Summer Paradise on the Henry’s Fork

Adventures await at Harriman State Park

Published online: Jul 09, 2020 Articles, East Idaho Outdoors Steve Smede
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Some adventures take you into exotic new territory. Others simply celebrate the best of your own extended backyard. Just 72 miles north of town, you can have a perfect mix of both, courtesy of one of Idaho Falls’ top summertime destinations: Harriman State Park.

Load up the directory on Idaho’s “Find-a-Park” page and you’ll see a list of 30 official properties. Harriman State Park counts as only one of four that can be found here in eastern Idaho. The good news for Harriman is that it’s actually many destinations in one:

A gateway to the banks of the Henry’s Fork — a blue-ribbon trout fishery of national renown.

A Shangri-La of hiking and mountain-bike trails.

An unparalleled platform for bird, wildlife and nature photography.

A cultural landmark replete with historical interest.

A staging ground for family-friendly horseback adventures.

A rustic, overnight retreat for families, clubs and companies.

An educational retreat for youth groups.

A gateway to two other magnificent state parks: one downstream at the eye-popping spectacle of Mesa Falls; the other upstream on the shores of Henry’s Lake.

Along your 72-mile drive from Idaho Falls, you’ll definitely want to make a quick stop at the U.S. Highway 20 / Scenic Highway 47 intersection in Ashton. See that gargantuan rotating mug? That’s where you’ll find a tasty Frost Top root beer float. From here you can either continue north to the state park, or you can take the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway to the east.

Up in Island Park, the turnoff to Harriman is hard to miss. Once inside, repeat visitors tend to bypass the visitor center, but it’s usually worth the time to check in. Helpful state park staffers will give you the latest updates on trail conditions, closures, daily events and resident wildlife.

Some trails are designated hiking only, but where allowed, biking is the way to go — you can cover lots of ground, get a nice workout and — if you’re lucky — spot a few of those critters that the park is famous for.

For many visitors, Harriman is all about the birds: grebes, cranes, loons, pelicans and swans, Western Meadowlarks, Red-winged Blackbirds, Pine Siskins, Dark-eyed Juncos, Western Tanagers and more.

For history buffs, interpretive signage can be found throughout the park. The old ranch quarters, barns and guest houses are especially interesting and educational about days of yore.

Got an itch to fish? Harriman is also widely considered the home of hallowed waters for dry-fly anglers. If surface-casting for trophy trout is your thing, Harriman is your paradise. The rainbow population is famously finicky, so bring your A-game if you want to net a bruiser. And don’t plan on any stream-side fish fries. All fishing here is all catch and release.

The overall atmosphere and full plate of activities make Harriman State Park one of the best road-trip destinations in the state. It’s great for educational discovery, bird-watching, horsebacking, photography, mountain biking, world-class fishing, hiking and so much more. Think of Yellowstone — minus the grumpy rangers, belching geysers and ornery crowds.

For more information on the park’s history, access and usage fees, visit www.tinyurl.com/hspidaho. Phone: 208-558-7368. Address: 3489 Green Canyon Road in Island Park.

 

 

The Idaho State Parks Passport

Want to make the most of your 2020 adventure itinerary? Consider picking up the Idaho State Parks Passport — a $10 annual sticker for Idahoans that is available for purchase at the time you register your motorhome or passenger vehicle online, by mail-in renewal or at any county DMV office. The pass covers boat launch fees within Idaho state parks as well as access to hundreds of miles of hiking, cycling, mountain biking and Nordic trails. Visit www.parksandrecreation.idaho.gov for details.

 

Park Reservations

By phone: 1-888-9-CAMPID or 1-888-922-6743. You can also email the park at HAR@idpr.idaho.gov.

Harriman State Park is comprised of 16,000 acres of wildlife refuge within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.  A haven for wildlife, it offers 22-miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.

 

Not Just a Day Park

Visitors can enjoy overnight stays at Harriman’s rustic Yurts or Ranch Manager’s House. Facilities serve a variety of events: family retreats, weddings, educational conferences and more. 

 

A Piece of Regional History

Ranger-led tours of the historic “Railroad Ranch” buildings are offered on weekends and holidays throughout the summer months. Winter activities include over 24 miles of groomed Nordic skiing trails, snowshoeing and fat biking.

 

A Community of Support 

Check out Harriman on Facebook for current events inside and around the park.

 

Click here to read more of our April issue.

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