Mesa Falls scenic Byway

Mesa Falls Scenic Byway (Mesa Falls Idaho)

Want to explore Mesa Falls Idaho? Mesa Falls scenic byway is a hidden gem! It is so beautiful and worth visiting!  It is the perfect place to stop on your Idaho Falls to Yellowstone road trip

Mesa Falls is located in the Targhee National Forest. This amazing 114 ft waterfall is one of the best day trips from Yellowstone.  

In this post, we are going to take you on a Mesa Falls scenic byway road trip. This complete guide will hit Upper Mesa Falls Idaho as well as Lower Mesa Falls ID. We will discuss some of the best Mesa Falls hiking trails.  The Mesa Falls scenic byway ends with a stop at the Harriman State Park near the Island Park area.  

Let's learn all about the Mesa Falls scenic byway! 

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Mesa Falls Idaho scenic byway

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Mesa Falls scenic byway map

Mesa Falls scenic byway is located in the Caribou Targhee National Forest.  You will take a detour off of HWY 20 to the Mesa Falls Scenic Highway/ HWY 47. 

This is a beautiful Idaho scenic byway that begins in Ashton and ends at Harriman State Park. 

Closest Places to Mesa Falls Idaho

  • Idaho Falls to Mesa Falls – 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Rexburg to Mesa Falls – 51 minutes
  • West Yellowstone to Mesa Falls – 51 minutes
  • Island Park to Mesa Falls – 20 minutes

How Long is Mesa Falls Scenic Byway?

The Mesa Falls scenic byway is about 28.7 miles long.  This route will include both upper and lower Mesa Falls as well as Harriman Park into Island Park.  

When is Mesa Falls Scenic Byway Open?

This Idaho scenic byway is open primarily during the summer.  Roads are not plowed during the winter.    

Can you See Mesa Falls from the Road?

No, you will have to get out of your car and walk down to the overlook! Don't worry it is worth the walk! 

Parking at Mesa Falls Overlook

Mesa Falls Idaho Parking

There are two parking lots at Mesa Falls.  One is for the Upper Mesa Falls and one is for the Lower Mesa Falls.  

There are plenty of spaces in both lots.  You will probably want to go to the upper lot first and explore then drive down to the lower lot after.  The upper lot will be more crowded.  

Admission to Mesa Falls Idaho

Mesa Falls in Idaho - snake River

I have some great news! If you have a National Park Pass Mesa Falls Idaho is included.

If not, don't worry admission is only $5 per vehicle to enter.  There is a drop box in the parking lot where you can place your money and pay. 

Mesa Falls Visitor Center

Mesa Falls Scenic Byway Visitor Center

The Mesa Falls Idaho Visitor Center is located in what was the Big Falls Inn.  It was built in 1915.  Inside the lodge, you will find exhibits of geology, flora and fauna, and the history of the lodge. There are bathrooms onsite.

Hours at Mesa Falls Visitor Center

The Mesa Falls Idaho Visitor Center is only open during the summer months from 9:30 am – 5:30 pm.  The falls never close however, the roads are not plowed during the winter so it can be difficult to access certain times of the year.  

This historic site typically opens around Memorial Day depending on the snowpack. 

Mesa Falls Programs

Mesa Falls ID programs

During the summer months, you can participate in a few programs.  You can take a historical tour of the historic railroad located nearby.  You can also join in on a guided nature trail hike.

Demonstrations at Mesa Falls

When we went there were several people outside doing some demonstrations.  You can learn a lot of great information about the area when you participate in these programs.   

Mesa Falls Upper Falls Trail

Lower Mesa Falls Idaho

After you check out the Mesa Falls Idaho visitor center you can follow the path that leads down to the falls. 

Upper Mesa Falls Boardwalk

You won't be able to see Upper Mesa Falls from the road you will have to park and walk down.  Boardwalks with high fences are located strategically along the path to get the best views of Upper Mesa Falls. There are many viewpoints and overlooks along the way.

This Mesa Falls hiking trail is easy at only .4 miles total.  It will take you about 10-15 minutes to walk from the visitor center down to Upper Mesa Falls.  This will give you enough time to enjoy the falls. 



Mesa Falls Upper Falls

Upper Mesa Falls Idaho

Upper Mesa Falls is the highlight of the Mesa Falls scenic byway.  This waterfall is as tall as a 10-story building!  It is very impressive.  

How Tall is Upper Mesa Falls?

Upper Mesa Falls is about a 114 ft tall waterfall.  It is one of the only waterfalls on the Snake River that is untouched by humans. The waterfall flows over ancient volcanic rock. 

Is Upper Mesa Falls Worth Visiting?

Yes, Upper Mesa Falls is worth visiting! It is so beautiful! If you want to truly experience nature this is the place! 

Mesa Falls Idaho Hike

Mesa Falls Idaho Hike

The Mesa Falls Nature Trail is another great area to explore.  Most people simply check out the Upper Falls Boardwalk trail and do not attempt the Mesa Falls Nature trail.  This is a mistake!!

