Wyoming‘s wilderness hides a wonderland that enchants adventurers and nature lovers alike – Yellowstone National Park. This legendary park is famous for its mesmerizing geysers, sprawling mountains, diverse wildlife, and overall staggering beauty.
I first visited Yellowstone in 2017 and immediately fell in love with this place that’s one of the wildest on Earth. I grew up in New Jersey; needless to say, there aren’t too many wild areas left in the Northeast. Yellowstone absolutely blew me away.
In the years since, I’ve kept returning. Since my friends and family wondered why I kept returning to the same place, I also started taking them with me. On multiple trips through the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, I’ve explored almost all of the front country sites and a good handful of backcountry hikes.
If you’re in the planning stages of your trip, check out my curated list of Best Things to Do in Yellowstone National Park and my personal Yellowstone Packing List. After visiting the park in all seasons, I’ve got it down, and there’s nothing I love more than sharing information about the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem!
Show Table of Contents
- Best Waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park
- Waterfalls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Area
- Waterfalls Along Grand Loop Road
- Southwest Yellowstone Waterfalls
- Backcountry Falls
- Map of Yellowstone Waterfalls
- Accommodations Near Yellowstone National Park
- Camping in Yellowstone
- What is the best way to see Yellowstone National Park?
- How many waterfalls are in Yellowstone National Park?
- What do I need to bring to Yellowstone National Park?
Best Waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park
Everyone always focuses on the thermal features and wildlife of the park, but the waterfalls and cascades always catch my eye. I’ve been on a journey to document as many of them as I can, and below, I’ve picked out a few of my favorite waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park.
|Most Beautiful Waterfall||Union Falls|
|Best Frontcountry Waterfall||Lower Falls|
|Best Backcountry Waterfall||Dunanda Falls|
|Best Hidden Gem Waterfall||Silver Cord Cascade|
|Best Waterfall Hike||Fairy Falls and Imperial Geyser|
|Best Waterfall View||Firehole Falls|
As for the rest of the list… there are hundreds of waterfalls in the area, so narrowing it down to 16 was tough. I initially set out to choose a dozen, and I couldn’t help it; I had to add more.
I chose these cascades because they’re (mostly) easy to reach, they’re stunning, and they’re notable as some of the most famous waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park. Below the list, you’ll find some accommodation recommendations and a map of Yellowstone waterfalls to help you navigate on your trip.
Waterfalls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Area
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River is one of the highlights of the park. If you’re in shape and up for a workout, you can easily spend a full day hiking in the Canyon area. Not trying to max out your elevation gain? It’s also easy to visit some popular spots without having to stray far from the car.
The Canyon area offers a large campground, lodge, dining room, and visitors center. While a lot of the dining in Yellowstone leaves much to be desired, I’ve got to say that the Canyon Fountain and Grill never disappoints. Grab a huckleberry soda or float with your burger or grilled cheese, and you’ll be ready for a day of exploring my favorite region of the park.
The Upper and Lower Falls of Yellowstone are the most famous waterfalls in the park, and you can hike to viewpoints and to the brink of both falls. The little-known Silver Cord Cascade is worth tracking down, as well.
1. Upper Falls Of The Yellowstone River
The Upper Falls may be the most underrated of Yellowstone’s waterfalls, as it’s often overshadowed by the Lower Falls. While it might not be the tallest waterfall, at an impressive 110 feet, it’s still a sight to behold.
The best way to see the river’s power is to walk to the Brink of the Upper Falls viewpoint. It’s a pretty mellow walk, and you should be able to see the waterfall in the mist in n almost ethereal display of natural beauty.
2. Lower Falls Of The Yellowstone River
The Lower Yellowstone River Falls is a true marvel. Standing tall at 308 feet, it’s no surprise that this stunning location is a favorite among travel photographers.
The best viewpoint is the aptly named Artist’s Point. If you’re up for a bit of a hike, walk to the Brink of the Lower Falls. Several switchbacks get you to where you’ll find an observation platform, and the roar of the river is something I’ll never forget. Be warned, the hike back up is relatively strenuous, even though it’s paved.
3. Silver Cord Cascade
The slender Silver Cord Cascade is an off-the-beaten-path wonder that doesn’t get as much attention as other waterfalls closer to the main roads. It’s worth tracking down because it is the tallest of the Yellowstone waterfalls, dropping a staggering 1,200ft into the canyon.
The only catch is that you have to hike on the Seven Mile Hole Trail to get a good view, which might explain why it’s not as popular. But its unique thin shape makes for a different viewing experience than most of Yellowstone’s other waterfalls.
