Ave. Visit the library website for a complete list of activities.

Portneuf District Library (Chubbuck Library) - This library also has engaging activities such as crafts and special speakers.  Every Friday afternoon the library hosts a party with a different theme.  The address is 5210 Stuart Avenue. Check out their children's calendar here.

Visit a Museum 
Pocatello has several museums to choose from. Each one offers a different experience.

Museum of Clean -
When I first heard about this museum I assumed it had to be the most boring place ever. Instead it is actually the most engaging museum I have ever visited.  Every guest is taken on a fun and interactive tour. The front lobby of the museum has many cleaning themed toys that children can play with. You'll want to visit the Museum of Clean. It is located at 711 South 2nd Avenue and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. The cost is $6 for adults, $5 for children 3-11. They offer a family deal of $20 for a family of 2 adults and 3 children.

Pocatello Model Railroad and Historical Society -
I've been to model train layouts all over the country and honestly the one here in Pocatello is one of the best I've ever seen. There are four different train layouts in five scales ranging from N to G. There is even a toy train track that children can operate.  The Model Railroad Society opens their doors to the public the third Saturday of every month from 10:00 - 2:00.  They are located at B59 S Harrison Avenue (just North of the Benton Street Overpass)  This event is free though donations are always accepted.

Idaho Museum of Natural History - This Natural History Museum is located on the Idaho State University Campus. The permanent exhibit has displays with skeletons and models of animals from the Ice Age.  There are also many rotating exhibits. Throughout the summer the museum hosts various events in the museum and out in natural areas around town.  The cost to visit the museum is $7 for an adult, $3 for children ages 4-17, and free for children 3 and under. The museum is located at 698 E Dillon Street which is next to the big parking lot on the ISU campus off of 5th Ave and Humbolt Ave.  Parking is free after 4:00 pm and on weekends.

Fort Hall Replica/Bannock County Historical Museum - The original Fort Hall was an important trading post during the Oregon Trail days.  It was located on what is now part of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation and is not easily accessible. The replica is located on the south cliffs above Ross Park. You can visit the replica and get an idea of what life was like long ago. When you visit the replica you can also visit the Bannock County Historical Museum. This has many artifacts from Bannock County's early days.  The replica and museum are located at 3200 Avenue of the Chiefs. The cost to visit is $6 for adults and $3 for children from 6-17, Children under 6 are free.  There is usually a free day in June.

Walk Around Old Town 
Old Town Pocatello is a great place.  The historical buildings are charming, the businesses are interesting, and the people are friendly. During the summer the streets are lined by hanging baskets of flowers that give everything such a cheery and well cared for look. You can visit Old Town any time, but you can also go during special events held throughout the summer.

Art Walk - 
The businesses in Old Town host an art walk on the first Friday of the month beginning at 5:00 pm. You can stroll around main street and view art inside buildings. There is also music, food, and even wine tasting. There is always a fun atmosphere during these events.

Portneuf Valley Farmer's Market - A farmers market is held every Saturday morning from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.  The market is held at the Old Town Pavilion at 420 North Main Street. The market is primarily full of people selling arts and crafts, but you can find a few vendors selling fruits and vegetables.

Revive @ 5 - This free concert series is held every Wednesday night from 5:00-8:00 pm at the Old Town Pavillion at 420 North Main Street.  Each week a different band provides the music while a different food truck provides food.  The event is free, but plan to bring some money if you want to purchase food, beverages, or trinkets from the vendors at the farmer's market.

Go Bowling
There are a few options in town for where you can go bowling.

Tough Guy Lanes- this bowling center at 403 E Lewis Street participates in the Kids Bowl Free program.  Each child can play up to two games of bowling for free each day.  There are a few strings attached though.  Adults need to pay for their games.  (They have a good deal on a season pass of sorts.) And you will need to pay for shoe rental for your children.

