Idaho: Thousand Springs Scenic Byway

Idaho: Thousand Springs Scenic Byway

01 Shoshone Falls

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This extraordinarily varied drive starts at one natural wonder, finishes at another and passes through areas of natural springs, huge sand dunes and expansive views of beautiful Idaho in between. Starting in Twin Falls, you’ll follow the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway north before heading west on Old U.S. 30. From Bruneau you’ll head south to Hot Springs where you’ll pick up unpaved and gravel roads (all easily driveable) to an unforgettable view of one of the State’s great hidden secrets.

This route was first published in 2010 on RoadTrip America. To see this piece in its original form (together with interactive map) and hundreds of other route suggestions covering North America, visit

Highlights along this route include:

Shoshone Falls, Twin Falls (starting point)
Dubbed by some “the Niagara of the West”, the thousand-foot span of Shoshone Falls is a spectacular sight in Spring as the Snake River, in full flow, drops by 212 feet (actually making it higher then Niagara).

Perrine Bridge, Twin Falls (mile 3)
Another high point and definitely not one for acrophobics, Perrine Bridge stands 486 feet above Snake River and is the only man-made structure in the USA that you’re allowed to jump off all year round without a permit (but with, one assumes, a parachute, otherwise known as BASE jumping).

Thousand Springs Scenic Byway
(all the way from Twin Falls to Bliss)
While hydroelectric and irrigation projects have seen to it that the title can no longer be taken as literal (if it ever could), Thousand Springs Scenic Byway nevertheless provides the strange sensation of travelling through a land that’s leaking, as dozens of natural springs emerge from the steep walls of Snake River Canyon.

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument (mile 40)
Unless you’re on a ranger-guided tour you’re unlikely to see any fossils outside the excellent, kid-friendly visitor center at Hagerman Fossil Beds. What you will find though is a section of the Oregon National Historic Trail (with ruts from wagon wheels!) and superb views over the Hagerman Valley.

Bruneau Dunes State Park (mile 109)
Bruneau Dunes State Park is home to the highest sand dune in North America, standing an impressive 470 feet above the Snake River plain. If you’re feeling fit (and the temperature isn’t at its summer peak of 100ºC), climb to the top then slide all the way back down. Camping facilities and cabins available.

Bruneau Canyon Overlook (mile 144)
Bruneau Canyon is 1300 ft wide, 800 ft deep in places, and runs for 67 miles through the high desert. It’s a bit off the beaten track but the view at Bruneau Canyon Overlook really is breathtaking and worth the effort to find. See the map for directions (disconcertingly, it’ll take you through a USAF bombing range!).

Note: when you’re working out your mileage/times, do remember that you’ll need to drive back out of the canyon again!