In this article we’ll cover everything you need to know to kayak to Shoshone Falls, a unique way to experience the “Niagara of the West”, from below and without the crowds! You’ll kayak along the Snake River tucked between massive canyon walls, and pass by the smaller Pillar Falls along the way. If you are up for the challenge, reaching the falls takes an 8 mile roundtrip journey, including a 300 foot portage to bypass Pillar Falls, that will fill most of your day. But Shoshone Falls is easily one of the most beautiful and impressive waterfalls in Idaho, making this kayaking trip well worth the effort!
- Kayak to Shoshone Falls: Overview
- Shoshone Falls Park
- Where to rent kayaks
- How to portage over Pillar Falls
- How to get there
- When to kayak to Shoshone Falls
- Where to stay before/after your trip
- Shoshone Falls kayak trip packing list
Kayak to Shoshone Falls: Overview
Shoshone Falls is a beautiful semi-circle of waterfalls cascading into the Snake River, located just outside of Twin Falls, a small town in southern Idaho. For an amazing up-close view of the falls, you can kayak or paddle board 4 miles up river to the base of the falls.
Along the way, you’ll pass another set of smaller falls, called Pillar Falls. To reach Shoshone Falls, you’ll have to portage your kayaks around Pillar Falls, carrying them around the falls via a side path that may or may not be covered in flowing water. The portage is what makes this journey most challenging, but also keeps water traffic low at the base of the falls.
Fun Fact: Shoshone Falls rises to a height of 212 feet, making it taller than Niagara Falls! Shoshone Falls is often nicknamed the “Niagara of the West”.
Shoshone Falls Park
To view Shoshone Falls from above, you can also visit the Shoshone Falls Park. The viewing platform cannot be reached from this kayaking trip, so you would need to take a separate trip. The park is located about 20 minutes by car from the parking lot for the kayaking trip.
- Entrance to the park is $5 per person.
Details | How to Kayak to Shoshone Falls
- Kayaking distance | 8 miles
- Estimated time | 6 – 8 hours
- Rental Cost | $25 – $50 per person
- Difficulty | hard (due to distance and portage)
- Epicness rating | 7
- Location | Twin Falls, Idaho
Kayaking to Shoshone Falls is an 8 mile round trip excursion that will fill the majority of your day. Total per person cost depends on where you rent kayaks (read more below).
Where to rent kayaks
You have two options on where to rent kayaks for Shoshone Falls, and they come with tradeoffs:
AWOL Adventure Sports
Cost: $35 8 hour single kayak, $55 8 hour tandem kayak (life vests and paddles included)
* must call to book 8 hour rental, reservation cannot be made online
- PRO: conveniently located at Centennial Waterfront Park, the starting point for the kayaking trip
- CON: typically book up in advance, exceeding the 8 hour will incur additional fees
Cost: $30 per day single kayak, $50 per day tandem kayak (life vests and paddles included)
- PRO: slightly less expensive than AWOL, typically have more availability last minute and there is no time limit
- CON: you may have to pick up the kayaks yourself and transport them to Centennial Waterfront Park (Adventure Bros does offer transportation to Centennial Waterfront Park, but their availability to do so may be limited).
Our Experience with Adventure Bros
When we kayaked to Shoshone Falls, we rented from Adventure Bros as we made plans very last minute and AWOL was already booked up. Because we booked so last minute, they were delivering kayaks to another client at the time we requested. As a result, we had to pick the kayaks up and transport them ourselves, which turned out to be quite a hassle.
However, if you call them in advance, you’ll have a better chance of getting delivery which may make the cost savings and full day rental worth choosing Adventure Bros over AWOL.
How difficult is kayaking to Shoshone Falls?
Although you have to paddle upstream to reach the falls, the current is fairly mild making it easier than it sounds.
The return trip can actually be more challenging due to strong winds blowing the opposite direction, so make sure you leave yourself plenty of time and energy to make it back to the parking lot. When we kayaked, the strong winds created waves that actually made the river appear to be flowing the opposite direction!
The most difficult part of the trip is carrying your kayaks around Pillar Falls. Depending on the water levels, this could entail carrying your kayak for a few hundred feet over uneven rock and through water.
The difficulty of this kayaking trip depends heavily on the wind and water levels:
- Wind: on a windy day, kayaking to Shoshone Falls is tough! Additionally, heavy winds can make it more dangerous to kayak up close the falls, at risk of being pulled in. If possible, wait for a calm day to make the journey to Shoshone Falls.
- Water levels: While Shoshone Falls are most impressive when the water levels are high (spring and early summer), lower water levels make the portage over Pillar Falls significantly easier. When the water levels are high, you’ll have to battle the current while carrying your heavy kayak the 300 feet across the falls. Please also be aware that the water levels tend to rise in the afternoon, which can make the portage more difficult.
AWOL Adventure Sports maintains a page which details current conditions in the canyon here.
Parking at Centennial Park
To begin your kayaking trip to Shoshone Falls, you’ll want to park at Centennial Waterfront Park, located just a few minutes from Twin Falls. The park has plenty of parking, restrooms and a boat slip you can use to get your kayaks into the water.
Once you’ve gotten your kayaks into the river, start paddling up river to the east. Facing the river from the parking lot, you’ll want to start to the right. You should be able to see the large Perrine Bridge in the distance – head towards it.
The first landmark along the trip to Shoshone Falls is the Perrine Bridge, located just a few minutes upstream of the boat launch. Perrine Bridge is a popular spot for base jumpers, so keep an eye out as you paddle below.
