Idaho : Safety by CityUnited States - safety as a country Idaho - state review
Welcome to the “Gateway to the Northwest” in Pocatello, Idaho.
The city is two and a half hours north of Salt Lake City in the southeastern corner of Idaho.
The historic downtown area is filled with Old West and Native American charm.
Idahoans love the outdoors, so there is a lot to do in nature, from fishing, hunting, rafting, skiing, and hiking.
If you ever died of dysentery playing the Oregon Trail in your younger years, you probably died somewhere around Pocatello.
Massacre Rocks State Park is a wonderful place to visit, despite its name, but a great way to learn about the history of the Oregon Trail and the Native Americans who inhabited this land at the time.
To prove there’s a museum for everything, you can even visit the “Museum of Clean.”
It’s a lot more of an in-depth and mind-blowing experience than you might expect from the name and we’ll dive into that in a bit.
Pocatello is a history buff or outdoor lover’s dream come true.
Slow down your pace of life and take a deep breath of fresh mountain air in this historic and remarkable slice of Idaho.
Warnings & Dangers in Pocatello
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk in Pocatello, but mostly because the crime rates are higher than the very low Idaho average. You shouldn't be worried about visiting there, but know there's an edge to it.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Pocatello has a lot of ways to get around the streets and the wilderness. You can rent a car, bike, or ATV. You can get a rideshare or hop on a Pocatello Regional Transit bus. Rental cars are readily available. There's low risk with any option.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
The latest data for pickpockets was from 2020, and there were just three reported. There's a low risk of it happening during a visit here. That doesn't mean you should let your guard down.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
The main risks here are wildfires, flooding, and earthquakes. Even as I write this, there was an earthquake with a 2.7 magnitude just 72 hours before. Wildfires are the biggest risk and can be devastating, dangerous, and deadly. Because of the irrational behavior of these elements, there's a medium risk in Pocatello.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here with just one highway robbery reported in 2020 and just 11 robberies total. The violent crime rate is higher than the national average, and there is a possibility some of the violent crimes started as robberies. However, the data provided by the FBI doesn't go that in-depth.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
You might have heard that Idaho is the headquarters for white supremacists and it's well known that the Ruby Ridge incident happened in Idaho in 1992. Most of the "homegrown terrorists" and white supremacist groups are tied to northern Idaho. There's a low-risk anything will happen during your visit to Pocatello, but it's worth noting that the people of Idaho are conservative and religious, sometimes to an extreme.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
There's a low risk of getting scammed here. The police department offer scam and fraud avoidance tips that are run-of-the-mill issues that can happen anywhere.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
There's low risk when women travel here, but this isn't a place where you dress up. Camouflage is worn often and attire is more functional than fashionable. If you're worried about breaking a nail, you might get some odd looks.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
There's a low risk in tap water. It's safe to drink and passes all requirements of the state and federal levels while having no violations in the 2021 Annual Water Quality Report.
Safest Places to Visit in Pocatello
I think it’s always good to start in the downtown area of a city to get the lay of the land and the best advice from locals if there’s a central core.
Pocatello has a really cool historic downtown area.
You can do a self-guided walking tour of the historical markers along the way and this is some of the best antique shopping you’ll find in the state.
Haunted history tours are also available that take you through four buildings said to be haunted.
Just outside the visitor’s center, there’s a statue of Chief Pocatello in the rose garden.
Legend has it that if you take a picture with the Chief, he might smile for you in the photo, even though he’s stone-faced in person.
Massacre Rocks State Park is a great place to explore the land where Oregon Trail emigrants took a rest.
The park gets its name from two big rocks that were along the trail and emigrants were scared that Indians were waiting on the other side to attack them as they ventured west.
One of the rocks is engraved with the signatures of those emigrants.
The Museum of Clean made me raise an eyebrow, thinking it was a museum about cleaning kitchens throughout the centuries.
It does cover that but also digs into clean water, clean air, clean energy, and clean minds.
As the founder said in an interview with a local television station, “Clean answers most of the problems of the world.”
Keep a special eye out for a Roman-era toothpick preserved in the museum.
Immerse yourself in the Oregon Trail experience by visiting the Fort Hall replica.
It’s like an amusement park from the 19th century.
This is part of the Ross Park Complex, which also includes the Idaho Zoo and the county historical museum.
Places to Avoid in Pocatello
The highest amount of crime is between 5th Avenue and Main Street right through the heart of the city, not along I-15.
5th Avenue does run parallel to the 15 and eventually meets up with it at the north and south ends of town.
Avoid talking about politics or religion here, as it’s a heated topic and you won’t change anyone’s mind.
The political climate is so heated in so many ways and there are far better things to talk about in Pocatello than politics or religion.
Speaking of religion, there is a large population of Mormons here.
Depending on how much you know about the Mormon faith, you might assume everyone is a polygamist who worships Warren Jeffs.
That is NOT the average Mormon and any assumptions like that are connected to an extremist branch of the religion.
