One of the things I love most about traveling is discovering hidden secrets. I also love to tell my foreign friends to stray off the worn-out path (Santa Monica – Disneyland – Las Vegas – etc.) and explore a richer American story brimming with outdoor adventures, natural beauty, and vibrant cultural experiences.
Pocatello is one of those hidden gems for me. Back 2 years ago, I only stopped there for fuel and never thought of getting to know the town. Then one of my friends started to share photos and stories of her amazing trip to Pocatello, and immediately, I was inspired.
So I packed my luggage, headed to the place they call “Gateway to the Northwest”, and embarked on a weekend retreat. The trip amazed me in many ways: There were surprisingly a lot of things to do in Pocatello!
Below are just a few of them because if I have to list out everything I fell in love with, it will take more than a day.
Culture & History
Founded in the late 1800s, Pocatello doesn’t have the longest-standing history like Franklin or Falmouth. Nonetheless, the Gate City certainly boasts one of the most unique heritages. In the early days, Pocatello served as a junction point, bringing miners, pioneers, and settlers from across Idaho to opportunities in Washington, Nevada, Oregon, California, and Montana.
Within just a few years, the junction became a major transportation hub. Thousands of Irish, Italians, Greeks, Mexicans, Chinese, and Japanese headed to the area, and they brought their cultures with them. Nowadays, you can still spot many of these cultural influences.
Additionally, Pocatello is also home to the Shoshone-Bannock tribes. During your trip to this city, you will be able to learn about their lifestyles and history. That’s an educational experience you can’t get anywhere else!
Bannock County Historical Museum & Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Museum
So you always seek something to feed the brain on the go? In that case, the Bannock County Historical Museum is the perfect spot to begin your adventure. Its compelling exhibits shine a light on various aspects of Pocatello and Bannock County’s past, including the early days of railroads, ranching, printing, photography, the military, and the 19th century’s medicine.
Some of the standouts are an extensive collection of evidence from the Prohibition period and a mosaic chronology that highlights prominent figures and events in the city’s history.
In case you are still hungry for more, a 15-minute walk will take you to the Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Museum. The place, filled with information, images, and artifacts, gives visitors some glimpses into the past and present lifestyles of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes. It proves that Pocatello is the cradle of Native American culture.
Museum Of Clean
“Museum of Clean” – an odd name, don’t you think? But hey, there really is a place dedicated to hygiene and cleanliness!
What’s to see here, anyway? Just as the name states, this quirky museum showcases… all things clean. Get ready to applaud the extensive collection of cleaning appliances, including a 1902 horse-drawn vacuum cleaner and numerous brooms from the 1600s. But that’s not even the weirdest part: Visitors can take a look at several toilets used by prisoners and royalty!
You will be blown away by how spotless this building is. According to the guide, it has been thoughtfully constructed to be low-maintenance and eco-friendly. Additionally, there is an interactive section for children, encouraging them to recycle, make their beds, and clean their rooms.
Entertainment & Outdoor Activities
Of course, Pocatello isn’t all about museums and historic sites. On TripAdvisor, this city is fondly nicknamed “the Capital of Smiles” for a reason: It plays host to many exciting activities for families, couples, and solo travelers alike. Whether you want to relax in a hot spring, admire the arts, enjoy a family-style farm dinner, or go for a hike, there is something for everyone!
Lava Hot Spring
A heavenly hot springs town in Idaho, Lava Hot Springs has long been famous for its five warm pools, an indoor aquatic center, and waterslides. I have some good news: This much-loved tourist attraction is only 34.9 miles away from downtown Pocatello!
Everyone longs to soak in one of the world-class, sulfur-free outdoor pools, which are heated to 102˚F-112˚F by natural underground springs. It makes for an ideal winter getaway, while in summer, you will want to leave this activity for the early morning or late evening.
Once you get out of the pools, there is still so much more to explore. In a nod to the wellness vibe of this town, several charming hotels also have their own massage therapists and spa facilities. For the best deals and to avoid the crowds, plan your trip in the middle of the week.
In the warmer months, visitors are invited to go tubing on the wild Portneuf River, which flows through the heart of the town. Adventurous souls will fall in love with the fast-paced water slides, zip lining, and hiking of the nearby Bird Canyon Trailhead.
Things To Do In Pocatello – Heber Hatchets
Getting out and taking part in thrilling outdoor activities – that’s the way of every Idahoan. While fishing, hiking, and hunting are an inseparable part of our lives, there is an entertainment option that has been popping up all over the state recently: Axe throwing!
Why are we so hyped about that, you might ask? Well, it’s exciting, unique, and a bit crazy. Many youngsters are addicted to the rush that comes from perfecting a throwing technique, and seeing your axes sink in the center of the wooden targets is the most satisfying feeling in the world.
If you ever want to test your strength and accuracy by throwing a couple of hatchets, Heber Hatchets is your next destination. The playground greets visitors with the pleasant aroma of pine oil, friendly hosts dressed in flannel, and a wild array of hatchet-throwing games that will make you forget all about mini golf and bowling.
