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Urban trails

Bernice Smith of Twin Falls, walking with her dog, Ladee, is a frequent user of the Dierkes Lake trail. ‘It’s close. It doesn’t take very long to get here,’ she says.

TWIN FALLS — Twin Falls' urban trails are an excellent way to keep moving and enjoy some surprising natural settings right in town.

These seven trails are open to pedestrians, bicycles and leashed dogs — but no motorized vehicles other than wheelchairs.

Best views of Perrine Bridge, coulee waterfall

The trail: From Twin Falls’ Federation Point, it runs east along the Snake River Canyon's south rim.

Where to park: There are two official access points for this prime stretch of paved trail — a small parking lot at Federation Point, which is at Washington Street’s north end, and parking spaces behind Les Schwab Tire on Pole Line Road. Also, three restaurants that line the trail — Elevation 486, Canyon Crest and Pizza Pie Cafe — are informal entry points; the first two have wheelchair-accessible ramps.

The experience: The Federation Point trailhead overlooks a stretch of the Snake River, a golf course, dramatic canyon walls and the distant Perrine Bridge. Walking east along the Snake River Canyon rim, you’ll pass more canyon overlooks and trailside benches.

One overlook provides a superb view of Perrine Coulee spilling into the Snake River Canyon, with the bridge and a wide expanse of the gorge in sight, as well. The canyon views from the trail are, arguably, better than those from the famous bridge.

Much of the trail is edged — on the rim side — by decorative iron railings or picturesque log-rail fences. But in other sections the ragged, rocky rim is unguarded, so keep children and pets away from it.

Notes: Many stretches of this trail have no lighting at night. The only restrooms or drinking fountains you’ll find are inside business lobbies.

Urban trails

Where the trail on the Snake River Canyon rim passes under the south end of the Perrine Bridge, people line up to watch BASE jumpers take the leap.

Great views of Pillar Falls

The trail: This wide asphalt trail follows the south rim of the Snake River Canyon from the Perrine Bridge toward the east, offering great views of Pillar Falls.

Where to park: The three best places to park for easy trail access are the east side of Sportsman’s Warehouse, the west side of Best Buy or the new visitor center just west of the bridge.

The experience: This popular trail east of the bridge — like its counterpart west of the bridge — is an easy place to get a quick taste of canyon-rim walking. You’ll see a lot of tourists photographing the canyon and the bridge or watching BASE jumpers.

If you parked at the visitor center, your walk to the east will take you under the guts of the bridge, a massive and exhilarating sweep of metal that’s a Twin Falls icon. Don’t be surprised to see BASE jumpers hop over the rock wall under the bridge; some hike up from a landing zone on the canyon bottom.

In front of Sportsman’s Warehouse and its strip mall fellows, you’ll pass canyon overlooks, benches and a public sculpture. (Hint: At the overlook in front of Michaels and Famous Footwear, you’ll get a better perspective for watching parachute action than beside the bridge.)

In the Snake River below, motorboats, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards pass on their trip between Centennial Waterfront Park and Pillar Falls. Above, raptors soar in long, slow circles.

Though metal railings line the overlooks, much of this wide, paved trail is unfenced for unhindered views of the gorge. The rim is just a few feet away.

As you walk east, you’ll see the towering rocks of Pillar Falls appear upstream. With good eyesight or a long camera lens, you might spot boaters exploring the rocks at the base of the pillars as the river swirls around them.

Notes: You’ll find bathrooms and drinking fountains inside the visitor center and the lobby of Sportsman’s Warehouse, both open seven days a week. The visitor center serves free coffee. Best Buy, too, has fountains and bathrooms, but in the back of the store. East of the commercial area, the trail is unlighted at night.

Urban trails

Cyclist Chris Stephens of Twin Falls rides the Centennial Trail past a trio of settling ponds. ‘It’s a good climb here and there,’ Stephens says.

