Built on top of an ancient shield volcano, Rexburg is a youthful college town, home of the Brigham Young University–Idaho.
This is the largest university in the state, and is a private institution run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In fact an overwhelming percentage of Rexburg’s residents belong to this church, so it’s no surprise that one of the city’s main landmarks is the eye-catching Rexburg Idaho Temple, posted on high ground above the university campus.
Rexburg is often named among the country’s safest cities, and is blessed with a lot of green space downtown and in a chain of parks and trails along the Teton River corridor to the north.
For visitors, Rexburg is one of the last large settlements as you approach Yellowstone from Southern Idaho, while the formidable peaks of the Teton Range stand just across the state line in Wyoming.
1. Legacy Flight Museum
Hiding in a hangar at Rexburg Madison County Airport is a superb collection of historic aircraft and vehicles.
The Legacy Flight Museum is open Monday to Saturday between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and then on Saturdays for the remainder of the year.
Inside you’ll be met by a Grumman S-2 Tracker, a P-63 Kingcobra, a Boeing Stearman and a Beechcraft Staggerwing, to name a few.
A real highlight is a P-51 Mustang flown by the local ace Roland R. Wright (1919-2015). Wright was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which led to the aircraft being dubbed a “Mormon Mustang”.
Another conversation piece is Ole Yeller, a P-51D Mustang that previously belonged to another WWII pilot Bob Hoover (1922-2016).
Auto fanatics will admire the museum’s Ford Mustang, Corvette Stingray and small fleet of military vehicles, and on the upper level are displays of uniforms, equipment, weapons and flags.
2. Yellowstone Bear World
A few minutes out of Rexburg on U.S. 20, this drive-thru wildlife park lets you get close to the magnificent wild species indigenous to the Yellowstone region.
From the comfort of your own vehicle you’ll see bison, Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, Rocky Mountain goats, moose, white-tail deer and of course, grizzlies and black bear.
On foot there’s a petting zoo, with free-roaming farm animals, and occasionally the chance to feed elk calf and deer fawn, while Yellowstone Bear World also has a small amusement park with rides for younger children.
If you book in advance you’ll also be able to go behind the scenes with the keepers and bottle feed bear cubs.
3. Rexburg Idaho Temple
It is estimated that 95% of Rexburg’s residents are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so it’s natural that a focal point for the city will be the rather impressive Rexburg Idaho Temple.
With a gleaming facade coated in white quartz, this landmark crowns the highest point in Rexburg proper and is visible for miles along Highway 20.
The view from this location on the south side of BYU-Idaho is wonderful, and the temple sits in landscaped grounds in full bloom in spring and summer.
When the temple was dedicated in 2008, Rexburg became the third city in Idaho with an LDS temple.
You don’t have to be a member to appreciate this building, in particular the 700 stained-glass window panes, many with a wheat motif representing the importance of agriculture to the area.
The fittings inside were made with wood from Africa and stone and tiles from Israel, while the ordinance room is adorned with murals depicting the Snake River landscape by local artist Leon Parson.
4. Porter Park
Taking up an entire block downtown, Rexburg’s oldest park was landscaped in 1919 and for more than a century has been the traditional gathering place for big events.
Half-covered with mature trees, Porter Park is celebrated for its iconic weeping birches, and has an array of amenities attracting families in summer.
One is the splash pad, with enough equipment for hours of fun on a hot day. Also open in summer is one of Idaho’s only antique carousels, built in 1926 by the Spillman Engineering Company of New York.
The profusion of tall old trees allows you to relax in style if you have your own hammock, and there’s a wide choice of restaurants a short walk away if you’d like to bring takeout for a picnic.
5. St. Anthony Sand Dunes
Fifteen miles to the north is a 10,600-acre expanse of shifting white quartz sands, swept by the wind into peaks rising 400 feet.
Much of the St. Anthony Sand Dunes are reserved as a wildlife study area, hosting one of the largest herds of wintering elk in the United States.
So while the dunescape is closed off to the public during the first few months of the year to make way for this migration, the rest of the time you can visit for all kinds of memorable experiences.
You can walk or go on horseback rides and try sledding down the sandy slopes, while there’s a list of companies in the area offering thrilling ATV rides in the dunes.
Spend the night at the Egin Lakes Campground and you’ll witness one of the greatest night skies you’ve ever laid eyes on.
6. Cress Creek Nature Trail
The South Fork of the fabled Snake River winds through some beautiful terrain not far south of Rexburg.
There you can access the Cress Creek Nature Trail, an easy but spectacular 1¼-mile path, high on the rock north bank.
The route guides you through sagebrush, varieties of grass and juniper, and all along the route are boards that tell you about the various plants all around, as well as ways to identify local wildlife, be it tracks or scat.
The trail takes its name from the watercress growing abundantly on the riverbank, nourished by the warm waters and so able to grow all year round.
7. Beaver Dick Park
Seven miles west of Rexburg, Beaver Dick Park is in a pretty spot, on Henry’s Fork of the Snake River.
This 9.5-acre space is managed by the Madison County Parks and Recreation Department and given its riverside setting is a go-to for water activities and fishing.
