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    Union Falls by David Morris ©


    The Bechler Area is the southwest corner or quadrant of Yellowstone National Park.

    "Tucked in the southwest corner of Yellowstone National Park, the Bechler-Falls River basin is truly a waterfall lover's paradise. Fall River is aptly named for the many falls and cascades along its tributaries. Some of Yellowstone's most beautiful falls are in this area. As the waters of numerous creeks drop off the Madison and Pitchstone Plateaus, gorgeous falls are formed. With nearly 80 inches of annual precipitation, the Bechler-Falls River area is one of the wettest portions of Yellowstone."

    "Falls River, a tributary of the Henrys Fork of the Snake River, is one of the two river systems in Yellowstone to drain west of the Continental Divide. Beginning on the Pitchstone Plateau and Herring and Beula Lakes, Falls River descends through the Birch Hills to join Bechler River above Cave Falls."

    "Cascade Corner is one name for the area because of the many rivers and streams that form beautiful falls and cascades as they plunge, slide, and trip off the plateaus of the Upper Yellowstone country. The summits of the Tetons can be seen to the southeast across the gently sloping ridges of Idaho in the Targhee National Forest"

    Bechler River, a major tributary of the Falls River, was named by a member of the Hayden Expedition of 1872 for the chief topographer of the group, Gustavus R. Bechler. Although Bechler saw and mapped parts of the river in the early 1870s, Osborne Russell and other mountain men were the first to visit the area in the 1830s. Bechler River is formed at Three River Junction with the union of the Phillips, Ferris, and Greggs Forks below Douglas Knob and the Continental Divide." From "Waterfall of Yellowstone" by Charles Maynard © Copyright.

    Getting There

    From within Yellowstone the only access to the Bechler Ranger Station or area is via hiking:

    The South Boundary Trail (west of the south entrance)
    Pitchstone Plateau Trail (south of Lewis Lake)
    Shoshone Lake Trail (north of Lewis Lake)
    Bechler River Trail (south of the Old Faithful Area)
    Summit Lake Trail to the West Boundary Trail (Biscuit Basin Area)

    Outside Yellowstone

    Option One - From Idaho - to Bechler Ranger Station, Cave Falls and the Bechler Area

    Take Highway 20 North from Idaho Falls to Ashton, Idaho. At Ashton take State Road 47 East for about six miles to Green Timber Road. Green Timber Road is paved for about 5.5 miles and then turns to a dirt road. From where the pavement ends the road is noted as Cave Falls Road and it is a 10 mile drive to the Bechler Ranger Station on this dirt road. This road continues on to Cave Falls. Cave Falls is about 26 miles east of Ashton, Idaho.

    On your return trip, you may also want to continue North on State Road 47 to Mesa Falls for a great view of a Snake River Waterfalls. It is just a short distance north of the Green Timber Road turnoff.

    Option Two - From Wyoming - to Bechler Area

    You can drive in part way on the Ashton - Flagg Ranch Road (above Flagg Ranch on Highway 89 North) to Grassy Lake Reservoir. Grassy Lake is about 11 miles west of Flagg Ranch. This road starts out paved and then turns into a rough dirt road (high clearance vehicle recommended). You will need to park and take the South Boundary Trail west to the Bechler Area.

    Bechler Day Hikes

    The Bechler Trail system offers a wide array of possibilities for the day hikes or rides. Be aware that hikers and stock users share the trials in Bechler. It is important for your own safety to be considerate of others. To avoid accidents, hikers may need to step off the trail momentarily and allow horses to pass. This information will answer many questions but if you have any further concerns or more involved curiosities, do not hesitate to ask a ranger at the Bechler Ranger Station. The station is open seven days a week in summer from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm.

    Short Walks

    Cave Falls to Bechler Falls - 3 miles round trip - negligible elevation change

    From the Cave Falls Trailhead, walk north along the Falls River to the confluence of the Bechler and Falls Rivers. The trial continues along the river to Bechler Falls. Return via the same route.

    This hike can serve as a opportunity to stretch one's legs after a picnic or an access for fishermen. Many rainbows and cutthroat trout can be caught in this stretch of the river. Before July, this trail is often closed to stock use due to wet conditions.

    Cave Falls Loop - 5.6 miles - negligible elevation change

    Start from the Bechler Ranger Station and head east on the South Boundary Trail which starts just south of the barn. Head east through lodgepole pine forest and follow the signs to Cave Falls. About .5 mile from the station, expect to ford a small stream. The trail parallels the Cave Falls road for about a mile. From Cave Falls, head upstream on the Bechler River Trail past Bechler Falls to the first trail junction. Follow the signs to the south back to the ranger station. Look for moose, black bear and many riparian species. Due to the flat terrain, the loop can easily be reversed.

