Over the past week I’ve spent a bit of time in Idaho, first traveling to Yosemite National park by way of West Yellowstone and then out of Grant Tetons National Park by way of Jackson, Wyoming.
Much of Eastern Idaho is farm country; rolling hills of potato fields, with rows of soil cut deep and mounded up for planting and irrigation. As I passed by metal roofs covering long sod row houses, I realized the buildings were intended for keeping a harvested crop dark, cool, and dry.
To appreciate the influence of the potato on Idaho’s agricultural industry, begin your Eastern Idaho road trip with a stop at the Idaho Potato Museum and Gift Shop in Blackfoot. A museum, cafe, and Idaho-themed gift shop, visitors pay a small admission fee to learn everything they ever wanted to know about the solanum tuberosum.
Where to Stay
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Lucky guests may encounter one of the museum’s Marilyn Monroe look alike’s dressed in a burlap potato sack (read the back story here). A recent addition to the museum is a cafe at the rear of the building; as you might suspect, french fries and potato ice cream are popular menu items.
Before you leave, make sure and ask for your complimentary taters for out-of-staters item from the gift shop.
Between Blackfoot and Rexburg, the Hells Half Acre rest area (either side of the raod) is a must stop. Build adjacent to the Hell’s Half Acre Lava Trail System, a paved walkway leads visitors around lava tubes and flow associated with a volcanic eruption near the Snake River Plane and comprising a 222 square-mile landscape similar to what you might experience in Craters of the Moon National Monument in Central Oregon.
Interpretive signs and benches mark the paved path; I opted for the long loop, but the short loop would suffice for anyone on a schedule or with little(r) kids. Picnic areas are available and, I noticed, shielded somewhat from the wind. Here’s a photo looking down on the rest stop from the top of the short loop.
On my northbound journey to Yellowstone National Park, I made a short (28 mile) detour from US 14 on the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway. As such, I was rewarded with sweeping views of the Targhee National Forest on a road that hugged the side of the mountain (Note: I am a bit terrified of heights and I found myself straddling the middle line as much as possible on many sections of this drive.)
At the name implies, the main stopping points on the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway are the upper and lower Mesa Falls. Heading North, the lower falls is the first stop and you can really only view the falls from a short trail a moderate distance from the river.
The upper falls, however, is a different story. Accessible walkways lead down past the Big Falls interpretive center and out practically over the river from just above the main drop (and looking back onto the falls from where I snapped this photo).
On my return trip, I followed US 33 out of Jackson, Wyoming and stopped at the AmericInn in Rexburg for the night. I was fairly tired from hours of hiking inside Grand Teton National Park and ready for a shower and comfortable bed.
Like the other AmericInn hotels I frequented on my grand adventure Out West, the Rexburg location featured an open lobby with fireplace and fresh coffee to warm the mind and body. Anyone looking for a trip souvenir could browse the huckleberry-themed gifts in the small gift shop. Another fun discovery was the pool table in the pool room (balls are available to check out at the front desk).
I’m writing this story as part of a spontaneous adventure exploring the sites and scenery around AmericInn locations in Idaho, Wyoming, and South Dakota. AmericInn is giving away ninety-two $200 vouchers as part of the Fill-Inn-to-Win game running through August 31. Read more information here: https://www.roadtripsforfamilies.com/americinn-fill-inn-win-game/
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