Mesa Falls Visitor Center

Area Status: Closed
Mesa Falls Visitor Center in summer

The Mesa Falls Visitor Center occupies the historic Big Falls Inn, built around 1915 by the Snake River Electric Light and Power Company. With its spectacular setting, the Inn was a popular spot for social gatherings in its past lives. It had its day as a hotel, a cafe, and a dance hall. Later it became a way station on the Yellowstone Highway for ranchers, sportsmen, and tourists. After acquiring the inn from Montana Power in 1986, the Forest Service partnered with Harriman State Park and other generous groups to renovate the facilities and keep the site open. Big Falls Inn is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Exhibits on the natural and cultural history of the area can be enjoyed inside the visitor center.

From the Visitor Center, an accessible trail and boardwalk provide spectacular views of Mesa Falls.  A rainbow often decorates the canyon on summer mornings when sunlight passes through the mist, and interpretive panels share the natural and cultural history of the area. As you take in the power and beauty of the falls, keep your eyes open for the osprey and eagles that frequent the area.

Also in the area, the Mesa Falls Nature Trail meanders for about one mile through a quiet forest, ending at an overlook of the Lower Mesa Falls - an equally spectacular and powerful waterfall.

Photo of interior of Visitor Center Photo of the interior of the Visitor Center Photo of deck on Visitor Center Outside visitor center looking toward flagpole View of Upper Mesa Falls from overlook

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Visitor center is closed at this time.
Operational Hours: Normally open daily 9:30-5:30 in the summer. The Mesa Falls Visitors Center is currently closed until May 27th and is not manned. The gate and road down are open. The water is on and the bathrooms are open. Parking fees are being charged. More info can be had by calling the Ashton/Island Park Ranger District office at 208-652-7442. During the winter, Highway 47, which is maintained by Idaho Transportation Dept., is closed at Bear Gulch and is not generally plowed open in the spring until mid-late May. The Visitors Center and gate for the access road down to the center will remain closed until safe to travel. Visitors center generally opens Memorial Day weekend, but can vary due to snowpack. 
Fees: Vehicles: $5.00/day; motocycles, bicycles, horses, and hikers: $1.00/day; tour buses: $25.00/day
Usage: Heavy
Closest Towns: Ashton, Idaho
Water: Yes
Restroom: Yes
Operated By: Caribou-Targhee NF and Harriman State Park

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Day Hiking

A trail from the Mesa Falls Visitor Center leads visitors to spectacular views of the falls. Interpretive panels share the natural and cultural history of the area along this 20-minute walk. The first half of the trail is accessible.

Viewing Scenery

Interpretive Areas

Visitor Centers

Status: Open


Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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