Originally posted August 2020; Revised and migrated March 2021
Travel date July 2020
Idaho’s Magic Valley was one of my favorite stops of our summer. The Twin Falls area has more than a week’s worth of amazing things to do and I would love to spend more than a week on our next Idaho trip.
The Twin Falls area in southern Idaho is known as the Magic Valley. The ‘magic’ occurred when early 20th-century dam construction allowed a previously dry barren valley to grow lush and green with the addition of an irrigation canal system. But honestly, the abundance of waterfalls in the area makes for pretty magical memories.
Cheap Full Hookup Camping near Twin Falls Idaho
We stayed one week at the Twin Falls County Fairgrounds in Filer ID and paid less than $20 per night for full hookups (50amp electric, water, and sewer). The campground is a grassy lot with RVs parked next to each other. If no events are happening at the fairgrounds, the campground is empty but it fully books during events.
Twin Falls County Fairgrounds
The fairground has dirt roads winding around several restrooms, a rose garden, a few buildings, two-horse riding rings, and multiple livestock arenas and barns. It is a nice place to wander around. If given the opportunity, I would stay at the fairground again and probably even spend a few nights closer to Hagerman.
Check out friend Kristin and Jameson’s video about camping at Twin Falls County Fairgrounds.
Youth Livestock Show
A youth livestock show was happening during our stay and we were able to visit the cows, lambs, goats, and hogs in the nearby barns. Most of our evenings in Twin Falls included a walk around the barns petting the ones who were interested.
We miss having pets and are quick to make friends with neighbor dogs in our campsite but petting livestock was a whole new level. After the livestock show crowds left the fairgrounds, we enjoyed watching the local kids exercise their horses and practice skills in the nearby riding ring each evening after dinner.
I also visited the fairground’s memorial rose garden more than once. Having grown roses at our old house, I appreciate the skill and labor the Fairground’s garden required. The roses were in full bloom and fairly spectacular. The fairgrounds was supposed to be a basecamp but turned into an attraction on its own.
Things to do near Twin Falls Idaho
Twin Falls offers easy access to many things to do in the area. We spent a full week exploring but if you have less time, I’d recommend choosing a few of your favorites. Select from the list below to skip to that section.
- Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument
- Mallad Gorge at Thousand Springs State Park
- Ritter Island at Thousand Springs State Park
- Box Canyon at Thousand Springs State Park
- Shoshone Falls
- Hike the Dierkes Lake Loop
- Paddle to Pillar Falls
- Watch Base Jumpers at Perrine Bridge
- Paddle to Blue Heart Springs
- Swim at Banbury Hot Springs
Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument
While in Twin Falls, we visited the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument. The area still contains fossils and the National Monument has a staff paleontologist who manages the digs. Check out our Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument post for all of the details to plan a visit.
Thousand Springs State Park
For the remainder of the day, we explored the Thousand Springs State Park in nearby Hagerman, Idaho. Thousand Springs consists of five different locations/branches but we only had time to visit three locations.
First, we did the self-driving tour around Mallad Gorge which included great views of the gorge and waterfalls.
Our next stop, Ritter Island, is a local swimming destination with many beautiful waterfalls but with 55-degree spring water. We weren’t as keen as the locals to swim in the cool water.
After a fairly hot 1.5-mile walk around Ritter Island and the historic Minnie Miller dairy farm, we decided to kayak at Ritter Creek.
Kayaking around Ritter Island
After walking around the historic Minnie Miller dairy farm, we kayaked around the island to the Snake River and back. For the first quarter of the trip, the current was flowing from the springs into the River and was an easy float with minimal paddling. But the river section and the paddle from the river back to the springs required constant paddling against the water flow. We saw two beavers and many birds during the kayak trip.
Box Canyon Springs Nature Reserve
To wrap up the day we visited Box Canyon Springs Nature Reserve. We arrived around 5 pm with no cell signal and only a small amount of drinking water. I did not know the distance of the Box Canyon Hike but I thought it was around 1-mile and we decided to give it a go.
Hiking Box Canyon Spring Trail
The 2.5-mile hike had significant elevation change and less shade than we hoped.
In the end, we were very thankful to get back to our car, and months later Kevin still questions the distance at the start of every hike because of that ‘one time I took him on a one-mile hike that turned into 2.5mi of climbing’. We were very happy with visiting three of the five Thousand Springs park branches and headed to dinner after Box Canyon.
Shoshone Falls Park
While in Twin Falls we also visited Shoshone Falls and Dierkes Lake Park. The park is run by the city and daily admission is $5 per vehicle including access to the falls and lake.
Shoshone Falls, the Niagara of the West, were quite impressive but the overlooks near the parking lot were crowded. We followed a less traveled walking path less than a mile and had an overlook to ourselves.
While at Shoshone Falls Park, we hiked around Dierkes Lake. There is also a swimming area at the lake with shaded picnic tables.
Hiking Dierkes Lake
The Dierkes Lake loop trail required some stairs but was a nice moderate 2.2-mile walk with scenic views of the lake. The turquoise, super-clear water reminded me of Croatia. We saw several kayaks and non-motorized boats fishing in the lake.
Kayaking in Twin Falls
We travel with an inflatable two-person kayak and Twin Falls had several highly rated kayaking spots including Ritter Island (to skip to that section click here), Pillar Falls, and Blue Heart Springs.
