There is something enchanting about waterfalls. The sounds and sprays enveloping your senses, the power of the rushing water, and the surrounding beauty make for a perfect hiking destination - a jewel at the end of the trail. Montana's Yellowstone Country is graced with well over a dozen popular waterfalls, and there are probably just as many so remote we're not aware of them. There are plenty of theories and substantial evidence about the calming effect of waterfalls, but you don't need research to substantiate that claim. Check out some of our favorites and start exploring for yourself!
Yellowstone National Park
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
At 308 feet, Lower Falls is the tallest waterfall in Yellowstone. It's more than twice the size of Niagara Falls, and at its peak, it flows at 63,500 gallons per second.
While the Upper Falls are only a third as tall as the Lower, they are equally beautiful and well worth visiting.
Sandwiched between the Lower and Upper Falls, Crystal Falls was created by the outfall of Cascade Creek into the canyon. The falls can be seen from the South Rim Trail, a little east of Uncle Tom's area.
Most of the trails along both rims have step grades or stairs.
Because of the amount of vertical descent (and returning ascent), these trails are not recommended for visitors with heart, lung, or other health conditions:
- Brink of the Lower Falls Trail
- Red Rock Points Trail
These locations meet wheelchair accessibility standards:
- Sidewalk along the Brink of the Lower Falls parking lot
- Sidewalk from Lookout Point parking lot to Grand View parking lot
- Sidewalk out to the second viewing area at Artist Point
Union Falls, also located in Yellowstone, is often heralded as the park's prettiest waterfall. While not the tallest, the 250-foot drop is still impressive, and even more so is the width, which is seemingly as wide as it is tall, in a teepee formation. A quick sidetrack will take you to a geothermally heated, lukewarm swimming hole at Scout's Pool. This is a difficult 15-mile hike, which includes fording a river and 1000 feet of elevation gain. It's also grizzly country, so bring your bear spray and hike in groups.
A lesser-known waterfall in Yellowstone, Knowles Falls is an excellent trip for those looking to camp, and due to its lower elevation, it's a great spot for early-season trips. The wildflowers, wildlife watching, and birding are also great on this trail.
One of the more popular waterfalls in the region, Palisade Falls, is impressive, and the trail is gentle and paved, making it accessible to everyone. Located near Hyalite Reservoir, the falls freeze over in the winter and are equally impressive.
Hyalite Creek Trail
For a great day hike, Hyalite Creek Trail, also up Hyalite Canyon, is just over five miles to get to Hyalite Lake. Watch along the way; you'll pass eleven waterfalls, including the most prominent, Arch Falls and Champagne Falls. For the ambitious, continue on a couple more miles to the top of Hyalite Peak – you'll feel like you are on top of the world with endless mountain vistas.
This is another well-maintained trail, very stroller and wheelchair friendly. It's an easy 2.4-mile round trip and could be combined with Palisade Falls for a half-day excursion.
Just down the road from Bozeman, Ousel Falls is one of the most popular hikes in Big Sky. The short one-mile hike is easy for most people. Stunning cliff walls surround the falls, and the lush vegetation provides plenty of shade.
Passage Creek Falls
This 5-mile round trip on an easy trail is great for a day hike, but for those wanting a more extended excursion, this is one of the primary accesses to the backcountry in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.
Pine Creek Falls
This popular hike is best in the spring when the falls are flowing strong. The well-maintained trail is one mile to the falls, with a short, steep climb to the falls at the end. If you keep going to the lake, it's a grueling three miles, but well worth the effort!
If you're exploring Paradise Valley, this is an easy waterfall to pair with Pine Creek Falls. The falls can be viewed from the road that bridges over Cascade Creek. Or, take the George Lake Trail, which passes over the creek that feeds the falls. Step off the path and follow the street for the best vantage point.
Big Timber Area
Natural Bridge Falls
The Boulder River flows over a 100-foot precipice during the spring runoff, and the falls are impressive. The falls were named because the river used to flow under a natural rock bridge, which collapsed in July 1988. There are accessible paved trails, picnic tables, interpretive panels, and access to more hiking trails.
Red Lodge Area
Calamity Falls and Sentinel Falls
For a short day hike to see two impressive waterfalls near Red Lodge, Calamity and Sentinel Falls are a great destination. The trail is 3.6 miles and only gains 511 feet, making it great for those just starting out.
Located near Nye, Montana, the drive to the falls is spectacular. The hike is 1.4 miles out and back and is an excellent place for birdwatching! Stop at the Fishtail General Store – you won't regret it!