ISU Games Center - The basement of the Pond Student Center at 1065 Cesar Chavez has a bowling alley with 12 lanes. Games are $3.00 per game. They have a deal where you can rent a lane for $12 an hour plus shoe rental. There are also half price specials all day on Mondays and on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:00-5:00.

Play at a Fun Center
There are several indoor fun centers located throughout the city. Prices and operating hours vary.
Visit the websites for more information.

Outer Limits Fun Zone  - Outer Limits is known for it's arcade, but there is also a playground and a lazer tag arena. They are located at 1800 Garret Way.

Deleta - This roller skating rink has been a fixture of the community for decades.  There is also a small arcade, a playground, and a lazer tag arena. They are located at 520 Yellowstone Ave

Geronimos! Trampoline Park - Kids always love trampoline parks.  This one is located in Chubbuck at 423 East Chubbuck Road.

Randy's Tumbling and Xtream Fun - This gym teaches tumbling and other lessons but they also host Adventure Time on Monday evenings from 7:00 to 9:00 and Saturdays from 12:00 to 2:00 for playing in various fun areas.  They are located in 4902 Burley Dr #5 in Chubbuck.

Level Up (Pine Ridge Mall Arcade) - If you are looking for a free indoor place to take your kids you can play on the interactive floor tiles in the Level Up arcade at the Pine Ridge Mall. There are also many fun arcade games. There is a virtual reality game center at Exit located a few shops down from Level Up.

Take a Class
There are so many places offering interesting classes throughout Pocatello and Chubbuck. I've picked a few to highlight, but this is hardly a comprehensive list.

Pocatello Art Center - Children's Art Classes are offered at the art center at 444 N Main Street. The cost is only $5 for a two hour class. The class for children 8-10 is offered on Monday's from 10:00 to 12:00. A class for older children is offered on Thursday's from 10:00 to 12:00. There will be no classes the week of July 4th.

4-H - The University of Idaho - Bannock County Extension offers 4-H day camps throughout the summer. Camps are held at the extension office at 10560 Fairgrounds Road. You do not need to sign up for 4-H in order to participate in these day camps.  The programs fill up quickly so call the office at (208) 236-7310 to learn more and to see if there is still space available.

ISU Continuing Education - There are a variety of children's classes offered throughout the summer through the ISU Continuing Education program. Classes range from cooking to firefighting.

ISU Craft Shop - The craft shop at ISU offers clay classes during the summer. The cost is $40 and all materials are provided. Call (208) 282-3281 to see if space is available.

Pocatello Parks and Recreation - The Parks and Recreation department offers classes such as swimming lessons  in the Rec Center and rock climbing lessons at Ross Park. In the fall and winter the Rec Center offers a variety of dance lessons.  Team sports are also available throughout the year.

Listen to Live Music 
There is nothing like sitting on a blanket on a calm summer evening while listening to live music.  Here are some live music events that take place in Pocatello through out the summer.

Revive @ 5 - This free concert series is held every Wednesday night from 5:00-8:00 pm at the Old Town Pavilion at 420 North Main Street.  Each week a different band provides the music while a different food truck provides food.  The event is free, but plan to bring some money if you want to purchase food, beverages, or trinkets from the vendors at the Farmer's market.

ISU Summer Concerts on the Quad - These free concerts are held every Thursday night from 6:00-9:30 pm on the ISU Quad.  You can park in the large parking lot by the student center.  Parking is free after 4:00.  Each week there are two different bands.  The opener starts at 6:00 and the headliner comes on at 7:00.

Pocatello Municipal Band - Every Sunday evening from June 30 to July 28th you can listen to performances of the Pocatello Municipal Band at the Bandshell at Ross Park at 2970 S. 2nd Ave. . The free concerts start at 7:00 pm.  Bring your own blankets and chairs to sit on.

Go Camping
There are a couple options for camping near town if you want to go camping without travelling far from home.

