It's otherworldly and it seems to float, but it's not a spaceship. In fact, the real stunner may be what’s holding up 48-foot-tall Balanced Rock, a popular volcanic formation near Twin Falls, Idaho: a tiny base just three feet tall and 17 inches wide.
Situated in a serene canyon along Salmon Falls Creek, the rhyolite out-cropping is a welcome oddity in the heart of southern Idaho's sparse desert. Visitors can park in a small lot with a picnic table off Balanced Rock Road to look up at the natural curiosity, or scramble up a short, steep trail for a close-up view.
From there, the scenery extends over cottonwood trees, more volcanic rock structures, and, from farther up, the Soldier and Pioneer Mountains to the north and the Jarbidge Mountains to the south. About a mile down the road, Balanced Rock Park provides more picnic tables as well as spots to camp, fish, and take longer hikes.
Years of erosion are responsible for the stone’s bizarre shape. Yet despite its apparent fragility, geologists say it seems stable. Among the sturdier rhyolite towers of the region, it lends a hint of Martian landscape.
"Local people call them hoodoos," says Rick Novacek, director for Twin Falls County Parks and Waterways. "Use your imagination and they may even resemble faces."
This article was first published in Winter 2017. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.