Mesa Falls Scenic Byway
Includes Upper Mesa Falls, Lower Mesa Falls, Harriman State Park
Mesa Falls Scenic Byway is located between Ashton Idaho and Island Park Idaho along Idaho State Highway 47. This impressive 30 mile byway includes two breathtaking waterfalls (Upper Mesa Falls and Lower Mesa Falls) that are among the most spectacular in the West, as well as popular campgrounds and Harriman State Park. The historic Big Falls Interpretive Center is located at Upper Mesa Falls, which is an extremely interesting center that explains the fascinating geology, history and wildlife of the area. The Mesa Falls Scenic Byway runs through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, where the scenery the entire way is wonderful and makes this drive an absolute "must do" during your Idaho vacation.
Upper Mesa Falls
Upper Mesa Falls is a breathtakingly gorgeous waterfall along the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway in eastern Idaho. Located on the Henrys Fork of the Snake River, Upper Mesa Falls in Idaho is approximately 114 feet high and 200 feet wide. There are extremely well constructed ramps and stairs to the brink of these incredible falls with interpretive signs along the way. This short walk is definitely recommended and is the highlight of the entire Mesa Falls Scenic Byway experience.
The Upper Mesa Falls Overlook is directly above the brink of Upper Mesa Falls!
Lower Mesa Falls
Located just a few miles downstream of Upper Mesa Falls along the Henrys Fork of the Snake River on the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway is the 65 foot high Lower Mesa Falls.
These falls are also quite spectacular, however the view of the Lower Mesa Falls is not as good as Upper Mesa Falls because there is no stair system at the Lower Mesa Falls.
About 1.4 million years ago, a cycle of what is known as "rhyolitic volcanism" from the Henrys Fork Caldera deposited a tremendous layer of ash and rock across the Mesa Falls Area.
This layer eventually hardened into rock known as the Mesa Falls Tuff. Then sometime between 200,000 and 625,000 years ago the Henrys Fork of the Snake River cut through the Mesa Falls Tuff, which then filled partially in with basalt lava flows.
The Henrys Fork of the Snake River then carved the present channel through this basalt, which is what you see today. If you're fascinated with geology, you'll love this area.
If geology isn't your thing, you'll love the beauty of the landscape regardless.
Harriman State Park
Located near the beginning (or end) of Mesa Falls Scenic Byway along U.S.Highway 20 in the Island Park Area rests Harriman State Park.
Found within an 11,000 acre wildlife refuge that is part of the Great Yellowstone Ecosystem, visitors have a good opportunity to see elk, moose, trumpeter swans and sandhill cranes.
An added bonus is the spectacular view of the Teton Mountain Range to the east. In fact, no matter where you look the scenery is wonderful while visiting the popular Harriman State Park in Idaho.
History of Harriman State Park
Several Union Pacific Railroad investors owned this acreage from 1902 to 1977, and served as a cattle ranch (known as the Railroad Ranch) and private retreat for the Guggenheim and Harriman families. During the summer months tours are provided through the historic Railroad Ranch buildings.
Legendary Fly Fishing
Henrys Fork of the Snake River is one of the top blue ribbon trout streams in America, and it runs right through Harriman State in Idaho along the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway for 8 glorious miles!
The Henrys Fork of the Snake River meanders over 8 miles through the Harriman State Park, and is known as one of the best fly fishing streams in the country.
So if you're a fly fisherman or fisherwoman, you definitely need to fish the Henry's Fork of the Snake River... and some of the best water is in Harriman State Park!
There are also over 20 miles of trails used for horseback riding, biking, hiking and cross country skiing.
The Mesa Falls Scenic Byway remains scenic far beyond the Upper Mesa Falls and Lower Mesa Falls area. You will enjoy driving through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, and you will get a glimpse of the might Teton Mountain Range of Grand Teton National Park. The Mesa Falls Scenic Byway is an extremely pleasant and beautiful drive, and we highly recommend spending the time to drive this 30 mile stretch of road during your Idaho vacation...you'll be glad you did.
A view of the Teton Moutain Range to the east from the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway in Idaho.