Cress Creek Nature Trail

By: Marc Bowen

This past winter where I live was a rough one. The worst in over 25 years. So there wasn’t many opportunities to drive into the mountains because of treacherous roads and deeper then usual snow. It was a difficult task just getting out of the driveway most mornings. I was able to exercise inside regularly and stay in decent shape throughout the winter so I would be somewhat prepared for the spring/summer/fall hiking seasons. But nothing prepares you better then actually getting out on the trail with a backpack full of all your gear.


There are foothills a short distance from my home and the south slopes are some of the first places the snow begins to melt. In those hills above the south fork of the Snake River there is the Cress Creek Loop Trail. The trail gets its name from the watercress that grows in the nearby creek and is a favorite food for the moose in the area. I finally got out and up the trail the beginning of March this year. There was still snow on most areas of the trail but only a few inches. The temperature was about 34 degrees Fahrenheit and the sky was mostly cloudy but no wind. I dressed in layers but the outer layer came off about half way up the trail. The first half mile of Cress Creek Trail is paved and is wheelchair accessible. This is a self-guided interpretive trail with 18 interpretive signs with info about the geology and ecology of the area. The trail is not difficult and is a 1.3 mile loop with 285 feet of elevation gain winding through bunch grass, sage brush and groves of Rocky Mountain and Utah Juniper.

Utah Juniper – Photo by: Marc Bowen

From the trail you can see the South Fork of the Snake River, farmland, mountains and volcanoes.

Looking west towards the Menan Buttes – Photo by: Marc Bowen

The air was fresh with the smell of juniper and sage as I stood on the trail looking west. I could see the Menan Buttes in the distance which are two of the worlds largest volcanic tuff cones and behind them the Lost River Range of mountains.

New hiking boots – Photo by: Marc Bowen

This hike was the perfect chance to try out my new waterproof Keen mid boots. They were very comfortable and light weight and don’t seem to need much in the way of ‘breaking in’.


And I tried out my CapturePRO camera clip. When hiking its difficult to get all the photos I like unless my camera is hanging from my neck (which annoys me) So I usually carry it on my hip in a zipped, padded case. This is more comfortable but still not very handy and the case will sometimes catch on rocks or foliage. The CapturePRO camera clip is attached to the shoulder strap of my backpack. My camera locks into place safely and releases quickly whenever I need it.

On this hike I only made one loop of the trail. In the next week or two I will be back and make two loops (2.6 miles) instead of one and then increase to three and four loops of the trail a week or two after that. By then I may be able to get in to some other trail systems at higher elevations.

It was so nice to get out and hike for the first time this year! Even just a short hike like this does wonders for the soul. So…get out and hike!


Upper & Lower Mesa Falls

By: Marc Bowen

A couple of weeks ago I drove up to Mesa Falls, about a 45 minute drive from where I live. This area is located just north of Ashton Idaho on the Mesa Falls Scenic By Way. What a beautiful drive, most of it along the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River. After you pass the Bear Gulch area one of the first turnouts you come to is the Lower Mesa Falls parking lot. If you walk over to the viewing area  you can see the lower falls down in the canyon. Personally I have not shot a photo of the lower falls from this viewing area because I haven’t found an angle that I like. You really need a long lens to get a decent shot from this vantage point. Less then a mile up the road is the turn off to Upper Mesa Falls. This is a fee area and there is a visitor center there that is worth checking out.



As I parked my car in the parking lot I put my backpack on with the intention of hiking the Mesa Falls Nature Trail. The trail head is at the south end of the parking lot and is an easy 2.2 mile in and out hike that takes you to a plateau just above the lower falls. My plan was to hike this trail, get some shots of  Lower Mesa Falls and then shoot the upper falls. It’s a pretty hike through fairly thick forest. I saw and heard plenty of birds during this first part of the hike. About half way down the trail I decided to leave the trail and hike over to the edge of the canyon for some photos but also to see if there was a way down into the canyon. I wanted, if possible, to find a way down and then hike up river to get a shot of the upper falls from a different vantage point.

There are steep cliffs pretty much all along the canyon below the upper falls. I searched at great length for a way down and found a few places where I MIGHT have been able to descend safely but I probably wouldn’t have been able to climb back out so I gave up.

At that point I discovered that I had lost my water bottle somewhere so I searched for a while but didn’t find it. I decided not to hike the rest of the way down to the lower falls and back without water. So I hiked back to the upper falls to get a few shots.

Upper Mesa Falls – Photo by: Marc Bowen

Upper Mesa Falls is about 114 feet high and 200 feet wide. You can hear the roar of the falls from the parking lot. There is a half mile of boardwalk and viewing platforms between the falls and the visitor center. After exploring some of the paths and enjoying the view from some of the platforms I headed home, did some research and and found out that there is indeed a way down into the canyon.



So… today’s trip to the falls was for the purpose of getting some shots from down in the canyon. I arrived just before sunrise before anyone else was there, loaded my camera gear, water and snacks into my backpack and headed down to the southern most viewing platform. I then carefully climbed over the guard rail onto a rocky outcropping and then down a very steep mostly unused trail.

Photo by: Marc Bowen

In the above photo (upper right corner) you can see the stairs down to one of several viewing platforms. To the right of the platform is where the trail begins. I doubt very much that the park staff want visitors climbing over the rail. That’s why I went early before the visitor center opened or any other visitors arrived. I didn’t want anybody else following me over the rail and down the steep dangerous trail. If you are not a photographer I would not recommend doing this. Its just not worth it considering there are better views of the falls from above.

Photo by: Marc Bowen



It took me about 20 minutes to reach the river. One thing not real noticeable until you see the falls from this perspective is that Upper Mesa Falls is actually a series of two falls with a smaller water fall just below the big one.

Photo by: Marc Bowen

The hike back out with 25-30 lbs on my back was definitely more challenging then the hike down. After climbing back out and over the rail, the bench in the viewing area was a welcome sight and sorely needed until I got my breathing under control and some water down me. No regrets though. Another little adventure checked off my list. I still want to finish the Mesa Falls Nature Trail hike and explore the Lower Mesa Falls area and will do so in the near future.