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Bechler River Trail

Intermediate

Trail

26.4 mile 42.5 kilometer point to point
97% Runnable
Intermediate

Elevation

Ascent: 1,108' 338 m
Descent: -2,794' -852 m
High: 8,551' 2,606 m
Low: 6,219' 1,895 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 3% (2°)
Max Grade: 22% (12°)

Dogs

No Dogs
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Trail shared by Tom Carter

A classic Yellowstone backpacking trip -- if waterfalls are your thing, this one

Tom Carter

Features Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Not recommended before late July because of deep fords and hungry mosquitos. The trail makes three difficult fords of the Bechler River. Even in August, the Upper Ford at the 11-mile mark is often knee-deep and the Lower Ford at 12.6-mile mark may be hip-deep (look for a shallow course on the downstream side). Rocky Ford of the Bechler in Bechler Meadows at the 21.4-mile mark also may be hip-deep (again you should scout downstream for the best fording location).

Description

The 26.4 mi trail begins south of Grants Pass on Shoshone Lake Trail and ends near Cave Falls in YNP's southwest corner. The trail climbs 650 ft in the first 2 mi to the first of 2 Continental Divide crossings. The trail dips to cross a stream flowing west to the Firehole River then again crosses the Divide at 3 mi. The Firehole Rive flows to the Gulf of Mexico via the Madison, Missouri, and the Mississippi rivers. The Bechler River drainage ahead of you flows west to the Pacific Ocean via the Bechler, Falls, Snake, and Columbia rivers.

The trail crosses Littles Fork and enters its lovely meadow at 5 mi, continues past Douglas Knob, and crosses the Gregg Fork at 7.2 miles. Thereafter, the short Twister Falls Trail (on right) leads to an overlook of the 55 ft falls (misplaced upstream on some maps). The trail continues along the Gregg 2 more miles, passes the Farris Fork Spur Trail (on left), crosses the Farris Fork, and reaches Three Rivers Junction at 9 miles.

Three Rivers is special! Here the Gregg, Farris, and Phillips forks join to form the Bechler River, named for Gustavus Bechler, chief topographer for the 1872 Hayden Survey. Little attention was paid to the park's southwest corner for the next 50 years. Then, in the face of attempts to dam the Bechler for irrigation, William Gregg explored the area and published articles describing its numerous waterfalls. There are 30 falls and cascades within 2 miles of Three Rivers, including 45-ft Ragged Falls, just up stream on the Farris Fork.

For 6.7 miles the trail follows the river through Bechler Canyon, passing Three Rivers Cabin Trail (at 9.7 mi), Treasure Island (at 13.5), 45-ft Iris Falls (at 13.6), stunning, two-tiered Colonnade Falls (35 ft & 67 ft; at 14 mi), before entering Bechler Meadows. Along the way youll cross numerous streams and twice ford the Bechler. By early August the Upper Ford (at 11 mi) is usually knee-deep but the Lower Ford (at 12.6 mi) may be hip-deep (look for a shallow course on the downstream side).

The trail passes Bechler Meadows Cutoff Trail (at 17.2 mi) and skirts the east side of this beautiful meadow, passes Mountain Ash Creek Trail (at 20.4), and makes its final knee-to-hip-deep ford of the Bechler at Rocky Ford (at 21.4). It then follows the Bechler (past Bechler Cuttoff Trail at 23.4) past 15-ft Bechler Falls and the Falls River confluence (at 25.4), and reaches 250-ft wide & 20-ft high Cave Falls at 25.2 miles. No need to take the last 1.2 mi along the road.

Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone.

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Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 3 votes

#5

in Old Faithful

#5263

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  4.7 from 3 votes
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Trail Rankings

#5

in Old Faithful

#128

in Wyoming

#5,263

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5,043 Since Jul 20, 2015
Intermediate

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Photos

Yellowstone NP
Jul 23, 2015 near Yellows…, WY
Bechler Falls
Jul 20, 2015 near Yellows…, WY
Colonnade Falls
Jul 23, 2015 near Yellows…, WY
Colonnade Falls on the Bechler River -- accessed via a short path off the main trail. Great spot to stop for a bite to eat!
Jul 23, 2019 near Yellows…, WY
Cave Falls
Jul 20, 2015 near Yellows…, WY
Bechler River Trail
Jul 23, 2015 near Yellows…, WY

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