Just 100 miles southeast of Boise and right off U.S. Highway 26 sits the small town of Gooding, Idaho. Founded in 1908, this 1,529 square-mile city of just under 3,500 people makes for a great stop along the way to Yellowstone National Park or Craters of the Moon National Preserve. Gooding is home to gorgeous natural locations, fun summer festivals, and tasty hometown food spots. It’s also a great place to spend the night, offering two historical inns.
Two great spots for spelunkers are Tea Kettle Cave and Dead Horse Caves. Formed by lava leftover from volcanoes centuries ago, Tea Kettle Cave is shaped much like its namesake. The top of the cave is open to the sky and visitors must enter the “spout” in order to get inside. Once inside, you can walk amongst ferns and igneous rock formations. It’s quite a sight to see but be sure to watch your step! For a less arduous caving experience, Dead Horse Caves just a few miles away offers a fun, family-friendly atmosphere.
For those seeking the great outdoors, Gooding’s Little City of Rocks is the perfect destination. Ideal for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and even camping, this 2,400-acre rock city is home to natural arches, mushroom caps, towers, hoodoos, and spires of volcanic rock. History lovers may also come across petroglyphs on the rock carved by Native Americans thousands of years ago.
In the summertime, the city offers the Gooding Pro Rodeo and the Basque Festival. Set in the third weekend of July, the Basque Festival celebrates the culture of the Basques, who immigrated from their home in Spain and France to Southern Idaho in the late 1800s and early 1900s. At this cultural festival, guests get to play fun games, eat delicious food, and participate in exciting competitions.
Gooding, Idaho is also home to North Canyon Medical Center, a pillar of the town providing emergency care and family medicine. As the top hospital for local and surrounding towns, North Canyon is a fast-growing and highly respected medical center with doctors specializing in many fields.
If you’re a cowboy at heart, the Gooding Pro Rodeo, held in August, is a great event for you! The rodeo itself hosts hundreds of competitors, some unknown and some who have been national finalists or world champions. In addition to the rodeo competition, the Gooding Pro Rodeo hosts a fair that features 4-H activities and a Future Farmers of America (FFA) market animal sale.
All these activities certainly get the appetite going. Locals are quick to suggest Zeppes Pizza and Subs, a family-owned pizzeria that’s been around for 25 years. Featuring fresh dough made twice daily and sauce made from fresh tomatoes, Zeppes pizza is sure to hit the spot.
Ballard Family Dairy and Cheese is another great foodie destination. The dairy boasts handmade specialty cheeses made from local dairy cows on the farm. Among their offerings are fresh cheese curds and a variety of gouda, feta, swiss, parmesan-romano and cheddar cheeses.
If you’re tuckered out from hiking and full of Gooding’s delicious local food, spending the night in one of the city’s historical inns is a great way to conclude your trip. A part of the National Register of Historic Places, Gooding Hotel Bed and Breakfast is a great place to rest your eyes and get a little grub in the morning. In addition, the University Inn is a hotel steeped in history. It was first built in 1920 as a dormitory for Gooding College, which was established in 1917 and closed in 1938.
In all, Gooding is a great stop for tourists heading to nearby national parks. The beautiful scenery, friendly populace, yummy food, and fun events are sure make for a wonderful time for everyone in the family!