Waterfalls Along Grand Loop Road
Grand Loop Road is the route that encompasses the park. If you only have a little bit of time to explore, these easy-access waterfalls can be seen from turnouts and the roadside. Each one is worth a stop, and you won’t need more than a few minutes to find these brilliant cascades.
4. Undine Falls
Undine Falls is an absolute gem. This tiered waterfall is located just east of Mammoth Hot Springs and is a popular roadside stop.
For those looking to get up close and personal with the falls, head to the Lava Creek Picnic Area further east of the pullout and hike the Lava Creek Trail towards the falls. The walk to Undine Falls’ brink is only 0.8 miles round trip, with a perfectly flat path (except for the first 10 yards). This makes it an ideal adventure for families of all ages, from kids to grandparents.
Every time I’m here, the pine trees around Undine Falls seem to be brighter than the last time! The photo above was captured in July 2023, after a very wet and rainy few months, so the green was nearly blinding. This isn’t my favorite photo because of all the shadows, but that’s what I get for visiting at noon.
In case you’d like to take good photos of Yellowstone’s waterfalls, try visiting in the morning or afternoon when the light isn’t as harsh.
For this trip, I also rented the OM-1 camera from Lensrentals, which has a built-in Neutral Density mode, making long-exposure photos of waterfalls super easy. If you want to rent a great travel camera, use our Lensrentals coupon code, VIATRAVELERS15, for 15% off.
5. Tower Fall
Tower Fall is exceptional as it cascades over 130 feet down Tower Creek just before converging with the Yellowstone River. The name is fitting, as the surrounding volcanic spires create a one-of-a-kind sight.
Luckily, an easy-to-reach roadside overlook offers an excellent view of this natural wonder. Head to the large parking area on Grand Loop Road in the Tower-Roosevelt region of Yellowstone National Park to get there.
You can hike a short switchbacked trail down to Tower Creek from the viewing platform, but you won’t see the falls from the bottom. Still, I found it to be a nice break from the crowds at the top, and walking along the water is a great way to spend some time. This area is a popular spot for scenic float tours.
Note that this area has plenty of bears, so be sure you’re carrying bear spray even though it’s a short walk down to the river.
6. Kepler Cascades
Among the most underrated waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park is Kepler Cascades. It’s located near the famous Old Faithful Geyser, which attracts millions of visitors annually. Kepler is a good spot to stop on a full-day tour of hydrothermal areas in Yellowstone, as it provides a bit of a break from the sulfur stench!
Look for a turnout sign 2.5 miles south of the Old Faithful complex. This waterfall is hidden from the road, but it comes into view as soon as you walk to the wooden bridge platform.
7. Firehole Falls
Firehole Falls is a short but incredible 40-foot waterfall surrounded by canyon walls formed by 800-foot thick lava flows. You can easily access this natural wonder along Firehole Canyon Drive. While most people exploring Yellowstone don’t leave Grand Loop Road, this is one short detour that’s totally worth it.
The Firehole River is also one of the only places where you can go for a dip in the thermally heated waters of Yellowstone National Park without being boiled alive. That being said, the Firehole River swimming area is frequently closed until mid-Summer, when it may be safe to swim.
Check the current park updates to see whether you can swim in Yellowstone National Park, and be sure to stay out of the thermal pools and springs outside designated safe swimming areas.
8. Gibbon Falls
If you’re driving between Madison and Norris Junctions, Gibbon Falls is a good spot to stop for a break from the road. The parking area is pretty big, so you shouldn’t have to fight for a space, and there are interpretive signs along the stone wall barrier.
There aren’t any mainstream established trails to take you to the waterfall, but the cascade itself is very pretty, even when viewed from a distance. While there isn’t much else to do here, you can still make a day of it by packing a picnic lunch and enjoying it at one of the nearby picnic areas.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Yellowstone in Winter
Southwest Yellowstone Waterfalls
There are a few lesser-known cascades in the Southwestern corner of the park. They might require some hiking to get to – or a bit of a look off the main road – but they’re worth the detour.
9. Fairy Falls
Fairy Falls is an impressive waterfall in Yellowstone, standing at 200 feet tall. It gets its name from the misty ap of one of the best hikes in the park.
Parking lots for popular short hikes in Yellowstone do fill up fast, so it’s best to plan to arrive early in the morning (I’m talking 8 a.m.) or later in the afternoon. I’ve found that by 2 or 3 p.m., most parking lots have space, and turnover is high.