There’s a boat dock and floating dock here, as well as a swimming area best suited to more experienced swimmers because of currents.
On the shore are bathrooms, pavilions, fire pits and a playground for kids. If you’re wondering about the park’s curious name it comes from Richard Leigh (1831-1899), the famous local trapper, hunter and guide who earned the nickname “Beaver Dick”.
8. Menan Buttes
Looming over the Snake River plain to the west of Rexburg is a pair of volcanic tuff cones, among the largest in the world and easily visible from the city.
This kind of formation is caused by basaltic magma boiling up through groundwater, and the cones were born in a violent eruption in the late-Pleistocene, around 10,000 years ago.
The Menan Buttes stand around 800 feet over the river, and while the South Menan Butte is in private hands, the immense cone of the North Menan Butte, a National Natural Landmark, can be discovered via a 3.1-mile walking trail.
This takes you from the parking area, around the rim and back down, with interpretive signs to explain the powerful forces that forged this natural landmark.
9. Museum of Rexburg
One of Rexburg’s finest landmarks is the Rexburg Stake Tabernacle, a Romanesque Revival building from 1911.
This was the tabernacle for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before being sold off to the city in 1980.
In the basement is a museum for the Upper Snake River Historical Society, with a major exhibit about the devastating Teton Dam collapse of 1976, which left Rexburg underwater and resulted in the deaths of 11 people and the loss of 13,000 cattle.
The total damage estimates are $2 billion and the dam has never been reconstructed. You’ll see a line on the wall marking the high water mark as well as interesting artifacts from the event and the remarkable reconstruction of the city.
Also here is an old-fashioned one-room schoolhouse, home to the Rexburg Children’s Museum, which has lots of interactive displays and activities for kids.
10. Rexburg Rapids
Another reason for families to look forward to summer in Rexburg is for this outdoor water park, set just a couple of blocks north of downtown.
Staffed by trained lifeguards, Rexburg Rapids offers a lazy river, a beach-entry pool for little ones, a water playground, a large heated pool and two water slides beginning three stories above the park.
A unique feature at Rexburg Rapids is a rock wall rising at one end of the heated pool, allowing kids to test their climbing skills with the safety of a splash landing below.
11. Rexburg Nature Park
Next door to the airport, this park was laid out on previously empty land close to the South Fork of the Teton River.
The name “Nature Park” is appropriate, as this water-rich space is removed from busy roads and feels like a natural haven, abounding with wildflowers and bird life, especially waterfowl.
You can come to feed the ducks (bird seed instead of bread), while teenagers will love the Clair Boyle Skate Park, touted as the best in the city.
The fishing ponds are open to all, with one designated for children under the age of 12, and these are accompanied by a playground, disc golf course, covered picnic shelters and a walking/bike path.
12. Jefferson County Lake (Rigby Lake)
A fine way to pass a sunny summer day is at this natural lake, about 12 miles south of Rexburg. June through August, Jefferson County Lake is open daily, 9 am to 10 pm.
Greeting you is an enticing sheet of blue water, ringed by beaches, grassy areas, hiking trails and 50 campsites. The lake is safe for swimming, and has a floating dock with a slide, while you can rent stand-up paddleboards and kayaks from the shore.
The campsites have water and electric hookups, and other amenities include tennis courts and a children’s playground.
13. Eagle Park
Yet another place to relax in nature without leaving the city, Eagle Park in the western green space in the Teton River Corridor Park and Trail System.
With grass and brush right next to the river, Eagle Park is geared towards tent-only camping, offering 24 campsites complemented by amenities like bathrooms and drinkable water.
And if you’re feeling hardy these campsites are available all year, even in the depths of winter. In summer there are a few spots where you can take a dip in the Teton River, although some caution is advised.
14. Teton Scenic Byway
Rexburg is one of the major access points to a 70-mile scenic drive taking in the glorious Teton Range rising just over the state line in Wyoming.
Beginning southeast of Rexburg in Swan Valley, the Teton Scenic Byway grazes the westernmost spur of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, before tracing the Teton Valley upriver from Rexburg.
On this drive the jagged peaks of the range over in Grand Teton National Park dominate the eastern horizon beyond a bucolic landscape of potato, wheat and barley fields.
You can step out and stretch your legs at quaint rural towns like Victor, Driggs and Tetonia, or you could integrate the drive with a day of hiking at jaw-dropping locations like Table Mountain.
15. Kelly Canyon Ski Resort
Come winter you won’t be more than half an hour from some decent slopes for skiing and snowboarding.
Kelly Canyon Ski Resort is in the Targhee National Forest, about 20 miles southeast of Rexburg.
This compact resort has 640 acres of slopes, with a drop of 1,000 feet, served by four double and a rope tow. As this is a small-ish resort it’s worth coming early in the day to avoid lines on the lifts, or come late in the day for night skiing.
The runs are suited to skiers of all abilities, with 35% rated green circle (easiest), 45% blue square (more difficult) and 20% black diamond (most difficult). You’ll also find trails for skiing and snowshoeing, as well as affordable equipment rentals and tasty food.