I received an interesting photo from a colleague, Jeannette Boner, the editor of the Teton Valley News in Driggs.
She took the photo of cars parked along the entrance road to Mesa Falls while on a Sunday drive on the Mesa Falls loop with her daughter last week. The Mesa Falls entrance road and visitors center are closed until June 1. Obviously people are willing to park and walk down and back up to see the falls. There are more than 40 vehicles parked along the road in this photo. Parking at the falls visitors center will accommodate about 90 cars when open.
If I were to be negative about this scene, I could say shame on you for crowding a place before it’s open and hey, people can’t you find other places out there to visit and spread out?
But if I were to be positive about the scene, I could point out that isn’t it great that so many people are willing walk down and up some distance to visit one of eastern Idaho’s great majestic treasures?
Spring is a great time to visit the region’s waterfalls because runoff has streams and rivers roaring.
I’m not sure it’s possible to social distance on the narrow pathways and railed walks and stairs at Mesa Falls. Either people thought the danger of exposure to a virus was worth the risk or they thought the risk wasn’t much to worry about.
Boner said she saw all the cars parked at the Mesa Falls entrance road and decided to pass.
At the risk of overloading other falls, but in the interest of spreading out the visitors, here is a short list of falls worth visiting:
• Falls Creek. This popular falls drops into the Snake River in Swan Valley. Take the gravel road on your right before you cross the bridge over the Snake River as you come into Swan Valley and drive a few miles.
• Moose Creek falls. This one requires about 6 miles of hiking up the Moose Creek trail. The trailhead is about 3 miles southeast of Victor.
• Darby Canyon Wind Cave falls. About 3.5 miles up the trail, you come to the Wind Cave and the small stream that flows from the cave drops over a cliff. To get to the trailhead, drive 5.5 miles north of Victor and follow signs to the Darby Girls Camp. The road eventually forks, take the left fork to the trailhead.
• This time of year, there are several cascading streams on the canyon walls in Teton Canyon east of Driggs. The first one is only a quarter of a mile from the trailhead on the left. The others are about 1 mile up the trail on both sides of the canyon walls.
• Perhaps the most impressive waterfalls (with the exception of the Upper and Lower Mesa Falls) in eastern Idaho are found in Waterfall Canyon above the Upper Palisades Lake. If you want to see them right now, you may want to bring some snowshoes. The hike is about 18 miles roundtrip. Expect plenty of crowds on weekends to the Lower Palisades Lake, a few less to the Upper Palisades Lake and almost no one to Waterfall Canyon, until the snow melts out. If you get there by early June, there will be falls on both sides of the canyon reminding you of Yosemite National Park.
• Sheep Falls is a short hike off Highway 20 8 miles north of Ashton. Look for a sign on the highway that says Sheep Falls. Drive about 3 miles down the dirt road heading east and park. Take a short .75 mile trail to the falls on the Henry’s Fork.
• Of course there are several falls in Yellowstone National Park worth hiking to see when the park opens later this summer.
• There are also several wonderful waterfalls in Grand Teton National Park, but we’ll have to save that for a future column after the park opens back up.