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Popular Hikes in East Idaho

When the weather finally turns from the frigid cold and wet weather to the higher summer temperatures, it’s time to get outside. Hiking is a favorite outdoor activity for many nature lovers. The warmer temperatures, gorgeous blue sky, and picturesque views encourage people to stay outdoors just a little longer. The Eastern Idaho area is no exception to the awe-inspiring nature scenes. Here are some popular hikes in the eastern Idaho area.

Mesa Falls

Mesa Falls, just 16 miles from Ashton, Idaho, is known for its jaw-dropping views all year round. The two massive waterfalls attract visitors from all over the world. The foliage around the falls creates a beautiful backdrop no matter the season. In the summer, the green pines contrast against the blue of the water and white-gray of the rocks.

The hike around the falls is great for beginners, as most of the trail is paved or well-maintained. There are boardwalks so visitors can get a close look at the falls. It is safe for children, though you’ll want to keep your eye on them. Informational posts are located throughout the trail to teach hikers more about the geology and history of the area. These posts are great if you need a place to take a break or to admire the view.

You can also stop by the visitor’s center to learn more, plus you can touch and admire furs and taxidermied animals that are native to the area. The walk around the boardwalk is quite short, but there is a 2.5-mile roundtrip nature trail you can take. For only $5 a car to enter, this is one eastern Idaho hike you can’t miss.

Cress Creek

Cress Creek, located outside of Rigby and Ririe, Idaho, is another popular, easy trail for hikers. The trailhead has a small parking lot and restrooms for hikers. The trail starts out paved and accessible for those in wheelchairs, though the path later turns to gravel. It is easy and accessible for families of all ages and abilities. This hike provides a great view of the Snake River Valley, including the large expanses of farmland.

Along the path, you can read information about the plants in the area, including the watercress, which the trail is named after. There are also plenty of places to sit and enjoy a picnic or take photos. The hike is not very long, only about a mile, and shouldn’t take you more than one hour to complete. The trail is recommended for use from June to October.

Menan Butte

Just outside of Rexburg lies Menan Butte. The North Menan Butte is commonly known as “R” Mountain, for the faded, white “R” painted on the side for the former “Rick’s College.” However, the butte is not actually a mountain as it’s common name confuses, but is actually an extinct, cinder-cone volcano. This makes the geology of the butte unique, due to the many lava rocks you’ll see during your hike. There is a marked trailhead for this hike, along with a parking lot and bathrooms, but you’ll need to bring your own water! It is a fairly moderate hike and is about 4.2 miles round trip if you decide to hike the whole thing.

This is a popular hiking trail for students from BYU-Idaho and for locals. The hike provides a nice view of the Snake River Valley and you can even spot the Teton Mountain Range in the distance. The trail going up is steep but manageable. It gives hikers quite the workout. Don’t underestimate the length of the hike. You’ll want to give yourself at least 45 minutes to reach the top--unless you are running. Once you get to the top of the butte, you can hike around the rim in a complete circle, or head back down. Even for a moderate hike, this is a great one for kids.

In the summer, I’d recommend doing this hike earlier in the morning when it’s not quite as warm. There is no shade on the hike, so be sure you’re prepared with water, sunscreen, and a hat. Dogs are allowed on the trail as long as they are on a leash.

Headed south on I-15 toward Blackfoot is Hell’s Half Acre trail. The trailhead for Hell’s Half Acre may not be what you are used to, but it makes for an interesting experience since it starts at the exit 101 rest stop. This nature trail encourages passersby to take a quick jaunt around to see some of the interesting landscape in eastern Idaho.

Hell’s Half Acre is split into two loop hikes, the lower and upper loop trails. The lower loop is a quarter-mile and is accessible for those in wheelchairs. The upper loop is a half-mile and a bit more difficult than the lower loop. If you wanted to hike the entire trail system, it would be ¾ mile and would take about an hour. Throughout the hike, you will find informative posts about the lava rocks, caves, and plant life in the area. There are also places where you can stop your hike and have a picnic.

The next time you need a bathroom break on your southbound drive, stop at exit 101 for a fascinating hike and history lesson!

City Creek Trail

If you are in the Pocatello, Idaho, area, and are looking to get outdoors and enjoy some fresh, summer air, try hiking the City Creek trails. The City Creek trail is designed for both cyclists and hikers, but luckily, some areas are designated for uphill traffic only--meaning you won’t need to worry about any mountain bikers coming toward you at high speeds.

The trail is split up into two, the lower and the upper creeks. The lower trail follows the creek up and across 10 bridges before it intersects with City Creek Road. If you continue, you’ll be on the Upper City Creek trail. The trails do see a lot of high traffic so they are well-maintained, however, there are some rocks and roots jutting out on the trail that you should watch for. The trail winds through the trees though, so there is some nice shade to enjoy on a warmer day.

Kelly Mountain Loop

Kelly Canyon may be known for its ski hill, but there are also different biking and hiking trails available during the summer. One hike, the Kelly Mountain Loop is a moderate, 5.3-mile loop hike with gorgeous views (on clear days). The trail used to be used by ATV’s so it is especially wide. If you are hiking in a group or with your family, there is plenty of space for everyone.

You won’t need to look out for ATV’s as they are no longer allowed on the trail, but you should look out for and be respectful toward mountain bikers and other hikers also enjoying the trail. You should also be respectful of dogs, as they are also allowed on the trail as long as they are leashed. If the weather is clear, you can expect to see the Snake River Valley, acres of beautiful, tall pines, and windmills in the distance.

Take advantage of the summer temperatures by enjoying one of these hikes before winter. Bring along a picnic to enjoy with your friends or family as you explore the trails and appreciate your environment.


Photo Credit 

Mesa Falls: USDA Forest Service

Cress Creek: BLM

Menan Butte: BLM

Hell's Half Acre: BLM

Hannah Anderson

About the author

Hannah Anderson

Hannah Anderson, a Nevada native, moved to Idaho four years ago to study at Brigham Young University-Idaho where she earned a bachelor's degree in communication. She enjoys spending time with her husband, reading, and exploring all that Idaho has to offer.

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