Why Southeast Idaho is an outdoor paradise

To say the Pocatello/Chubbuck area is an outdoors paradise is an understatement.

With countless miles of trails, plenty of fishing holes and easy access to some of the world’s most renowned national parks, Southeast Idaho is one of the best places to live if you enjoy nature and the wild. Pocatello and Chubbuck are at the heart of this outdoor oasis.

Here are some of the many fun and exciting outdoor adventures you can look forward to:

Southeast Idaho is a haven for mountain bikers.
Southeast Idaho is a haven for mountain bikers.


Whether you prefer to ride the mountains or the roads, the Pocatello area has something for you.

Throughout the year, the growing Southeast Idaho biking community has plenty of events for cyclists to show off their skills.

Every June, Pocatello PedalFest brings in mountain bikers from around the West to tackle’s the massive City Creek trail system. Weeks later, Pocatello hosts the annual Spinderella ride, a non-competitive road biking event designed to encourage female cycling. Though it was only started a few years ago, Spinderella now brings over 1,000 riders each year to the Gate City. Some of the participants have hailed from Canada and Europe.

The local cycling club, Idaho Cycling Enthusiasts, regularly hosts a variety of hillclimbs throughout the summer. The recently established 4 Peaks Gran Fondo, where riders tackle four local mountains, is hosted every August. The Tour de Lava, a road cycling event held in nearby Lava Hot Springs in early June, raises money for a different local cause each year.

Plus, cyclists in the Pocatello area are only hours away from other well-known rides and races, including LoToJa and the Tour of Idaho.

But besides the events, what helps set Pocatello apart is the trails.

Cyclists ride a trail in City Creek.
Cyclists ride a trail in City Creek.

City Creek

Many of the area’s cyclists often joke that there are more trails in Southeast Idaho than there are mountain bikers. While that’s probably not true, it is safe to say that Pocatello has emerged as one of the top mountain biking destinations in the Intermountain West.

At the heart of this distinction lie the numerous trails systems available to bikers, hikers, four-wheelers, dog walkers and horseback riders. Among the most popular trail systems is the City Creek Management Area. Every day throughout the spring, summer and fall, local residents can be found taking advantage of the miles and miles of trails located along the west bench of Pocatello.

There are dozens of trails at City Creek, ranging from easy, intermediate, difficult to extremely difficult. While most of the system’s trails eventually connect with one another, each one has its own personality. There’s the meandering, easy-going City Creek Trail that cuts toward Kinport Peak. Then there’s the thrilling 911, a downhill roller coaster-style trail designed for skilled bikers. Then there’s the escalating, switchback-laden Over the Top Trail for the most experienced.

South Bannock Highway

But City Creek is not the only high-quality trail system in the Pocatello area. In fact, a car ride down South Bannock Highway reveals why so many trail enthusiasts love Southeast Idaho.

First there’s the Gibson Jack Trail. Recently, the Gibson Jack trailhead was rebuilt to accommodate more parking, a move that has been applauded by area recreationalists. From Gibson Jack you can access the City Creek area by way of the Sterling Justice Trail. Or you can head west and enjoy some of the finest mountain scenery in the West. Eventually, the Gibson Jack Trail connects with the Elk Meadows Loop, a popular trail with local mountain bikers that’s renowned for its pristine natural beauty.

Continuing the drive down South Bannock Highway leads to the Cherry Springs Nature Area, which features an easy figure-eight paved trail. Cherry Springs is a great place to take the family, with plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities and various designated nature stops along the way.

Slightly past Cherry Springs lies the entrance to Scout Mountain, the towering peak that lies south of Pocatello. Here hikers and bikers can take advantage of some high-quality, high-altitude trails. Though the trip to the top of Scout is exhausting, the views are worth the trip.

The West Fork Mink Creek Trail lies further down the road. West Fork features a steady climb, with fantastic views along the way. Ultimately, West Fork ends at the previously mentioned Elk Meadows Loop, but numerous other trails can be accessed from this point.

A family walks along the Portneuf Greenway trail at the Edson Fichter Nature Area.
A family walks along the Portneuf Greenway trail at the Edson Fichter Nature Area.

Portneuf Greenway

In the future, Pocatello residents will be able to hike or bike across a series of paved pathways encircling the Gate City. That’s the dream of the Portneuf Greenway Foundation, and with sections of this grand loop already in place, someday that dream will become a reality.

Currently, there are greenway trails along the west side of Pocatello, at the Edson Fichter Nature Area on the southside of town, near Idaho State University and Ross Park, near the hotels bordering Interstate 15 and along portions of the Highland area in the northeast side of town.

