13 Best Waterfalls in Idaho
Author Brad Lane has enjoyed several adventures throughout Idaho, including visiting some of its best waterfalls.
Idaho has dramatic mountains, wild rivers, and enough adventure for a lifetime of wanderlust. It should come as no surprise that Idaho also has some magnificent waterfalls.
Waterfalls in Idaho flow particularly strong in the southern part of the state. The Snake River infuses southern Idaho with several plunging attractions from Boise to the Wyoming border. Places like Thousand Springs State Park and cities like Twin Falls highlight these grand displays of gravity.
The Idaho Panhandle is also home to excellent waterfalls. Cascading into beautiful mountain pools, these northern waterfalls are surrounded by nature. The lush forest that covers the Panhandle offers an abundance of other activities, like boating and fishing.
Some waterfalls in Idaho require hopping on a hiking trail, while others you can park nearby. As a good general rule, spring is the best time to catch waterfalls at their fullest.
Find your next day trip with our list of the best waterfalls in Idaho.
1. Shoshone Falls, Twin Falls
One of the top reasons to visit Twin Falls in southern Idaho is Shoshone Falls, the most dazzling waterfall in the state. It's often referred to as the Niagara of the West.
The Snake River cascades over 200 feet through a basalt canyon to create Shoshone Falls. Viewing platforms at the falls provide a great perspective of the moving water.
This impressive natural feature flows the heaviest in the spring. Much of the upriver water is diverted for irrigation purposes by autumn, making the falls run nearly dry this time of year. Spring is the best time to visit Shoshone Falls.
The surrounding Shoshone Falls Park features picnic spots, playgrounds, and restroom facilities. There is a $5 admission fee for each vehicle into the park. Admission also includes available parking at the adjacent Dierkes Lake Park.
2. Mesa Falls, Caribou-Targhee National Forest
Lower and Upper Mesa Falls are two of the state's wildest forms of gravity. Upper Mesa Falls plummets over 100 feet and is the easiest to appreciate. Tourists have been visiting this plunging attraction for over a century. Several developed trails and viewing platforms enable a great perspective of the rushing water.
Nearby, the historic Big Falls Inn, established in 1915, now operates as the Mesa Falls Visitor Center. Here, visitors can learn about the surrounding geological and cultural history.
A view of Lower Mesa Falls is accessible one mile south of the visitor center on the west side of the highway. From the pullout, visitors can see the main drop and several cascades of Lower Falls deep within the river canyon. Alternatively, hikers can opt for the one-mile Mesa Falls Nature Trail from the visitor center, which leads to the same viewpoint.
Both waterfalls are accessible via Mesa Falls Scenic Byway (Highway 47) in eastern Idaho. This slow-moving byway spans 30 miles through Caribou-Targhee National Forest. Mesa Falls is near the Wyoming border and an hour's drive from Yellowstone National Park.
Lower and Upper Mesa Falls are on Henrys Fork of the Snake River. Much of this water is generated upstream at Big Springs, as opposed to seasonal snowmelt. This consistent water source means both falls have generous outputs and are fun to visit throughout the year. Mesa Falls is jointly operated by the nearby Harriman State Park — one of the best state parks in Idaho
3. Perrine Coulee Falls, Twin Falls
Perrine Coulee is a year-round waterfall in Twin Falls near the Perrine Memorial Bridge. Agricultural runoff keeps this 200-foot waterfall flowing throughout the year.
Visitors have two main ways to get a good view of the falls. Perrine Coulee Falls is viewable from above on the Snake River Canyon Trail. Alongside a look at the waterfall, other great views and cultural attractions line this popular pedestrian path. Not far from the Perrine Coulee viewpoint is the spot where Evil Knievel attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon.
The second way to experience Perrine Coulee is on a short trail at the bottom of the falls. The trailhead for the two-mile hike is off a roadside near Centennial Waterfront Park. The round trip to the falls and back includes a fun section that navigates behind the free-flowing waterfall. Visitors should expect some spray on the trail.
