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Mesa Falls Scenic Byway

Magnificent, Untouched Waterfalls

Mileage26 miles (43 km)
DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.33 minutes
SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.Spring, Summer, and Fall
RoadwaysIdaho Highway 47
Forest PassesSome of the adventures on this scenic drive require an admission fee that these passes cover. Please read the drive description for more information.America the Beautiful Annual Pass
ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, hotels, pharmacies, etc.Ashton, ID, and Island Park, ID
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Elevation Graph for Mesa Falls Scenic Byway

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Description

The Mesa Falls Scenic Byway visits two of Idaho’s most precious and untouched waterfalls on the Snake River, just outside of Yellowstone National Park. The Lower and Upper Mesa Falls are the only waterfalls in Idaho not used for irrigation or hydroelectric projects.

The scenic drive begins in Ashton, nestled at the Southern edge of the Yellowstone Caldera. This route is a pleasant side trip off of US-20 or as a continuation of the Teton Scenic Byway. The Grand Tetons rise tall on the east, up some 7,000 feet as you drive through the rolling farmlands of this charming rural town known as the seed potato capital of the world.

The road descends into a gorge as you travel north. Near the Warm River Bridge, consider stopping to observe and photograph the river otters, trout, and bald eagles that can often be seen here. The drive heads through two canyons, the Warm River Canyon on the east and the Henrys Fork Canyon on the west. Take advantage of the overlooks for views of the canyons, Warm River, and the spectacular glacier carved Tetons looming in the distance. Fishing and whitewater rafting are popular pastimes or enjoy the scenery with a relaxing picnic.

Fourteen miles from the start of the drive, you approach the Lower Mesa Falls (H1). Created by the rushing of Snake River as it is squeezed through a gorge and drops 65-feet over a basalt cliff, the Grandview Overlook offers a camera-worthy view. A paved trail leads to the rim and a 1-mile trail connects to the Upper Mesa Falls. The Upper Mesa Falls (H2), plunge 114-feet and you get an up-close sense of the power from the viewing platforms. Both waterfalls are within the Targhee National Forest, surrounded by natural beauty and wildflowers. There is a daily fee of $5 per vehicle to park and walk to the falls lookout. If you have the America the Beautiful Pass, there is no additional charge.

Fourteen miles from the start of the drive, you approach the Lower Mesa Falls (H1) which drop 65-feet over a basalt cliff. A paved trail leads to the rim and a 1-mile trail connects to the Upper Mesa Falls (H2), which plunges down 114-feet.

The scenic drive ends as you approach the US-20. Stop at the Harriman State Park (H3), home to a wildlife refuge just outside of the Yellowstone Ecosystem. In addition to possibly seeing an elk, moose, and sandhill cranes, enjoy a hike or a picnic here.

From here, either follow the US-20 east towards Yellowstone National Park or head south and catch the Tetons Scenic Byway.

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