Your walk will take you on a 5-mile round-trip journey through a beautiful pine forest with minimal elevation gain. Remember that this area is one of the last to open in the spring because it’s a bear management area, so carry bear spray, make yourself known to the local fauna, and hike in groups.
10. Mystic Falls
Mystic Falls is one of my favorite little side quests in Yellowstone. Tucked away at the end of a 1.2-mile trail near Biscuit Basin, this waterfall is one-of-a-kind thanks to (what else) geothermal properties.
The Little Firehole River takes a 70-foot plunge at Mystic Falls, and the surrounding geothermal activity adds to its allure. To get there, park in the Biscuit Basin lot and follow the boardwalk until you see the Mystic Falls trailhead. This easy 2.4-mile round-trip hike is worth it, whether you go out and back or loop it up with the Fairy Creek Trail to reach the Biscuit Basin Overlook (which adds a little bit of distance).
11. Lewis Falls
I’m usually coming up to Yellowstone from the Tetons, and if you’re heading up from Grand Teton National Park, you’ll be able to see Lewis Falls as one of the first attractions in Yellowstone. It’s right in the middle of the area between the South Entrance and Grant Village before you even get to the Grand Loop Road.
While there’s not much to do at Lewis Falls besides marveling at its beauty, Lewis Lake Campground is a good spot to stop and have a picnic lunch. If you’re looking to cast a line, Lewis Lake and Lewis River are both popular trout fishing spots, too.
12. Moose Falls
Moose Falls is one that’s often missed by travelers trying to get to Grant Village or West Thumb in a hurry. It’s just about a mile from the South Entrance and easy to drive right past. Keep an eye out and look for the turnout at the first creek you pass after the entrance.
The waterfall itself is tucked away from the road but easy to see from the turnout. There aren’t many trails here, but you can get out to the 30 ft waterfall and see it from both the brink and the base using a short path from the parking lot.
If you’re up for an adventure, you’ll find some of the least visited waterfalls in Yellowstone in the backcountry. While we don’t recommend going off into one of the wildest places in the continental U.S. without adequate preparations, if you’re an experienced hiker and comfortable in grizzly country, these are the most remote and some of the most remarkable waterfalls in Yellowstone.
13. Dunanda Cascades
If you’re up for an adventure, check out Dunanda Falls. This stunning waterfall drops 110 ft in a gorgeous curtain that will take your breath away.
Don’t let the 16.9-mile distance intimidate you – it’s mostly flat and offers beautiful meadows and Boundary Creek views. Honestly, the hike is almost its own reward.
Most people head here for an overnight backpacking tour. If that’s your goal (rather than cover that many miles in a day), be sure you get a permit from the Bechler Ranger Station.
Another fun way to get to Dunada Falls is to take a llama hike with Wildland Trekking. Seriously – llamas will help you and your guides bring your gear out into the woods. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience that’s bound to bring looks and questions from other Bechler area hikers.
But the real star of the show is Dunanda Falls itself. Once you make it to the base, you’ll be blown away by the naturally heated hot spring pools beckoning you for a relaxing soak. These pools are heated to 110 degrees Fahrenheit – perfect for a steamy dip. Just remember to review backcountry reports and talk to the rangers about the recent bear activity before heading out on this trek.
14. Silver Scarf Falls
Silver Scarf Falls is only two hundred yards southeast of Dunanda Falls, but you’ll have to work to get there. The stream that feeds Silver Scarf Falls originates from a vast, open valley with countless unmapped and unnamed thermal springs. These springs contribute to the warm water of the stream, making it an unforgettable sight to behold.
15. Osprey Falls
Osprey Waterfalls is a thundering 150-foot waterfall located on the Gardiner River, one of the top spots in the country for whitewater rafting. It earned its name because early USGS surveyors noticed a whole lot of ospreys around. These beautiful raptors are still one of the highlights of the hike out to the waterfall.
Despite being on a major waterway, this waterfall doesn’t get too many visitors – but if you’re up for a bit of adventure, you can reach it via the Osprey Falls trail. Just be warned: this is one steep trail with many switchbacks as it drops over 700 feet into Sheepeater Canyon.
16. Union Falls
While every waterfall I’ve come across in Yellowstone has impressed me, Union Falls might be the most gorgeous one I’ve ever seen. It’s huge – 250 ft tall – and seems impossibly wide at the cascade itself before narrowing back down into Mountain Ash Creek.
Getting to the falls requires hiking on steep terrain for a minimum of 15 miles. The Mountain Ash Trail from Grassy Lake Reservoir is the trail of choice for most, despite its round trip distance and nearly 2,000 ft of elevation gain.
