ElevationAscent: 1,408' 429 m
Descent: -2,766' -843 m
High: 8,548' 2,606 m
Low: 6,255' 1,907 m
GradeAvg Grade: 2% (1°)
Max Grade: 23% (13°)
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“A classic Yellowstone backpacking trip -- if waterfalls are your thing, this one is for you!”— Tom Carter
From Lone Star the trail continues another .3 miles to a trail junction. Turn left and follow the Shoshone Lake Trail over a bridged crossing of the Firehole and through a minor hot spring area. The trail enters a lovely meadow at 4.3 miles. It skirts the east side of the meadow then enters the forest and begins a 350-foot climb to unmarked Grants Pass on the Continental Divide, at 6.1 miles. The pass was named for President Grant, who signed the bill creating Yellowstone on March 1, 1872.
At the 6.8-mile mark, take a right turn on the Bechler River Trail. It climbs 650 ft in the first 2 miles to the first of 2 more Continental Divide crossings. The trail dips to cross a stream flowing west to the Firehole River then again crosses the Divide at 9.8 miles. From here you'll stay on the Pacific side of the Divide. The trail crosses Littles Fork and enters its lovely meadow at 11.8 miles, continues past Douglas Knob, and crosses the Gregg Fork at 14 miles. Thereafter, the 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, passes Farris Fork Spur Trail (to a great swimming hole, on left), crosses the Farris Fork, and reaches Three Rivers Junction at 15.5 miles.
Three Rivers is special! 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 the next 7 miles the trail follows the river through spectacular Bechler Canyon, passing Treasure Island (at 20.3 mi), 45-ft Iris Falls (at 20.4 mi), stunning, two-tiered Colonnade Falls (35 ft & 67 ft; at 20.8 mi), before entering Bechler Meadows. Along the way you’ll cross numerous streams and twice ford the Bechler. By early August the Upper Ford (at 17.8 mi) is usually knee-deep but the Lower Ford (at 19.3 mi) may be hip-deep (look for a shallow course on the downstream side).
At the 24-mile mark take the Bechler Meadows Cutoff Trail to the right. The cutoff trail immediately makes a difficult sandy-bottomed, but knee-to-thigh-deep ford of the Bechler River and heads into big, beautiful Bechler Meadows, with impressive views of the Tetons to the south. In just .7 miles turn left and follow the Bechler Meadows Trail south. As the trail heads out into the heart of the meadows, look behind you to see 230-foot Ouzel Falls tumbling off the southern end of the Madison Plateau.
The trail makes a knee-deep crossing of Boundary Creek (at 26 mi) and reaches the Rocky Ford Cutoff Trail (on left) at 26.4 miles. Follow this cutoff trail another .8 miles to rejoin the Bechler River Trail (taking Bechler Meadows Trail avoided difficult to cross Rocky Ford). Turn right and follow the Bechler River Trail (past Bechler Cutoff Trail at 29.4) past 15-ft Bechler Falls and the Falls River confluence at 30.1, and reaches 250-ft wide & 20-ft high Cave Falls and the trailhead at 31.6 miles.
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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Land Manager: National Park Service - Yellowstone National Park