Exit And Explore Off I-84 ID: Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument
It’s another one of those snooze fest road trips, this time on I-84 in southwest ID. While you’ll be tempted to relieve the fidgets by picking up the hitchhiking Bolivian family in traditional dress and a llama on a rope (true story), exit and explore Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument instead.
Two hours or so, exercise, beautiful, interesting, local color…
And you might like this off-highway excursion so much, you’ll want to linger a day or more and not just a couple of hours. There are all kinds of surprise possibilities at this exit. For real: just check out the bottom of this post.
Why Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument?
Not the cowboy kind, either. We’re talking pre-ice-age horse fossils, and not just any old ordinary horse bones. We’re talking famous.
Hagerman is one of the most significant and productive sites in the world for equine paleontology.
Although Hagerman is most well-known for horse finds, there are 200 or so other rare fossilized species, making it one of the richest paleontology sites anywhere—not just the U.S.—for a whole lot of other creatures as well. All from approximately 2-ish million years ago.
So, if you like super-ancient, Hagerman is about as good as it gets.
Go to the Visitor Center
The fossil quarries are closed to visitors, but a stop at the National Monument’s visitor center/museum on the main drag in the town of Hagerman will give you an idea of the specimens that paleontologists have been unearthing since the 1920’s.
See the rangers up top waiting enthusiastically for your arrival?
This museum is up close and personal
You even get to go eyeball to eyeball with a mock-up of a fossilized horse.
Now that you’ve had your museum orientation…
Along the beautiful valley south of Hagerman. Above, you’ll see a monstrous escarpment. See the trees? That’s the scale you’re looking at. Massive.
That pile of stuff, incidentally, is what makes this area so inviting to paleontologists. The cliff is layered, which helps with dating finds. Plus the nature of the sediment lent itself to fossilization over the millenia.
You’re going up there
A map is a great idea, but you’ll see National Monument signs if your eyes are skinned.
After you’ve hauled self and vehicle part way up, you’ll spot a substantial pull-over on the left.
You surely anticipated that if you’re going to Exit and Explore, you’re also going to stretch your legs or whatever body parts you can? Good time to remember, since you’ll be attracted to an interpretive sign right next to a well-graded trail.
The sign will direct your eyeballs and feet downwards, the feet not so much (there’s barely a slope), but the eyeballs substantially. The overlooks along this path may keep you sightseeing for quite a while, because of….
Yes, the Oregon Trail went through here, and the pathway takes you to some spots where you can get a good look at surviving wagon ruts.
When you’re done, hop back in the car and
Wheel on upwards!
Until you’re high on the bluff, where there’s another National Monument viewpoint over the Snake River. Catch the breezes and marvel that intrepid pioneers managed to get wagons over these hills (not to mention crossing the Snake), when the climb was significant even for your trusty car on a smooth macadam highway.
Owing to poor planning, Muddy Boots neglected to delve into the wonders of this byway.
Ignorance was NOT bliss because….
Tarnation! Hagerman has hot springs?
More than one hot springs? Even in winter? Like this?
Senior pricing for the hots springs? Budget-friendly? $10 for a tent site? (Please verify.)
This would have taken care of interstate driving tush on the double. Sigh.
Don’t let ignorance get the better of you too, because:
You wouldn’t believe what all else you can do on this genius Hagerman Exit and Explore!
There’s “world class” all around Hagerman.
Home in on the spiffy Hagerman Chamber of Commerce website and get planning. They’ll get you 100% squared away.
You might want to eat?
Slurp an apple dumpling topped with butter rum sauce à la mode?
Per the Chamber, Chef Kirt Martin is the go-to guy, and he presides over the Snake River Grill. Have a good look at the full menu: there is sure to be something on it that will tickle your fancy. Share a comment or review below if you have a chance to sample Kirt’s offerings and say Hi.
Also in Idaho
And, when you’re done with your Hagerman adventure and still in National Park Senior Pass mode, add Craters of the Moon National Monument to your schedule. See here…Make The Most Of Your NPS Senior Pass: Craters Of The Moon ID.
Directions to Hagerman
Photo credits: Extra special thanks to John Chao and NPS for the NPS photos labeled with his name. Top photo, Visiting the Monument: Public Domain by National Park Service. Ruts and Wagons: Public Domain by National Park Service.