Unique Places in Yellowstone National Park

  • Island Lake, high in the Beartooths
    Island Lake, high in the Beartooths
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  • View of the Eastern Beartooths from the highway
    View of the Eastern Beartooths from the...
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  • The Bear's Tooth on the right from near the summit
    The Bear's Tooth on the right from near...
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Most Viewed Off The Beaten Path in Yellowstone National Park

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    Cleft Cascade

    by GuthrieColin Updated Nov 3, 2009

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    The fourth and fifth falls along the Cascade Creek system come in rapid succession and have been given the joint name of Cleft Cascades. They are located just a short distance from the streams mouth at the Falls River. The upper portion of the falls is said to be about 20 feet (6 meters) that is followed by a slightly shorter second tier.
    I have my suspicions that the lower of these two falls may have a pool beneath that is suitable for swimming in the summer months. That is yet to be known, but what is known is that this is the final falls on a creek that is famously known for them.
    For more information about this and other Yellowstone waterfalls check out Paul Rubenstein's book Yellowstone Waterfalls and their Discovery page 84.
    Directions:
    From the Ashton-Flagg Road west of the Grassy Lake Reservoir there is a signed turnout for the Cascade Creek trailhead. From there either drive or walk to the trailhead down a very rough road and hike a short distance past Humpback Cascades to the falls.

    Cleft Cascade Cleft Cascade
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    Humpback Cascade

    by GuthrieColin Updated Nov 3, 2009

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    The third waterfall along Cascade Creek is Humpback Cascade. This is pulled back away from the trail more so than the others. The falls are only about 15 feet (5 meters) or shorter as I would suspect. Certainly these falls would not be a notable destination if not located along a trail with many interesting sites. It does however have a nice secluded quality with the creek flowing toward the viewpoint after the falls.
    For more information about this and other Yellowstone waterfalls check out Paul Rubenstein's book Yellowstone Waterfalls and their Discovery page 84.
    Directions:
    From the Ashton-Flagg Road west of the Grassy Lake Reservoir there is a signed turnout for the Cascade Creek trailhead. From there either drive or walk to the trailhead down a very rough road and hike a short distance past Diamond Cascades to the falls.

    Humpback Cascade Humpback Cascade Scene Humpback Cascade Surroundings
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    Diamond Cascade

    by GuthrieColin Updated Nov 3, 2009

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    The second waterfall encountered along Cascade Creek is Diamond Cascade so named for its 4 distinct and separate sections which form a diamond shaped form. The falls are probably the most photogenic along the trail and that is saying something. The vantage point just off the trail here is nearly optimal for viewing the falls whereas many others along the trail are somewhat difficult to see.
    Surprisingly this waterfall is very poorly documented. The most I can find is a few web pictures of it and a brief mention in a book. This is bewildering to me since I found this to be one of my favorites for sure on this trail even though it is only about 15 feet (5 meters) tall.
    For more information about this and other Yellowstone waterfalls check out Paul Rubenstein's book Yellowstone Waterfalls and their Discovery page 84.
    Directions:
    From the Ashton-Flagg Road west of the Grassy Lake Reservoir there is a signed turnout for the Cascade Creek trailhead. From there either drive or walk to the trailhead down a very rough road and hike a short distance past Pothole Cascades to the falls.

    Diamond Cascade Diamond Cascade Diamond Cascade Diamond Cascade Surroundings
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    Pothole Cascade

    by GuthrieColin Updated Nov 3, 2009

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    The first of five small falls on Cascade Creek this falls is about 40 feet (19 meters) but does not fall all that vertically. It is more of a cascade than a plummeting waterfall—hence the name. In the late summer is becomes more segmented and tends to favor one side of the channel. At periods of higher flow it does cover a much larger portion of the rock face and thus becomes more impressive.
    The falls are slightly off the main trail and if you were not paying much attention it may be possible to pass by them but really, this trail is all about Cascade Creek. Very few creeks have the ability to claim five waterfalls in just over 1 mile of travel. As you continue on this hike keep your eyes on the creek and appreciate the scenic nature of its path.
    For more information about this and other Yellowstone waterfalls check out Paul Rubenstein's book Yellowstone Waterfalls and their Discovery page 83.
    Directions:
    From the Ashton-Flagg Road west of the Grassy Lake Reservoir there is a signed turnout for the Cascade Creek trailhead. From there either drive or walk to the trailhead down a very rough road and hike a short distance to the falls.

