By about 3 PM, we had left the Lamar River valley and our road linked up with the top half of the figure ‘8’ shaped road system in Yellowstone (my 'General' tip has a map). Realizing that the 132-foot Tower Falls was only a few minutes drive to the south we made a short detour to see this impressive spectacle. It seemed to be a very popular spot with vehicles parked in every conceivable location and lots of people out on foot as well. These falls first came to the world’s attention in 1869 when an exploratory crew came upon them, naming them ‘Tower Falls’ because of all the sharp volcanic peaks on both sides of the drop. The 2nd photo was taken from the top of the falls, looking down Tower Creek and also showing layers of volcanic rock that run above the creek. The 3rd photo gives a better idea of these weird rectangular volcanic basalt formations overhanging the highway in this case! They were very interesting to observe as we too pulled to the side of the road. At one of these locations, we had another good view down toward the creek where we were lucky to spot a Bald Eagle’s nest (centre of 4th photo) atop one of the many volcanic towers. The dark-brown mother Eagle returned to the nest while we were watching, bringing some food to the three lighter-feathered members of her family.
Tower Falls is created as Tower Creek drops 132-foot. The falls is framed by eroded volcanic pinnacles and is a setting that has inspired artists such as Thomas Moran. His painting of the falls helped to draw interest in the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872. You will walk 150 yards along a well developed trail to reach the view point for the falls. There is also a half mile (one way) trail that winds down to the foot of the falls.
While driving the roads around Tower, take time to stop at some of the pull offs near the Tower Falls area, for views of the river canyon. See my 3rd and 4th photos of the Yellowstone River winding its way in the canyon below a viewpoint near Tower Falls.
On the day I visited the park the 0.6 mile trail to the bottom had been closed due to recent washouts. The view from the main platform was not very great either as it was obscured by several trees. I did find an adequate viewpoint by cheating a little bit but in any case these falls are magnificent. At 132 feet (40 m) they tumble from a ledge of rhyolite spires which give it the name.
Tower Creek is not a large creek relative to many other in the park but after plunging over these falls they join forces with the Yellowstone River. The canyon below adds to the majesty of these falls.
In the 1872 a watercolor painter named Thomas Moran spent time at the falls and made several sketches which he later turned into large paintings that were presented to congress as they were trying to inspire them to make Yellowstone a national park. In 1872 Ulysses S Grant signed and made Yellowstone the first National Park.
For more information about this and other Yellowstone waterfalls check out Paul Rubenstein's book Yellowstone Waterfalls and their Discovery page 60.
The hike to Tower Falls involves a winding decline over an evergreen forest about 0.6 miles. There is an overlook not very far from the general store from which you can see the waterfall neatly framed by the cliffs and the trees. When the trail flattens out besides the swelling rapids of Tower Creek, the falls are not far away.
Try to get your photos and portraits to include the mist that keeps this natural arroyo moist year-round. The perspective from the foot of the falls to the falls itself generally involves some trouble with the sun, but maneuver around until you can get the best shots. Have fun!
Be aware that Tower Falls is fed through winter runoff. In early May the curtain of water is robust, but only a shadow of its former self by early July. It wouldn't be practical or necessary to schedule your visit to Yellowstone around the seasonal output of Tower Falls, since Upper and Lower Falls are robust at both periods.
Tower Falls is one of the few major waterfalls not readily visible from the road. When the curtain of water is wide (generally in the spring), the best view of this setting is from the base of the falls, but an overlook about 150 yards down from the trailhead will frame the falls above the pines for those who can't or don't wish to make the 0.6 mile hike to the base of the canyon.
Tower Fall is one of the Yellowstone Highlights that we had missed on our previous visit to the park. On this trip we made it a priority to get to. There are two viewpoints of the Fall, upper and lower. Upper is fairly easy to get to, but you don't really get a sense of the scale and the Basalt towers almost seem to fade into the walls of the canyon. Seeing this, we decided we must make the journey to the bottom. We trudged down the trail taking notice of the sign that stated part of the trail was washed out, but we were hoping for a better glimpse nonetheless. Well, we got all the way to the bottom and couldn't see a thing. Disappointed to say the least, we climbed back to the top. Later in our Journey we met up with some other photographers who had climbed the barrier and went on the the end of the trail anyway. They said the trail was in really poor shape and dangerous. Hopefully, the trail will be open again when we return.
This set of falls is on the eastern side of the drive, just south of the Tower-Roosevelt junction. You can park in the parking lot of the general store, then walk to an overlook that is just behind the store. At one time, there was a trail that would take you to the base of the falls, but it was closed when I was there, and after a little research, as been closed for some time. So, after you stock up on your supplies, head on back and take in this 130-foot waterfall.
A shortish hike from the café/resto/parking lot takes you to an overlook on the impressive Tower Falls, that crashes down for nearly 40 metres. There is a trail to reach the base of the falls, but the lower part is closed due to a rockfall, so you can no longer get a view from the base. This trail seems to be closed since at least 2006, so may be permanent.
From the overlook the view is not very good either as some trees all but block the view.
The Tower Falls are quite an impressive waterfall, with the Tower Creek emerging from between some rocky pinnacles for its 40-metre plunge down the mountain.
From the car park it is a short walk to the first viewing platform, from where my pictures were taken. There is a second viewpoint about a half-mile further down along a steep path, and I'm actually sorry now that I didn't make my way down there when I visited the falls, as the view from below seems to be even much more dramatic than the one from the first viewpoint.
Seeing so many elk in one place (especially in the middle of the village) was a thrilling treat, but what waited for us on the way to Tower Falls just blew us away. The 24-mile drive takes you along the northern ranges of Yellowstone where you can see lots of geological forces, which helped shape what we see today. Specimen Ridge provides a "window" into the distant past and The Petrified Tree is an excellent example of an ancient redwood.
The road, which is built on the Blacktail Deer Plateau, provides fantastic views of the Yellowstone River below. After passing Roosevelt (which is closed at this time of the year) we made our way to Tower Falls.
But before we got there, we ran into another traffic jam. This time, we couldn't get by, so we hopped out of the car to see what all the commotion was about. About 20 - 30 yards away, was a black bear playing in the tall grass...totally awesome!!! After spending 30 minutes enjoying the view, we reached our destination.
After passing the traffic jam and the black bear, we came upon the Tower Creek area. Since the road ahead of us was closed for construction, we decided to pull off the road and take a look at the forces that shaped the northern range. The waters that flow over Tower Falls drop 132 ft. into the Yellowstone River (these falls were named for the surrounding volcanic pinnacles).
This is one of Yellowstones more spectacular waterfalls. It's in the eastern part of the park within an area great for wildlife viewing.
We hiked above and below Tower Falls, taking pictures from above and from below.
For our kids, most fun was going barefoot in the creek below the falls.
Hike to the bottom of one of the many falls in Yellowstone. This is Tower Fall (not falls). Easy going down, but taxing coming back up. Lots of photo taking opportunities.