Exploring Idaho's Hagerman Valley | Jest Kept Secret

Exploring Idaho’s Hagerman Valley

It was a lovely spring day when my sister (Kate) and her husband (Taylor) invited me to join them on a day trip to central Idaho. We packed road trip goodies, plenty of water, and my trusty camera and drove two hours southeast of Boise to the Hagerman Valley.

The first photo op of the day came when we stopped for gas near Bliss, Idaho. I got out to stretch my legs while Taylor filled up the car, and I couldn’t help but snap a few pictures of the grungy tanks and hometown cafe that shared the parking lot. I especially loved the dinosaur.

The Hagerman Sheep Monument

The Hagerman Sheep Monument is a larger-than-life-size sculpture that pays tribute to the wool industry of Idaho. The monument was commissioned by Bill Jones, himself a shepherd, and sculpted by Twin Falls artist Danny Edwards.[1] The sculpture, titled “Trailin’ Home,” depicts a shepherd, his flock, his horse, his dog, and even has an old shepherd’s wagon nearby. The detail in the piece is really amazing, and I was seriously tempted to try hopping up on the back of the horse.

The Hagerman Horse

Hagerman, ID is home to the Hagerman Fossil Beds, a National Monument where the famous Hagerman Horse fossil was discovered in 1928. The fossilized equid was first discovered by the rancher who owned the land, and later, five skeletons and hundreds of skulls and bones were discovered at the site.[2] We didn’t take the time to go visit the fossil beds, but we did stop at the visitor’s center in downtown Hagerman. The visitor’s center is a tiny place, but it is packed to the gills with an impressive collection of fossils and bones. It’s well worth a visit.[3]

Hagerman National Fish Hatchery

If you’ve never been to a fish hatchery, you’re missing out. They’re awfully stinky, for sure, but they’re also fascinating. This particular hatchery has been in operation since 1933 and produces 1.4 million steelhead and 130,000 rainbow trout each year. Visitors can explore the raceways, where the fish are raised from fry to smolts before being released on the Salmon River.[4] There’s also a display pond, where several six-foot sturgeon patrol the quieter waters.

But I think our collective favorite part of visiting the hatchery was watching the fish jumping up the “waterfalls” at the end of each raceway. Here is a video for your viewing pleasure:

Hagerman National Fish Hatchery from Jess Friedman| Jest Kept Secret on Vimeo.

Box Canyon Springs

But the true highlight of the day was our hike down into Box Canyon Springs Preserve. The hike starts at a dusty parking lot in the middle of someone’s field, and there’s not much to see at first except some rocks and some marmots.

But once you reach the rim of the gorge, you’re in for quite the surprise.

Look at that color!! I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t touch the saturation on these photos—that is the actual color of the water. I was in awe.

Our path dropped us nearly straight down into the gorge, then we hiked briefly along the river until we reached the falls. When Kate told me that we were going to see some springs and a waterfall, I had naïvely pictured a tiny creek with a few rapids. NOPE. Instead, we got this majestic beast:

Box Canyon Springs Preserve Waterfall Hike from Jess Friedman| Jest Kept Secret on Vimeo.

Hard to believe that much water came out of a spring, huh? Apparently, it’s the 11th largest spring in the United States![5]

After spending a long time admiring the falls, we continued down the trail and enjoyed the lovely scenery. Spring hadn’t quite sprung down in the canyon yet, but it was working on it.

The river led us to a pond where the water continued to elicit Ooo’s and Ahhh’s from me and my hiking companions. Wow, what a place. The hike was super easy, and the view was absolutely incredible. Box Canyon Springs is definitely worth your time and makes a great day trip from Boise or Twin Falls.

Niagara Springs

Before heading back to Boise, we stopped at one more park to see another waterfall. This one is called Niagara Springs, and while it’s nowhere close to the size and grandeur of Niagara Falls, it’s still quite pretty.

Plan Your Trip

  • Hagerman Valley
  • Distance from Boise: 1.5 hours
    Distance from Pocatello: 2 hours
  • Budget: Only what you need for gas, plus state park parking fees ($5)
    Pro Tip: Idaho drivers can get a state parks pass for only $10 with their vehicle registration. This pass lets you park at any Idaho state park for free.
  • 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
    Rating

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Exploring Idaho's Hagerman Valley | Jest Kept SecretExploring Idaho's Box Canyon Springs State Park | Jest Kept Secret

[1] Hagerman Valley Chamber

[2] Wikipedia: The Hagerman Horse

[3] I don’t remember why, but the full skeleton that usually stands in the middle of the visitor’s center was gone when we visited, hence why there are no pictures of it. But you can see pictures other visitors have taken on TripAdvisor.

[4] Fish and Wildlife Service: Hagerman National Fish Hatchery

[5] The Nature Conservancy

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