There’s far more than just potatoes here, folks.
When people think of Idaho, they likely associate it with its nationwide reputation it holds for potatoes….and maybe nothing else. That’s fair considering Idaho’s neighbors of Washington, Oregon, and Utah are much more renowned for their natural sceneries.
Though most of Idaho is quiet, or barren (speaking from a personal experience of driving through the Gem State,) there are still some hidden gems worth checking out (maybe to check out with iconic Idaho french fries while you’re at it.)
The major hub for my visit to Idaho was the small town of Twin Falls in the south-central portion of the state (more on the name of the town later.) The drive from Salt Lake City was rather…lifeless with the first 70+ miles after entering the state composed of burnt shrubs that took me back to driving through Arizona with a random infusion of perfectly green grassland and corn fields with state-of-the-art irrigation systems that reminded me of Iowa. Odd, I know. But I must admit, throughout my U.S. travels, I had never seen a state offer incredibly distinct landscapes in such close proximity, with shrubs and grasslands sometimes woven across one another on Interstate 84.
As we eventually entered Twin Falls, the area was quite expansive and surrounded by an open country of fields that made it look like Kansas due to a light shade of mustard across its scenery. We drove a few miles down south from I-84 to the gateway bridge which connected to the town.
Perrine Bridge was elegant, so much so that I pulled over at an overlook to admire a small canyon engrossing the Snake River below the bridge. Snake River is the reason Perrine Bridge even exists. The river was actually as thin as a snake on a map, slithering its way around a breathtaking canyon: sharp, short, brown jagged walls. The land was littered with rocks, sand, uneven slopes, and small portions of grass. The river calmly flowed in the same direction while several locals were on a boat in the distance.
It was serene and spectacular. The only faint sound of noise was trucks and cars thumping on Perrine Bridge as they entered Twin Falls. As I approached a rock barrier viewpoint gazing down at the river, I felt a sense of dizziness, imagining the fall down would have been… intense. Sure, this wasn’t the Grand Canyon, but for Idaho, it might as well have been.
Ah, the reason I even went to Idaho in the first place, Shoshone Falls. Located conveniently near Twin Falls, this pristine landmark is located deep in the woods but well worth the curvy trek. The lots were packed with herds of travelers, some who made the journey from faraway places: Missouri, California, Colorado, and Texas.
After dodging groups of people, I made my way to a small viewpoint where, alas, the fall was in full display. Just gallons of perfectly clear water pouring down into the omnipresent Snake River with epic force, making crackling sounds that would have been perfect for an ASMR video. The side effect was waves in the river, which then slowly ended up moving down the canyon in perfect unison.
There was nothing fancy about Shoshone Falls, just a gorgeous waterfall perfectly structured in the canyon. Jagged rocks behind and small chunks of grass indicated that this waterfall could have magically appeared with a wand, due to its unbelievable location in the middle of a canyon. There was another small lined waterfall next to it, hence the name Twin Falls for the adjacent town?
Unfortunately, there were no boats approaching Shoshone Falls to capture an even more surreal experience which could have involved tasting water droplets from the fall. Nevertheless, just the natural beauty of Shoshone Falls and its hidden gem destination were simply thrilling. Where was the water coming from? When did the waterfall form? And since when did the legendary Niagara Falls have a sibling – its mini and hidden version?
As there was nothing more I could do other than admiring nature’s finest, I left in awe after a short time on the viewing deck from multiple angles. Heavy rain started to pour as I touched my car door in the parking lot. Perhaps a rainbow may have arched over the fall sometime later? I guess some things we’ll never know the answer to.
This was a rather impulsive move but Sun Valley was an 80-mile drive from Twin Falls. After 3 p.m., why not head to this acclaimed resort town recognized among the likes of Vail, Aspen, Park City, and Jackson Hole? The only con was driving through central Idaho, a dead stretch brimmed with the infamous mix of shrubs and grassland. Nevertheless, the drive was surreal as one road stretched into the distance in an open country, with zero trace of human civilization for miles. Just a barren wasteland that kept propelling me to think: Would anyone want to live here? Cell service was a no-go, anyone was out of reach, physically and through the phone.
As I approached the town of Ketchum, the influence of nearby mountains resulted in dense fog and a heavy torrential downpour which clouded my view and made the last seven miles a nightmare. The surrounding mountains looked eerie as the fog engulfed them. My car was driving through massive puddles and being pulled back seemingly by the weight of the water.
Once in the small town of Ketchum, it assembled exactly what I expected. There was a main street boasting shops, restaurants and a few blocks of civilization for tourists who came to ski in the nearby Sun Valley. Even though it wasn’t winter, I felt like I came to Aspen.
Many activities were closed due to rain and the fact that it wasn’t winter, so my experience in Ketchum dwindled down to sauntering around its small town after the rain subsided. It was a peaceful stroll, with not many tourists present due to the offseason.
A highlight of this visit was chatting with the chef/owner of Saffron Indian Cuisine, he explained a desire to offer modernized Indian dining by creating and designing his dishes in that featured: Butter Chicken, Tandoori Mushrooms, Kolkata Chicken Curry…and much more. That worked well as the Stuffed Paneer I tried was a mouthful but simply scrumptious while the crumb filling and cheese exuded contrasting tastes on their own but meshed as a wonderful combo. Food can be an art form and Saffron flourished in presentation as well.
The Gem State lived up to its name, as I saw a few gems that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about. The only gem in Idaho left was trying a dish with its famous potatoes, and that leaves a reason for me to go back.