    Pothole Cascade Pothole Cascade
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    Union Falls!!!

    by GuthrieColin Updated Nov 1, 2009

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    Union Falls is without a doubt, one of the most spectacular waterfalls I have ever seen. That is saying a LOT. The appreciation for this falls may be in part due to the difficulty of accessing it. The shortest route to the falls is about 16 miles (25 km) round trip. The trail goes up and over a ridge and involves at least 2 river crossings. One of which involves wading across a river above knee height.
    Vertically the falls drop about 250 feet (76 meters) and are particularly unique for one very important reason. Two tributaries of Mountain Ash Creek join together over the descent of the falls. Mountain Ash Creek is joined by the tributary about 50 feet further down the cliff and then both veil out over a bulbous mass of rock.
    A particularly fitting description was given by writer Lee Silliman in a 1998 photo exhibit:
    “Union Falls is an astounding coincidence. Two tributaries of Mountain Ash Creek have set their confluence amidst a precipitous 250 ft high igneous face of the Pitchstone Plateau. But here beauty shunts geology aside. Like an effervescent fountain, these commingled waters skip and dance in translucent play with a grace unrivaled by any waterfall in the park.”
    In their veiling form the photogenic qualities would be expected. They however face south and are hit by sun over a large portion of the day. Overcast or dusk/dawn conditions are preferable but with 8 miles (12 km) of hiking it is likely that one would need to camp to find those conditions.
    For more information about this and other Yellowstone waterfalls check out Paul Rubenstein's book Yellowstone Waterfalls and their Discovery page 87.

    Directions:
    From the Ashton-Flagg Road get to the western side of the Grassy Lake Reservoir. From the dam proceed down a steep road to the spillway. Two-wheel drive vehicles should park at the top of the dam and walk to the trailhead on the opposite side of the spillway from the parking lot.

    Union Falls Just Before Sunset Union Falls The River Crossing
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    Fairy Falls

    by GuthrieColin Updated Nov 1, 2009

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    As one of the taller falls in Yellowstone and with its proximity to the geyser basins it is not surprising that this is a popular hike. At 2.5 miles (4 km) from the trailhead the hike is mostly flat and can be done by just about anyone.
    Stream volume is said to be fairly consistent throughout the year without any major runoff or summer drought periods. In form it is fairly unique among Yellowstone waterfalls. Small volume and very tall it seems more like a Yosemite type waterfall but the surroundings are unmistakably Yellowstone. The area surrounding the base of the falls was clearly affected by the wildfires of 1988 (largest wildfire in history burnt 36% of the park) and the newly covering trees are still very young.
    For more information about this and other Yellowstone waterfalls check out Paul Rubenstein's book Yellowstone Waterfalls and their Discovery page 151.

    Directions:
    From the Midway Geyser Basin continue South 1 mile to a turnoff and the eventual well marked trailhead. Cross the footbridge and hike along a well maintained gravel path for appx 1 mile then branch to the left on the Fairy Falls trail.

    Fairy Falls Fairy Falls Fairy Falls Fairy Falls
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    Terraced Falls

    by GuthrieColin Written Nov 1, 2009

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    For someone trying to find a good back country hike in or around Yellowstone, this is it. Terraced falls is one of the more impressive waterfalls in the park at 140 feet (42 meters). This will be the ultimate goal of the hike but several impressive features along the trail on Cascade Creek will make this hike excellent for everyone.
    Terraced Falls is contained within an impressive canyon of tall volcanic spires. Similar to Tower falls but certainly a very different personality. Instead of a straight drop it steps over between 5 and 6 distinct tiers (depending on who you ask). In either case this is one very impressive waterfall.
    To get a good view of this waterfall the trail gets you to a cliff top view which is less than optimal. The best views are on the opposing bank. To get those views there is no bridge to cross the falls river but one can ford the river. Just above the uppermost tier making the way off the trail to the river and walking across is not difficult but mentally it is quite scary because if one were to be carried away by the current it would be a long fall to the bottom and more than likely kill you.
    For more information about this and other Yellowstone waterfalls check out Paul Rubenstein's book Yellowstone Waterfalls and their Discovery page 74.

    Directions:
    From the Ashton-Flagg Road west of the Grassy Lake Reservoir there is a signed turnout for the Cascade Creek trailhead. From there either drive or walk to the trailhead down a very rough road and hike 2.1 additional miles to the falls.

    Terraced Falls The Only View From the Trailside Terraced Falls Full Terraced Falls Me at Terraced Falls
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    Cascade Acres

    by GuthrieColin Written Nov 1, 2009

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    It may be a little bit of a stretch to call this a waterfall. It is however, a very pretty scene. The picture connected with this tip is only of the upper tiers of the falls since the whole area is difficult to view without some scrambling. I spent my scrambling time going to the other side of Terraced falls so I left that for another time.
    The small drops continue for a long distance and in all it is said that the river drops 50 feet (15 meters). Certainly I would not consider this to be a very notable feature to view if it was its own hike but in the context of the Terraced Falls hike along with all of the waterfalls on Cascade creek it is certainly a great hike and not particularly difficult.
    For more information about this and other Yellowstone waterfalls check out Paul Rubenstein's book Yellowstone Waterfalls and their Discovery page 75.

    Directions:
    From the Ashton-Flagg Road west of the Grassy Lake Reservoir there is a signed turnout for the Cascade Creek trailhead. From there either drive or walk to the trailhead down a very rough road and hike 2 additional miles to the falls.

