The Mesa Falls Marathon and Half Marathon races are point to point courses that begin in the Targhee National Forest near the headwaters of the Warm River and end in the city of Ashton, Idaho. Due to our geographic location and proximity to Yellowstone National Park, a wide variety of wildlife reside in the area including elk, deer, moose, bison, cougars, wolves, and bears. The race committee makes every attempt to clear the race course of unofficial entries prior to the race. However, recognizing that wildlife may not always follow our course rules, there may be four-legged “bandits” on the course at any point. Runners are reminded to use caution if and when encountering wild animals. Please give elk, deer, moose, and bison the right of way—they are bigger than you! If a bear or cougar are spotted, just remember that you don’t want to be the first runner—nor the last!
General Course Description
The Marathon course features a unique blend of running surfaces including 9.8 miles of gravel roads, 2.8 miles of packed trails along Warm River, and 13.6 miles of pavement and provides spectacular views of the Targhee National Forest, the Teton Mountains, Lower Mesa Falls on the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, and Warm River. The course starts at an elevation of 6135 ft. and is generally downhill. There is one significant uphill climb from mile 17.1 to mile 19.9 with an elevation gain of 300 ft. in 2.8 miles. The race finishes at 5253 ft. for an overall course elevation loss of 882 ft. Aid stations are located at approximately 2 mile intervals beginning at mile 2.
The Half Marathon begins at Bear Gulch and features 2.8 miles of packed trails along the old railroad bed paralleling the spectacular Warm River. The remaining 10.3 miles are on pavement and feature views of Wyoming’s Teton Mountains and the rolling farm fields in Idaho’s famous potato country. The course starts at an elevation of 5746 ft. and is generally downhill with the finish line at 5253 ft. for an overall elevation loss of 493 ft. There is one significant uphill section from mile 4 to mile 6.8 with an elevation gain of 300 ft. in 2.8 miles. Aid stations are located every 2 miles.
Specific Course Description
The Marathon starting line is located on the Targhee National Forest Service Road #315 near Pineview, approximately .1 mile north of the turn-off to Preston Springs. From the starting line, the course proceeds west for .2 miles on road #315 before turning south (left) onto road #150. The course follows road #150 for the next 9.6 miles. This part of the course is on hard packed gravel road. On dry years it can be very dusty—Spectators, please do not use vehicles on this section of the course during the race!!
This part of the course is generally flat to slightly downhill and winds in and out of pine and aspen trees into large meadow openings with spectacular views of the Teton Mountains in Wyoming visible at several points to the left. At mile 6, runners will encounter a red cabin used by the local range rider when herding cattle or mending fences. Caution runners: This is cow country—watch your step!!
At mile 9.6 the course intersects Highway 47--the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway. This part of the course is on pavement. Vehicle traffic is generally light during the early morning hours, but will increase in numbers and speed as the day goes on. The road shoulder is very narrow and does not allow a lot of room for runners. Please be very cautious of vehicle traffic!
The course proceeds south for 1.5 miles to the Lower Mesa Falls Scenic Overlook. At this point, runners will be diverted to the right, through the parking lot, and along the pedestrian path for a spectacular view of the Lower Mesa Falls on the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River to the right. Restrooms are available in the parking area. From here, continue along the marked path back to Highway 47, turn right and continue south. At mile 13, the course drops downhill.
The Half Marathon start is at Mile 13.1 on Highway 47, which is on the hill immediately below the Scenic Overlook into the Henry’s Fork and .3 mile above the Bear Gulch parking area at the bottom of the hill.
At the Bear Gulch parking area, the course for both races turns east (left) from Highway 47 and proceeds onto a packed dirt road that leads to the railroad bed of the old Yellowstone Branch of the Union Pacific Railroad. Cones are placed along the road at Bear Gulch and volunteers are used to direct runners. The first 50 feet of this road are a very steep downhill with loose rocks—runners need to be very cautious here! After approximately .1 mile, the course turns right (south) and follows the railroad bed for the next 2.8 miles and makes a gradual smooth decent along the beautiful Warm River to the Warm River Campground. The running surface through this section is packed dirt and sand, and easy on the legs.
Runners proceed south beyond the green gate located at the south end of the Railroad Bed for the next .2 miles to the trail intersection with the exit road leading from the Warm River Campground. Restrooms are available at the campground. The course turns right and follows the campground entrance/exit road to the Fish Creek Road and continues south to the Fish Creek-Highway 47 intersection, a distance of .4 miles to mile 17. From this point to the finish, the course is on paved roads.
At mile 17 the course goes over the bridge across Robison Creek and at mile 17.1, begins a significant climb up the Warm River grade on Highway 47 for the next 2.8 miles topping out at mile 19.9 and turning west (right) on County Road 1400 N. The elevation gain here is 300 ft. in 2.8 miles.
The course follows 1400 N. for 3.7 miles before turning south (left) on County Road 3700 E. It continues on 3700 E. for .6 miles before turning west (right) on 1337 N and continuing for .5 miles to 3750 E. Continue on 3750 for .7 miles to the intersection with Highway 47. The course turns west (right) on Highway 47 and follows Highway 47 for 2 miles into the City of Ashton. At the Trails Inn Restaurant, mile mark 26, the course turns north (right) and proceeds for .2 miles to the finish at the city park.