About Pillar Falls
Pillar Falls was unusual in that the waterfall itself wasn’t the primary attraction in the excursion.
Indeed, the waterfalls themselves were nothing more than minor cascades and rapids culminating in a modest 5ft drop over a very wide shelf at the end of the “island” containing the namesake basalt pillars giving the falls its name.
Actually, I felt that this was really more of a waterfall lover’s excuse to do a choose-your-own-adventure exploring the eccentric rock formations protruding up from the middle of the Snake River.
Nevertheless, this adventure did encompass a surprise cascade along its trail as well as other rock formations and cliffs that made it unique among the things you can see or do in the Twin Falls area.
As far as experiencing the waterfalls are concerned, kayakers probably have the easiest time viewing the front of Pillar Falls.
However, I learned that I didn’t really need a kayak to witness waterfalls, and I’ll share how I managed to do it in this write-up.
Hiking To The Brink Of Pillar Falls
This is the most popular and common way to experience the Pillar Falls.
It begins from a parking area at the corner of Pole Line Rd and Eastland Dr (see directions below).
From there, I then had to hike along residential Pole Line Rd (not the paved bike route on the right) for about 0.3-mile to the actual trailhead for Pillar Falls.
That’s where there were a bunch of no parking signs next to a private road sign as well as some diversion pipes paralleling the brink of a cascade.
During my visit, I witnessed a pair of women in tennis shoes or running shoes, and they had a really hard time trying not to slip and fall on the loose gravel on the steepest parts of this trail.
The trail descended alongside an attractive cascade with a large diversion pipe next to it.
This would persist for about the next half-mile (losing 300-400ft in elevation in this stretch) before reaching an unsigned trail junction.
Throughout this lengthy descent, I managed to get attractive views back downstream towards the Perrine Coulee Bridge.
Hiking To The Brink Of Pillar Falls – The Left Fork At The Unsigned Junction
Going left at the unsigned junction, the trail made another steep and slippery descent before bottoming out at the base of an attractive segment of the cascade that had been tumbling alongside the Pillar Falls Trail.
Although there were spur trails deviating from the main trail, they mostly went to other sheds or buildings likely having something to do with processing or harnessing the power gained from the cascade.
After the trail would make one switchback to descend into the vegetation in an upstream direction, it would eventually bottom out among trees and interesting cliff formations.
At about 1/4-mile from the switchback at the cascade’s bottom, I then reached the banks of the Snake River.
At first, it didn’t seem like Pillar Falls and the pillar formations were reachable from here, but when I explored along the river’s banks, I noticed a shelf that I could cling onto to continue hiking.
Eventually, this informal “trail” joined up with a more obvious trail in another 0.1-mile.
Hiking To The Brink Of Pillar Falls – The Right Fork At The Unsigned Junction
Had I kept right at the unsigned trail junction, the Pillar Falls Trail would remain obvious to follow as it would eventually reach a point where the trail would narrow and make a steep descent after about 0.15-mile.
Then, the trail narrowed considerably as it involved a fairly steep 100ft elevation loss before bottoming out (and being joined by the informal trail mentioned previously).
During my visit in early April 2021, there was some graffiti near the bottom of this descent.
And while the graffiti was not sanctioned, it did hint at where I should be climbing back up on the return hike.
Hiking To The Brink Of Pillar Falls – Scrambling Onto The Island
The Pillar Falls Trail continued to skirt around an “inlet” of the Snake River as the trail traversed a light-flowing seasonal stream onto the “island” or peninsula containing the pillars.
At this point, it was pretty much “choose-your-own-adventure” of sorts because I had to figure out where I could safely explore as I found hidden alcoves and stagnant pools among the psychedelic formations around me.
I had to look past the unfortunate graffiti (which oddly had more politically-charged ones as opposed to the Hispanic tagging we’re used to seeing in California) on the various rock formations here.
Nevertheless, I spotted some rapids, cascades, caves, a hidden ladder, reflective pools, and the namesake pillar formations as I was aimlessly scrambling in this area.
Truthfully, I couldn’t tell which of the rapids and cascades were the actual Pillar Falls (or were they all collectively named as such?).
