If you’re looking for a primitive area to enjoy the sight of products of past volcanic activities, while also having fun in a remote setting, Hell’s Half Acre Wilderness Study Area (WSA) is the perfect place for you. This 103 square mile Bureau of Land Management property, located west of Idaho Falls in Idaho, is home to a 5,200-year-old lava flow that offers quite the view. Access to the wilderness area from Idaho Falls is off either of Interstate 15 or W Arco Highway. Four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended.
One of the most popular activities here at Hell’s Half Acre WSA is hiking, thanks to the opportunities that the trails in the park offer hikers to learn about the volcanic history of the wilderness on the trail’s interpretive signs. Wildlife and bird viewing are equally popular ways to stay active in the wilderness. Sightseers with their camera can visit nearby attractions for enhanced recreational opportunities too. If you’re feeling up to it, Snake River will present you with the chance to enjoy water-based activities such as floating, fishing, rafting, kayaking, and boating.
There are no facilities or services provided in this wilderness, so gear up for free and dry camping in the park. For developed camping options, visit Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve or Sawtooth National Forest.
Hell’s Half Acre Wilderness Study Area lies 10 miles west of Idaho Falls, Idaho. Access to the WSA from Idaho Falls is either via Interstate 15 or W Arco Highway, along local roads that branch off the highways. Guests often come in via Interstate 15 from Idaho Falls. The 15-mile drive on the highway leads to two rest areas and parking lots where guests will find directional signs that lead to the wilderness area.
Due to the nature of the local routes that grant access to the wilderness from the Interstate highway, it’s best to visit the park in four-wheel-drive vehicles. The use of these motorized vehicles and other mechanical equipment is, however, prohibited within the boundaries of this BLM wilderness area, so you may want to park your vehicles at the parking lot by the Interstate and continue the journey on foot or horseback. Alternatively, you can look out for parking areas provided around the wilderness boundary. Wheelchairs are allowed.
There are no direct public transportation services to this BLM property in Idaho.
Falls Campground is a developed campground located near the Snake River in beautiful Swan Valley. This campground is situated among cottonwood trees that provide partial shade for the campsites. Reservations are accepted for sites in this camping area.
You’ll be able to enjoy the view of wildlife and resplendent wildflowers in the campground, as well as fish for cutthroat, canoe, raft, and kayak along the Snake River.
There are 24 campsites in the campground, one of which is a group site. Amenities include potable water, vault toilet, trash receptacle, and firewood available for purchase from the camp host. No hookups are available. The road and parking spurs within the campground are gravelly.
RV length limit in the campground is 120 feet.
Lava Flow Campground is a modern campground within Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, east of Hell’s Half Acre WSA, that is open from May to November for camping opportunities. All the campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis as reservations are not accepted. Pets are allowed.
There are 42 campsites in this campground, equipped with facilities and amenities such as potable water, restrooms, picnic tables, and charcoal grills. Even though RVs and trailers as long as 40 feet are accommodated in the campground, there are no hookups provided.
Quiet hours in the campground are between 10pm and 6am.
Scenic driving opportunities are presented to guests who wish to explore the region around Hell’s Half Acre WSA, particularly along the Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway. This byway is a popular one in Idaho because it features some of the most diverse stretches within the State, taking adventurers through areas where they get to see massive lava flows, high desert, wetlands, and some of the tallest mountains in Idaho.
The Scenic Byway is open year-round, but enthusiasts are encouraged to check conditions in winter before setting out.
There’s so much to learn about the history of the geological processes that took place in the past at Hell’s Half Acre WSA, all of which contributed to what currently constitutes the park area.
Researchers have posited that the volcanic activities that occurred in the hotspot area around this wilderness date back to 15 million years ago. The lavas that are believed to have erupted since then led to various geological landscapes in the area, and Hell’s Half Acre WSA is one of the youngest lava fields in the area.
There are plenty of sights to see and places to visit at and around Hell’s Half Acre WSA. This BLM property in Idaho traverses the desert ecosystem of the Snake River Plain through contorted and diverse landscapes, rough terrain, and unusual scenery.
You’ll find only a few calderas left behind by the volcanic eruptions that occurred on the Yellowstone hotspots because most of them have been buried by subsequent lava flows. So, if you catch a glimpse of any, be sure to take pictures.
Hell’s Half Acre Wilderness Study Area features a 5,200-year-old lava flow that resembles a flat moonscape. On the lava flow, there are deep crevices and sparse vegetation. The sparse vegetation on the lava surface is mostly mosses and lichens.
Wildlife viewers are treated to the sight of fauna such as mule deer, coyotes, antelope and rabbits in the wilderness areas, as these are the most common mammals residing there. Bird viewers can look out for sage grouse and mourning doves that inhabit the lava flows.
There are two developed lava trails with interpretive signs at Hell’s Half Acre WSA that display both the geology and biology of the lava flow. As a result, these trails attract guests that are interested in learning about the history of the lava in the park. Both trails - Main Vent Loop and Lava Flow Loop add up to five miles and are easy-to-moderate to hike.
Come along with your hiking boots, camera(s) and a keen sense of observation to make the best of the learning opportunity present on the trails.
A trip to Hell’s Half Acre WSA without visiting Snake River is incomplete. Why? Because of the abundant recreational opportunities offered to guests that come to the shores of the 1,056-mile river.
Without a doubt the longest river in Idaho, this river is designated as a Wild and Scenic River owing to its beautiful scenery, geology, recreational opportunities, fisheries, wildlife, and many more.
Some of the things to do at Snake River include fishing for cutthroat trout, floating, canoeing, kayaking, and rafting. Permits are required for boating on the river.