Explore Upper and Lower Mesa Falls

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.

Read More

Tags

Photography
Hiking
Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Handicap Accessible
Picnic Area
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

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.

Stay Nearby

Ashton, Idaho

Grand View

Overview Grand View Campground is located on the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, adjacent to the Lower Mesa Falls Overlook, approximately 13 miles northeast of Ashton, Idaho. Upper Mesa Falls is within a ...

Ashton, Idaho

Warm River Cabin

Overview Warm River Cabin is located less than 20 miles from Ashton, Idaho, at Warm River Springs. An Idaho fish and game hatchery operated here from the 1930s to the 1950s. The cabin was formerly ...

Ashton, Idaho

Warm River

Overview Warm River Campground is located on its namesake in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest of southwestern Idaho. Visitors love the campground for its river tubing opportunities. Fishing and ...

Yellowstone Branch Line Trail

Big Springs Warming Hut

Overview Big Springs Warming Hut is located 22 miles south of West Yellowstone, Montana in beautiful Island Park, Idaho at an approximate elevation of 6,300 feet. Visitors love Island Park for its ...

Nearby Adventures

  • Hike to the Top of Lower Mesa Falls

    The Mesa Nature Trail begins on the dirt road to the Upper Mesa Falls overflow parking lot. The first mile of the trail is wide and smooth. Pause a half mile in to admire the Henry's Fork from the top of a lava field. The trail terminates at a fla...

    2.5 miles 400 ft gain

  • Yurt Camping in Harriman State Park

    Harriman State Park offers two yurts that are tucked just inside of the park entrance: Cygnet and Wyethia. With the exception of ADA accessibility, they are both identical in size and amenities. Cygnet is the first Yurt on your right side as you p...

  • Snowshoe the River Ranch Loop in Harriman SP

    The River Ranch Loop trail is a great snowshoe trail for families or beginners, since it has relatively few small hills. The trail runs for about 2.5 miles. There are also multiple state cabins/houses along the trail, including the Jones House, wh...

    3 miles 20 ft gain

  • Hike the River Trail and Ranch Loop at Harriman State Park

    Located at 6,100 feet above sea level, Harriman State Park (also called "the Ranch") is renown for it's fly fishing along the Henry's Fork. Whether you bring a fly rod or not, this scenic loop through the park is a delight for hikers of all abilit...

    3 miles 20 ft gain

  • Visit Idaho

    Idaho is a picturesque state filled with beautiful scenery and warm, wonderful people. It's an ideal destination for family travelers, outdoor enthusiasts, adventure seekers, or those just looking for a relaxing getaway.

    Learn More