In Southern Idaho, the city of Twin Falls has a marvelous setting, perched on the southern rim of the mighty Snake River Canyon.
This epic chasm, with rough-hewn rhyolite and basalt walls, extends for 50 miles and descends to a depth of 500 feet. The canyon floor was made farmable in the late-19th century, and now parks and golf courses on both banks imbue the scene with a lot of greenery.
Walking trails wind along the canyonside, connecting waterfront parks and awe-inspiring sights like Shoshone Falls, dubbed the “Niagara of the West” and visited by tourists for more than 160 years.
Crossing the canyon into Twin Falls is the Perrine Bridge, one of the highest bridges in the country, and a honeypot for BASE jumpers, whose parachutes are a common sight floating into the canyon all year.
1. Shoshone Falls
A little way east of Twin Falls, the Snake River drops over a series of rapids divided by islands before plunging 212 feet over a horseshoe-shaped rhyolite cliff.
At high water, normally after the snow melts in spring, Shoshone Falls is one unbroken block, while in dry periods during the summer, fall and winter there’s a succession of drops between the bare rock.
Although at its fullest from March to May, it’s a spellbinding sight at any time and can be approached on land via the Snake River Canyon Rim Trail or on the water by kayak or paddleboard.
The park on the south bank offers a scenic overlook, as well as a boat ramp, playgrounds for kids and a big grassy space with shaded picnic areas.
2. Perrine Bridge
Named for the founder of Twin Falls, businessman I. B. Perrine (1861-1943), is a stunning truss arch bridge spanning the canyon.
The Perrine Bridge opened in 1976, replacing a cantilever bridge from 1927. The crossing is 1,500 feet long, and at 486 feet above the river, it’s the eighth-highest bridge in the United States.
If you have a thing for megastructures it’s a must-see, but there are a few other reasons to get excited.
Of course, the scenery is fabulous from the walkways, and you can spot kayakers far below on the river and gaze over the remarkably green expanse of the valley floor.
This may also be the only man-made structure in the United States where BASE jumping is legal year round without a permit. The first recorded jumps took place in 1987, and on an average day in summer you’re sure to see a few jumpers parachuting to the canyon floor.
3. Snake River Canyon Rim Trail
Twin Falls has ten miles of scenic trails, right on the lip of the Snake River Canyon, giving you amazing panoramas 500 feet above the river.
You can get onto the path at the Shoshone Falls Park or the Twin Falls Visitor Center, embarking on an easy, level hike that you won’t soon forget.
The trail incorporates many of the highlights on this list, like the Perrine Bridge, Centennial Waterfront Park, Auger Falls Heritage Park, Pillar Falls and Dierkes Lake.
Not far east of the bridge you’ll also pass the ramp for Evel Knievel’s attempted jump across the canyon on a rocket-powered cycle.
The jump failed when Knievel’s parachute deployed prematurely and he drifted into the canyon, landing a few feet from the water. Unusually, he came away without major injuries.
4. Centennial Waterfront Park
Down on the riverside, this park is a scenic vantage point where you can soak up all the drama of the canyon and Perrine Bridge.
At the same time, Centennial Waterfront Park is a departure point for people heading into the canyon for adventure.
You can rent kayaks and paddleboards here for a voyage upriver under the bridge to Shoshone Falls. Based in the park is Zip the Snake, offering thrilling zipline rides across the canyon on four lines.
As well as a bird’s eye view of the canyon you’ll pick up interesting details about its geology, history and wildlife from the company’s guides.
And if you just want to take it easy, Centennial Waterfront Park has ample seating and a playground for little adventurers.
5. Twin Falls Visitor Center
In full view of the canyon and Perrine Bridge, the Twin Falls Visitor Center is an excellent primer, not just for this city but the entire Southern Idaho region.
Embedded in lawns, this modern building is clad with glass, floor to ceiling and it won’t be easy to pull yourself away from those views, particularly if BASE jumpers are out.
The center is also an attraction of its own, fronted by the Cooper Norman Agriculture Heritage Plaza, which recounts the story of how the arid Magic Valley became one of the nation’s most diverse agricultural areas.
Step inside and, combined with a wealth of informative tourist materials, you’ll be greeted by some interesting pieces like the historic Perrine Stagecoach.
In the late-19th century this vehicle shuttled people from Shoshone to the Stricker Ranch on what is now Twin Falls. It was abandoned for decades among the weeds in the canyon on the Perrine Ranch until it was discovered in the 1960s and sold for just $1 to be restored.
6. Herrett Center for Arts and Science
The College of Southern Idaho has a first-rate museum on its main campus in the heart of Twin Falls.
The center focuses on natural history, and displays a noteworthy collection of anthropological artifacts from the prehistoric Americas.
On a typical visit you might peruse absorbing geological specimens, get to grips with the migrations of our earliest ancestors, learn about the material culture of the Buffalo Nation, gain insights into Idaho’s Native Americans and inspect captivating artifacts from pre-Incan cultures in Peru.
One unforgettable exhibit is the Huntington Canyon Mammoth, combined with a trove of minerals and fossils in the Grace & Kenneth Keveren Gallery.
Also at the center is the Faulkner Planetarium, the largest in the state, seating 144 under a 50 ft dome. There’s a gallery with the latest eye-popping images of the universe and the Centennial Observatory, with one of the world’s largest wheelchair-accessible public telescopes on the planet.
