Near Bear Lake, head north off the interstate to experience the stunning scenery and attractions of southeast Idaho.
It’s well-worth getting off the Interstate 15 to explore the pockets of beauty, scenic campgrounds, historic towns, more than 30 lakes and more tucked in southeast Idaho from the Bear Lake area to Blackfoot Massacre Rocks State Park to Pocatello, Idaho.
“Southeast Idaho is a series of mountain ranges,” says Birgitta Bright, tourism administrator of Visit Pocatello. “A lot of people assume southeast Idaho is flat, but we are in the foothills of the Rockies with easy access to the mountains no matter where you are. Sometimes, it takes longer to get from one place to another, but the drives through the mountains like from Preston to Bear Lake or along the scenic byways are so beautiful”
In Montpelier, climb on board a wagon for a simulated wagon trail experience of the 1850s all inside the National Oregon/California Trail Center Museum. Then continue north, along the Bear Lake-Oregon Trail Scenic Byway, to the aptly named Soda Springs, a little town with unique and historic attractions. Sip free sparkling soda water at Hooper Springs Park, a place that’s attracted thirsty travelers for more than 160 years. The natural springs produces sparkling water that’s potable, so bring some flavored syrup to make your own Italian soda.
Then get a glimpse of what you’ll see in Yellowstone’s legendary geyser basins by visiting the world’s only captive geyser at Geyser Park & Visitor Center. In 1937, a crew drilling in search of a source of hot water for a swimming pool struck an underground geyser. Now capped and controlled by a timer, it erupts 100 feet in the air every hour on the hour.
Splash Around In Lava Hot Springs
Welcome to hot springs country when you stop in southeast Idaho. In the charming town of Lava Hot Springs, you’ll find the Lava Hot Springs’ Foundation offers five outdoor pools heated by natural underground springs to 102- 112 degrees.
“The water does not have sulfur in it, but it still has all the mineral content that's reportedly good for healing and relaxing,” says Birgitta Bright, tourism administrator of Visit Pocatello.
Four blocks down the road is the Olympic Swimming Complex that’s open in summer and features three diving platforms of varying heights, water slides with 60-foot drops and a huge swimming pool. But if you’re simply looking to float down a river and get in touch with nature, rent an inner tube from one of the stands in downtown Lava Hot Springs and float down the Portneuf River. Lifejackets come free with your tube rental at TPD Tubes next to the hot springs complex. When you get to the end, just walk back up less than a mile along the river to where you began and do it all over again. Tip: wear water shoes rather than flip flops that will get stuck in the mud or fall of your feet and get swallowed by the river.
When you’re hungry, stop by Ye Old Chuckwagon Restaurant for good-sized burgers and an informal, relaxed atmosphere with booths and regular tables. It’s on the corner of Second Street and Main. Or check out the Portneuf Grille & Lounge, which is located in the Riverside Hot Springs Inn & Spa. The restaurant, which has been written up in Sunset magazine, among others, is a highlight of the historic 1914 hotel. Its menu features Northwest-inspired cuisine and includes vegetarian and gluten-free dishes, along with classics like U.S.-aged prime rib steak. For a delicious four-course meal, head to the reservation-only Greystone Manor Bed and Breakfast and Event Center where you can savor your various dishes, including an entrée of salmon, beef or chicken, on the patio or in the dining room.
Learn more about southeast Idaho at idahohighcountry.org