Paddle to Pillar Falls
Centennial Waterfront Park is a free city park with a nice kayak launch, rental kayaks, restrooms, plenty of parking, and a playground. We launched from Centennial Waterfront Park for an afternoon paddle to Pillar Falls, approximately two miles up the Snake River.
The paddle-up river to Pillar Falls was not too taxing until we got close to the falls and then it felt like we were paddling just to maintain our position. After fighting to get to the falls, we tied up the kayak and spent some time enjoying a beverage on the rocks around the cascading Pillar Falls.
Going downstream back to Centennial Park required little paddling and was a nice relaxing ride.
Watch Jumpers at Perrine Bridge
Along the way to Pillar Falls, we passed under the 1500 ft tall Perrine Bridge which is a beautiful arch bridge worthy of a picture on its own.
However, this is one of the few bridges in the US open to base jumpers year-round. We watched base jumpers from the top of the bridge and from the water during our time in Twin Falls. It was fascinating to watch.
Paddle to Blue Heart Springs
Our final kayak destination in Twin Falls was Blue Heart Spring. It is a sapphire blue cove aka a blue hole off the Snake River where 58-degree crystal clear spring water bubbles up. It was recommended by several locals. We got specific paddling directions here.
Banbury Hot Springs rents kayaks and has a nice dock and ramp for kayakers. They charge a small fee to launch your own boat but waived the fee since we also visited the Hot Springs. The paddle to the Blue Heart Spring from Banbury Hot Springs was manageable but not easy.
The worst part was the smell from a nearby fish hatchery during one section of the journey. I was certain we were passing a sewage treatment plant based on the smell. The number of dragon flies along the river was impressive.
Once we arrived at the cove, it was immediately clear why the water is described as sapphire blue.
We lounged on the rocks around the cove and even jumped into the water to cool down. The water was very refreshing and I only stayed in for a few seconds.
Along the way, we also saw a few other places where freshwater springs were feeding the river and the clear, cold water was easily distinguished from the murky brown Snake river water.
Blue Heart Springs YouTube Video
We spent the morning at the Banbury Hot Springs which was different than I expected. It was a very rustic Olympic-sized concrete pool with pipes constantly pumping in water from the natural hot springs. Admission is $10 for adults and a private pool (looked like a hot tub in a small room) can be reserved for a few dollars extra.
They had a log secured in the middle of the pool as an obstacle/attraction. It reminded me of the lumberjack contests on TV and Kevin and I spent at least half an hour taking turns standing up and falling off it. We saw a few people who could remain standing on it but I suspect they had more practice in log rolling than us.
Banbury also has onsite lodging including cabins, rooms and small campground with 13 RV sites and 10 tent sites.
Twin Falls Dining Out
We love dining out but try to keep our expenses low by only eating meals out occasionally. Twin Falls had a lot of highly-rated local restaurants and we had to be selective.
How to dine out on a budget?
We cook the majority of our meals at home but like to support local businesses by eating out occasionally. Our dining out budget isn’t massive so we are selective when choosing establishments. While traveling North America in our RV, we usually chose one or two highly rated, affordable venues per destination. If you are wondering how we quit full-time work in our thirties, check out the About page for our story.
We also choose to limit our meals out for health reasons. Dining out makes it difficult for us to stick to a healthy diet especially since we subscribe to the “Treat Yourself” philosophy when eating out.
Finding Cheap & Cheerful Places to Eat
TripAdvisor is my primary search tool and I find the budget category “$$$ or lower” fits us best. Additionally, when available, we prefer mom and pop’s local establishments over national chains .
A friend of ours uses the term “cheap and cheerful” to describe this sweet spot, between fast-food and cloth napkin dining experiences.
While in Idaho, we wanted to try several restaurants based on a French Fry article I found in a local magazine. Instead, we settled on a few and we were not disappointed.
Twin Falls Cheap and Cheerful Eats
Supporting local restaurants is one of our favorite things to do and we enjoyed a few in the Twin Falls area. Not included are meals at chains or those we wouldn’t recommend.
I could eat the parmesan garlic fries at Scooters Chillin N Grillin every day and the burgers were pretty good as well.
The Twin Falls Sandwich Company did a good job on their crispy and creamy fries. We enjoyed paninis at a bistro table on the sidewalk out front.
Twin Falls Sandwich Company is located in the cute downtown area of Twin Falls. We spent some time at the nearby bicycle shop and the kitchen supply/liquor store.
Ice cream at the Cloverleaf Creamery near Hagerman was very popular. My waffle cone of elk tracks was good but Kevin’s salted caramel was much better. I saw Ballard artisan cheese for sale at Cloverleaf Creamery which led to our trip to the farm. You can read about it here.
Twin Falls Beers
We enjoy craft beers and visiting breweries. Sadly Milner’s Gate was the only Twin Falls brewery open during our visits. The other two were closed due to COVID-19.
Milners Gate is an upscale brewpub with an extensive food menu but we visited for the beers. Happy Hour specials from 4 pm until 7pm are half price beers and 20% off select appetizers. We enjoyed their German and Belgian style ales, some cheese curds and filled our growler to take home.
Summing Up Twin Falls: Too Many Amazing Things To Do
The waterfalls in Idaho’s Magic Valley are definitely worth the trip alone. But with so many hiking and kayaking opportunities, you will not run out of things to do in Twin Falls. Twin Falls was one of our favorites destinations of the summer and we would definitely visit again.