Tom and I stopped at Malad Gorge State Park in search of the Grand Canyon of Idaho. Several people on TripAdvisor refer to Malad Gorge as the Grand Canyon of Idaho and I couldn’t find a better candidate. However, in the month since we stopped at Malad Gorge, the Bureau of Land Management has decided to refer to Bruneau Canyon as the Grand Canyon of Idaho. Because the BLM is an official body and TripAdvisor is not, I must conclude that Bruneau Canyon is the Grand Canyon of Idaho. Unfortunately, it is not one of the canyons we saw while we were in Idaho.
Malad Gorge State Park encompasses a canyon that could be the Grand Canyon of Idaho. The pictures look exactly the same! It is also much more accessible than Bruneau Canyon. In fact, anyone who drives I-84 through Idaho goes right over the Malad Gorge. We visited the gorge on the same day we went to Hagerman Fossil Beds and the Thousand Springs area. The gorge is part of the Thousand Springs State Park.
You take exit 147 off I-84 to reach Malad Gorge. Take Ritchie Road north, and you run into the entrance for the park. The main parking area leads to a sturdy bridge that spans the gorge. You are 150 feet above the gorge when you are in the middle of the bridge. If you look north, you can see the I-84 bridge above you. Below you is the Devil’s Washbowl, a series of descending rapids that flows into a large bowl hollowed from the rock by the water. If you look south, you see the gorge with the river winding its way through the bottom.
The only way down into the gorge is via Old Malad River Road. Following the road under I-84 with a turn to the left takes you over the old bridge in the gorge. You can park next to the river and hike into the gorge. There are no formal trails in the 652 acres of the gorge.
We drove a little further into the state park and found another parking lot just before an area closed for the winter. The day was sunny and warm, so we walked past the gate and followed the road to the edge of the gorge. It gave us a different perspective. We could see a hydro-electric dam just past a curve in the river. The Malad River flows into the Snake River just past this point.
Malad Gorge may not be the Grand Canyon of Idaho (we will have to save that for another trip) but it is a lovely spot to enjoy. If you are driving I-84 through Idaho, get off at exit 147 and stretch your legs by visiting this scenic park.