Read More: Best Places for White Water Rafting in Idaho
4. Ritter Island, Thousand Springs State Park
Ritter Island is home to Minnie Miller Springs, the largest natural springs in the Thousand Springs State Park Complex. The springs are a result of water traveling underground after reaching the porous lava fields of Craters of the Moon. The water bursts from a canyon wall above the Snake River at this state park unit.
Ritter Island is the backbone of Thousand Springs State Park. Alongside the giant spring-fed waterfall, the state park specializes in boating, picnicking, and enjoying nature. The popular Thousand Springs Festival takes place at Ritter Island every September.
The state park rents out two houses for visitors interested in spending the night on the property under a roof. These fully furnished units, the Rock House and Yellow House, are four-bedroom and one-bedroom and come equipped with everything including bedding.
5. Fall Creek Falls, Caribou-Targhee National Forest
Fall Creek is one of Idaho's most scenic waterfalls, located in eastern Idaho, 45 minutes east of Idaho Falls. The 60-foot waterfall spans a cliffside above the Snake River and creates stunning natural pools as it tumbles to connect with the shore. The entire Snake River habitat in this part of the state makes a brilliant backdrop to the falls.
Fall Creek Falls, also known as Falls Creek Falls, is near the city of Swan Valley. From Idaho Falls, visitors head east on Highway 26 and veer right onto a gravel road before crossing the Snake River Bridge. The pullout for parking above the falls is not well-signed.
The viewing area and the falls themselves are on the border of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. No platforms or safeguards exist at the viewing areas, and visitors should mind their steps. Impromptu trails lead down to the base of the falls, which are steep and can be tricky to climb back up.
Read More: Best National Forests in Idaho
6. Cauldron Linn
Within the Magic Valley of southern Idaho, 20 miles southeast of Twin Falls, the Snake River squeezes into a canyon 40 feet wide. The resulting water pressure creates Cauldron Linn, also known as Star Falls. The outstanding churning pools make for a wild scene at this waterfall. So does the remote environment.
Cauldron Linn is impressive at any time of the year, but the water runs highest in the spring. A primitive road accesses the viewing point at Cauldron Linn, and high-clearance vehicles are best suited for the adventure. No developments like guardrails or viewing platforms exist at Cauldron Linn, and explorers need to be wary of the steep edges.
The falls have a unique history, tied to early Anglo explorers of the area. After losing a crew member and a canoe, an 1811 band of fur traders ditched the river at Cauldron Linn and finished their journey to the Pacific Ocean on foot. In modern times, experienced paddlers tackle the rapids in aerodynamic kayaks.
7. Shadow Falls, Idaho Panhandle National Forests
Shadow Falls is in northern Idaho near the Montana border. The hike to this 25-foot waterfall is short, but the forest roads leading to the trailhead can be challenging to navigate. Get reliable directions before departing and keep your eyes out for signage, and this waterfall road trip pays out two-for-one.
Shadow Falls succumbs to gravity for 25 feet before splashing into an idyllic mountain pool. A log footbridge crosses the top of the falls for an interesting downwards perspective. As well as being a short trek, the trail to Shadow Falls is wide and easy to navigate.
A second waterfall, Fern Falls, is accessible by veering off the Shadow Falls trail near the parking lot. Fern Falls is roughly 0.2 miles down this side path. Smaller in stature, Fern Falls still delivers a postcard setting, including much of its namesake feature.
Both waterfalls see the most generous output come spring and early summer.
8. Devils Washbowl, Malad Gorge, Thousand Springs State Park
This booming waterfall is below Interstate 84. It's easy to drive over it without knowing, but with a quick pit stop at the Tuttle Exit, you'll never forget it's there after you see it once. Malad Gorge is one unit of the Thousand Springs State Park complex.
After getting off the interstate, Malad Gorge offers a scenic automobile tour through its 450-acre parkland. One of the first stops features interpretive information and a great view of Devils Washbowl within Malad Gorge. Created by cascading steps and quick water, this impressive waterfall mutes the sound of traffic from above.
Other stops within the park feature different perspectives of the falls and Malad Gorge. A second waterfall is at the end of the automobile route. The trickle of this second waterfall is so light, that if it's windy out, no water reaches the ground on its original trajectory.