Axe throwing at Heber Hatchets
Since this sport involves scoring and a high level of precision, it’s perfect for groups of friends with some competitive spirit. And don’t miss out on this chance to impress your crush!
Just a quick Google search, and you can find a long list of the best restaurants in Pocatello. Still, Swore Farms is my favorite place to enjoy good food. Focusing on Community Supported Agriculture, this family-run farm is committed to providing fresh, tasty, and wholesome produce. On several occasions, tourists can take part in a Farm-to-Table experience. From honeybees to castles, foraging to fruit-picking, these impressive feasts will leave you both inspired and satisfied!
Aside from that, Swore Farm also hosts educational programs for kids to learn about agriculture in an engaging way. When fall comes, and the farm opens its doors for the Halloween season, you can go on pumpkin-filled excursions that include pumpkin picking, tractor rides, and exploring corn mazes.
Things To Do In Pocatello – Gibson Jack Trailhead
Locals say that every path you take in Pocatello will lead to mountainous terrain, which is likely to pique your wanderlust. A convenient starting point if you want to set out on a journey is the Gibson Jack Trailhead.
Tucked in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, the Gibson Jack Trailhead is just 6 miles away from downtown Pocatello. From there, you can choose between 4 different routes for biking, ATVs, motorcycles, hiking, and even horseback riding. Most hikers will go for the main trail, which stretches 7.5 miles and leads straight to Elk Meadow.
Generally considered a challenging route with steep grades and rocky obstacles, it takes approximately 3 hours to complete. Your effort is worthwhile, though: The further up this trail you go, the more stunning the scenery. This is especially true in the autumn when the tree leaves in the national forest turn from lush green to gorgeous shades of yellow, orange, and bright red.
Things To Do In Pocatello – Ross Park Aquatic Complex
I first visited Pocatello in July, and there is no better place to beat the summer heat than the Ross Park Aquatic Complex. There is plenty of room for your friends or family to cool off and have fun by getting on some exciting slides or jumping on lily pads. Anyone, regardless of their age, can have a good time here.
The star of the show is the Lazy River. After a few days full of adventures and excitement, I never felt so relaxed, letting the slow and gentle current drip me along. Since Ross Park is one of the lesser-known park in Pocatello, you don’t have to worry about the crowds. Just forget about the world and take in the blue sky while the sun melts your worries away – it’s truly the best remedy for a hot summer day!
After having fun in the water, you might want to take a look at the grizzly bears, pronghorns, cougars, bison, and eagles at Zoo Idaho. Located within Ross Park, the zoo offers endless opportunities for those who wish to learn more about the region’s native wildlife through its diverse animal habitats. Throughout the year, it also serves as the host of special events, like Ice Cream Zoofari or Zoo Boo.
Boo At The Zoo Idaho Fall
Since Idaho sees some of the highest snowfall in the Northwest, what will go on in Pocatello when the snowy season arrives? I was curious, too, and that’s why I came back in December. Take it from one of my local friends: There are still plenty of things to do in Pocatello when the temperature dips and the town becomes blanketed in snow and ice!
Things To Do In Pocatello – Pebble Creek Ski Area
Nestled along the northwestern slopes of Mount Bonneville, Pebble Creek Ski Area promises excitement for both novice and expert skiers. The destination prides itself on more than 50 runs, spreading across 1,100 skiable acres. If you have never been on the slopes yet, don’t worry: There is an area dedicated to beginners at the base!
Pebble Creek offers skiing classes for children ages 3 – 12 years old, making it the perfect spot for a winter holiday with your family. The 2-hour afternoon sessions take advantage of the warmer temperatures in the afternoon while keeping young attention spans in mind. Not into skiing? No worries, there’s a lot for you to do as well, from shopping at nearby boutiques to checking out the new bowling alley.
East Mink Creek Nordic Center
Located just 7 miles outside of downtown Pocatello, the East Mink Creek Nordic Center is a fantastic recreational area. It’s managed by the City of Pocatello in collaboration with the Pocatello Cross-Country Ski Foundation and the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.
East Mink Creek Nordic Center
Winter sports enthusiasts will delight in the center’s endless miles of well-maintained ski and skate trails, as well as a snowshoe trail. Children and teenagers can have fun at sledding hills, while tourists who wish to experience yurt living may rent Jackson, Catamount, Skyline Yurts, or Inman. Take in breathtaking vistas of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest while zigzagging through enchanting cross-country skiing trails!
It Feels Good To Be Lost In The Right Direction!
Since the “Gateway to the Northwest” often stays under the radar like most cities in Idaho, you won’t find many travel handbooks out here. Now, though, with Enjoyfuntrip’s list of the best things to do in Pocatello as your guide, you can get the most out of your trip with confidence.
But, trust me when I say, Pocatello is also a fantastic place to wander without a plan and see where your steps will take you. Letting the day unfold randomly can lead to endless adventures and amazing findings, especially when you are exploring an uncut gem full of undiscovered surprises!