But if I had to make a guess, I’d suspect that Pillar Falls pertained to the very wide 5ft waterfall at the very west end of the peninsula or “island” that I was standing on.
At first, I could only experience that wide waterfall from its brink without getting wet, but I’d eventually figure out a way to scramble around some of the water until I found a way to the far northern end of the canyon’s base.
It was from this vantage point that I could stand in front of a rivuleted cascade as well as see part of the front of the wide Pillar Falls at a distance.
Indeed, this adventure easily consumed the better part of an hour or more.
And in my mind, it further illustrates how you really should allocate some time to enjoy the adventure as opposed to treating it like a hiking goal to be conquered.
Overall, I spent about 2.5 hours on this excursion, but considering that the hike itself could be as little as 3 miles round trip, you really could spend as little as 2 hours or as much as a half-day.
Hiking To Overlooks Of Pillar Falls
An alternate way to experience Pillar Falls, which I learned from the Gregory Plumb book, was from overlooking the waterfalls and pillar formations from the north rim of the Snake River Canyon.
This involved driving north past the Perrine Coulee Bridge, then taking the Shoshone Falls Road to one of several unsigned pullouts or 4wd road entrances.
From there, I then whipped out my iPhone loaded with Gaia GPS and navigated my way among the maze of 4wd roads towards the edge of the Snake River Canyon’s northern rim.
According to my trip logs, I hiked about 0.6-mile in each direction, but the terrain was pretty wide open so it wasn’t too difficult to find the desired lookout spots (especially using the Twin Falls Idaho Temple in the distance as a landmark).
I definitely had to be careful of how close to the cliff edge I went since there was no railing, and I brought my super telephoto lens to better zoom in on the interesting features.
In addition to witnessing the pillars around Pillar Falls, including the full width of its main drop, I also witnessed the intermediate cascade along the Pillar Falls Trail as well as neighboring runoff springs beneath the suburban homes off Pole Line Rd.
Moreover, as I looked way up the Snake River Canyon, I could also see part of Shoshone Falls, which put into perspective where Pillar Falls was in relation to it.
Overall, I spent a little less than an hour away from the car, but most of that time was spent taking pictures as opposed to hiking.
Pillar Falls resides in Twin Falls in Twin Falls County, Idaho. It is administered by the City of Twin Falls. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
There are two ways to that I’ve managed to experience Pillar Falls – by hiking up close to the waterfall or by overlooking the area from the opposite side of the canyon.
Driving to the Pillar Falls Trailhead
The Pillar Falls Trailhead was pretty straightforward to reach as it sat right on the corner of Pole Line Rd and Eastland Dr N.
This was about 1 mile east of the US93 along Pole Line Rd.
There’s a fairly sizable semi-paved parking lot at this trailhead though it appeared to be shared with people doing other walks so it can get pretty busy here (though it looked like parking was plentiful during my visit in early April 2021).
Apparently, people used to be able to park closer to the actual trailhead for Pillar Falls, which was about 0.6-mile further east along Pole Line Rd.
That would explain why I always kept seeing cars pulling up to the private road signs and having to turn around (clearly acting on stale information they probably found on AllTrails, TripAdvisor, or personal blogs).
Driving to the Accesses for the Pillar Falls Overlooks
In order to reach the overlooks of Pillar Falls along the north rim of the Snake River Canyon, I had to drive north along the US93 over the Perrine Coulee Bridge towards the traffic light at Golf Course Rd / Shoshone Falls Rd.
Turning right at this light, I then drove about 3/4-mile where there were plenty of informal 4wd roads leaving Shoshone Falls Rd to the right.
Since I didn’t want to risk damage to the rental car, I was content to find pullover space along Shoshone Falls Rd, and then walk the 4wd roads to the Snake River Canyon’s north rim.
Finally, for some geographical context, the town of Twin Falls was 128 miles (2 hours drive) east of Boise, 159 miles (2.5-3.5 hours drive) west of Idaho Falls, 218 miles (over 3 hours drive) northwest of Salt Lake City, Utah, and 251 miles (under 4 hours drive) north of Ely, Nevada.
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