At 2 miles in, you’ll reach Pillar Falls. Although the falls themselves are significantly smaller than Shoshone, the area surrounding them is beautiful, with massive rock formations jutting out of the river, carved over many years by the rushing water.
As you can see in the photo below, when we kayaked the water levels were so low that there was hardly and “waterfall” to be seen. Nonetheless, we enjoyed exploring the rocky area around the falls.
How to portage over Pillar Falls
Now for the toughest part of the day: portage over Pillar Falls. You’ll need to get out of your kayak and carry it 300 feet around the falls. Looking towards the falls, there is a “pathway” to the far right of the river that will get you across the rock and through a marshy area.
The difficulty and danger of portaging your kayak depends heavily on the time of year and water levels. If water levels are high, this can become dangerous as the rock is slippery and rushing water makes it difficult to keep your balance.
Water levels were low for us, meaning the path way was fairly dry. Nonetheless, carrying our kayaks over the falls proved to be challenging, and we stopped to take many breaks along the way.
Tip: scope out the path around the falls before carrying your kayaks. We went down a few dead ends while carrying our heavy kayak and had to back track to avoid impassable obstacles. Spend a few minutes planning a route before you pick up your kayak.
Should I continue to Shoshone Falls?
Use your best judgement to decide whether it’s safe to continue to Shoshone Falls based on the current conditions.
Many people opt to take a day trip to Pillar Falls, instead of continuing on to Shoshone Falls, to avoid having to portage kayaks. Although we highly recommend continuing to Shoshone if it’s safe, Pillar Falls also makes for a great place to spend an afternoon!
Once you’ve made it to the other side of Pillar Falls, it’s another two miles to reach Shoshone Falls. On this side of Pillar Falls, expect the waters to be quieter, as this area is not accessible by motorized boat and most people don’t continue past Pillar Falls.
Finally, you round a bend and the magnificent Shoshone Falls come into view! There are plenty of rocky beaches around the falls to pull over, hang out and enjoy the view.
If you kayak up close to the falls, use caution as the water is extremely strong and you can be sucked under. We kept a safe distance since it was incredibly windy when we visited and we were worried we wouldn’t be able to paddle safely near the falls.
When you’ve gotten your fill of Shoshone Falls, head back down river towards the parking lot. Make sure you leave plenty of time to return before dark, and don’t forget you still have to portage your kayaks again (though slightly easier this time going downhill!).
Also keep in mind that on a windy day, kayaking down river may feel more like you’re going up river, so don’t bank on smooth sailing on the return trip.
Logistics | Kayak to Shoshone Falls
In this section, we’ll cover all the logistics you need to know to plan the perfect Shoshone Falls kayaking trip.
Getting to Twin Falls, Idaho
The Shoshone Falls kayaking journey begins at Centennial Waterfront Park in Twin Falls, Idaho. Twin Falls is located in central southern Idaho and may be easily reached from:
- Idaho Falls in 2 hours, 20 minutes
- Salt Lake City, Utah in 3 hours, 15 minutes
- Pocatello, Idaho in 1 hour 45 minutes
- Boise, Idaho in 2 hours
When to kayak to Shoshone Falls
The best time to kayak to Shoshone Falls is during the early summer (May – June). During the summer, water from the Snake River is diverted to farmland for irrigation, meaning Shoshone Falls may be less impressive. In fact, during the fall months, Shoshone Falls may be nearly dry!
Earlier in the spring, water levels tend to be higher which can make the portage difficult to impossible.
Shoshone Falls kayak trip packing list
Below we’ve listed a few essential items to make sure you forget for this kayaking adventure:
- Drybag, to store your food and other belongings, as everything in the kayak may get wet. We use Sea to Summit’s Lightweight Dry Sack. We’d also recommend bringing an extra plastic bag to keep your phone in and leaving any unnecessary valuables behind.
- Sunglasses, to protect your eyes from a long day out on the water. (Goodr makes an awesome pair of cheap, non-slip sunglasses that are great for an active day).
- Water shoes (like Chacos) – you’ll want a pair of comfortable and secure water shoes for portaging your kayak around Pillar Falls. The rocky area can be slick and rough on your feet, so you definitely don’t want to go barefoot or wear flimsy flip flips.
- Bathing suit: the water is chilly, but incredibly refreshing after a hot day of paddling!
- Life vests: if you rent kayaks via AWOL or AdventureBros, life vests will be provided, but make sure to bring them if supplying your own kayaks.
- Compact Towel: To keep you dry or lay out on the rocks to catch some rays!
Tips for a great kayaking trip
And finally, we’ll leave you with a few final tips to make your Shoshone Falls kayaking trip go smoothly:
- Get an early start to ensure you get back before dark and have plenty of time to hang out at the falls.
- Check the weather before you go. If the winds are high, reschedule for a different day.
- Book kayak rentals in advance. On weekends during the summer, kayak rentals book up, especially if you plan to use AWOL.
Other Useful Resources
Planning a trip to Idaho? You may also be interested in the following:
- Twin Falls | Kayaking to Blue Heart Springs: Idaho’s Stunning Blue Lagoon
- Twin Falls | How to Find Perrine Coulee Falls
- Sawtooth Mountains | A Complete Guide to Hiking the Alice Lake Loop
- Sawtooth Mountains | How to Backpack the Stunning Alice Toxaway Loop
- Wyoming | How to Plan the Perfect 2-Day Grand Teton Itinerary
- Wyoming | 18 Best Hikes in Grand Teton National Park
For all things Idaho: Idaho Travel Guide
Questions about kayaking to Shoshone Falls? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll do our best to help!