Since its founding approximately 24 years ago, the Portneuf Greenway Foundation has helped construct approximately 12 miles of paved trails in the Gate City area. The foundation’s long-term goal is to connect all of these trails into one cohesive greenway system, which the group said provides massive economic and health benefits to local residents.

A local boy with a rainbow trout that was caught at the Portneuf Wellness Complex's opening in September 2015.
A local boy with a rainbow trout that was caught at the Portneuf Wellness Complex’s opening in September 2015.

Portneuf Wellness Complex

More paved trails can be found at the massive Portneuf Wellness Complex, located at the northeast side of Pocatello off Olympus Drive and East Chubbuck Road. But there’s plenty of other outdoors activities to enjoy at the 80-acre complex.

Opened in 2015, the Portneuf Wellness Complex features numerous outdoor amenities designed to improve the health and well-being of local residents and visitors. Besides the trails, these amenities include a multi-use championship field with stadium bleachers and lighting, six large soccer fields, four sand volleyball courts, a mountain bike park and two basketball courts. The complex also features a 6.35-acre urban fishing pond, where visitors can fish for trout or Kokanee salmon, hang out on the beach or go for a dip in the roped-off swimming section.

However, the centerpiece of the complex is the Portneuf Health Trust Amphitheatre, which hosts a variety of concerts and performances throughout the summer. Since its grand opening in 2015, the 11,000-capacity outdoor venue has hosted the Beach Boys, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Keith Urban, Boston, Styx, Tesla, Bret Michaels, Ratt, Warrant, Dokken and Lita Ford, with more acts coming in 2017.

Edson Fichter Nature Area

Located on the south side of Pocatello near Indian Hill Elementary School, Edson Fichter is a family-friendly nature area that features a fishing pond that’s routinely stocked with catchable rainbow trout.

Though situated in the city, Edson Fichter gives visitors a chance to feel like they are escaping from busy urban life. Numerous paved trails run through the area, providing peaceful, scenic views of the Portneuf River, with 40 acres of natural landscape dominated by native plant species, trees and spring wildflowers.

Besides the fauna and flora, visitors can expect to see mule deer, foxes, osprey, waterfowl, swallows and the occasional great-horned owl hanging around the area throughout the year.

There’s even a rope swing in a quiet, shaded swimming area along one of the trails.


Urban fisheries, such as the ones located at the Edson Fichter Nature Area and the Portneuf Wellness Complex, aren’t for everybody’s taste. Some anglers prefer the rural isolation of a mountain stream or lake.

Luckily, Southeast Idaho is a paradise for those looking to reel in a big catch.

The American Falls Reservoir, located a brief drive west of Pocatello, is one of the top local spots for fishing and boating. During the summer months, the reservoir boosts some phenomenal trout and carp fishing. But during the fall, anglers fishing the Snake River below the dam will find some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in the region.

How big do the fish get in the American Falls area? In 2011, a 34-pound, 11-ounce cutbow trout (a cutthroat and rainbow trout hybrid) was pulled from the reservoir’s waters. A year later, a woman from the nearby town of Pingree reeled in a rainbow trout that weighed more than 20 pounds from the Snake River above the dam.

More fishing holes lie to the south and southeast of the city, including the massive Bear Lake, the scenic Blackfoot Reservoir and the Oneida Reservoir, which features walleye. There’s also plenty of streams to work, including the trout-rich Upper Portneuf River near Lava Hot Springs and the meandering Bear River near Grace.

Whether you prefer to fly fish or cast your line from a boat or the shoreline, you have limitless possibilities in the Pocatello/Chubbuck area.

Teeing off at Riverside Golf Course.
Teeing off at Riverside Golf Course.


Need a relaxing day on the golf course? Pocatello has two full-size 18-hole municipal golf courses.

Riverside Golf Course off Bannock Highway on the south side features over 6,000 yards of golf from the longest tees and a par of 72. The course’s scenery is absolutely beautiful as the hilly greens line up along the Portneuf River.

On the northeast side of the city lies Highland Golf Course. Nestled in the middle of homes in the Highland area, this golf course offers golfers a fun but challenging 18 holes. This course was designed by George Von Elm, a Utah golfer who defeated the legendary Bobby Jones in 1926.

If you just need to practice your drive, the Outback Golf Park off Pocatello Creek Road offers far-reaching driving ranges, as well as a miniature golf course and a swimming pool that’s perfect for the hot summer months.


