Riding the Yellowstone–Grand Teton Loop: A Prehistoric Waterfall And A Modern Spa

This is the second of a three-part installment about the motorcycling adventures of the all-female Motorcycle Media Group (MMG) exploring the Yellowstone-Grand Teton Loop. In Part Two, the group rides the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway and the ladies have lunch at the breathtaking Upper Mesa Falls. The women then ride on a motorcyclist’s dream road on the Teton Scenic Byway, and then shift down a gear for some relaxation at the decadent resort of Teton Springs Lodge & Spa. Written by Michelle Baird aka Elaine Splitter, photos by Michelle Baird, Donya Carlson and Nancy Richardson.

Early on a chilly September morning,
my biker gang, the all-female Motorcycle Media Group (10 moto-journalists and representatives from Idaho Department of Tourism and Harley-Davidson) gathered in the parking lot of The Pines at Island Park, Idaho, zipped our leathers and buckled up our helmets, preparing for a ride. We were on our fourth day of riding the Yellowstone–Grand Teton Loop. Our route this day would take us along the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, with a stop at Upper Mesa Falls for lunch, and then we would continue on to the Teton Scenic Byway, and wrap it up with some spa time at the Teton Springs Lodge & Spa. We brought the dozen bikes to a rumble, and our ride leader, Idaho Tourism’s rep Diane Norton, gave the thumbs-up and we all passed her “ready-to-go sign” down the line to Harley-Davidson’s rep Amanda Lee at the back of the pack. Clutches out, we went southward down the winding I-20.

The Mesa Falls Scenic Byway and the Teton Scenic Byway are two sections of the Yellowstone-Grand Teton Loop, which is a small part of the massive Top-10 Scenic Drives in the Northern Rockies that crosses five state borders, two Canadian borders, and includes hundreds of participating partners. Our group was exploring the entire 400-mile Yellowstone-Grand Teton Loop on a batch of brand-new Harley-Davidsons, thanks to the Tourism Division of the Idaho Dept of Commerce, Harley-Davidson and a host of partners, including Xanterra Parks & Resorts, Wyoming Tourism, Linn Canyon Ranch, Teton Springs Lodge & Spa, and Teton Valley Chamber of Commerce. Mesa Falls Scenic Byway is around 27 miles in length, but it can take hours to traverse in time, because every hundred feet or so there are brilliant have-to-stop views and the occasional wild-animal sighting: Travelers might spot a moose lurking in the trees, or they might see a herd of elk grazing in the meadows. The byway follows along Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, where fly fishermen can be seen standing in quiet streams and whitewater rafters and kayakers are braving the faster-moving stuff. We meandered our way to Highway 47 to Upper Mesa Falls Road and before we had the sidestands down in the parking lot we could hear the roar of the falls and feel the mist in the air.

Upper Mesa Falls is a waterfall right out of a fairytale storybook, with rainbows curving over the pounding water backed by lush brilliant-green foliage and silver-gray rock. The trail to the falls is tucked among patches of dark-purple huckleberries and sprinklings of colorful wildflowers all along the way. The metal-grid walkways bordering the falls lets visitors stand right at the edge of the waterfall.

We lingered at this slice of heaven for hours. Upper Mesa Falls was actually supposed to be our brown-bag-lunch stop, but we had spent so much time soaking in the scenery that most of us completely forgot to eat at all. So we stuffed the sandwiches and apples into our saddlebags and pockets and headed south on Highway 47, making our way toward Ashton. We hadn’t ridden very far before the chill in the air and the thunder of the waterfall was replaced by sticky heat and the hissing sound of insects.

As we rode, the thick forests thinned out into sweeping meadows and farmland, and soon we were in Ashton, where we then hooked onto Highway 32. The road turned into sweeping curves of pristine asphalt, perfect for joy riding in any vehicle. It was made complete with a postcard-perfect view of the purple, snowcapped Grand Teton Mountain Range and gold carpets of barley fields contrasting against an enormous blue sky. We had entered the Teton Scenic Byway. As corny as it sounds, several of us spontaneously and randomly started humming “America, The Beautiful” at one of the stops, because this truly was spacious skies, amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties…

We opened up the throttles for a 30-mile stretch of this 69-mile byway, but stretched out the ride with plenty of stops to soak it all in, until we eventually landed in the small town of Tetonia, where we gassed up the bikes at the Classic Stop gas station and chatted with the friendly locals. Some of the group wandered down the street to the Steve Horn Mountain Gallery, which was full of awesome sculptures made out of wood and stone.

Despite the fact that some of us had appointments for massages and facials waiting at our evening’s destination, the Teton Springs Lodge & Spa, we were reluctant to end the exploring. A handful of the group had already gone on ahead and were settled into the treats of spa, so the rest of us lollygaggers decided we had better motor on and reunite the MMG.

We picked up the pace and went through the charming town of Driggs and then went just a bit further to the Teton Springs Lodge & Spa in Victor. Our rooms at the lodge were entirely decadent, with full kitchens, custom furnishings, and giant living areas and balconies, some of which overlooked the greens of the Headwaters Club golf course and some with views of the High Mountain Heli Skiing area. We had just enough time to take a quick dip in the salt-water pool and grab a brief massage or facial before we loaded up into vans and headed to the Linn Canyon Ranch, where we were in for a fascinating lesson on Geotourism along with our dinner.

Riding the Yellowstone-Grand Teton Loop Part I

Riding the Yellowstone-Grand Teton Loop Part II

Riding the Yellowstone-Grand Teton Loop Part III

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