A canyon climb and Evel's ramp

The trail: The wide asphalt Centennial Trail runs from Shoshone Falls Park up to the Snake River Canyon rim, and west along the rim to daredevil Evel Knievel’s jump site.

Where to park: Parking is plentiful in Shoshone Falls Park, but you’ll pay $3 to drive in. Look for signs to “canyon rim trail.”

A second option is parking at the north end of Hankins Road North and walking straight north to Knievel’s dirt ramp.

The experience: This trail begins at the upper west side of Shoshone Falls Park. As it climbs about 250 feet, the paved trail zigzags along shelves of the canyon wall, sometimes edged by wooden fence or metal railing. Overlooks and benches offer dramatic (sometimes wet) perspectives of Shoshone Falls. Water trickling down the trailside wall attracts birds and adds a layer of sound to the ever-present roar of the falls.

The upper portion of the trail, far enough away from the park to erase most of the parking lot and groomed lawn from sight, offers solitude in the sagebrush.

Only big electricity poles mar splendidly long views of the Snake River Canyon as the trail follows the rim west through open desert, gently rising and dropping on its way to the ramp where Knievel made his famous canyon-jump attempt. 

Interesting detour: On the rim, this trail passes beside man-made settling ponds circled by at least a mile of gravel trails and planted with rushes, native grasses and poplars. You’re likely to see ducks on the water or red-winged blackbirds in the rushes.

Notes: After leaving Shoshone Falls Park, you won’t find restrooms or drinking fountains along the trail, and it’s unlighted after dark.

Dierkes Lake loop

The trail: This loop begins in a neighborhood on the south rim of the Snake River Canyon, descends to Dierkes Lake, circles the lake and its park and climbs backs to the rim. Round trip is 2.8 miles. It's a mixture of concrete sidewalk, wide asphalt trail, gravel, stairs, narrow dirt track and uneven rock.

Where to park: From Twin Falls, head east on Falls Avenue East, then north on 3400 East, which dead-ends at a pair of private subdivisions. (Don't drive into the gated subdivisions.) At the north end of 3400 East, there’s a small gravel spot with room for a couple of vehicles to park.

You can shorten your walk by paying $3 to drive past the city’s toll booth on Shoshone Falls Grade and parking at Dierkes Lake Park.

The experience: From the north end of 3400 East, take the concrete sidewalk that heads directly north past homes and yards. The walkway veers left (west) to meet a road; turn right (north) onto the road. The road, too, soon veers to the west, but watch for another concrete path that heads north.

Where the sidewalk ends, a wide asphalt trail begins. It rapidly descends the Snake River Canyon wall, then meets a wide gravel trail that follows the south side of Dierkes Lake. This is a loop, so you can take it in either direction; I advise turning right.

At the quiet east end of the lake, the trail passes fishing docks and crosses a creek before becoming a narrow dirt track often broken by rocks. Here you’ll come to seven sturdy staircases climbing the basalt. Between them, you’ll scramble over rough rocks, which can be tricky if they’re wet or icy.

At the top, signs guide you north, away from Dierkes Lake, then west, overlooking a long stretch of the Snake River and the north canyon wall. Except for a couple of excellent overlooks, you’ll be out of sight of Dierkes Lake and its noisy crowds of swimmers. This stretch of the dirt trail descends slowly, using four more staircases.

At the west end of Dierkes Lake, the trail breaks into numerous dirt tracks, all leading toward the lake’s parking lot. There a wide gravel trail resumes, skirting the playground equipment, picnic tables and swimming docks of Dierkes Lake Park.

Climb back to the canyon rim on the same asphalt trail that brought you down.

Notes: The trail is unlighted. The only restrooms are in Dierkes Lake Park.

Urban trails

The Perrine Bridge is visible from many parts of the Mogensen Trail in the Snake River Canyon.

