Idaho Falls: Your Jumping Off Point to National Parks

Although the words “falls” and “jumping off” are normally a dangerous combination, that’s not the case in Idaho Falls, Idaho. It’s the perfect “jumping off” point to national parks and other unique sites and experiences. 
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This article was created in partnership with the Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce. All photos courtesy of Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce.

Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks are only 90 minutes away while other must-see attractions are much closer – many are in town.

Here is a suggested three-day itinerary for a family looking for things to do in the Idaho Falls area:

Day 1: En Route to Idaho Falls

If traveling from the west, stop at Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, about an hour from Idaho Falls on Hwy. 20/26. This is an ancient, other-worldly lava bed – as well as an impressive park. After being amazed, head to Idaho Falls.

The Snake River waterfall in Idaho Falls, Idaho

You’ll be hungry when you arrive, so head downtown and take advantage of the foodie scene. Unique, multicultural restaurants and craft breweries abound. The Snake River runs right through the heart of downtown, so you won’t be far from the River Walk. Take a post lunch stroll along the river before heading to the Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park. Known as the “best little zoo in the west,” this zoo houses animals from every continent including Patagonia, Africa, Asia, and Australia. After a fun afternoon, head back downtown for dinner. A comfy bed in one of the area’s 30+ hotels will sound good after a busy day like like you just had.

Day 2: Hot Springs and National Parks

Get up and at ‘em early with a hearty breakfast, then take a day trip into the parks. There are multiple loop tour drive options from Idaho Falls, through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks and back, but one of the coolest is taking Hwy. 26 to Heise Hot Springs just 15 miles outside of Idaho Falls. Stop and take a dip in one of two pools fed by a natural hot spring. Swim and relax for a while, then continue on to Jackson, Wyoming for lunch.

Now you’re ready to head north on Hwy. 191 to Grand Teton National Park. But even before you get to the entrance, you will stop and marvel at the grandeur of the Tetons. They are absolutely breathtaking. After being made to feel thoroughly insignificant by the magnificent spires, continue north into Grand Teton National Park. This begins one of the most beautiful drives you will ever take as you continue north out of Grand Teton and into Yellowstone. Work your way north past the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, Old Faithful Geyser, Madison, and then to West Yellowstone. Stop along the way and appreciate the natural beauty and wild animals.

Once you leave the park, stay on Hwy. 20 back to Idaho Falls. If you have time, get some evening fishing in. Then grab some dinner and get some sleep for another day of adventure …

man fishing the shore of the Snake River in Idaho Falls

Day 3: Explore Around Town

After breakfast, visit the Museum of Idaho. The largest art museum in Idaho, the Museum of Idaho has expanded over the years from an original Carnegie Library building to a sprawling modern art museum. Exhibits include Native American History, Exploration & Migration, and even Atomic Advances. Take in the museum for the rest of the morning, then grab some lunch.

educational displays

Then head back out of town on Hwy. 20 to Yellowstone Bear World. This is a privately-owned, drive-through wildlife park about 24 miles from Idaho Falls. See eight different species from the Yellowstone ecosystem up close and personal—on the other side of your car windows, of course.

Make this area your home base, your jumping-off point, for your National Parks vacation.

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