Scout Mountain - The closest campground to Pocatello is located about halfway up Scout Mountain. Sites range from $12 to $60 depending on your equipment.  There is a reservation fee of about $10 if you book a site online.

KOA - I'm including this KOA Kampground on this list in case you have family coming into town and they need lodging options besides a hotel. This is a cute campground located up Pocatello Creek Road at 9815 W Pocatello Creek Road.

See a Parade
Parades are always fun for kids, but the parades I've been to in Southeast Idaho really kick it up a notch. I can't believe how much candy my kids get at the parades we've attended since moving to Idaho.  I think they get more candy at parades here in Idaho than they do on Halloween. 

Pocatello Fourth of July Parade -
This parade takes place in Old Town Pocatello on July 4th.  It starts at 10:00 am.  The parade starts at the Old Town Pavilion and travels north on Main Street before swinging around to Union Pacific Ave and rravelling through the Center Street Tunnel.  From there the parade travels north on 2nd Ave and then swings onto 1st Ave. It ends after passing under the Benton Street overpass.

Chubbuck Days Parade - This parade will take place on August 10, 2019.  The parade starts at 10:00 near the Home Depot on Hawthorn Road.  The route travels north on Hawthorn to Chubbuck Road and then turns west.  The route ends at the LDS church off of Independence Avenue.

Watch Fireworks
What is summer without watching at least one Firework show?  Bannock County has an amazing firework show that is returning for the second year in a row.

Tribute to America Fireworks Show (4th of July Celebration at the Wellness Complex) -
There will be fun Independence Day events happening all afternoon and evening, but the actual firework show will take place around 10:00 pm. Last year I was very impressed by the firework show at the Wellness Complex. The viewing area is on the soccer fields on a terrace above the fairgrounds. The fireworks are lit off from the fairgrounds. They explode right in front of the soccer fields.  It's so amazing to watch the fireworks explode right in front of you rather than above you.  This year admittance to the show is free and the firework show is promised to be bigger than last year.

* * * 

Well that's the list.  I hope it helps you plan some fun summer activities to do with your family.  Please let me know if there are any activities I've left off this list.  I'd love to know if about more fun things to do here in Pocatello.

And guess what?  Great things aren't just limited to Pocatello. In the future I'll have a list of day trips you can take to amazing places in Southeast Idaho. I'm not kidding, this really is one of my most favorite places I've ever lived.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Upper Geyser Basin - Yellowstone National Park


The Upper Geyser basin is the official name of the geyser area surrounding Old Faithful.  A large network of interconnected boardwalk and asphalt trails takes visitors up close to a number of impressive thermal features. Even if you don't want to explore the trails there are a variety of things to do in the area.  You can eat at one of the many dinning options. You can visit the displays or watch an educational movie in the Visitor Center.  You can also take in the historic architecture of the Old Faithful Inn. Make sure you plan to explore this area in addition to viewing an eruption from Old Faithful.

Location: The Upper Geyser Basin is in the southeast corner of the Lower Loop of the Grand Loop Road. Roads take you to a large parking area near Old Faithful. The trails extend from the Old Faithful Viewing area.

Hiking Distance and Time: There are numerous ways to lengthen or shorten the distance you travel in the Upper Geyser Basin.  Generally plan for about 3.5 miles round trip, but that distance might change depending on the route you take.   Plan for a solid 4 to 5 hours in the Upper Geyser Basin.

Open Season: The area immediately around Old Faithful opens in late April and remains open until early November.  The trails leading to Geyser hill are generally open that same amount of time, but may close occasionally.  The trails leading deep into the Upper Geyser Basin open around Memorial Day.

Date of Visit: Many times during the summer of 2017.

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Five Places to view Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park


Old Faithful, the name is nearly synonymous with Yellowstone National Park. If you are planning a trip to Yellowstone then you know you are going to visit this iconic geyser. Geyser eruptions happen every 35 to 120 minutes. Generally you can expect an eruption every 90 minutes or so. Eruptions can be predicted based on the length of the previous eruption. All this regularity means that you can be assured that you will see an eruption from Old Faithful. The only thing you need to worry about is where you should wait for an eruption.

