Mesa Falls and Shoshone Falls are 2 spectacular waterfalls found within southern Idaho. Both are worthy of a visit or 2 for the breathtaking views, peaceful setting, and prime photo opportunities. I enjoyed my time looking at these falls as much as my visit to Niagara, especially in the case of stunning Mesa Falls. So, if you find yourself taking a roadtrip through Southern Idaho (say on the way to Yellowstone), it’s definitely worth the detour to view either of these amazing waterfalls.
Southeast Idaho’s Mesa Falls is the more scenic of the 2 in my opinion. The Mesa Falls Scenic Byway begins in Ashton at the Junction of US 20 and Idaho 47. You will pass through various terrain along the way including beautiful forested lands, rivers, and canyons, until you eventually reach the Lower and Upper Falls.
Don’t be surprised to see wildlife along these beautiful, desolate country roads! Cows were blocking the road on several occasions…
Beautiful forested views along the way…
Make sure to stop at the Grand Teton scenic overlook along the way for a nice little view of these spectacular mountains. A side trip to the beautiful Grand Tetons National Park is another option if you have extra time.
The Upper Falls come in at 110 feet while the Lower Falls reach 85 feet. Both the upper and lower falls are offer beautiful views of waterfalls in a forested setting, which is what gives this waterfall the edge over Shoshone. The Upper Falls is an amazing spot for photography; you will find a convenient walking path and viewing overlooks for taking pictures.
A few pictures of the Lower Falls area from a scenic overlook…
The Upper Falls area is even more amazing…
The Byway runs approximately 28 miles and would take about an hour to drive straight-through. However, I would plan at least a few hours for stopping at each of the falls, taking pictures, and pulling over at the scenic overlooks! Bring with a picnic and you have yourself a perfect little half day budget friendly activity in the beautiful natural Idaho wilderness.
Address: Starts in Ashton, Idaho at the Junction of US 20 and Idaho 47.
Lodging: In terms of lodging, I would recommend considering a hotel in Idaho Falls (about an hour’s drive) or Rexburg (about a half hour drive). Both these towns offer plenty of amenities, including both local and chain restaurants, shopping, and hotel options. Idaho Falls is also home to a small waterfall of its’ own and a beautiful 2.5 mile walking path around the Snake River. I recommend checking Groupon for deals on hotels and restaurants in the Idaho Falls area.
Operating Dates: Generally from Mid-May to Mid October. We tried to take the second drive in September but it was still closed. The road opens back up when the snow melts. During the winter, you can get our your cross country skis or snowmobiles! There is a $5 fee to enter the Upper Falls recreation area.
Trivia: Did you know that the Upper and Lower Falls are the only major falls in Idaho not used for irrigation?
Shoshone Falls, also referred to as the “Niagara of the West,” is actually taller than Niagara Falls. Standing at 212 feet high, this powerful waterfall is a beautiful sight not to be missed!
Check out these fantastic views of the Snake River and surrounding mountains!
Although Shoshone is not nearly as spectacular as Mesa Falls, it is worth the detour if you are within a few hours of the area. We actually made a detour here on a road trip to the Boise area (located about 2 hours away). This was the perfect little nature break: a small hike, a picnic lunch, and a little photography was just what we needed after all that time on the road.
Address: Shoshone Falls Grade Twin Falls, Idaho 83301.
Lodging: The falls are located about 5 miles from the town of Twin Falls. Because of its’ close proximity and variety of restaurants and shops, Twin Falls is the best option for lodging.
Operating Dates: Open year round from 7:00am-9:00pm. There is a $3 per car fee to enter the area.