Mesa Falls in Idaho is a must-visit destination for nature lovers. Located along the Snake River, this majestic waterfall is one of the most beautiful sites in the area. With towering cliffs and spectacular views, it's easy to see why Mesa Falls has become a popular destination for visitors from all over the world.
In this guide, we'll take you through everything you need to know about visiting Mesa Falls and how to make the most out of your trip.
Mesa Falls Scenic Byway
This stunning byway begins in Ashton, Idaho, and runs northeast into the Targhee National Forest. The byway is about 30 miles long and ends near Island Park. You'll find larger parking lots along the byway for ATVs and trailers. Without stopping, the total driving time should be around 35 minutes, but with stops, it should take closer to an hour. Please keep in mind that Idaho 47 is closed in the winter and is used for snowmobile trails.
As you drive, be sure to look out for scenic overlooks like the Teton Overlook and the Grand View Overlook. Warm River Bridge is a great place to observe wildlife! And if you're looking for more information, the Visitor Center is located in the historic Big Falls Inn, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Once you reach Mesa Falls, you can explore upper Mesa Falls, lower Mesa Falls and even take a hike to the bottom of the falls. If you plan to visit Mesa Falls in winter, dress warmly and wear sturdy boots as the trails can be icy!
Did You Know? Highway 47 turns into a snowmobile path in the winter.
What to Expect
When visiting Mesa Falls in Idaho, you'll want to make a stop at the Mesa Falls Visitor Center. It's open daily in the summer and limited hours on certain weekends during the winter. The visitor center provides educational displays about the history and geology of Mesa Falls.
Once at Mesa Falls, you can explore a 0.8-mile accessible trail and boardwalk that provide spectacular views of both Upper and Lower Mesa Falls. In addition, a strenuous hike to the top of the falls is available for more adventurous visitors. Winter access is only available by snowmobile or skis, so make sure you plan ahead if you're visiting Mesa Falls in winter.
Mesa Falls Key Facts
Located in Idaho, Mesa Falls is a breathtaking sight not to be missed. Upper Mesa Falls stands at a whopping 120 feet tall – that’s as high as a 10-story building! Lower Mesa Falls is located a mile south of Upper Mesa Falls and is only 45 feet tall.
Both Upper and Lower Mesa Falls are among the few prominent waterfalls on the Snake River still unaffected by manmade influences. A scenic walking path leads to incredible views of both falls, making it easy to take in the stunning beauty of these natural wonders.
If you’re planning to visit in the winter, keep in mind that snow and ice can make parts of the mesa falls hike slippery. Be sure to bring appropriate footwear and equipment if you plan to visit Mesa Falls in Idaho during colder months.
Mesa Falls Hike
Mesa Falls is a popular spot for hikers and nature enthusiasts alike. Visitors can begin their journey at the visitor center where they can learn more about the history of the falls, the nearby lodge, and other attractions.
The Mesa Falls Hike is a short trail leading down to a viewing platform. Along the way, you will pass through Upper Mesa Falls, a 110-foot cascade. Further along the path, you will also reach Lower Mesa Falls which is an 85-foot cascade. Both of these mesa falls are magnificent sights to behold and are especially picturesque in winter.
At the end of the Mesa Falls Hike, visitors will be able to admire a breathtaking view from the viewing platform. If you’re lucky enough to visit on a sunny day, make sure to look out for a rainbow in front of the falls between 9:00 am and 1:00 pm.
When to Go
The best time to visit Mesa Falls in Idaho is during the summer months, from May to September. During this time of year, temperatures are moderate and the waterfall is at its fullest capacity. However, it is possible to visit Mesa Falls any time of year, as the area is open year-round.
In the winter months, you can still take advantage of the beautiful views and snow-covered landscape. Visiting Mesa Falls in winter is a unique experience, with frozen snow along the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway and a thick layer of snow on the upper and lower Mesa Falls. The air is crisp and the silence creates a tranquil atmosphere. You may even be lucky enough to witness icicles cascading down from Upper Mesa Falls.
No matter what time of year you visit, make sure to wear appropriate clothing, footwear, and sun protection. A hike to the top of Upper Mesa Falls is a must-do activity when visiting Mesa Falls, so plan accordingly with extra layers and snacks. Enjoy!
Tips for Visiting
1. Plan your trip in advance - Mesa Falls is open year-round, but certain areas may be closed off in the winter months due to weather conditions. Make sure to check the Idaho Parks and Recreation website before you go for the most up-to-date information on park closures and restrictions.
2. Wear comfortable hiking shoes - If you plan to explore Mesa Falls, make sure to wear shoes that are comfortable and can handle a few hours of walking. The Upper and Lower Mesa Falls have different trails that offer different views, so make sure you plan for enough time to explore both!
3. Bring plenty of water - It's important to stay hydrated when exploring any area of Idaho, and Mesa Falls is no exception! Bring plenty of water along with you to make sure you're able to last through your hike.
4. Be aware of wildlife - As with any outdoor space, it's important to keep an eye out for wildlife when visiting Mesa Falls. Make sure to keep your distance from any animals you may encounter, as well as respect their habitats.
5. Bring a camera - Mesa Falls is a great place for capturing some stunning photos, so make sure you bring a camera or your phone to capture some memories!
6. Respect the area - Lastly, always remember to respect the area and be respectful of fellow visitors by picking up after yourself and disposing of any trash properly.
To Do Nearby
There are a few not-to-be-missed activities near Mesa Falls that we highly recommend checking out:
The Mesa Falls Visitor Center has exhibits on area geology, flora, and fauna, as well as the history of the lodge. It is open daily from 9:30 – 5:30 in the summer. For those wanting to get out into nature, the Mesa Nature Trail starts at the upper parking lot of the Visitor Center and offers a great way to explore the upper and lower Mesa Falls.
The Grandview Overlook is one mile south of the Visitor Center along the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway.
Harriman State Park is also nearby and offers fly fishing, horseback riding, and the chance to connect to the area's history.
There is also a one-mile interpretive trail at Big Springs that offers visitors stunning views of upper and lower Mesa Falls Idaho.
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