Location: The Old Faithful area is in the southeast corner of the Lower Loop of the Grand Loop Road.  Roads take you to a large parking area.  From the parking area walk north toward the buildings.  Old Faithful is on the other side of the buildings.  It is ringed by a large boardwalk so you can't miss it.

Hiking Distance and Time:  It's less than a quarter mile from the back of the parking lot to Old Faithful. However, be prepared to walk around the area to visit buildings and other thermal features.  The hike to Observation Point is half a mile long with an elevation gain of over 150 feet.  Time spent in this area can (and should) take several hours.

Open Season: Old Faithful is one of the first areas to open up in the Spring.  It is open from late April through November. Some of the trails around the area don't open until late spring/early summer. Old Faithful is also accessible in the winter if you are staying at the Snow Lodge.

Date of Visit: Various times during the summer of 2017, also in July 2015, July 2010, May 2008, and July 2002.

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Mammoth Hot Springs - Yellowstone National Park


Mammoth Hot Springs is an appropriate name for this area. These stone terraces are, in fact, mammoth.  They completely cover a hillside. The terraces are made of travertine rock that formed as minerals in the hot spring water were deposited over hundreds of years. A network of boardwalk trails and stairs allow visitors to walk next to the stone cliffs. Various parts of the terraces still have water flowing over them. When air temperatures are cool you can see billows of steam rising from the terraces.

Location:  Mammoth Hot Springs is located in the Northwest area of the park.  The terraces are 6 miles from the North Entrance.

Hiking Distance and Time:  The boardwalk around the terraces is about a mile long. Plan for about an hour to walk around the boardwalk.

Open Season:  The terraces, as well as some of the buildings at Mammoth Hot Springs are open all year. However, the only park road that is open is the road leading from Gardiner, MT.  You can't access the area via any of the other park roads.

Date of Visit: Friday, May 26, 2017

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Lamar Valley - Yellowstone National Park


Do you want to see wildlife in Yellowstone? Don't waste your time driving around the Grand Loop with the other tourists. The best place to see wildlife is the Lamar Valley in the Northeast area of the park. This is the least visited part of the park, which is one reason it's the best place to see wildlife.

Location:  The Lamar Valley is located on the Northeast Entrance Road about halfway between Tower Junction and Silver Gate City.

Driving Distance and Time:  The whole road is 33 miles long.  Plan for an hour to drive one way, so allow at least two hours to drive the road and then return to the rest of the park.

Operating Seasons and Hours: The North East Entrance Road is open all year long. Other roads in the park that lead to the NE road may be closed so plan accordingly and check the current conditions list.

Date of Visit: Sunday, June 18, 2017 and several other times throughout the summer

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Norris Geyser Basin - Yellowstone National Park


Norris Geyser Basin is unlike any of the other popular areas of Yellowstone National Park. The geysers are hotter, the trails are longer, and the features aren't as well known. If you are prepared for a long walk in an area with little shade then you can have an enjoyable visit to this area. But if you are expecting just another quick jaunt down a boardwalk you aren't going to like Norris Geyser Basin very much.

Location: Norris Geyser Basin is located on the west side of the park at the intersection of the Norris/Canyon Road and the Upper and Lower Loops of the Grand Loop Road.

Hiking Distance and Time: The Porcelain Basin trail is about .5 miles and the Back Basin Trail is 1.5 miles. Don't let these distances fool you though, there is no such thing as a quick trip to Norris Geyser Basin. Plan on spending anywhere from 1 to 4 hours here.

Operating Seasons and Hours: Norris opens with the Grand Loop Road in late April and closes in late October. However, during the summer the Park Rangers often close the parking lot after it fills up in the middle of the day. It usually reopens when the parking lot clears out a bit. To be on the safe side, plan your visit before 10:00 am or after 5:00 pm.

