Lower Yellowstone Falls, Wyoming

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Lower Yellowstone Falls in June 2014

I visited Yellowstone National Park five years ago, and yet I’m just now getting to one of the major features of the park, Lower Yellowstone Falls. Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls are stunningly beautiful, and they’re definitely worth seeking out if you’re in the park.

With Old Faithful and so many other geysers, Mammoth Hot Springs, and the wildlife, it can be difficult to choose what to do. And you should plan enough time to visit all of them. But you should also plan to visit a number of waterfalls, and if you only have time for a few, the falls on the Yellowstone River are probably the best to choose. The scenery around the falls is amazing.

The falls are very easy to get to and visit. They can be accessed just south of Canyon Village. From the North Rim Drive, Inspiration Point, Grandview Point and Lookout Point all give different views of the Lower Falls. From the South Rim Drive, Artists Point gives a view of the Lower Falls. As a waterfall fan, I believe I stopped at a number of these viewpoints since each stop is unique. Uncle Tom’s Trail is found on the South Rim, and that also leads down to a view of the falls. I did not do that, as I’m not a big fan of stairs/heights. No matter what, you’ll be able to find a wonderful view of the falls.

Directions:

  1. Canyon Village is found at the intersection of Norris Canyon Road and Grand Loop Road.
  2. From that intersection, head south on Grand Loop Road, drive approximately 2 miles and you’ll find the N Rim Drive and S Rim Drive. Choose which viewpoint you want to visit, and that will help decide whether you want the North Rim or South Rim.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 308′
Length of Hike: variable, but often negligible

Where in the World is Lower Yellowstone Falls?

Firehole Falls, Wyoming

There are many memorable waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park. Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls are probably the main attractions, understandably so. Other falls, like Tower Falls and Gibbon Falls, might play second fiddle, but are still interesting stops. Firehole Falls is a nice waterfall, but probably one of those waterfalls you’d go searching for if you’re really into waterfalls (like me).

A few reasons do exist to view the falls. First, it’s easy to get to. While the road to the falls is one-way (so choose where you start carefully), it’s a short drive, and once you arrive at the falls, you’re there! There’s no hike involved. Second, you’ll probably be one of only a few people there. Some parts of Yellowstone are moderately to crazy busy, depending on the time of year. Firehole Falls is a quiet respite from the crowds. And honestly, I would argue anywhere in Yellowstone is worth the visit!!

Directions:

  1. From the intersection of US-89 and US-20/191/287, head south on US-20/89/191/287 (Grand Loop Road). (There are a lot of numbers for this one road!)
  2. After about 2000 feet or so, turn right onto Firehole Canyon Road. It’s one way, so you can only enter at this point.
  3. Drive a bit less than a mile along Firehole Canyon Road to the waterfall, which will be on your right.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 40′
Length of Hike: roadside

Firehole Falls

Firehole Falls in June 2014

Where in the World is Firehole Falls?

Tower Falls, Wyoming

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Tower Falls in June 2014

Yellowstone National Park has some truly awesome, amazing waterfalls. Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls are should be at the top of everyone’s list. But there are many other falls that are easy to visit, and Tower Falls just happens to be one of them.

So let’s start with the positives. Tower Falls is pretty easy to get to. There’s a short hike, and along the way you’re likely to a variety of wildlife. When you arrive at the viewpoint, you’ll be rewarded with a 132′ waterfall. It’s a beautiful waterfall surrounded by beautiful scenery.

So what are the “negatives”…it’s hard to use that term when referring to Yellowstone National Park..the negative is that the trail is currently shorter than it used to be. One used to be able to get to the base of the falls, where the view was more impressive. From the current end of the trail, you’re rather high above the falls, and the trees block off the lowest portion of the falls. That shouldn’t stop you from visiting the falls. The hike is short enough that it doesn’t take a significant amount of time out of your day.

