Don’t put your kayaks away for the season just yet! Southern Idaho’s continuous warm weather means there’s still time to experience one of the state’s most beautiful waterfalls.
Burrowed deep in the Snake River Canyon you’ll find a phenomenal formation of pillars, unburdened by vehicles or roads. These massive rocks soar high above the ground, precariously perched next to one another.
Between the peaks, water cascades through a series of terraces known as Pillar Falls. This beautiful display is a part of the longest body of water in the Gem State, the Snake River. It’s absolutely stunning and a must on your Idaho bucket list.
The Snake River is 779 miles long, but you’ll only need to tackle three miles of that in order to experience this unique spot. Another option is attempting an extremely steep, one mile downhill hike. You can find details for the Pillar Falls hike here.
How you choose to travel to this hidden gem is entirely up to you. Personally, I decided to kayak. I think it’s preferable if you’d like to experience the BASE jumpers on Perrine Bridge up close and personal, but would also prefer to stay dry.
The paddle to Pillar Falls is almost as extraordinary as the destination itself. A large portion of your trek will include marveling at one of the crown jewels of Twin Falls, Perrine Bridge.
Pictures don’t do this place justice. There’s nowhere else like it in the country, literally. Perrine Bridge is the only bridge in the United States where it is legal to BASE jump, year-round, without a permit.
Watching the BASE jumpers, looking ever so tiny from where you’ll be floating, amplifies the magnitude of the canyon.
Bobbing in the water, anxiously awaiting the impending jump, you can almost feel the adrenaline radiating off the next person fearless enough to take the leap.
People travel from all around the world to experience the 486 foot drop. I can only imagine the thrill of feeling your weight fall below your feet, your heart sinking into your chest, and the sheer elation of soaring through the sky.
BASE jumping can be very risky, so you won’t ever see me trying it. That being said, I thoroughly enjoy the spectating portion of the sport and think you would too!
I ended up watching the BASE jumpers for about a half hour. During the peak season, you’ll see a thrillseeker test their luck every few minutes. There is something so heart stoppingly exciting about witnessing others do what I could never bring myself to.
I held my breath each time someone’s feet left the safety of the ledge, let out a sigh of relief once their parachute deployed, and watched in admiration as they gently glided to safety. I could have stayed there all day, but we needed to get a move on.
From our starting point at Centennial Park, the trip to Pillar Falls is 1.5 miles upstream. To say my arms were sore is an understatement.
They don’t call it the Magic Valley for no reason. This region is home to a plethora of natural wonders, including Shoshone Falls.
Coming in at 212 feet, Shoshone Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in the country, surpassing the height of Niagara Falls. Despite its remote location, Shoshone Falls has drawn big crowds since the 1860’s.
Pillar Falls is constantly overlooked due to its close proximity to its famous counterpart, although both are accessible in one kayaking trip. All you have to do is carry your kayak across the rocky terrain that makes up Pillar Falls, to the connecting part of the Snake River.
There is about 100 yards between your initial docking point and your upstream launch point.
From there, it will take you another mile and a half to get to Shoshone Falls, doubling the length of your journey and bringing you to six miles roundtrip.
It took me about four hours to get to Pillar Falls and back, so if you’d like to go to Shoshone Falls as well, allot twice as much time. Please note that times can vary drastically. It all depends on how fast you can paddle, how heavily the wind is blowing and how long you plan on hanging around to sightsee, so plan accordingly.
Unlike Pillar Falls, Shoshone Falls is accessible via car. It’s Twin Falls’ most popular tourist attraction, and there is a perch where visitors can admire the cascade from afar.
Personally, I think it is much more exciting to experience Shoshone Falls from below. There is something about the waves rocking you back and forth, listening to the water roar, and feeling the spray of the falls on your face that allows you to appreciate the magnitude of this natural phenomenon in a whole new way.
Paddling is the only option when it comes to experiencing these breathtaking views. Unlike Pillar Falls, this incredible vantage point is not accessible via motorized boat or hike.
I brought my own kayak for this adventure, but not to worry if you don’t have one. There are nearby businesses that provide rentals. You can browse rates here.
If you decide to bring your own kayak, you must purchase an Invasive Species Fund Sticker from Idaho Parks and Rec ahead of time. You can purchase your 2021 sticker here.
Once you make it to Pillar Falls, you can fish, hike, and observe the vibrant ecosystems thriving in small individual pools throughout the area.
Walking beneath these magnificent monoliths, I was in complete awe of their size and splendor. However, this beauty does not come without a bit of danger.
The Snake River is funneled into a ten-foot-wide torrent with a current strong enough to pull down a kayak. It is a well known drowning hazard and the reason why kayaks need to be carried past this portion. Please take this seriously and do not get too close to the ledge. People have lost their lives here.
This upstream voyage can be extremely taxing, so be sure to check the wind in the forecast before you make the drive out here. Keep in mind that the wind speed is higher inside the canyon as well.
This may not be the most popular opinion, but I actually prefer to take this excursion in the cooler weather. I got to experience Pillar Falls in the Spring, and I was still sweating up a storm! You can watch the video of my experience below. It will also show you exactly where to park, launch and hike! Enjoy!