On the north side of the Snake River Canyon, between Buhl, Hagerman and Gooding, there is a local haunt, a small canyon that has been kept secret to many. A spring that feeds into the river runs through the small canyon that has been a local hideout for teenagers for a long time.
Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon Spring Nature Preserve is known for its short yet challenging walking trail and scenic overlooks. Before it became a state park local kids used to inner tube the fast-flowing creek. Now others are discovering the Magic Valley’s best-kept secret.
“It’s surprising,” said Twin Falls resident Blaze Requa. “The trail looked really unpromising, but it’s awesome.”
The five-mile loop leads across some open farmland to the canyon rim, about three-fourths of a mile from the parking lot, where you can look down the 200-foot canyon wall and see the 50-degree water bubbling up from the aquifer.
“It’s hard to beat the view looking down at the spring,” said Eric Whittekiend, a ranger at Thousand Springs State Park. “You really can’t find that many other places.”
The trail then goes farther along the rim until it cuts into the side of the canyon, another quarter mile from the lookout. The trail is not maintained, as a sign warns at the point where it drops into the canyon. It has some steep and rocky parts but it isn’t very long before you are right beside the spring. This time of year the trail is pretty overgrown and you have to walk single file to avoid the stinging nettle that grows along the spring.
“You used to be able to walk two by two,” said Justine Hernandez, who tries to get down to box canyon at least three times a summer. “Right now you have to walk single file and you still get whacked by the brush.”
Another third of a mile down the trail you might be surprised to see some decking and stairs that were put in a few years ago to look out over the waterfall that cascades through the canyon. If you continue down the trail about another quarter-mile, you will see what looks like a lake but is actually where the water is diverted from its natural flow. The diversion creates a pool that, for those who are brave enough to jump in, can make for a refreshing dip on a hot summer day.
“It’s so cold,” exclaimed Scott Bixler as he came up to catch his breath after jumping in for the first time.
Most folks learn about Box Canyon by word of mouth. There isn’t much out there advertising the spot that many locals would like to keep secret. The only way you know there is even a trailhead is the Idaho State Park pay box and informational sign that are stationed beside the small parking lot. You can’t see the canyon from the parking lot and most people get lost when trying to find it.
“The first time we tried to find it we ended up in Malad Gorge,” said Chance Requa of Twin Falls.
However difficult it may be to find this paradise in the middle of the desert, it is always worth the search.
“The end reward far outweighs it,” said Cindy Requa.
There is a road that leads out of the canyon back up to the top and the parking lot, but for a shorter hike just double back and head out the way you came in.