See the canyon like kayakers do

The trail: Inside the Snake River Canyon, the Mogensen Trail runs along the river’s south side between the Centennial Waterfront Park entrance and a landing site for BASE jumpers east of the Perrine Bridge. Its name honors a longtime Boy Scout leader.

Hikers here are rewarded with intimate views of a river stretch most familiar to boaters. The canyon walls are gorgeous, and you won’t have to pay for kayak rental to see them.

What to expect: This trail is only for the surefooted, and children need supervision. Trail surfaces include loose dirt, boulders, scree, footbridges, steep stairs, wooden planks and mud. Expect some sharp dropoffs beside the trail. Overgrown trees and vegetation crowd the trail in places, and adults have to stoop to pass under bushes.

The Mogensen Trail is on private and Bureau of Land Management land. Scout groups do some trail maintenance. Still, the trail is more informal, by far, than Twin Falls’ other urban trails.

Where to park: From Blue Lakes Boulevard North, turn west onto Canyon Springs Road and drive down into the Snake River Canyon. Just outside the gated entrance to Centennial Waterfront Park, you’ll find a small, dirt parking area and a “Mogensen Trail” sign.

The experience: This ramble in the canyon offers new perspectives on landmarks you thought you knew well. Right below the rim’s restaurants and subdivisions, this hidden spot still has a lot of wildness about it, too.

Heading east, you’ll start off on a loose dirt trail. As a rocky section of the trail descends to a lower shelf of the canyon bottom, a lovely view of the Snake River opens up to your left. And from your right, you’ll hear the first of many waterfalls. If you step off the trail to admire it, beware of an abrupt drop-off.

Helping your descent you’ll have a long flight of metal steps, then a flight of steep wooden steps. Shortly after, a long wooden footbridge crosses one of the larger streams that fall toward the river. It’s worth lingering on this bridge to enjoy a long, private view of the river — the best one on this trail.

Numerous small waterfalls supply an almost constant soundtrack for the hike, and wooden planks cross gullies big and small. The river is often hidden from view, but you’re likely to hear voices from that direction; kayaking from Centennial Waterfront Park upstream to Pillar Falls is particularly popular. And when the sound of falling water eventually recedes, it’s replaced by the rumble of traffic high above on the Perrine Bridge, which dominates the view ahead.

After hiking through a stretch of tall grasses, you’ll arrive at a big open area marked by a flag. That’s the typical landing site for BASE jumpers.

Notes: Thistles and stinging nettle are plentiful, so clothing that covers your legs and arms is a good idea. The trail isn’t gated, but get out before dark anyway. And you won’t find any drinking water or restrooms here.

Urban trails

Following Rock Creek as it cuts through southwest Twin Falls, the Old Towne Parkway offers picnic tables, benches and a number of open, grassy areas inside the canyon.

Shady retreat

The trail: The Old Towne Parkway lies inside a 1.6-mile stretch of Rock Creek Canyon as the creek cuts through southwest Twin Falls. Thanks to an enormous canyon-cleanup effort by volunteers in the 1990s, this shady, quiet trail offers a rare urban retreat.

The experience: The wide, paved trail meanders along tree-lined Rock Creek, punctuated with benches. The canyon is narrow here, but brush is cut well back from the path and grasses are mowed in wide swaths on both sides. Occasionally the canyon widens enough for big grassy areas and picnic tables.

Fences and factories are visible on the canyon rim, and you may hear trains and industrial equipment above. But you can lower your sights and lose yourself in birdsong, gurgling water and the laughter of kids with bicycles and fishing poles. Deer and ducks frequent the canyon.

The trail’s drawbacks are graffiti, trash, occasional unsavory odors and no drinking fountains. And it’s advisable to stay off the canyon’s crumbling rock walls, where some rusty remnants of Rock Creek’s less-than-pristine past remain.

