The second-largest city in Idaho’s Magic Valley region is an agrarian community resting in miles of flat farmland.
Up to the 20th century much of Jerome County was desert until a huge irrigation project gave rise to fertile countryside that produces a bounty of fruit and vegetables.
For all the gentleness in Jerome’s backyard, the Snake River curls around to the south and west, chiseling out a 500 foot canyon from the basalt bedrock.
The Snake River Canyon can be seen in all its majesty just ten minutes away in Twin Falls, along with the exhilarating waterfalls on the river, the lofty Perrine Bridge spanning the gorge and the daring BASE jumpers who leap from this crossing.
1. Jerome County Historical Museum
Right in the center of downtown Jerome, the Jerome County Historical Society is based in an Oregon Short Line Railroad Depot, dating back to 1910.
This was moved to the lovely current location in Russell Shepard Park just over 40 years ago to serve as a Senior Citizen Center, becoming the venue for this museum in 2010. Within you can browse a wealth of artifacts relating to 100+ years of Jerome’s history.
In particular you’ll find a lot of background on the immense irrigation project along the Snake River in the early 20th century that kickstarted agriculture in a semi-arid region, as well as the poignant story of Japanese internment in World War II, which we’ll cover in more detail next.
2. Minidoka National Historic Site
The Pearl Harbor attacks caused an upswell of anti-Japanese sentiment in 1941, and more than 120,000 people with Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast were soon forced to move into internment camps.
One of these ten camps was in Jerome County, and is preserved as the Minidoka National Historic Site, a few miles east of Jerome proper. Some 10,000 people were brought to this camp, many to be used for farm labor or to work on irrigation projects.
The camp has been frozen in time, with a guard tower, mess hall and barracks, and you can walk a 1.6-mile interpretive trail through the site, recounting in vivid detail the history of Japanese internment and daily life in the Minidoka camp.
3. North Park
On east Main Street a couple of blocks from the very center of Jerome is a lovely urban park that was given a facelift as recently as 2019.
North Park sits across Main Street from the monument-laden Veterans Memorial Park, and is an ideal place to while away a couple of hours on a sunny day. Among the tall mature trees, offering ample shade, are a splash pad, expanded skatepark and an amphitheater.
These are complemented by renovated benches, shelters and picnic tables, and to help with a get-together the park has ten electric outlets and a water faucet.
4. Jerome Country Club
Despite the exclusive-sounding name, this highly-rated private golf course is open to the public. Jerome Country Club is among the oldest courses in Southern Idaho, first laid out in 1926 on the picturesque north side of the Snake River Canyon.
To give you an idea of the age of the club, sheep were used to keep the grass low in those early days.
With fairways bordered by groves of mature trees, and ancient lava flows providing an unusual hazard, the course is an 18-hole par 72, with a moderate slope rating of 106.
After a round you can kick back at the Caddy Shack Restaurant & Bar, which has a menu of sandwiches, salads, wraps, baskets, burgers and pizzas.
5. Jerome Farmers’ Market
Throughout the summer the community comes together for Jerome Farmers’ Market, taking place on Saturdays at the County View Barn southeast of the city.
An enticing variety of produce is grown immediately around Jerome, and depending on the month you can hope to find raspberries, peaches, apples, cherries, grapes, blackberries, pears, strawberries, asparagus, squashes, zucchini and herbs like lavender.
These are combined with special culinary items, artisan breads, syrups and delicious homemade cakes.
6. Idaho Farm and Ranch Museum
Where the Interstate 84 and U.S. Highway 93 intersect in the southeast of Jerome is another museum run by the Jerome County Historical Society and dedicated to the agricultural heritage of Southern Idaho.
The museum consists of a cluster of rustic buildings from the early 20th century, including a barn, church and windmill.
These are accompanied by a lot of historic farming equipment, showing the development of technology and diversity of agrarian activity in the region.
There’s an open day on the second Saturday of June, with engaging live history demonstrations and all sorts of old-time activities to get involved in.
7. Shoshone Falls
Jerome may be embedded in gentle farmland, but there’s a gigantic basalt canyon on the Snake River, little more than ten minutes to the south.
Visiting the canyon’s most spectacular points means crossing the imposing Perrine Bridge to the south bank in Twin Falls.
A starting point should be Shoshone Falls, a little way upriver from the bridge and dubbed the “Niagara of the West”.
