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Beyond Idaho’s gorgeous mountains, sparkling rivers, and pristine lakes lie another hidden gem, waterfalls! There are dozens of amazing waterfalls just waiting to be explored all over the state. Grab the family and hop in the car to check out these five favorites.
Upper Mesa Falls
A hidden gem on the way to West Yellowstone is Upper Mesa Falls near Ashton. You can find the waterfall on the Mesa Falls scenic byway in the Targhee National Forest. You’ll find tons of easy access to the viewing platforms to see this magnificent 10-story high waterfall. This is a short, must-do trip with the family. If you’re looking for a bite to eat on the way, make sure to stop in Ashton to try a homemade root beer float at Frostop or take the challenge to eat a Big Jud (one-pound hamburger) at Big Jud’s.
Directions: Heading north on Hwy 20, turn east onto Hwy 47 in Ashton, Idaho and travel for about 15 miles through the Targhee National Forest until you reach the turnoff for Upper Mesa Falls on the left. Drive down the winding road until you arrive at the parking area. There is a self-service pay station, and the cost is $5 per vehicle; but if you have a state parks pass on your vehicle, it’s free to park. There are signs with directions on how to get to the viewing platform.
Fall Creek Falls
A must-stop family adventure on the way to Grand Teton National Park is Fall Creek Falls near Swan Valley. It’s a beautiful waterfall overlooking the Snake River and bald eagles and moose frequent the area. The powerful waterfall appears to come from nowhere and dumps into the Snake River. The best time to experience the falls is at sunrise as the sun comes up over the mountains and lights up the waterfall in front of you. There are no railings by the waterfall, so if you have small children, make sure to watch them very carefully. If you’re adventurous, you can wade through the marshy water to get down in front of the waterfall as pictured above.
After exploring the waterfall, grab a famous square ice cream cone nearby at the Rainey Creek Country Store in Swan Valley.
Directions: Driving east on Hwy 26 from Idaho Falls towards Jackson Hole and as you come into Swan Valley, you’ll find the turnoff for Fall Creek Falls right before the Snake River bridge on the right. Look for a sign at the turn out marked “Fall Creek Road.” If you crossed the bridge, you have missed the turn. Once you’re on the turnoff, drive down the paved road until you hit a fork in the road. Veer left and stay on the road that goes along the Snake River. The paved road immediately turns into a gravel road, and there is a sign on the right directly after crossing the creek that says, “Fall Creek Falls.” The waterfall is about 20 yards to the left from the sign. Watch your step as you’ll quickly come to the edge of the waterfall.
Sheep Falls is a remote and beautiful waterfall that is north of Ashton in the Targhee National Forest. The relatively short hike makes it great for bringing the whole family along. The best times to catch the falls is as the sun comes up over the river below the falls or at sunset when the sun sets behind the waterfall. Be mindful that this is bear country, so make sure you’re following the “bear aware” practices. Dining options are similar to those mentioned in the Upper Mesa Falls adventure above.
Directions: Head north on Hwy 20 past Ashton approximately 9.2 miles, and turn right onto Sheep Falls Road. Follow the road for 2.3 miles. When you hit the fork in the road, stay to the right. Eventually, you’ll come to another road on the left, where you turn and go down until you get to a parking area and the trailhead. This last road requires four-wheel drive vehicle; otherwise you can walk down the road. Follow the trail down from the trail head about one mile until you arrive at the Henry’s Fork River, where you should be able to hear and then find the waterfall. You hike out the same way you hike in.
GPS Coordinates: Latitude 44.19971 N Longitude -111.39397 W
Known as the “Niagara of the West,” Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls is a spectacular site. Once while at Shoshone Falls, a couple told me they had just been to Niagara Falls, and they thought Shoshone Falls was cooler! There are many viewing platforms to explore, including the Centennial Trail, a short paved trail, near the waterfall for walking and biking. If you want to catch a rainbow or double rainbow at the falls, come earlier in the morning as the sun comes up behind you. After you’re done exploring, head over to Elevation 486 to enjoy the incredible canyon views and great food.
Directions: From Highway 93 in Twin Falls turn east onto Falls Avenue. After two miles turn left onto Champlin Road and continue to the entrance of Shoshone Falls Park. Parking is $3.
Idaho Falls Waterfalls
The Idaho Falls Greenbelt Trail along the Snake River in Idaho Falls is a fun place to take the family. You can bike or walk the 2.3-mile long trail to enjoy the waterfalls and surrounding scenery. Numerous local businesses are located along the greenbelt making it a fun place for the whole family. If you’re looking for places to dine nearby, both the Snake Bite and Copper Rill are local favorites.
Directions: You can find a parking spot along River Parkway, which intersects with W. Broadway Street in Idaho Falls. From here you can walk along the greenbelt in either direction to check out the waterfalls.
All photos, including feature image, are credited to Josh Packer.
Josh Packer is a full-time CPA who is obsessed with landscape photography and exploring Idaho. He lives in Ammon with his wife and three boys. Find more from Josh on Facebook, Instagram and on the web.
Published on August 16, 2016