Disc Golf

It’s easy to see why disc golf has become one of the fastest growing sports since the beginning of the 21st century. The equipment is inexpensive, it’s fun, it’s great exercise, and with the number of disc golf courses doubling between 2000 and 2008, it’s incredibly easy to find a place to play.

Fortunately for those who like to throw the frisbee, the Pocatello/Chubbuck area has both volume and variety in terms of difficulty level. For an easy-going round of nine holes, check out Upper Ross Park. The hilly park is popular and well-attended, with terrain well-suited for families.

Sister City Park, which is located off Pocatello Creek Road before it splits with Satterfield Drive, definitely provides a tough challenge for intermediate disc golfers. The 18-hole course is incredibly varied, starting relatively easy on manicured grass before becoming more technical as you try to navigate the holes through the thick hills and the junipers.

ISU’s Bengal Ridge, located near the junction of West Buckskin and American roads near ON Semiconductor, might be one of the toughest disc golf courses in the Northwest. The 18-hole course cuts through the foothills, where there are no trees and few level places to stand. Bengal Ridge is exhausting, but it’s great fun.

Outside of Pocatello, there is an easy disc golf course at Jensen Grove Park near Blackfoot and a challenging course among the rocky cliffs at Massacre Rocks State Park, located west of Pocatello.

Tourists watch Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, which is only a few hours drive away from Pocatello.
Tourists watch Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, which is only a few hours drive away from Pocatello.


While there is no official “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the argument can be made that Yellowstone National Park fits the bill. With its numerous geothermal features, lakes, rivers, canyons and diverse wildlife, the nation’s first national park has to be seen in person to be fully appreciated and revered.

It’s not uncommon for many Pocatello and Chubbuck residents to pay at least one visit to the park each year, and it’s easy to see why. It’s only a few hours drive away, and no matter how many times you visit, you always see something new and awe-inspiring.

But Yellowstone isn’t the only national park that can be easily accessed from Southeast Idaho. Just south of Yellowstone lies Grand Teton National Park, a haven for mountain climbers the world over.

A farther drive north leads to Glacier National Park, while a drive south takes you and your family to a plethora of parks in Utah, including but not limited to Zion, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef. If you leave earlier enough, you can access the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona in a day’s time

Idaho itself has numerous state parks that offer plenty for outdoor lovers. The closest to Pocatello is Massacre Rocks, a famous spot along the Oregon and California trails during the westward migration in the 19th century. At the southeastern corner of Idaho lies Bear Lake State Park, a popular destination for swimmers and boaters from the Pocatello area. Closer to Yellowstone lies Harriman and Henrys Lake state parks. Both of these getaways offer some of the best camping and fishing in the region.



Whether you prefer adrenaline-pumping thrills of downhill skiing or the solitary activity of cross-country skiing along the trails, Pocatello has you covered.

After the snow begins to fall around Christmas time and the dirt on the trails gives way to white powder, many of Pocatello’s trails open up to cross-country skiers. One popular location for cross-country skiers is the East Fork Mink Creek Nordic Center south of Pocatello.

Tucked away in the hills below Scout Mountain, the nordic center offers 21 kilometers of groomed trails for cross-country skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts. Plus, there’s even a sledding hill and a few trails designated for fat-tire snow bikes. Every January, the center also hosts the annual Potato Cup, a cross-country skiing event that attracts participants from around the region.

For those who prefer downhill excitement, there’s the popular Pebble Creek Ski Area located in nearby Inkom. It’s commonly said that if you can ski Pebble Creek, also known as “the Rock,” you can ski anywhere in the world. But don’t let that intimidate you, because the resort offers trails for multiple skill levels. During the winter season, there’s also plenty of events held at the resort to stay entertained and enjoy some of the finest winter activities Southeast Idaho has to offer.



If you prefer to see the winter backcountry on a motorized sled, there’s plenty of snowmobile trails scattered throughout the region.

The Bannock County grooming program maintains 250 miles of groomed snowmobile trails in Bannock, Power and Caribou counties. Two popular local locations are the Scout Mountain-Mink Creek area and the Inman-Pebble-Toponce areas, both located south of Pocatello. Each area has a warming shelter and parking.

Further south are the Portneuf Range-Inkom/Lava trails, which feature spectacular views of Mount Bonneville and the Portneuf River area near Lava Hot Springs. You can tour hundreds of miles of groomed trails through uncrowded forest terrain.

Up north of Pocatello are the Blackfoot-Bone-Wolverine trails, a 200-mile network of trails southeast of Idaho Falls and northeast of Blackfoot.

Post Author: David Ashby

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