Three Western Waterfalls

Scenic waterfalls in California, Idaho, and Oregon are easily seen from the comfort of your car.

Mesa Falls, Snake River, image

Mesa Falls on the Snake River is easily seen from the scenic byway.

Sahalie Falls, McKenzie River, image

Sahalie Falls gushes on the McKenzie River.

Mesa Falls, Snake River
Two of Idaho’s most spectacular waterfalls come one after the other. The first, on the Henrys Fork of the Snake River, plummets 114 feet over a cliff of ancient basalt. A mile later, the river cascades another 65 feet down a narrow canyon. See both the upper and lower falls on the 29-mile Mesa Falls Scenic Byway from Ashton through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. The drive rises from rolling farmlands into the mountains, passing views of two river valleys and a sea of pine and Douglas fir that stretches to the rugged Teton Range. (208) 652-7442, fs.usda.gov/ctnf.

Koosah and Sahalie Falls, McKenzie River
Spring-fed giants Koosah and Sahalie falls tumble 90 and 120 feet as the McKenzie River pours over two hardened lava walls. Find them in the Willamette National Forest 34 miles west of Sisters, Ore., on the McKenzie Pass–Santiam Pass Scenic Byway. (541) 822-3381, tinyurl.com/skfalls.

Salmon Creek Falls
Beguiling Salmon Creek Falls in Los Padres National Forest turns heads away from the ocean along Highway 1. The cascade plunges 120 feet into a pool 26 miles north of Cambria, Calif. (831) 385-5434, tinyurl.com/scfalls.

Photography by Chuck Haney (Mesa Falls); courtesy of Wikipedia/Ljmajer (Sahalie Falls)

This article was first published in May 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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