See Related: Best State and National Parks in Wyoming
Map of Yellowstone Waterfalls
If you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park, you’ve probably noticed just how large the park is. If spotting waterfalls is high on your list of things to do in Yellowstone, take note of the waterfall locations relative to junctions and entrances using the map of Yellowstone waterfalls below.
Accommodations Near Yellowstone National Park
If you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park, make sure to find the perfect place to crash. Trust us – it’ll make all the difference in creating a memorable and comfy experience. Luckily, many options are available near the park that caters to all sorts of preferences and needs.
In the park itself, it’s hard to top a stay at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel or Old Faithful Inn. The Lake Yellowstone Hotel is elegant and centrally located, with waterfront views and proximity to one of the best areas for grizzly bear spotting. The Old Faithful Inn is the largest log cabin structure in the world, and it’s perhaps the most iconic building in all of Wyoming.
Getting reservations in the park can be tricky and expensive, so most visitors to Yellowstone tend to stay in gateway towns. I’ve spent countless nights in Gardiner, West Yellowstone, Cody, and Jackson, and can recommend plenty of places to rest your head. Here are my top picks for lodging near Yellowstone:
- The Lexington Hotel: I stayed here in August 2022 and was impressed by the spacious rooms and loved the proximity to the National Elk Refuge.
- The Wort Hotel: The Wort is quite possibly the nicest hotel in Jackson, and I was lucky enough to stay here in September 2022. Nothing beats Bluegrass Tuesdays in the Silver Dollar Bar.
- The Ranch Inn: There are rumors that the Ranch Inn will be demolished, but in the meantime, it’s my pick for an affordable place to stay. I’ve stayed here three times – Fall 2017 and 2021, and Winter 2022. It’s a reliable and relatively cheap place to stay in Jackson.
- The Irma Hotel: The obvious place to stay in Cody. This was Buffalo Bill’s original hotel, and Bill Cody is the reason the East Entrance to Yellowstone is still so popular to this day. I stuffed my face with prime rib in their historic dining room in 2017 and 2021, and both times, the building impressed me.
- Roosevelt Yellowstone Motel: I recently stayed at this hotel in Gardiner and found it to be comfortable and clean. It wasn’t super close to downtown, but it was convenient enough and had parking close to the room. The staff was pleasant, and the price was right!
- Yellowstone West Gate Hotel: You can’t beat the amenities, location, and reviews of this West Yellowstone hotel. Free Wifi, hot continental breakfast included, and a pool? This is one of the best places to stay near Yellowstone with kids.
Camping in Yellowstone
If you would prefer camping, finding a spot at Canyon Campground will give you easy access to some of the best areas of Yellowstone National Park. Whenever I’m spending more than a few days in Yellowstone, this is my campground of choice. I’ve also heard great things about Madison if you want a quieter place to pitch your tent, and Bridge Bay is the largest campground in the park, so it has lots of amenities.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Cheyenne, Wyoming
What is the best way to see Yellowstone National Park?
If you’re eager to experience Yellowstone to the fullest, hitting the trails is the way to go! Even a short amble on a boardwalk or course can give you a better understanding of the park’s unique features and stunning landscape. Grab your hiking shoes, ditch the car, and explore all the wonders of Yellowstone that are waiting for you beyond the car window.
How many waterfalls are in Yellowstone National Park?
Yellowstone National Park is bursting with waterfalls! It’s hard to give an exact number because the park is so vast and varied, but it’s thought that there are over 290 waterfalls to discover. From delicate trickles to roaring monsters, each one adds to the incredible beauty of this natural wonderland and makes exploring it a memorable encounter.
What do I need to bring to Yellowstone National Park?
Going to Yellowstone National Park is an incredible adventure, but coming prepared with the right equipment is crucial. Since the nights can get chilly, bringing sleep gear that can withstand freezing temperatures is crucial.
If you’re camping, you’ll want to pack a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, lantern, sun protection, communication device, and a Yellowstone National Park map are highly recommended. Check out this article to learn more about what to pack for Yellowstone.
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- About the Author
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Kim Magaraci is the Managing Editor of ViaTravelers, and she’s based in southern New Jersey. She’s a minimalist traveler, hiker, and landscape photographer who spends tons of time exploring the wonders of the American West. She’s been to 32 states, tracked down BBQ in 27 of them, and has skied in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Maine, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Quebec. Her favorite cities are Philadelphia, Montreal, and Portland, Maine – but really, she spends most of her travels in small towns, national parks, and national forests. When she’s not in the mountains, you’ll find her at the barn with her horse Lyla, or running agility with her dog Wilco.