On your way to Yellowstone, stop through Pocatello, a university town that offers easily accessible trails, affordable lodging and camping right in the heart of Historic Downtown Pocatello.
“We are two hours from Yellowstone, 1.5 hours from Jackson Hole and 2.5 hours from Sun Valley, so we are a great hub,” says local Caryn Elliott. “People can stay here and be on less crowded trails.”
Originally nicknamed the “Gate City,” Pocatello became well-known to pioneers, gold miners and settlers who traveled the Oregon Trail and 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.
Explore its rolling green hills to see the area. Take the Lower and Upper City Creek trails, part of the greater City Creek Management Area Trail System, for a 5.8-mile hike or mountain bike ride for intermediate riders and park at Grant Street parking lot. The paved 1-mile AMI/Kirkham Trail is paved and ADA accessible.
For a longer hiking challenge, East Fork of Mink Creek offers the 13.1-mile round-trip hike to the top of Scout Mountain, but you can turn around at any time to hike the distance you want.
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.
You can also 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
A half-mile down the street is Idaho Museum of Natural History. Stop in here to see the wild animals that once roamed the area, including saber-toothed cats, giant ground sloths and more in the Ice Age exhibit. It’s located on the Idaho State University campus.
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, especially if they want to spot a grizzly bear. 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.
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)
Afterward, cool off across the street at the pool at Ross Park Aquatic Complex. There’s a lazy river, a pool with lap lanes, a large waterslide and a zero-depth pool with a playground attraction.
Explore Historic Downtown Pocatello
Experience Historic Downtown 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.
Spend the night at a national chain hotel or camp with your tent or RV in a number of campgrounds in and around town, including the Cowboy RV Park, KOA and the Bannock County Event Center that has a dump station and 122 RV spots.
“Pocatello is a premier destination without the high-designer price tag,” says Lucinda Klein, manager of the Pocatello Visitors Center. “We have an abundance of year-round trails, unique museums, cultural activities and friendly people.”
For More Information:
Pocatello Visitors Center
2695 S. 5TH Ave., Pocatello, ID