    Cascade Acres
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    Wraith Falls

    by Krumel Written Oct 11, 2009

    The Wraith Falls are about a half-mile walk off the main road between Mammoth Hot Springs and Roosevelt Junction. They are not particular impressive, nor particularly ghostly (as the name would imply). Water runs (rather than falls) down a rocky slope, giving it a veil-like appearance.

    I've put this under "Off the beaten path" as I actually did not meet a single other person on my walk there. And after reading the ubiquitous warnings about not wandering off anywhere on your own due to the presence of bears, wolves and other wildlife I found even this short half-mile walk quite scary, especially when the landscape changed from open field to more undergrowth and a few trees.

    Normally I quite like getting away from the crowds, but the thought of wildlife lurking in the undergrowth prevented me from really enjoying the peace and quiet away from the rest of the tourists, and I really just made a dash for the falls, took a photo and dashed back.

    Wraith falls
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    Mesa Falls

    by GuthrieColin Written Apr 7, 2008

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    At just an hour and a half drive from West Yellowstone, this area is well within reach of visitors to Yellowstone National Park. In the winter the snow pack can be very deep beyond mile 12 (19 km)from Ashton.
    My trip was in mid march and the unplowed section of Hwy 47 was about 2.5 feet (76 cm) deep of snow. I did not have a snowmobile or snowshoes so I walked on the packed snowmobile tracks for 5 miles (8 km) each way to the falls and back. I would not recommend this insanity to anyone without a snowmobile in the winter. In the summer, however, it is a roadside attraction.
    Lower Mesa Falls is less accessible than the upper Falls but drops 65 feet (19 m) in a deep canyon. The upper falls are 114 feet (34 m) in a sweeping arch nearly 300 feet (91 m) wide the angle makes it difficult to view the whole falls from the viewing platform at one time. For more information check out my Ashton Page.

    Upper Mesa Falls Lower Mesa Falls
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    Cooke City

    by kop-queen Written Oct 11, 2007

    I still can't get my head around the American use of the word "city". Hopefully someone will enlighten me one day as to why a place which may only have a couple of dozen buildings can carry such a description? Maybe in years gone by they were much bigger? But I remember in Arizona passing by a number of settlements (some maybe of only 5 or 6 buildings) which also shared the tag and being similarly bemused.

    However, this is not to show any disrespect to Cooke City as it is a super little place which we were pleased to stop off at for an hour or so. On the very edge of Yellowstone NP it offers accomodation, food, bars, gas, and equipment hire. You can fish, hike, or just exercise your camera.

    Cooke City has a charm of it's own
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    The roads less travelled

    by toonsarah Updated Oct 28, 2006

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    As you tour Yellowstone you’ll find several places where a loop road, usually one-way, leaves the main road for a few miles to rejoin it a little further on. We really enjoyed taking these side roads – less traffic and a good opportunity to see some different scenery.

    One of the nicest was the Virginia Cascade drive, just east of Norris. This three-mile road takes you through a forested area and past the 60-foot high Virginia Cascades on the Gibbon River. There's not a lot of room to park near the falls, and it isn't the easiest view to photograph (hence the pretty butterfly shot instead!) but nevertheless it's a short detour well-worth taking.

    Butterfly by Virginia Cascade (photo by Chris)
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  • Don't miss in Yellowstone

    by Pame1a Updated Oct 10, 2006

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    The Fireboil River is an amazing place to swim and to spend an afternoon near Madison. Teenagers love it because they can jump off the rocks into the swirling water that feels like a hottub. Mom and dad loved it too!

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    Calcite Springs

    by jasperdo Written Aug 13, 2006

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    This viewpoint just north of Tower Falls is so overlooked that the Yellowstone Park map doesn't even show it. But it's definately worth a stop. There is a 'mini' Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone here, which, while smaller than at Canyon, is equally impressive. I think the view here is much better than the one just down the road at Tower Falls.

    Calcite Springs Calcite Springs Calcite Springs Calcite Springs calcite Springs
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    Fishing Bridge Visitor Center

    by jasperdo Updated Aug 13, 2006

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    This Visitor Center is probably the most interesting in the park for history buffs. It was constructed in 1929 in rustic National Park style, and became the prototype for that type of architecture in other National Parks. This is also where the idea of a National Park Visitor Center was first formulated. In the early years of Yellowstone, and most other National Parks for that matter, visitors to the park almost always took guided tours. All the information they received about the park was given to them by the tour guide. By the 1920's however, the National Parks discovered that more and more people were driving their own cars and taking self guided tours of the park. So, something more than a tour guide was needed. Hence...the National Park Visitor Center. Fishing Bridge was the first to be built.

    Today, Fishing Bridge still retains it's original look and function. The building is a wood and stone classic. And the museum is definately 'old school'. It still looks like the original stuffed animal exhibits in a glass case from the 30's. But in this building it's a perfect fit.

    Be sure and exit out the rear of the building when you're done. There is a beautiful view of Yellowstone Lake from here, and a nice sandy beach.

    Fishing Bridge Visitor Center Fishing Bridge Visitor Center Fishing Bridge Visitor Center Fishing Bridge Visitor Center View of Lake from Visitor Center
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