7. Mogensen Trail
To see the Snake River Canyon from a different perspective, you can pick up this trail from Centennial Waterfront Park.
This takes you right through the canyon and under the magnificent Perrine Bridge. If you catch a day with plenty of BASE jumpers, you may find yourself watching them transfixed for a few minutes.
But the trail has a lot to keep you engaged, with a lower fork that ushers you over bridges, down steep stairways and past little waterfalls that produce a refreshing mist if you’re out on a hot day.
8. Rock Creek Park
On the southwestern fringe of the city there’s a park on the verdant corridor created by the meandering Rock Creek. In 12 acres, Rock Creek Park was established in 1973, tracing the canyon cut by the creek.
You can follow this along the paved trail Old Towne Parkway Trail, leading from downtown Twin Falls and snaking through the park.
Rock Creek Park is endowed with plenty of facilities like a 25-berth RV park, a disc golf course, two playgrounds, volleyball courts, fishing spots, horseshoe pits, shelters and a lot of picnic tables dotted here and there.
9. Perrine Coulee Falls
Just west of downtown Twin Falls the Snake River Canyon Rim Trail takes in another striking waterfall. Here, the Perrine Coulee, which weaves northwards through the city, plummets over the south wall of the Snake River Canyon from a height of almost 200 ft.
You can see the falls from above on the Canyon Rim Trail, but there’s also a path at the bottom, in front of Centennial Waterfront, leading you behind the waterfall itself.
There’s a good chance you’ll get wet on this route, especially when the waterfall is at its strongest in summer, but this shouldn’t deter you.
10. Dierkes Lake
Couched in the same rugged terrain just upriver from Shoshone Falls Park is a lake that has long been a popular swimming and fishing hole.
Dierkes Lake is enveloped in a 191-acre park and was purchased by Twin Falls in 1969. It’s a fine place to escape the summer heat, with lifeguards June through August, as well as a concession stand.
Non-motorized vessels are allowed on the lake, while on land there’s a children’s playground, picnic tables and two large shelters equipped with grills.
Below the surface Dierkes Lake is emerging as a landlocked scuba destination, with sunken objects to discover like rowboats, a treasure chest and a metal shark cutout.
11. Pillar Falls
Going east, before you come to Shoshone Falls you’ll reach Pillar Falls, smaller but still spectacular in its own way.
The drop at Pillar Falls isn’t more than a few feet, but here the river is divided by a curious sequence of giant rhyolite boulders. To see Pillar Falls up close there’s a 1.1-mile access trail winding down the south wall of the canyon.
This is a tricky hike, but the views merit the effort. Alternatively you can kayak from the Centennial Waterfront Park, which is a memorable way to approach those sentinel-like rocky pillars.
12. Auger Falls
In 2002 the city purchased a wonderful sweep of the canyon floor on the south bank of the Snake River, some five miles downriver from the Perrine Bridge.
Over 680 acres the Auger Falls Heritage Park encompasses gorgeous, rugged landscapes, with wonderful flecks of greenery against the bare rock of the canyon walls.
The park is criss-crossed by trails for hiking and mountain biking, and the main four-mile loop has interpretive signs pointing out interesting geological features, a crumbling old homestead and placer gold mining tailings.
Auger Falls is a section of fierce rapids, while Mermaid Falls, also in the park, tumbles down the north face of the canyon.
13. Minidoka National Historic Site
For something totally different, there’s an important piece of 20th-century history preserved about 20 minutes northeast of Twin Falls.
This is the Minidoka National Historic Site, a former internment camp that held some 10,000 Japanese American citizens.
In the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 120,000 ordinary people were forced to leave their homes, jobs and lives and spend the rest of WWII in camps like this one. It was the largest forced relocation in American history.
Minidoka was one of 10 similar camps, and stands as a memorial to a chapter that continues to be controversial.
The site is open all year and can be discovered on a 1.6-mile self-guided trail. There’s also a visitor center presenting exhibits and a film about the site, but this was closed at the time of writing.
14. Orton Botanical Garden
After hiking the canyon and noticing how much life there is in the desert landscape in Twin Falls, you may be interested to find out exactly which plants thrive in these drought-prone conditions.
The Orton Botanical Garden is on the south side of town, close to Rock Creek Park, and grows a stunning display of desert plants, including yuccas and a host of cactus varieties.
A great time to be here is spring when the cactuses are in bloom, contrasting brilliantly with the desert backdrop.
At this time of year the garden hums with bees and butterflies, while in winter the whole space is illuminated by thousands of multicolored lights.
The owner has an encyclopedic knowledge of Idaho native plants that he is happy to share, and the garden doubles as a nursery if a particular plant type catches your eye.
15. Twin Falls County Fair
Southern Idaho’s top county fair goes down at the western suburb of Filer across five days at the start of September.
The first county fair on this very site took place as long ago as 1916 and remains a landmark on the Twin Falls event calendar.
We’re talking carnival rides, all kinds of vendors, numerous livestock competitions, displays of antique farming machinery, classic country music concerts, monster trucks and a demolition derby.
The County Fair also coincides with the Magic Valley Stampede PRCA Rodeo, one of the top 60 PRCA rodeos in the United States, with three full days of action.