Massacre Rocks is a state park located in American Falls, Idaho. It is a state park with a lot of history. Massacre Rocks is a famous spot along the Oregon Trail. Wagons in route of the Oregon Trail travelled over twelve-hundred miles from Missouri. It is said that many considered their trek through the Idaho desert as one of the most difficult parts of the journey. Unfortunately today, the interstate cuts through part of the Massacre Rocks State Park. Massacre Rocks was given its names because there are large boulders in the area that created narrow passage ways through the rocks. Emigrants feared a possible ambush by Native Americans through these passageways because only one wagon could fit through at a time. These passageways were termed “Gate of Death” or “Devil’s Gate”. In 1862, five wagons clashed with Native Americans and ten emigrants died in the fight. If you want more of a historical background on Massacre Rocks State Park you may visit Pathways of Pioneers or Legends of America.
Given the historical significance of the area and the fact that we were looking for a new area to get our horses in shape for the riding season, we decided that riding Massacre Rocks State Park would be an interesting adventure. We did our research, found a park map that outlined the trails that were “horse accessible”, and we mapped out a route using the Suunto Watch. We traveled the hour and a half to the state park, paid our visitor fee and parked the horse trailer at a boat ramp. Yes it was a weird spot to park a horse trailer and the freeway was buzzing to our left. It wasn’t quite what we had in mind and definitely was too populated for our taste. We decided to make the best of it, saddled up and carried on our way. At about a mile into our trek we were stopped by a park ranger who told us that Massacre Rocks State Park does not allow horses in the park. There were no signs stating horses weren’t allowed. We pleaded our case, stating we found a state park map that reinforced we had every right to ride these trails. The park ranger reiterated that horses have been banned from the area for some time because they ruin the trails. We reluctantly obliged, turned around and headed back to the truck. It was our first time ever being kicked of a trail. We ate lunch at the boat ramp, knowing we needed to squeeze in a ride that day.
Maggie had fortunately ridden the area a while back and we ended up finding the place she had ridden. It was located on the other side of the Snake River that runs through Massacre Rocks State Park. It was a section of land not owned by the state park. This area offered many trails and services horses and unfortunately dirt bikes. We got back on our horses and picked a trail and just rode. There are many trails that wind through the desert and it is a sandy, hilly area. Be careful though because there are large sections of the land that are fenced in. Even though our day hadn’t gone as planned it was still an adventure and we got to do some exploring which is always fun. We actually went back to this spot the next weekend and explored even further. With the sand and hill climbing it is a good spot to get your horses in shape and surprisingly we didn’t come across any dirt bikers while we were on the trail. We only met them in the parking lot.
Directions to Massacre Rocks State Park (NO HORSES ALLOWED)
From Idaho Falls head south on I-15 towards Pocatello, follow I-15 for about 45 miles. Take exit 72 for I-86 west toward Twin Falls. Continue on I-86 W for 33 miles. Take exit 28 towards Massacre Rocks State Park. Turn right toward Park Ln. There is visitor station when you enter the park and the park fee is $5.
Directions to Horse Approved Riding Area
From Idaho Falls head south on I-15 towards Pocatello, follow I-15 for about 45 miles. Take exit 72 for I-86 west toward Twin Falls. Continue on I-86 W for 22 miles. Take exit 40 for ID-39 toward American Falls/Aberdeen. Turn right onto ID-39 N stay on this road for about 3 miles. Then turn left onto W Lamb Weston Road, turn left onto Borah Rd, then turn left onto S. Lake Channel Rd. Follow this road for about 3 miles you will see two big turn outs on either side of the road. In these turnouts you will see some dirt bike trailers. We parked on the turnout to the left of the road and explored the trails on that side.