Date of Visit: Often during the summer of 2017.  Also visited in July 2002, May 2008, July 2010.

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Boiling River - Yellowstone National Park



After a while it can be pretty boring to just look at hot spring after hot spring after hot spring in Yellowstone National Park. If you are looking to enhance your hot spring experience then plan a visit to Boiling River. Soaking in the mix of hot spring runoff water and the Gardener River is a good way to experience Yellowstone as more than just an idle spectator.

Location: The parking area for Boiling River is located 2 miles north of the Visitor Center in Mammoth Hot Springs. There aren't any signs for Boiling River, but the parking area is just south of the signs designating the 45th parallel.

Hiking Distance and Time: From the parking lot you'll have to walk half a mile on a wide, flat trail to reach Boiling River. Time is going to depend on how long you want to spend in the water.  Plan for at least an hour.

Open Season: Water conditions in the Gardener River will often close this area through late June.  Check with the Visitor Center or the current conditions page to see if it is open. The area is open from 5:00 am to 9:00 pm.

Date of Visit: Friday July 14, 2017

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Firehole Canyon Drive - Yellowstone National Park

The Firehole River runs near the Grand Loop Road from Old Faithful to Madison Junction.  Most of the time it is a lazy river with low banks.  However, when the river passes through the Firehole Canyon it changes completely. Steep banks of stone rise up on either side.  Swimming holes form, and in one place the water tumbles down as a 40 foot high water fall. Firehole Canyon Drive is a one way road that follows the old stage coach route through the canyon to give you excellent views of the river.

Location: Firehole Canyon Drive branches off from the Grand Loop Road less than a mile south of Madison Junction.  The exit to the one way road is about 6 miles north of Fountain Paint Pot.

Hiking Distance and Time:  There are no hikes branching off from Firehole Canyon Drive. The whole drive should take approximately 10 minutes.

Open Season: The road opens in the late spring.  The popular swimming area is usually opens the last week of July and is open through August. However, some years it may not open at all due to high water levels.  Check the park's current conditions page or talk to a Park Ranger to see if the river is open.

Date of Visit: Saturday, July 29, 2017 and another visit in July 2010.

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Firehole Lake Drive - Yellowstone National Park


Firehole Lake Drive is a three mile, one way road that branches off from the Grand Loop Road less than a mile south of the Fountain Paint Pot parking lot. There are a number of geysers and springs along the drive. The most notable is the stunning Great Fountain Geyser. Firehole Lake is near the end of the drive. There are places to pull over and park all along the drive, and there is a small parking lot near Firehole Lake. This area is always worth a visit, but Firehole Lake Drive is an especially good option when the more popular geyser areas are full of tourists.

Location: Firehole Lake Drive is located on the Western side of the Grand Loop Road.  The entrance to the road is about a mile south of Fountain Paint Pot.

Hiking Distance and Time:  There really aren't any hikes in this area. You can get out and walk for a few minutes on a boardwalk at Firehole Lake. The main thing you need to take into consideration is how long you are willing to wait for a geyser to erupt. Great Fountain Geyser erupts approximately every 12 hours. If you arrive within a couple hours of a predicted eruption it might be worth your time to hang around and watch the show.

Open Season: Due to bear migrations Firehole Lake Drive is usually closed until Memorial day weekend.

Date of Visit: Thursday, June 29, 2017 and another visit at the end of July in 2015.

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Fountain Paint Pots - Yellowstone National Park



The Fountain Paint Pot area is named for the paint pots that are located within a short walk of the parking lot. These are the most accessible paint pots in Yellowstone National Park and are worth a visit. However the paint pots aren't the only thermal features in the area. You can actually see all four types of features here - a fumarole, a hot spring, a geyser, as well as the paint pots.