Mesa Falls Nature Trail

The Mesa Falls nature trail is 2 miles, however, it is an easy walk from the Upper Mesa Falls down to the Lower Mesa Falls.  In fact, you actually get up close and personal with the lower falls.  You will actually feel the water coming off the waterfall from the trail. 

If you have the time to check it out you will not regret it.  


Lower Mesa Falls

Lower Mesa Falls Idaho

One mile away from the Upper Mesa Falls parking lot is Lower Mesa Falls.

How Tall is Lower Mesa Falls?

This waterfall is not quite as tall however, it still stands at 65ft.  The Lower Mesa Falls gives a great view of the Snake River.  As I said, if you want to get closer you can take the Mesa Falls Nature Trail.

It is worth stopping at as you continue on the Mesa Falls scenic byway. 

Harriman State Park

Mesa Falls scenic byway horse

Another amazing place to visit along the Mesa Falls scenic byway is Harriman State Park. There are lots of fun things to explore in this area.

Things to Do at Harriman State Park

You will love all the hiking trails, mountain biking opportunities, and horseback riding adventures.  You will also want to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife in the area. 

There are a lot of hikes at this park.  I am going to mention a few below but just so you know there are a lot more than I am going to list. 

Mesa Falls Hikes on the Scenic Byway

Mesa Falls Idaho Hike on Scenic Byway

If your family loves to hike there are a lot of great hikes along the Mesa Falls scenic byway.

Hikes Near Mesa Falls Idaho 

  • Ranch Loop – 1.7 miles (Harriman State Park)
  • River Trail – 2.8 miles (Harriman State Park)
  • Silver Lake Trail and Thurman Creek Trail – 6.9 miles (Harriman State Park) 
  • Sheep Falls and Henry's Fork – 4.7 miles

Is Visiting Mesa Falls Idaho Worth It?

Upper Mesa Falls Idaho overlook

Yes! If you are visiting Yellowstone or the Grand Tetons National Park, adding a day trip to Mesa Falls is a great idea! 

The Upper Mesa Falls is stunning and worth your time.  This whole area of Idaho is gorgeous! If you want to spend a few days in nature Mesa Falls Idaho is a great option! 

Accommodations Near Mesa Falls Idaho

accommodations near mesa falls scenic byway

Your best bet is staying in one of the lodges along the Mesa Falls scenic byway.  You can also look into a VRBO in Island Park.  This area is the up-and-coming place to stay when visiting Yellowstone.  

Vacation Homes

There are a lot of nice vacation homes available to rent

You can also camp along the Mesa Falls scenic byway there are a few campsites.  If you have an RV or want to rent an RV you will find dry camping along this route. 

Campgrounds on the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway

  • Warm River Campground
  • Grandview Campground
  • Henry Forks Dispersed Camping

Attractions Near Mesa Falls Idaho

Yellowstone with kids

Yellowstone National Park is probably the most famous attraction near Mesa Falls.  Yellowstone is worth a visit! 

Big Springs

At Big Springs you can visit the beginning of the famous Henry's Fork of the Snake River.  You can also visit the Jonny Sack Cabin. This is a historic site that is only opened seasonally.  You can also cross a bridge and head towards the spring. At the spring you can feed the trout. 

Sheep Falls

Sheep Falls is also located in the Targhee Forest.  This is a less visited waterfall. There is a hike that is just under 5 miles to see Sheep Falls.  

Island Park

Island Park is amazing! There are more Idaho scenic drives, more waterfalls, and an incredible amount of wildlife in Island Park.  You can spend hours exploring. My brother-in-law grew up in this area and told me this is the best place to pick huckleberries.  Huckleberries are delicious.  He always makes a Huckleberry pie for Thanksgiving! 

Island Park is also a great location to book a cabin! 

Book a Tour

If you want to experience this area with a guide, you can book a tour for up to 7 people.  You will get to see all of the sites along the Mesa Falls Idaho trail! 

Bear World

Bear World is a fun place for little kids!  If by chance you don't see any bears in nature you can come to Bear World and check them out in a more controlled environment.  There are also fun rides for the kids.  


Are you Ready to go to Mesa Falls Scenic Byway?

Upper Mesa Falls Idaho overlook

Are you ready to visit Mesa Falls scenic byway?!  Mesa Falls in Idaho is beautiful and totally worth a stop if you are in Eastern Idaho or if you are planning a Yellowstone family vacation.

Mesa Falls Idaho is truly a hidden gem! Most people visiting the area only know about Yellowstone but this is a special treat! 

I hope you get a chance to visit! If you have questions be sure to ask in the Facebook Group. 

Facebook Group

If you have any questions be sure to join my Planningaway Travel Community on Facebook.  This is a place where I post travel deals, and you can ask any questions about your upcoming trips!

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  1. Your pictures are so gorgeous of the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway. I would especially love to see the Upper Falls!

  2. The Mesa Falls Scenic Byway looks absolutely gorgeous! I loved taking a peek at this beautiful place through your post and will send it to my friend who just moved to Idaho!

  3. The Mesa Falls Scenic Byway is such a beautiful area! Thank you for taking me there through your eyes!

  4. Mesa Falls Scenic Byway is going on our list! The falls look incredible!! We are always seeking out new places to explore.

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