People always ask me what it was like growing up in Rexburg, and almost every time I can tell they are expecting me to talk about how boring it must have been or how relentlessly cold and windy it always seemed to be. The truth is, I loved growing up in Rexburg.
I always thought Rexburg was perfect and had everything I needed to keep me entertained and in love with life. When I was in high school I started hearing classmates talk about how they were so ready to get out of Rexburg and to move on with their lives, and I always wondered why they felt that way.
There are no major shopping centers — although we did a get a Walmart Supercenter in 2016— or strip malls or amusement parks for miles. Instead, beautiful forests, bursting rivers, towering mountains, quiet evenings and starry nights permeated my memories. Social hangouts are nice and the occasional trip to Utah or even Boise were refreshing, but having beautiful landscapes and breathtaking views replace all of the people and concrete jungles made me appreciate Rexburg for what it really is. An opportunity to be creatively interested in what is yet to be discovered.
I grew up as a kid feeding fish off the bridge at Big Springs in Island Park, having picnics with my family at Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park and waiting in freezing cold temperatures for the Old Faithful Geyser to burst. As I grew older, road trips to Grand Teton National Park for hiking and swimming, afternoons spent wandering shops in Jackson Hole and catching the Town Square Shootout, taking in the vastness of the space that was left from the unpredicted destruction of the Teton Dam and sledding behind my four-wheeler on Rexburg’s notoriously snow-covered roads. This was living in Rexburg; but most students hadn’t heard my story yet.
After my first semester of college and hearing how many students on campus hated how boring Rexburg was, I decided to helping people change their perspective on this small town.
So here are just a few cherished places that make Rexburg the wonderful place it is.
The Teton Dam
My all-time favorite place to visit is the Teton Dam. Back in 1976, the dam broke and ever since then it has been a popular spot for people to go fishing, camping, rock skipping and exploring. What I love most about the area is the vastness of what was left behind from the flood and the fact that it takes less than 30 minutes to get to either side of the broken dam.
Mesa Falls Area
Second on the list is the Mesa Falls Area. Checking out Mesa Falls and the incredible view that can be seen from both the upper and lower falls is something that most students have heard about. But on the drive to the falls after passing through Warm River, the turnout to the Yellowstone Trail Parking is where the fun begins.
In the spring and early fall this is home base for several short hikes with views unlike anything you have ever seen before.
To highlight one of the several fun and easy trails, the adventure begins at the Yellowstone Trail parking lot. After crossing through a small tunnel that leads underneath the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, a short 10-minute walk down a trail will lead to an intriguing historical landmark. The view is of an old train track that used to run through a train tunnel cut into the mountainside so trains could travel to and from the valley into the Yellowstone area. Unfortunately, time has taken its toll on this tunnel and entries have been blocked off for safety. This is still a fun spot to explore and admire as the trail overlooks a beautiful valley on the right side as you approach the unused tunnel.
One of the last destinations that makes Rexburg incredible is Webster’s Dam. After a 30 minute drive through the potato fields of Rexburg, you’ll arrive at the trailhead. Make sure to park your car on the main road unless you are looking to get your car stuck. On this mile-long hike through the forested hillside runs a small four-wheeler trail that leads to a bridge crossing over a small mountain stream. On the other side is a small waterfall and grassy area perfect for cooking a meal over a fire, playing a few games of Spikeball, finding a good spot for sunbathing in hammocks or stargazing under the beautiful night sky.
Although there are countless other incredible locations that did not make the list, Rexburg is far more interesting and fun than most students give it credit for. Be creative, find fun stuff to do and remember that a place is only what you make of it. So don’t be boring, be fun.