Idaho summers can be brutal, it’s very hot and it tends to be smokey due to some nearby fire. I normally suggest escaping to the mountains, but even that has its drawbacks, one being the spawn of the devil himself, the dreaded mosquito.
But what if I were to tell you that just over 2 hours away from Boise on a hot summer’s day, you’d be begging for a jacket? An ancient oasis of sorts that stays below freezing YEAR ROUND!
I’m talking about the touristy back road stop that is the Shoshone Ice Caves …
About 17 miles north of the small high desert town of Shoshone, Idaho on Highway 75 is the Shoshone Ice Caves (you’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the 30 ft. tall Chief Washakie, Chief of the Shoshone Tribe, and the giant green dinosaur with an Indian Caveman on top).
From May – September for $10.00/adult you get a 45 minute guided walking tour that takes you down 160 steps and 3/4 mile under 100 ft. of lava. The moment you start down the stairs you feel the temperature drop and you’re suddenly reminded that winter is coming (insert Game of Thrones theme song here), so you better enjoy this heat while you can … at least that’s what you tell yourself.
Your tour guide will tell you about the history of the cave, which is actually pretty interesting. In the 1800s the town of Shoshone used the ice cave, for you guessed it, ice. Obviously this can lead to man’s constant ability to overuse his natural resources and in the early 1900s, after years of changing the tunnel’s structure to access more ice, the ice began to melt! Luckily, in the 1950s the Robinson family bought the ice caves and restored it to its geological and touristy glory it is today.
As your guide opens the door to the cave you enter a dark, damp and chilly world. It was 100° on the day of our visit, but inside the cave registered at a chilly 27°!
The steps in the cave can be a bit slippery, so make sure to bring a good sturdy pair of shoes, but you do get to enjoy the ice safely from the comfort of a man-made bridge. The time spent underground is only about 15 minutes and you walk out the same way you came in, so if you didn’t have the time to get that shot on the way in, rest assured you’ll get another chance in a few minutes.
As you ascend back into the heat you’re reminded that this was only a temporary relief to the heat as the sun feels great for about .25 milliseconds. Shed your jackets and get ready to adjust to the heat as the tour continues.
Your tour guide will explain how the volcanic tubes were formed and point out other geological formations such as extinct volcanoes in the distance. As your tour draws to a close you trek over “the bridge” that crosses over the collapsed section of the lava tube and it gives you a great perspective of just how large this Ice Cave is/was.
While this cave is no Carlsbad Caverns, it’s still very interesting and pretty cool (pun intended). It may not be an “I can’t wait to come back again” kind of adventure, but something about the quirky gift shop filled with assorted rocks, dream catchers, and the usual tourist keepsakes along with the friendly locals gives you that sense of happiness that can only come from visiting off-the-beaten-path places like this. It’s definitely a must check off the ol’ Idaho bucket list.
So if you’re looking for a unique place to cool off in the hot Idaho summer, check out the Shoshone Ice Caves and leave with some fun memories and a new appreciation for A/C.