Location: Fountain Paint Pot is located in the Southwest Section of the Lower Loop of the Grand Loop Road. The area is 9 miles north of Old Faithful and 8 miles south of Madison Junction.

Hiking Distance and Time: Walking the whole boardwalk should take less than 30 minutes.

Open Season: Open with the Grand Loop Road in Mid April and stays open through late October.

Date of Visit: Sunday, June 4, 2017 and other times in May 2008, July 2010, and July 2015

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Midway Geyser Basin - Yellowstone National Park


Midway Geyser Basin's best known feature is the Grand Prismatic Spring. This is the third largest hot spring in the world and is famous for it's brilliant colors.  The Grand Prismatic Spring is one of the most popular features in Yellowstone National Park which makes visiting the Midway Geyser Basin a bit tricky during peak tourist times. If you plan to visit during off-peak times all of Midway Geyser Basin is worth a visit.

Location: Midway Geyser Basin is located on the southwestern side of the Lower Loop of the Grand Loop Road. It is 3.5 miles north of Biscuit Basin and 2.5 miles south of Fountain Paint Pots.

Hiking Distance and Time: The boardwalk between the various thermal features is not very long.  It shouldn't take you longer than 30 minutes to walk the whole boardwalk.

Open Season: The Midway Geyser Basin opens at the same time as this section of the Grand Loop Road.  It is generally open from Mid April until late October.

 Date of Visit: Sunday June 4, 2017 as well as May 2008.


In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Biscuit Geyser Basin - Yellowstone National Park



Biscuit Basin is home to some of the prettiest pools of water within Yellowstone. This area has a wide boardwalk that allows you to approach all the pools and look down into their deep and colorful waters. The trail head for a 2 mile round trip hike to Mystic Falls branches off from the Biscuit Basin Boardwalk.

Location: Biscuit Basin is located on the southwest side of the Lower Loop of the Grand Loop Road. It is almost 2 miles from Black Sand Basin and 3.5 miles south of Midway Geyser Basin.

Hiking Distance and Time:  It should take less than 30 minutes to walk the whole board walk.  The hike to Mystic Falls will take between 1 to 2 hours.

Open Season: The boardwalk opens along with this section of the Grand Loop Road in mid April and stays open until late October.  The trail to Mystic Falls is open from Mid June until September.

Date of Visit: Sunday June 11, and Saturday July 29, 2017 as well as times in May 2008 and July 2010.


In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Black Sand Basin - Yellowstone National Park.



Black Sand Basin is a small geothermic area located near the Upper Geyser Basin/Old Faithful Area. There are a handful of notable features in Black Sand Basin including Cliff Geyser, Emerald Pool, and Sunset Lake. A hiking trail connects Black Sand Basin to the Upper Geyser Basin.

Location: Black Sand Basin is located on the southwest side of the Lower Loop of the Grand Loop Road. This area is the closest geyser basin to the Upper Geyser Basin/Old Faithful Area.

Hiking Distance and Time: If you are able to get a parking space in the small parking lot you can walk along the boardwalk and see each thermal feature in less than 30 minutes.  However, parking is limited in this area. If you can't get a parking spot you have the option of parking at Old Faithful and then hiking to Black Sand Basin along an approximately 4 mile trail.

Open Season: Black Sand Basin is open from mid April to late October. The trail to Old Faithful opens in mid June depending on bear migrations and snow melt.

Date of Visit: Saturday, August 5, 2017

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument - Hagerman, Idaho


Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument is located in Southwest Idaho about 35 miles northwest of Twin Falls. This area is home to over 200 species of plant and animal fossils.

Location: The Visitor Center is located on Main Street in the middle of Hagerman, Idaho.  The fossil beds themselves are located about 7 miles south of town on the southwest bank of the Snake River.

Hiking Distance and Time: There aren't many trails through Hagerman Fossil Beds. This is due to the fragile nature of the fossils.  There are a couple overlooks of the area. Don't plan to spend much time exploring the fossil beds.