The scale is awesome, at 900 feet wide and 212 feet tall, and the waterfall changes with the seasons. Come in spring, especially after a snowy winter, and there’s an unbroken curtain of roaring water. At other times the falls are more segmented into channels, less intense but no less beautiful.
8. Snake River Canyon Rim Trail
The majestic sights visible from the southern rim of the canyon is linked by a 10-mile system of hiking trails.
This will give you almost constant panoramas of the canyon, and will take you from the river access point at Centennial Waterfront Park in the west to Dierkes Lake Park, embedded in rocky desert scenery in the east.
Some of the many things to see include the ramp on which daredevil Evel Knievel attempted his famous “Skycycle” jump across the canyon in 1974, pillar falls, where the Snake River cascades between formidable rhyolite boulders and the Twin Falls Visitor Center, loaded with historical artifacts and interactive stations.
9. Perrine Bridge
Ten miles south of downtown Jerome, the Snake River Canyon is traversed by the spectacular truss arch Perrine Bridge.
Completed in 1976, this is the eighth-highest bridge in the United States, with a deck height of 486 feet over the river.
These impressive dimensions attract a different kind of daredevil, as the Perrine Bridge is thought to be the only man-made structure in the country where BASE jumping is allowed all year without a permit.
Come by in summer and you’re sure to see speck-like people leaping off the pedestrian walkway, and parachutes opening deep in the chasm.
There are walkways in both directions along the 1,500-foot span for some of the most satisfying views of the canyon.
10. Centennial Waterfront Park
If you want to explore the canyon from the water the main point of entry is Centennial Waterfront Park a little way downstream from the Perrine Bridge.
This is another awe-inspiring setting, at the very foot of the canyon. You can rent a paddleboard, kayak or canoe here for a paddle adventure as far as Shoshone Falls, while Zip the Snake on the park’s northwest side offers pulsating zip-line rides across the canyon.
The park also has motorized and non-motorized boat launches or,if you’d just like to soak up the views, you’ll find trails, picnic tables and shelters with BBQ grills.
11. Thousand Springs State Park
The epic scenery keeps coming, at this state park, dispersed across several components, all a little way west of Jerome.
Awaiting you at Thousand Springs State Park are stream-cut gorges, twinkling pools and small but beautiful waterfalls. One unit to begin with is Malad Gorge, which is easy to miss as you travel along Interstate 84.
But a mile off the highway is a marvellous, 250-foot gorge hewn by the Malad River on its way down to the Snake River. The best views can be had from a bridge spanning the gorge, and you can follow trails to little offshoots where cristalline ponds and streams are fed by springs.
12. Box Canyon Springs Preserve
Also part of Thousand Springs State Park is a place of stunning beauty where one of the largest springs in the United States meanders through a canyon on its way to the Snake River.
At the parking area you can pick a 4.3-mile looping trail that takes you along the ridge and down stairways into the lush canyon floor where the aqua blue water is clear as can be.
It’s impossible to resist dipping your toes in the water or taking a swim. At the foot of one of the stairways is a magical little waterfall, 20 feet high and flowing all year.
13. Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument
Also in range to the west is a 4,351-acre national monument protecting a landscape famed worldwide for its rich fossil deposits from the late Pliocene, three to four million years ago.
The Hagerman Horse Quarry, in the northern part of the monument, contains the largest concentration of Hagerman horse fossils on earth.
This one-toed species is a close relative of modern horses, and its presence in such high quantities at this spot is attributed to a popular waterhole or mass death in a flooded river.
Now, due to the delicateness of the excavations the fossil sites are off-limits to the public, but you can check out the visitor center in the town of Hagerman, which has captivating fossil exhibits from the monument.
As well as Hagerman horses, these include saber-toothed cats, mastodons, bone-crushing dogs and an extinct genus of camel.
14. Craters of the Moon National Monument
Jerome is in a handy location if you want to get to an extraordinary but hard-to-reach volcanic landscaped protected as a National Monument.
What you’ll see at Craters of the Moon is one of the best-preserved flood basalt areas in the Continental United States, composed of three massive lava fields.
Here lava oozed out from deep underground over a period of 15 million years until as recently as 2,100 years ago.
Being on the Great Rift of Idaho, the lava fields feature some of the finest examples of open rift cracks on the planet, including the deepest found anywhere, descending 800 feet.
Elsewhere you can marvel at lava tubes, the prominent Inferno Cone and several spatter cones, which rise like giant molehills in the basalt.
You can get your bearings at the excellent visitor center, while all of the main trailheads can be accessed via a seven-mile scenic loop road for a convenient visit.