WEstern Adventures: The Road to Mesa Falls

June 6th, 2022:

After a jam packed four hours in Grand Teton, I drove through the heart of downtown Jackson Hole, stopping briefly for gas before I headed up the death defying Jackson Pass.

Jackson Hole is a funky and quirky town. While not my favorite of the gateway regions into Yellowstone Country – it is a fun place to explore for an afternoon – or use as a basecamp into the Tetons. Jackson is notorious for celebrities but at its heart it is a tourist town with a double dose of honky tonky and mountain flair. Discover more about Jackson here.

I remember the first time I went across the Teton Pass, my mom and I were on a road trip – I was only seventeen and about to enter college at MSU. My mom drove thes pass down like a pro, but later told me she was scared to death.

After living in the mountains I’ve grown to love mountain switchbacks and passes, but had to admit I was a little nervous tackling the Jackson Hole Pass. It has a 10% grade and switches and turns with more esses than the Snake River. The views are literally breathtaking.

Stock photo…

The drive from Jackson Hole, WY to Driggs, ID took around forty five minutes.

Driggs and Victor are two Teton gateway towns that are ideal for a more laid back entrance into the Tetons.

Driggs is an all year tourist area with neighbor Grand Targhee Ski Resort.

Both towns feature great food and live music opportunities.

For many years I’ve wanted to explore a scenic backroad on the western edge of Yellowstone and Teton country – Mesa Falls. The towering falls are some of the largest in the west and thundering through a rugged canyon.

Perhaps I’m overly ambitious but decided to reach my next destination of Montana’s Gallatin Canyon by driving across the Jackson Pass through Idahos rural backroads to West Yellowstone MT and up the Gallatin Canyon.

This scenic drive, though long and winding was worth the detour.

Idaho:

Across the Jackson Hole Pass, the topography flatens out into endless plains (filled with wheat and potatoes), this is juxtaposed by the towering Tetons to the east. It was this view of the Tetons where French trappers first witnessed the ‘Tetons’ as breasts coming out of the ground rising into the sky.

GPS and God were my guides as I hit every bend and break in the road in search of Mesa Falls.

The ambling farmland against the piercing blue sky set my mind at ease and I let my thoughts wander. A heart needs a wide open adventure from time to time to set itself free – to explore, to pause, to rekindle the wonder…and refill on hope for a brighter tomorrow.

From Ashton Idaho, I ventured down the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, arriving at the falls just after five p.m. The Upper and Lower Mesa Falls are the last prominent waterfalls on the Snake River unaffected by manmade influences.

I arrived at the Lower Mesa Falls just after five p.m. From the panoramic vista you can see the lower drop of Mesa Falls in the distance. It drops 65 feet down the canyon below.

Even across the chasm I could hear the thundering roar of the waterfall.

I drove a few miles north to the entrance to the easily accessible Upper Mesa Falls. The NFS charges a cash parking fee (free with NPS pass). A historic inn has been converted to a visitor center/ranger station and gift shop.

The power of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River pummeling down into the canyon below is amazing. This waterfall is worth a ninety-minute detour from West Yellowstone/Gallatin Canyon.

For more information about Mesa Falls:

Visti Idaho

Island Park area

Not far from Mesa Falls – you will discover more enchantment in the sleepy and scenic town of Island Park – where a ‘road runs through it’…this campy and historic fishing village is only twenty-two miles from West Yellowstone, MT and the western entrance to Yellowstone. Macks Inn is a favorite…

For more scenery in the greater Mesa Falls area check out:

Harriman State Park

Henry’s Fork State Park

After a jam packed day from Bison and thermal springs to the Tetons soaring to meet the sun and stampeding waterfalls, I enjoyed the remainder of the scenic drive from Island Park to West Yellowstone up into the Gallatin Canyon.

I’ll blog about The Gallatin Canyon soon (it is my favorite spot in the world)

I ended up at my hotel just after 8 p.m.

Starving for a hot meal and cool libation – I pulled into the nearby Buck T-4 steakhouse.

Montana is cattle country and Buck T-4s steaks are legendary. I treated myself to a glass of wine, prime rib and loaded baked potato…

I then fell into a good nights sleep at the wonderful Whitewater Inn in the Gallatin Canyon (near Big Sky)

Tomorrow more adventures in YNP and beyond…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s