If the heat of the summer starts to get to you then I suggest you make a quick trip to Shoshone Ice Caves and cool down. Who would have thought you would find ice OUTSIDE during an Idaho Summer?! I didn’t believe it, but headed to Shoshone anyway to check it out. When I first pulled up I thought I was in the wrong place. I was greeted by a large green dinosaur and a super tall Indian. These were, of course, statues but gave the impression of the typical 1960s tour trap. I thought about retreating but couldn’t because who doesn’t want their picture with a large green dinosaur. Right?!
After pictures I wandered into one of the side buildings that was full of memorabilia and information on the Ice Cave. It was at this point that my interest was peaked and I decided to travel down into the cave. I met some really nice people who had also made the long trip out. Together we headed down into the ice.
One thing this place is blessed with are truly passionate tour guides. My tour guide and her husband spend the summer out here in the middle of nowhere giving us travelers tours because they love it! And they know a lot about it. The cave is actually a lava tube that is 1,000 ft long and varies between 8 and 30 ft in height. Apparently in the 1880s a boy out searching for lost goat stumbled upon the cave. He had to squish his body in the extremely tiny opening. Why he did that I have no idea, but he found he was blocked from entering the cave by ice. After he told his father about it they decided to cash in on this strange find and began hauling blocks of ice into the nearby town of Shoshone. The saloons loved it! It kept their beer cold all summer. The town gained a reputation as the only place for hundreds of miles you could buy an ice cold beer.
However, after news of this great ice source got out the government wanted it and they claimed the caves as national land. Then in the mid 1930s they decided the cave need to be developed further to take advantage of its icy resources. Well that didn’t work! By the 1940s all the ice was gone, the government was gone and the cave was nothing but a dumping ground and a high school hangout.
Russell Robinson was an Idaho Veteran who had just returned from the war. He decided he could bring back the ice and worked out a lease arrangement with government. By 1962 it was well back on the path to restoration and building up ice. The Robinson family has passed the responsibility for the cave down through the generations and each year another layer of ice is restored. Way to go Robinsons!!
Location: 1561 N. Hwy 75. Shoshone, Idaho. 208-886-2058.
Take I-84 out of Boise towards Mountain Home/Twin Falls about 86 miles. Take exit 141 and follow US-26 about 27 miles. Take a left onto ID-75 for another 17 miles. There are plenty of signs and you will find the turn off on the left. It is an unpaved road that is well kept and goes back about ½ mile to the buildings. Enter the shop to get set up for the tour.
Hours: The season for the Ice Caves is May 1st thru September 30th. They are open 7 days a week during the season. Hours are from 10 to 6 with the last tour at 5.
Cost: Adults $10 / Senior (over 62) and Military $8 / Children 4-12 $6 / Under 3 Free
Group rates are available.
Lodging: Shoshone is only 16 miles away and you will find many of hotel/motel and RV parking opportunities there.
Camping: Just past the Ice Caves is a camping and recreational area called Magic Reservoir. There is none semi-developed recreation sites with toilet facilities, picnic tables and boat access to the reservoir. It’s a great place to go swimming, boating and fishing.
Dining: There are picnic facilities at the Ice Caves and further up the road at Magic Reservoir.
There are also many restaurants in Shoshone but nothing any closer.
Special Notes: The tour involves a ¾ miles hike with 160 stairs total going down and coming back up. There is no stroller or wheelchair access. Bring a jacket! It is cold. They do not allow animals except service dogs.
The entry into the cave is very narrow so if you are claustrophobic keep that in mind. It used to be a trend to throw pennies into the ice water when you walked into the cave, however, they are trying to stop people from doing that because the metal of the pennies is a heat conductor and is actually melting the ice. So, don’t throw pennies! Just fake it and make a wish.