Mesa Falls Scenic Byway
Length: 28.7 mi / 46 km
Time to Allow: Allow 1 hour to fully appreciate this byway
This byway takes you through Targhee National Forest, home to the most incredible waterfalls in the Western United States: lower and upper Mesa Falls. This byway is only about 30 miles (50 km) long, but the views that you see along the way make it feel much longer and will have you captivated for the entire ride. This byway takes the word scenic to a new level, bringing you through the lush forests of Targhee National Forest, an area known for its natural wildlife and incredible views. Not only can you see some of the most incredible foliage available in the area, but you can also sneak a peek at the natural wildlife that makes their home in this area. Those who are fans of geology can stop at the Big Falls interpretive center to find out more about the interesting geological history of the falls, as well as what makes this area so unique.
One of the things that makes these waterfalls so unique is that they have never been used for irrigation or hydroelectric projects, meaning they are some of the last untouched waterfalls in the West. The viewing area for upper Mesa Falls has been specifically designed with incredible overlooks that are accessible to everyone, making this a road trip that the entire family can enjoy, regardless of their mobility challenges. For those looking to camp in the area, there are plenty of recreation trails, campsites, and more to take advantage of during your visit. Fans of historic architecture will fall in love with the Mesa Falls Visitor Center, which was originally the Big Falls Inn. First built in 1915, this inn was home to several social gatherings and was used as a hotel, café, dance hall, and a way station for those traveling along the Yellowstone Highway. Today, it acts as a visitor center for those looking to explore and experience Caribou-Targhee National Forest.
Those looking to take in the beauty of the lower falls can take a walk along Mesa Falls Nature Trail, a gentle trail that lasts for about 1 mi / 1.5 km, and brings you alongside lower Mesa Falls, for an equally impressive, and secluded, view of the falls.
While this scenic byway may be a bit out of the way for those looking to add a nice view to their trip, for those looking to make a day trip of the area, few locations hold as much beauty as this incredible trail and National Forest. Not only can visitors watch eagles and osprey circle above the falls, but they can also witness the beautiful morning rainbows this area is famous for, and those who decide to camp at one of the recreation locations along the park will find themselves waking up in a gorgeous wilderness that will stay in their minds and hearts long after the leave Idaho. No matter what brings you along the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, you’re sure to catch yourself planning your next trip to the area, long before you leave the falls.
More Idaho Byways
You can check out additional Byways in Idaho by clicking on the list of byways below, or by going to the Idaho Byways home section. To find even more of scenic byways in the United States, visit our scenic byways map.