Cost: Free

Operating Seasons and Hours: From Memorial Day to Labor Day the Visitor Center is open every day of the week from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.  During the rest of the year the Visitor Center is open Thursday through Monday from 9:00 to 5:00 excluding Federal Holidays.

Official Website: https://www.nps.gov/hafo/index.htm

Date of Visit: Saturday May 5, 2018

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument was the sixth stop of the first day of the Idaho Road Trip my family went on in May of 2018. We passed Ritter Island while driving north on Highway 30. And then kept going to Hagerman.


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Ritter Island - Wendell, Idaho



Ritter Island is an interesting feature along the shores of the Snake River west of Twin Falls, Idaho.  The waters of the Snake River surrounds one side of the island.  The other side of the island is surrounded by runoff from Minnie Miller Spring - one of the many natural springs along this section of the Snake River. The island and some of the surrounding shoreline is part of Thousand Springs State Park.

Location: Located about 5 miles southwest of Wendell, ID at approximately 1205 Thousand Springs Grade, Wendell, ID.

Hiking Distance and Time: There are several trails in the Ritter Island Area. The trail around the island is just under 1.5 mile round trip.  There trail that runs upstream on the Snake River is a little over 1 mile one way. The Trail Map can be found here.

Cost: $5 per car or free with your Idaho State Park Pass

Operating Seasons and Hours: Memorial Day Weekend 10:00 am until 3:00 pm and then Thursday through Monday until Labor Day weekend.

Helpful Websites: https://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/ritter-island-history and https://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/parks/thousand-springs

Date of Visit: Saturday, May 5, 2018

This section of Thousand Springs State Park was the fifth stop of the first day of the Idaho Road Trip my family went on in May of 2018. We left Balanced Rock and then drove north on Highway 30.  We were heading to Hagerman, but we were pleasantly surprised to see the Ritter Island Unit of Thousand Springs State Park from Highway 30.



Before we go any further, we need to pause and do some defining so you know what I'm talking about in this post.  (Trust me, it's taken some time for me to sort all this out.)

Thousand Springs Area - This is a section of the Snake River Canyon where many natural springs burst out of different areas of the canyon wall.

Ritter Island - And island ringed by the Snake River water on one side and run off from natural springs on the other. This was formerly the Thousand Springs Nature Preserve.  Now it is part of Thousand Springs State Park. The name comes from a family that owned the island.

Thousand Springs Nature Preserve - This was a section of the Thousand Springs Area that was purchased by the Nature Conservancy in 1986. It included Ritter Island and about 2 miles of land along the northeast bank of the Snake River Canyon. This area has several natural springs and is an important habitat for birds and other animals.  In 2006 the land was donated to the State of Idaho and became the Ritter Island Unit of Thousand Springs State Park.

Thousand Springs State Park - This is an Idaho State Park that is made up of six different units (Malad Gorge, Kelton Trail, Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon Springs Nature Preserve, Billingsley Creek, Ritter Island, Niagara Springs/Crystal Springs). These units are not connected, but they are all within a short drive of each other. Park Headquarters are at the Malad Gorge unit. Thousand Springs State Park includes sections of the Thousand Springs Area.

Minnie Miller Spring - the largest spring near Ritter Island. The spring is named after a businesswoman who owned the island in the 1920s and 30s and turned it into a dairy farm. Many of the structures on the island date back to Minnie Miller's time on the island.

Feel free to refer back to these descriptions if you get confused while reading this post.

Okay, full disclosure: We didn't actually visit the Ritter Island Unit of Thousand Springs State Park. We meant to, but then took a wrong turn and went to visit Balanced Rock.  Brandon and I planned to back track and make our way back to Ritter Island, but we started running out of time.  So I made the hard decision to skip Ritter Island, and just move on to our next stop which was the Hagerman Fossil Beds.

