Waterfalls

Mesa Falls

(Last Updated On: January 7, 2019)

We travel to Yellowstone almost every year, so we are always looking for good stops along the way. One of our favorite stops is Mesa Falls in Island Park, Idaho. If you are traveling from Idaho Falls to West Yellowstone, block out some time to stop at this spectacular waterfall. Mesa Falls is split into two sections, Upper Mesa Falls and Lower Mesa Falls.

Lower Mesa Falls

Lower Mesa Falls, which is just a mile or two up the road, is barely worth the effort. The lower falls can only be seen at a distance of around 1000 meters. There is a pullout with an overlook and you see the cascade from there. The waterfall is large and impressive, but it is very far away. Don’t let this underwhelming report stop you from checking out Upper Falls, though.

The walk to see Lower Falls is short and flat.
Lower Falls is pretty, but it is so far away from the viewpoint.

Upper Mesa Falls

Upper Mesa Falls is really fabulous. After parking at the trailhead, walk over to the small Visitor Center. Inside you’ll find rangers, information, and restrooms. Our boys really enjoyed the room where they could see all the animal furs.

Make sure to stop at the Visitor Center.
Walk to the back to see this hands-on room.

From the Visitor Center, take the trail that leads down to the river. There are some stairs that drop down to the waterfall, so remember that you will have to climb back up, too. The walk to the brink is short, though.

The trail leads from the Visitor Center down toward the waterfall.
The walk is short, but it is steep with all these stairs.

After a walk of less than 100 meters, the trail opens up to an overlook for Upper Mesa Falls. The waterfall features a vertical drop of 114 feet, which is taller than Lower Yellowstone Falls! The curtain for the falls is roughly 200 feet wide, and the trail gives several great views from just above the rim of the waterfall. There are beautiful views of the river, as well as a few interpretive signs.

Upper Mesa Falls is impressive.
We loved the beautiful scenery, and it says that Osprey nest here, but we didn’t spot any.
We love to read the signs to find out more about the area.

Mesa Falls requires a 15 minute detour along the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway as you travel US-20 from Ashton to Island Park. The extra fifteen minutes of driving is well worth a look at another great waterfall!

More Information

  • Mesa Falls does require a $5/vehicle fee, a National Parks pass of any kind covers this fee.
  • There is a Mesa Falls Nature Trail that walks to a closer overlook of Lower Mesa Falls. We arrived in the early evening and didn’t have time to hike. The trail is 2.5 miles RT and fairly easy.
  • The Mesa Falls Visitor Center is open 9:30-5:30 every day in the summer. Limited days and hours in the winter.