Here’s a little secret: Lava Hot Springs blazes with life in the fall. The summer crowds disperse back to work and school, but recreation opportunities ramp up as temps cool down. Whether you’re part of a family making a visit, a solo traveler, or a couple looking for a low-key weekend, you’ll enjoy easier access to our famous hot pools, swimming facilities, and so much more!
Finding a place to stay will be even easier than usual, too. Lava boasts eight maintained camping and RV parks, plus plenty of off-grid locations on nearby Forest Service land. Our cozy B&Bs, historic hotels, and vacation rentals — some featuring their own hot pools — are a no-fuss way to enjoy the best of the season.
And there is so much to offer! Fall hiking is a must. Immerse yourself in the changing season, see scenery from a new perspective — and, depending on the hike, get a heck of a workout in the process. The Idaho Centennial Trail is very steep in parts and can be a test of your leg muscles, but the views of the valley below are well worth the effort. Don’t forget to snap a pic by the “L” on the side of the mountain! You can find many other hiking suggestions on the excellent Idaho High Country website, which includes a link to a free hiking trail website.
This part of Southeastern Idaho is particularly beloved by visitors seeking fall colors. The beautiful foliage around the outdoor pools at Lava Hot Springs offer a gorgeous background to a soothing soak. Or, hop in the car and explore the Fall Colors Driving Loop: From Lava Hot Springs, head east on Highway 30 and then turn north onto South Blaser Highway, enjoying miles of blazing red, yellow, and orange leaves. Follow the road to the old railroad town of Bancroft, nestled in the scenic Caribou Highlands, continuing straight down Old Highway 30 until you reach Highway 34 and the valley town of Grace with its gorgeous views of the northernmost part of the Wasatch Range. As you head south, you’ll run into the Niter Ice Cave just north of the town that lends this ancient lava tube its name. From there, drive through nearby Thatcher until you reach the historic town of Preston, which film lovers will remember as the backdrop for the hit movie “Napoleon Dynamite.”
Head northwest on Highway 91 through the romantically named Swan Lake and neighboring Downey before connecting to I-15. Take a right onto Highway 30 at Exit 47 and enjoy some of the most stunning fall colors on the entire route before returning to Lava Hot Springs. The loop should take about 2.5 hours if you don’t explore the towns along the path or stop to snap photos (but we highly recommend you do!).
Not up for a hike? Can’t sit still for a drive? See the colors from up above! Over the course of 3.5 action-packed hours, the Lava Zipline Adventure will zoom you through a stunning private canyon surrounded by blazing colors. Don’t forget to book in advance though, because this popular attraction is available only on the weekends during the autumn months.
Of course, the fun doesn’t stop at Lava Hot Springs once the calendar flips a page! Visitors can squeeze every last ounce of fun out of summer with a late-season tubing adventure down the Portneuf River, which winds through town. Local tube stands may be closed for the season, but you enjoy one last splash through the rapids by purchasing your own tubes at local merchants or bringing your own.
If the weather is inclement, head to the Indoor Aquatic Center. It’s open year-round and includes a massive, six-lane pool where you and the kids can exercise, splash around, and test your diving skills. Or, for a more traditional soak, head to the hot pools and enjoy their mineral-laden therapeutic waters.
The waters surrounding Lava Hot Springs offer much more than swimming and relaxation. For traditional anglers and fly fishing enthusiasts, Lava Hot Springs is a must-stop destination. Cutthroat Trout, Rainbow Trout, and Brown Trout can all be had in the Portneuf just minutes from town off Blaser Highway/Old Highway 30. (Don’t forget your fishing license!)
If fish seem like small fry, never fear: This part of Southeastern Idaho is famous throughout the West for its excellent — and scenic — hunting opportunities. Big game like deer and elk, small game like grouse and chukar, and plenty of birds and waterfowl are all available within driving distance from Lava Hot Springs. Check out the Portneuf Wildlife Management Area (WMA) to the east of town, just above nearby McCammon; the Montpelier WMA and Georgetown Summit WMA to the southeast; or the Blackfoot River WMA to the northeast.
If you’d prefer to shoot your birds with a camera instead, head to the Sportsman Access point accessible from the Blaser Highway two miles west of town. The area is a favorite of migratory birds, and birdwatchers can capture beautiful shots of everything from American Coots to raptors to songbirds.
Birdwatchers aren’t the only ones snapping Instagram-worthy shots in the fall, though. There are plenty of sightseeing pics to be had, especially for history and nature lovers. Take a tour of the Sunken Gardens at Lava Hot Springs and its impressive rock outcroppings, visit historic downtown Lava and its turn-of-the-20th-century buildings, follow the wagon ruts of the Oregon Trail, or step back into the 1880s by visiting the ghost town of Chesterfield.
If you like your vacations to feature a bit of competition (even if it’s to beat your best), try hitting the links at Caribou Highlands Golf & RV or Lava Hot Springs Golf Course. Fall offers perfect golf weather at Lava: Temps average 76 degrees in September and 61 degrees in October, with an average of only 10 days of rain scattered between the two months.
Those temperate fall conditions are also ideal for bikers. Mountain bikers will enjoy hundreds of miles of trails, ranging from easy to technical, within a short drive of town. Those who crave a bit more speed will love the unbeatable access of the area’s ATV trails. Race through Inman Canyon, get a new perspective from Cottonwood Peak, or find big adventure on the Caribou Loop Trail. You can plan your routes and explore miles of options by clicking the Idaho High Country Recreation.
Now, you might be a bit thirsty after all that fun — but Lava has you covered! The city’s annual Oktoberfest will run the first week of October. Get your fill of harvest beers at the Beer Garden, enter the Oktober-Dressed contest, listen to live music, or try your hand at raffles and other contests. Visit the event’s page for more information and a full schedule.