Where to park: Of the trail’s four access points, the one on Blake Street South (between Third Avenue West and DeLong Avenue) is the most welcoming, thanks to a patch of tended lawn and a portable toilet. The small, paved parking lot here means wheelchairs and walkers don’t have to negotiate dirt or gravel to reach the trail.

At wet times of year, trailhead parking can be muddy at the end of Bracken Street (south of Addison Avenue West), and you’ll find space for only a couple of vehicles.

You might encounter parking lot mud at the trailhead beside the Twin Falls Parks and Recreation Department on Maxwell Avenue, too. But parking is plentiful, and the trail’s only other portable toilet is there.

Another access point, near the intersection of Fifth Avenue West and Washington Street, is hard to find. Look for a gravel driveway disappearing behind Superior Woodworking’s big, yellow industrial building. Don’t park in the large gravel lot beside that building; instead, follow the driveway down to a couple of spaces directly beside the trailhead.

No matter which access point you choose, exiting the canyon means a climb. But long, paved grades let you do it gradually.

Notes: The Old Towne Parkway is closed from sunset to sunrise.

Canyon solitude with park comforts

The trail: A paved trail on the canyon floor connects popular, well-maintained Rock Creek Park with its companion RV park and follows the creek downstream.

Where to park: The two county-owned parks at the heart of this pretty trail mean you can drive right down into the canyon to start your stroll, with the amenities of a developed park close at hand.

On Twin Falls’ Addison Avenue West — just west of the County West office building and the bridge over Rock Creek — turn north into either the Rock Creek Park entrance or the one for Rock Creek RV Park. Both lead directly into the canyon, entry is free, and both tree-filled parks have plentiful paved parking, covered picnic tables, vault toilets, playground equipment and tended lawns. The two roads aren’t connected, however.

If you’d rather walk down from the canyon rim, you have three other access options:

At the southwest corner of the County West parking lot, a paved trail leaves the canyon rim just beside Addison, gradually descends the canyon wall and crosses a footbridge to enter the RV park. (The trailhead is a little hard to spot from the County West parking lot; don’t be distracted by a weedy dirt path that runs along the rim.)

Another paved trail leads down from the small dirt parking lot at the south end of Grandview Drive North and joins the main trail near the RV park.

At the west end of Filer Avenue West, you’ll find another trailhead with unpaved parking. Here the grade that descends the canyon wall is loose dirt, but the first and last holes of Rock Creek Park’s 18-hole disc golf course are here. This access joins the main trail near its west end, and it’s all asphalt once you reach the canyon floor.

Trail length: From the east canyon-rim access point at the county offices, it’s a 1.4-mile walk to the trail’s western end, where it dead-ends beside the creek. You can add to the length with loops in both parks.

The experience: On pleasant days, Rock Creek Park draws masses of anglers, picnickers, RVs, bikes, dog owners and family photo shoots, but you can find solitude on the trail's west end. There, you’ll find benches well away from the crowds, where birdsong and running water might provide the only sounds.

And along that west stretch — from Rock Creek Park to the trail's dead-end just beyond the Filer access — the disc golf course challenges players with multiple locations for each hole, some strange terrain and a lot of water hazards. It’s a well-developed course, with concrete tee pads and detailed signs.

In some places, the trail squeezes between the canyon wall and the Russian olive trees that line the creek. In others, the canyon opens up enough for grassy areas and more disc golf holes.

A drawback on this trail is occasional nasty odor from the creek and its swampy areas.

Notes: The entire trail and both parks are unlighted — the pavilions are lighted only if they’re reserved — but you’re allowed to walk the trail any time of day or night if you want to.

Drive-in park access has some limits, however. Rock Creek Park’s gates are closed between dusk and 7 a.m.; the park is open year-round. Rock Creek RV Park is open around the clock from April 1 to Nov. 1, and its gate closes in the off-season.

Be vigilant about monitoring children here; the creek’s water is swift, it isn’t fenced, and in places the dropoff is abrupt.

You won’t find drinking fountains.

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