Mormons are no different than any other religious group.
The Mormon temple in Pocatello is beautiful, but you cannot go inside the temple if you are not Mormon.
It’s worth seeing the outside because Mormons build some impressive temples.
The weather gets extreme here in any season, from bitter winters to hot and dry summers.
Be prepared for the weather and pack accordingly.
A regular coat and gloves won’t cut it for a winter hike on the outskirts of town.
Also, be prepared for a lot of wind.
Avoid ever going into the wilderness if there’s a wildfire nearby and if a big fire is burning near the time of your visit consider rescheduling.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Pocatello
- You can report any non-emergency criminal activity to the police using an online form on the department’s website or calling (208)234-6121 during business hours. You can request anonymity.
- Download the Pocatello Connect app and you can sign up for emergency alerts or learn more about the city as you explore. You can even report any issues you come across, like graffiti at a park or a big pothole.
- Sign up for emergency notification through Bannock County as well. This will help you stay on top of the weather or wildfire risks.
- You will need a hunting or fishing license if you want to do either of those while you visit. You can purchase online, call 1-800-554-8685, or at a local vendor when you arrive in town.
- 36% of the thefts reported were due to car break-ins. Be sure to lock your car and roll up the windows when you park. Don’t leave anything in plain sight inside the car – not even the GPS stand. Bring all valuables into the hotel with you.
- Idaho has liberal Open Carry laws and unless someone is disqualified they can carry a weapon without a permit. You just might see more guns here than in some other places in the country.
- You can sign up for Nixle alerts from the police department if you want to stay on top of criminal activity during your visit. This is a great way to connect with law enforcement and you’ll get the information when the local media does so you don’t have to wait for the news to find out what’s going on.
- The trails around Pocatello are great ways to explore Idaho, but there is always the chance of a wildlife encounter. Can you guess one of the biggest dangers from wildlife on the trails? The biggest one is a moose. The Department of Fish & Game says people tend to think that moose are docile, large, friendly animals. They are large and can be aggressive. There are more moose attacks BECAUSE more people approach them than other animals like mountain lions. A moose can stomp you to death so just take a picture from a distance and let them be.
- It’s always a good idea to bring bear spray with you when hiking around Pocatello. This is only to be used in a worst-case scenario where a bear attack is imminent. It’s not like a perfume you spray ahead of time.
- You also risk running into a rattlesnake on the trails. If you ignore them and give them space, they will leave you alone. If you try to get a closer look or poke it with a stick, you’re going to get an angry rattler coming after you.
So... How Safe Is Pocatello Really?
Pocatello is known for its rugged and rough exterior with some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.
Since the pandemic, there has been a rush of people from tax-ridden California buying up homes in beautiful wilderness areas like Pocatello.
Even Montana has had a rush of rich Californians driving up real estate prices and paying with cash now that these people realize they can work from home anywhere in the U.S.
This has caused some annoyance among the locals who want their town to stay as it is and not be “California-ized.”
You just might have to break through the personality shells of some people there before you meet the nice person residing within.
When it comes to crime, here’s how the risks break down:
- Violent Crime: 1 in 273 chance
- Robbery: 1 in 5120 chance
- Theft: 1 in 69 chance
Just 18% of the violent crimes reported were attacks on strangers.
Most violent crimes are domestic situations and 72% of the violent crimes happened in homes.
That means there’s not a looming risk of a violent attack happening on you around the corner, much like those emigrants feared near Massacre Rocks.
The crime rates are much higher than the state and national averages, which is why we assigned a medium risk to the city.
For the average traveler, much of that crime won’t impact you unless you go looking for trouble.
How Does Pocatello Compare?
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You only present your Visa once and that's when you are at the final destination and about to walk on U.S. soil. Homeland Security and Border Patrol must approve your entrance. After that, you can put the Visa away. Be sure to plan your Visa process out by 3-6 months because there's a detailed process, including an interview, to get one.
You can only use the U.S. Dollar here. There's no reason to carry around a lot of cash. The only time I'd advise bringing cash is if there is a wildfire nearby. A swift wind could spread that fire fast and might take out the lines that connect credit card machines. Faced with a potential disaster, it's always ideal to have cash on hand.
Plan for extreme weather if you are visiting in winter or summer. The temperatures are polar opposites. It's a good idea to bring a thick body cream because the dry air here can really suck moisture out of your skin. Any time of year, bring good hiking boots that are broken in before you arrive.
Pocatello does have its own airport served by Delta. Idaho Falls is less than an hour north and has its own airport as well. For the biggest airport option, drive two hours south to Salt Lake City. My first trip ever was from St. Louis to Pocatello but we landed in Salt Lake and drove to Idaho. It was a phenomenal drive for scenery.
It's a great idea to get travel insurance for a visit to Pocatello. Some of the extreme weather here can really ruin travel plans and it's best to be prepared in advance.
Pocatello Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Idaho - Safety by City