Explore the history and sights of Pocatello, Idaho
Pocatello was originally nicknamed the “Gate City.” As pioneers, gold miners and settlers traveled the Oregon Trail, they passed through the Portneuf Gap south of town and either traveled west to Oregon or north to Montana. Pocatello became a booming trade center and transportation junction in 1889. Today, Pocatello is popular for its easy access to outdoor recreation, says Birgitta Bright, tourism administrator at Visit Pocatello.
“Pocatello is situated with mountains on three sides, so it has easy access to trails and spectacular views,” she says.
The East Fork of Mink Creek offers a 13.1-mile, round-trip hike to the top of Scout Mountain, but you don't have to hike to the top of Scout Mountain. Feel free to amble along the trail, which begins in an aspen/conifer forest, and turn around when you want.
Visit the City Creek Management Area Trail System for 52 miles of mountain biking trails and hiking. If you are looking for something easier, Pocatello’s Greenway trail system offers 15 miles of 10-foot-wide paved trails in the greater Pocatello area.
In Pocatello, you can do a short hike up to the four pillars on Red Hill. Placed there in 1970 by Idaho State University, these pillars have become part of a university tradition. Just before midnight during Homecoming has become a tradition for ISU students. The trail begins at the university just across the Student Union Building and heads up Red Hill to the ISU pillars.
Pocatello’s One-of-a-Kind Museum of Clean
Don’t miss out on Pocatello’s biggest attraction the Museum of Clean, a 75,000-square-foot complex that houses an intriguing collection of items related to all things clean. Exhibits and displays range from almost 1,000 vacuums or rarities varying from Queen Elizabeth of Austria’s toilet to Don’s toilet travel suitcase, which is museum founder Don Aslett’s own toilet invention. The museum also offers interactive displays and playgrounds for kids. (museumofclean.com)
Idaho Museum of Natural History
For history buffs, there is the Idaho Museum of Natural History located on the Idaho State University campus, which has exhibits on biology, paleontology and the skeletal remains of animals native to Idaho.
You’ll be relieved to learn that you won’t come face-to-face with one of Idaho’s animals, the Helicoprion shark, today. But 270 million years ago, this whorl-toothed shark that possibly stretched as long as 39 feet swam in the sea that once covered this area of the state. Its curious remains have been found in Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming, Texas, and as far away as Australia and China.
Visit the Bannock County Historical Museum with complete displays on Idaho life in the 1800s. Neighboring the Bannock County museum is the Fort Hall Replica, a full size replica of the fur-trading fort with displays and artifacts throughout detailing the life of a fur-trader back in the 1800s. (imnh.isu.edu)
Pocatello’s Zoo Idaho
Visitors passing through Pocatello to Yellowstone National Park should consider stopping at Zoo Idaho. The zoo originally opened in 1932 at a local trailer park with two animals: a monkey named Josephine and a raccoon named Pete. Today, it’s known for its exhibits featuring animals native to the Intermountain West.
“Say you’re going to Yellowstone, and you don’t get to see a grizzly bear or mountain lion,” says Bright. “Then you can come to Zoo Idaho to experience all the animals indigenous to Idaho.”
Grizzly residents Stripes and Shoni roam a half-acre of the zoo. In addition to them, check out mountain lions, bison, pronghorn antelope, red foxes and many more at Zoo Idaho. (zooidaho.org)
Explore Old Town Pocatello
Experience historic Old Town Pocatello and discover the diverse and friendly community with fine dining and specialty shops.
Every first Friday of the month is an Art Walk event, the Pocatello art community comes to Old Town. People visit all the different shops and art galleries accompanied by musicians and artists on display. In the summer is the Revive at Five series, a free weekly concert Wednesdays at 5 p.m. during the Portneuf Valley farmers market every Wednesday and Saturday.
Pocatello’s rich diversity is evident in its ethnic restaurants. Choose from Thai, Nepalese, Greek, Chinese and Mexican cuisine. Locals recommend Himalayan Flavor with excellent curry, a great buffet and delicious Tandoori chicken. Lastly, try Cafe Tuscano’s hidden next to a convenience store and gas station. Despite the lackluster location, you’ll find incredibly delicious Italian food, with a great gorgonzola salad and French dip.
Locals say Pocatello is a colorful town with wonderful people that’s a good place to stop, take a break or stay the night and plan your trip up to Yellowstone.
“Pocatello is pretty friendly,” says Bright. “It’s a pretty laid-back pace I hear all the time from people who come to visit that they aren’t used to people saying hello to them on the street.”
For More Information:
Pocatello Visitors Center
2695 S. 5TH Ave., Pocatello, ID