Summer is almost over — but don’t worry, there’s no need to waste a moment wishing it could last longer. At Lava Hot Springs, you’ll find plenty of ways to sink into the delights of the season: blazing fall colors, cool-weather hiking, stunning sunsets, meandering drives, and plenty of free-flowing beer. And, of course, Lava’s famous hot springs!
During the autumn, the crowds that pack Lava during the summer thin out, but the magical experiences keep on rolling. You’ll still find ample opportunity to go on a zipline adventure, pamper yourself, cast a line, while away an afternoon shopping, spend a crisp morning recreating in town playing disc golf or pickleball, or hit downtown for a delicious meal and nightlife.
Add any of these six experiences to your itinerary — whether you plan to spend a week or a weekend here, you’ll discover an adventure that fits your schedule.
1. Catch a Sunset From the Springs: The days might be getting shorter, but that just means less time to wait until one of Southeastern Idaho’s spectacular sunsets makes its appearance. To truly upgrade your experience, catch the sun’s last rays from one of the outdoor pools at Lava Hot Springs. The odor-free water is laden with beneficial minerals and its temperature ranges from 102 to 112 degrees, so you’ll never be chilly during the cooler months. Plus, you’ll have plenty of time to watch the stars come out — the pools don’t close until 11 p.m.
2. Loop Through Fall Colors: This part of Southeastern Idaho is famous for its stunning fall colors — and this driving loop will provide over two hours of blazing yellows, reds, and oranges. Colors begin to pop from early-to-mid-September in the mountains and from late September through October in the valleys; on this drive, you’ll have views of both. From Lava Hot Springs, head east on Highway 30 and then turn north onto South Blaser Highway. Follow the road to the little town of Bancroft, then continue down Old Highway 30 to the junction of New Highway 30 and Highway 34 until you reach Grace, which is nestled in a pretty valley and offers a perfect view of the Wasatch Range. You’ll see the most vibrant colors along Old Highway 30 and as you drive south along Highway 34. Drive south and pass the Niter Ice Cave (an adventure in itself!), then the towns of Thatcher and Preston. Head northwest on Highway 91 through Swan Lake and Downey before connecting to I-15. Take a right onto Highway 30 at Exit 47 and enjoy the route before returning to Lava Hot Springs. Set aside at least 2.5 hours for this drive; it’s very easy to stretch that into a whole day if you stop to explore along the way.
3. Float the Portneuf (While You Can!): Head to Lava during the first couple of weeks of September and you might grasp one of the last opportunities to float the Portneuf River (this year, anyway). This fast-moving river flows through town and has been voted the #1 floating river in America by USA Today. There are several places to rent tubes in town. Once you put in the action will move quickly, but don’t fret if you get to the put out and want another ride through the rapids — just head back to the put in and float all over again!
4. Hike, Bike, or Ride the Bird Canyon Trail: This popular hiking trail is a favorite of both locals and visitors alike. It’s just 1.1 miles but has an elevation gain of 686 feet, so expect to put in some work! You’ll enjoy pops of color as you travel this forested trail; eventually, you’ll connect with the Boundary Trail if you’d like to extend your trip on foot or on your mountain bike. To get to Bird Canyon Trail, follow South Blaser Highway to East Symons Road. Take a left on East Symons, then take another left onto Byington Road. Take a right onto Pheasant Drive, then turn right onto Elkhorn Road. Follow Elkhorn Road until you get to Red Fox Road, then take a left on Red Fox. The trail will be on your right.
5. Hop On a Wagon Ride: Baker Ranch’s wagon rides are an unforgettable way to experience the natural beauty surrounding Lava Hot Springs. Just hop into the back of a wagon pulled by two draft horses and take in the gorgeous mountains and the woods of Dempsey Creek. You’ll arrive to camp, complete with roaring fire, as the sun sets — and that’s when the fun really starts. Enjoy live music and a roast beef dinner with all the trimmings before heading back under the stars. This trip is perfect for families. The last wagon pulls out for the year on September 26, so make your reservations soon!
6. Ring In Fall With Music: Since 2016, the Lava Hot Springs Folk Festival has brought talented regional artists to multiple downtown venues to benefit the town’s elementary school music program. This year, you can expect a bevy of musicians playing everything from folk to jazz to country to soul to Americana, as well as indigenous dancers from Shakota Dance Troupe of nearby Fort Hall. The 2022 headliner, Steve Eaton, is a legendary Idaho musician who has been honored with the Governor’s Award for his contributions to the state’s culture.
Your pass will get you into multiple performances at any of the venues throughout the festival weekend — but you can sweeten the deal by buying yours before Sept. 1. After that day, passes will go from $100 to $125. To learn more and to purchase your pass, visit lavafolkfest.org.
7. Raise a Glass at Oktoberfest: Is fall really fall without Oktoberfest? Lava’s annual celebration falls on October 1 this year, and it promises to be rollicking — belly up to the beer garden, don your best lederhosen for the Oktoberfest-Dressed costume contest, dance to live music, try to keep yourself steady during the beer tray relay, and stuff yourself with German pancakes. There will be plenty of fun for the kids, too, including pumpkin painting and a bounce house. Check the event page in September for more details.
Start your autumn adventure at Lava Hot Springs. Our many hotels, motels, RV parks, cabins, and camping spots make it the perfect home base, no matter how long your stay. For even more ideas, head to the trip itineraries section of our website and plan your next getaway!