I didn't know much about the landscape around this section of the Snake River.  I assumed that it looked like other sections of the river we'd passed earlier in the day. I thought that both sides of the river canyon would be steep.  Since we were now on the southwest side of the river and Ritter Island was on the northeast side I thought there would be no way to see the island.

However as we drove north from Balanced Rock to Hangerman on Highway 30 I was surprised to see the river near the road.  The other side of the river had steep cliffs, but our side of the river was flat.  That meant we could see the cliffs even though we were on the opposite bank.

At first we could see the waterfalls that are located at the southern end of the Ritter Island Unit of the State Park.
As we drove further north we caught a glimpse of Minnie Miller Falls.  You can also see Ritter Island itself in front of the springs.
There are hundreds of springs of various sizes and outputs around the Twin Falls area of the Snake River Canyon. These springs are part of the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer. Water enters the aquifer to the east near Island Park and travels west through basalt rock under areas that include the Craters of the Moon National Monument. The water exits the rock in springs along the north side of the Snake River Canyon.

Minnie Miller Springs is unique because it is one of two springs in the area that has unobstructed runoff.  Most of the springs have water that is directed to power plants or fish hatcheries before being allowed to flow into the Snake River.  The water from Minnie Miller Springs goes directly into the Snake River.

These pictures were taken from the parking lot of the 1000 Springs Resort that is located across the river from Ritter Island.  This resort has an indoor swimming pool, private hot tubs, and a kiddie pool.  The resort also has tent, RV, and cabins for overnight accommodations.  This is probably your best bet if you want to camp in the area.  There are two houses on Ritter Island that you can reserve, but these are actual houses so the cost is close to $200.00 per night.

The area looked very cool and I'm glad we got to view it from the opposite side of the river.  I would love to go back and  actually explore Ritter Island and the shores of the Snake River.

Recommendation: I can't exactly recommend Ritter Island to you because I haven't actually been there.  But from what I saw. the area looks like a delightful place for your next hike or bird watching excursion.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

Directions: We viewed Ritter Island from Highway 30.  If you want to visit Ritter Island take Exit 155 off of I-15 at Wendell.  Travel West on 2950 South/Hagerman Highway for 3 miles.  Turn left (south) onto 1500 East and travel south for 2.5 miles.  Turn right (west) onto 3200 South and drive on that for about another mile.  Then make a left onto 1300 East followed by a quick right onto Thousand Springs Grade.  This will take you down the canyon and to the island.



Additional Information: For an excellent decription of how to enjoy the island from the water follow this link.

Places Nearby: Ideally, we would have visited each unit of Thousand Springs State Park on this road trip, but there were so many interesting things to do around Twin Falls that we didn't have time for all of Thousand Springs State Park on this trip. The Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon Springs Nature Preserve is located a little to the south of the Ritter Island Unit.

Next Stop: Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument and Visitor Center.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Balanced Rock - Buhl, Idaho



Balanced Rocks are one of those cool, "how did they do that" geology features. Idaho's Balanced Rock is over 48 feet tall and balances on a narrow neck of rock that is only 3 feet wide. The rock is made of Rhyolite Lava and was carved by wind. It stands near other rocks carved into twisted spires and pinnacles, though Balanced Rock is definitely the most unique feature in the area. 

Location: Southwest of Buhl, Idaho.  The rock is approximately 30 miles west of Twin Falls.

Hiking Distance and Time:  There is a steep and short trail that takes you close to Balanced Rock.  I would say it's about 200 yards and would take about 15 minutes to hike up and back.

Cost: Free

Operating Seasons and Hours: Open all year long.

Official Website: http://www.twinfallscounty.org/parks/parks/balanced-rock-park/

Date of Visit: Saturday, May 5, 2018

Balanced Rock was the fourth stop of the first day of the Idaho Road Trip my family went on in May of 2018.  We left Niagara Springs and then drove approximately 30 miles southwest to Balanced Rock.

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