Directions:

  1. From the Hot Springs Visitors Center/Entrance, head east along the road toward Tower-Roosevelt. (You could also head west from Cooke City toward Tower-Roosevelt.) Along the way you’ll pass Undine Falls and Wraith Falls.
  2. At the junction in Tower-Roosevelt, head south toward Canyon Village. (This road is only open from approximately mid-May to mid-October.)
  3. After two or so miles past the junction, you’ll come to the parking area for Tower Falls (which would be on your left if heading south). The parking area was rather popular, so if you want to see the falls, be patient.
  4. From the parking area, follow the trail to the falls.

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Length of Hike: 0.9 mile round-trip
Height: 132′

Where in the World is Tower Falls?

Wraith Falls, Wyoming

Wraith Falls in mid-July 2015

In Yellowstone National Park, the very well known Lower and Upper Yellowstone Falls can be found. In the park, though, are a number of other waterfalls. While some of the others are widely visited, a few are quieter, which might be nice if you’re looking for something a bit less busy.

Wraith Falls might be a good choice for the “less busy” in Yellowstone. On the hike to the falls, I only passed 2 or 3 other groups of people. I distinctly remember being slightly more worried about bears in the area since this area wasn’t as traversed. I didn’t see any bears or wildlife here, though just down the road, I do remember seeing a bear along a hillside.

The hike to Wraith Falls is fairly straightforward. It’s about 1/2 a mile to the falls from the parking area, which has enough space for 5 or 6 cars. I didn’t have any issue finding parking. The hike goes pretty quickly, and you’ll arrive at the falls in 15 minutes or so. You won’t be able to get particularly close to the falls because of the way the trail is set up. As you might be able to tell from the picture, there is a lot of debris in the way of the falls, preventing you from getting much closer. It’s still an interesting waterfall, looking much like a washboard.

Directions:

  1. Wraith Falls is found along the northern portion of the Grand Loop Road between US-89 and US-212. (I’m not 100% sure what roads are open during what times of the year, so check before you decide to visit if planning for Fall-Spring.)
  2. From Mammoth Hot Springs, head east along the Grand Loop Road.  The pullout for the falls is about 0.5 miles east of the Lava Creek Picnic Area. I don’t remember if the parking area was signed, but it was relatively easy to find.
  3. From the parking area, follow the short trail to the falls. There is a small portion of it that is uphill, but it isn’t difficult.

Accessiblity: 9/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 1.0 mile round trip
Height: 79′

Where in the World is Wraith Falls?

Gibbon Falls, Wyoming

Sometimes the order I post is based on random chance, but when I take a trip, I will usually post the first waterfall I see in that state. Yesterday, I posted about the first Montana waterfall, Ousel Falls. Today, the first waterfall I saw in Wyoming…Gibbon Falls.

Gibbon Falls is a nice waterfall, though it is not the most interesting or photogenic in Yellowstone National Park. That crown is held by the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone, which is a wildly, wildly photogenic waterfall, but I’ll save that for a different post. But Yellowstone National Park is full of amazing geysers, waterfalls, chances to view wildlife, and it’s all pretty easy to see because of the way the road system was set up 130 years ago! So as you’re driving along, you’ll see an area to pull off for Gibbon Falls. There are a number of different places to view the falls. I found that the best viewpoint was actually in between the two unofficial viewpoints.

Gibbon Falls is about 84′ tall, and it’s “claim to fame” is that it’s at the edge of the caldera formed by the volcanic explosion 640,000 years ago. This caldera has undergone some erosion due to glaciation, and is extremely large, so it is nowhere near as noticeable as Crater Lake’s caldera. It’s amazing to me to think that you’re standing inside a massive volcano that is still active!

Directions:
There are five entrances to the park, so you choose which one works best for you. The entrance closest to Gibbon Falls is likely the West Entrance (near West Yellowstone), which as I mentioned before, was the “easier” entrance compared to the North Entrance. The falls are found halfway between Madison and Norris, and are clearly marked on the park map, and there is very good signage. It’s a worthwhile stop.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy, wheelchair accessible, I think)
Height: 84′
Length of Hike: Roadside

Gibbon Falls in mid-June 2014

Where in the World is Gibbon Falls?