Explore Upper and Lower Mesa Falls
Idaho › Upper Mesa Falls Parking, Idaho
Added by Josh Packer
The scenic byway in the Grand Targhee Forest offers easy access to the viewing platforms to see the 114-foot tall and 200-foot wide waterfall. This is a short, must-do trip with the family on the way to West Yellowstone from Idaho.
When two waterfalls have their own scenic byway, you know it is worth the additional stop. Lower Mesa Falls and Upper Mesa Falls are spectacular waterfalls along the Henrys Fork River, deep in the Grand Targhee Forest. The winding scenic byway yields some spectacular views of the Grand Targhee Forest, especially during fall when all the quaking aspens and other trees are changing colors. In winter, the byway is closed because of the snow, but is groomed for snowmobiling and Nordic skiing.
Before heading down to the falls, you can stop at the visitor center, which provides information on the history of the falls and the lodge. Then make the short hike down the trail and stairs to the viewing platform, and take in the beauty of the lush forest, beautiful river, and roaring waterfall. There are many picturesque spots to take photos. On sunny days there is a rainbow in front of the falls from approximately 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
If you would like to be adventurous and get a unique, picturesque view of the falls along the river, there is a somewhat hidden trail to hike down. Right next to the stairs that lead back up to the parking area is a guard rail. Look over the guard rail on the right by the bushes until you see the trail. Exercising caution, hop over the guard rail and meander down for 15 or 20 minutes until you get to the river. From there, make your way to the waterfall to enjoy the breathtaking view of falls. For photographers, there is a rock in the river where you can place your tripod and camera to have the perfect angle of the waterfall below Upper Mesa Falls.
Getting there: On the way to West Yellowstone on Hwy 20, turn east onto Hwy 47 in Ashton, Idaho and travel for about 15 miles through the Grand Targhee Forest. Lower Mesa Falls is about 0.7 miles before you get to the turn off for Upper Mesa Falls and is worth the stop. Afterwards, get back on the byway until you reach the turnoff for Upper Mesa Falls, and drive down the winding road until you arrive at the parking area. There is a self-service pay station, and the cost is $5 per vehicle. There will be a sign with directions on how to get to the viewing platform.
Once you are ready to leave, you can continue driving north for 13 miles on Hwy 47 on the byway until you get back onto Hwy 20. Continue north on Hwy 20 for about 35 miles until you reach West Yellowstone.
- Good pair of hiking shoes if traveling to the bottom of the river
- $5 cash for the parking fee
- Tripod and camera
- 4-wheel drive vehicle (winter)
- Snowmobile or Nordic skis (winter)
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ReviewsLeave a Review
The falls are stunning and overall gorgeous sight. The mosquitos are out of control! Definitely layer up and wear tons of bug spray or it might ruin the view for you. There are two lookout points, upper and lower. Upper falls costs $5 to park. From what we saw, lower falls had two trailheads to hike, can't remember how long they were round trip but looked like a fun hike if you go prepared!
This is a fun and easy hike for the family! I can only rate it 3 out of 5 stars because of the amount of people. I prefer more remote areas, where you rarely or never actually see other people. It is a beautiful and very enjoyable place. It is wonderful for photographers! There is plentiful wildlife and vegetation to take photos of. And of course the water falls, as well.
Exploring Upper Mesa Falls is awesome. Whether you just want to see the falls from the viewing platform or be more adventurous and hike below the falls; it's a great experience. Great stop on the way to Yellowstone.
There's an additional note about this adventure. If you plan on hiking down to the bottom of the river, you need to let the rangers know. They are OK with you going as long as they know you're down there. They also want you to be inconspicuous when jumping the gate to hike down, so you don't attract attention and get all the other tourists following you down.
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