9. Jump Creek Falls
Jump Creek Falls is a 60-foot waterfall an hour's drive west of Boise. This day-use area is popular with families and young adventurers. The hike to the waterfall is an easy half-mile round trip. The trail is also well-trodden and easy to follow.
The reward outpaces the effort at Jump Creek Falls. This long and skinny cascading waterfall offers a great escape into nature. The waterfall runs throughout the year, but early spring is the best bet for the biggest outpour.
The pools beneath Jump Creek Falls are a great spot to cool off from the summer heat. The picnic tables and fire rings at the trailhead also offer some diversion during a day visit. Hikers are advised to stay on the trail, as poison ivy often grows rampant in the undergrowth.
10. Lady Face Falls, Sawtooth National Forest
In the celebrated Sawtooth Mountains of Central Idaho — one of the best places to camp in Idaho — Lady Face Falls is a fun hike, with a trailhead near Stanley Lake. For campers at the coveted Stanley Lake "Inlet" Campground, they can pick up the trail from their campsite.
The trail from Stanley Lake to Lady Face Falls is nearly 2.5 miles long, with very minimal elevation gain. The path is wide and manicured for easy walking. With shaded moments in a lush forest, the trail gives way to great views of the Sawtooth Mountains. Lady Face Falls, itself, also offers a great view as it plunges deep into a pool.
For more waterfall action in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, the same trail continues for another 1.5 miles to reach Bridal Veil Falls. The trail crosses Stanley Lake Creek immediately after the spur towards Lady Face Falls, which almost guarantees wet feet. Bridal Veil Falls is much taller than Lady Face, as it cascades straight down a mountainside.
Visit both falls in the spring for the best outputs.
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11. Moyie Falls
Moyie Falls is a pure natural spectacle in the northern part of the state in Boundary County, Idaho, near Bonners Ferry. Visitors make an easy drive to designated parking and viewing areas to see the churning Moyie River make its way down a canyon.
Several tiers of Moyie Falls are witnessed from the high vantage point above the hydroelectric facilities at the base. The higher ledges of Moyie drop upwards of 100 feet, while the lower sections plummet 20 to 40 feet.
The spring is the best time to see the raging Moyie Falls, with hotter times of the year leaving the river canyon trickling.
Don't confuse Moyie Falls in northern Idaho with the similarly named Moyie Falls across the border in British Columbia. Although, if heading to Canada or coming from, consider enjoying this other 1.5-mile round-trip hike to a waterfall.
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12. Niagara Springs, Thousand Springs State Park
Niagara Springs is another unit within Thousand Springs State Park Complex. This underground water source fans down a foliage-covered slope of the Snake River Canyon. Visitors catch a close view of the water without hiking, and many stick around to enjoy the surrounding park amenities.
Within the park, peaceful green spaces and mile-long views of the river aren't far from the parking lot. The road into Niagara Springs departs Highway 30 and makes a steep descent into the Snake River Canyon. Most cars can handle the inclined gravel road, though cautious driving should be applied.
A temporary parking space near Niagara Springs enables visitors to take a quick picture and enjoy the falls. The moving water within the green shrubbery of the canyon offers a unique type of waterfall-viewing experience.
13. Elk Creek Falls
Elk Creek Falls is a series of three cascading waterfalls plunging down basalt columns in Nez Perce National Forest. These quick successions of gravity total over 130 feet, making Elk Creek Falls one of the tallest waterfalls in the state. And, the variable-distance Elk Creek National Recreation Trail is the best way to see these year-round spectacles.
Different viewpoints of the three falls line the trail. Expect about a three-mile round trip with some elevation gain to get every perspective. But, viewpoints are afforded at different intervals, offering some variability. The elevation change encountered along the route makes navigating the total trail a challenging endeavor.
The nearby small community of Elk River is a bit of a base camp in this remote mountainous area. The nearby Elk Creek Campground, operated by the Forest Service, is also a common stopover place to spend the night. It has 24 spots for RVs with electric hookups available. Some sites are available for reservation six months in advance.