    Rocky Ford Loop - 7 to 8 miles round trip - negligible elevation change

    From the Ranger Station, take the Bechler Meadows Trail north through lodgepole pine forest 3 miles to the Rocky Ford Cutoff Trail. From here, it would be worth your while to walk an extra half mile north and take a look at the beautifully expansive Bechler Meadows. Then retrace your trail back south to the Rocky Ford Cutoff and head east to Rocky Ford. Instead of fording the river, head south to the Cave Falls Junction. Do not go towards Cave Falls but continue through the woods back to the ranger station. This trail, with the exception of the half mile Rocky Ford Cutoff, remains relatively dry for the Bechler area. Fishermen often enjoy going after the larger trout of the Rocky Ford area. Also look for beaver chewed trees and willows.

    Longer Hikes

    Union Falls - 14 miles - by Charles Maynard from Waterfalls of Yellowstone © Copyright

    Three routes present equal opportunities to reach the two falls. The referred route begins on the Reclamation Road below the Grassy Lake Dam (37 miles east of Ashton, Idaho and 11 miles west of Flagg Ranch). South Boundary Trail crosses the creek below the earthen dam on a roadway. Park on the southwest side.

    The trailhead is actually just south of the park boundary. The trail follows the creek for 1.5 miles through a mostly lodgepole pine forest to a ford of the Falls River.

    Care must be taken at this ford. The rocks are slippery and the current can be swift. In the early spring this can be a problem. Carry an old pair of shoes or sandals to wear for the ford. Just after the ford is a junction with the Pitchstone Plateau Trail which heads northeast (right) to go to the South Entrance Road.

    Take Mountain Ash Trail which goes northwest (left) along what was once the old Marysville Road. Mormons used the road to move west from Jackson Hole in the 1880s. Some wagon ruts can still be seen in the stone of the trail. After crossing a ridge the trail descends through an open area over the same type of stone (welded ash tuff) that is found to the southeast at Terraced Falls.

    Proposition Creek is crossed at 4 miles. The spur trail to Union Falls is reached at 5 miles. Soon, Mountain Ash Creek is crossed. A large campsite is above the trail junction between Mountain Ash Creek and the tributary with "Morning Falls." This is a good campsite but can be crowded. Making a base camp here allows for exploration and photography at various times of the day.

    The remaining 2 mile trip up to Union Falls is fairly easy with the steepest part near the falls. A good overlook of the falls is at the end of the trail. Don't attempt to climb down the cliffs to the base of the falls.

    A side trail to Meadows Falls is 1 mile after the campsite and before Union Falls. The trip to Morning Falls is on a maintained trail for only about .5 mile. The trail then is an unmaintained manway which follows the creek. It can be marshy and wet. Several scenic small cascades are along the route. A trip to Union Falls is complete in and of itself. However, it is a shame to miss the other falls in the area.

    Another route which is actually more level and thus a little easier to walk begins at Fish Lake. The roundtrip distance to Union Falls with no side trips is 15.6 miles. It also has two fords which can be difficult. Another disadvantage is that the Fish Lake Road is poorly kept and hard to travel even in good weather.

    Still another option is to walk from Cave Falls. The advantage is a good road to the trailhead. The disadvantage is that the roundtrip mileage is 23 miles. This puts it out of reach for a good day hike to take pictures. Also, there is a fording of the Bechler River at 3.2 miles. Once the river is crossed the trail is the same old roadbed mentioned above that Mountain Ash Trail follows. All three routes offer differing terrain and degrees of difficulty. It is best to choose what fits the experience and schedule of the hikers making the trip. Whatever route, Union and Morning Falls should not be missed.

    Dunanda Falls - 18 miles - 600 feet elevation gain

    Start at the ranger station and head north on the Bechler Meadows Trail. After 1.6 miles, take the Boundary Creek Trail northwest through the Bechler Meadows. You will need to ford Bartlett Slough, a body of stagnant water ranging from mid calf to mid thigh depth. After crossing the slough, you will emerge into a meadow. Continue north to campsite 9A1 where you will ford Boundary Creek. Soon the trail will lead through the Robinson fire burn. This burn was ignited by lighting and burned 8,000 acres of the Bechler forest in the fall of 1995. It was fought intensively to no avail and ultimately extinguished by snow in early October. The brink of Dunanda Falls is 1 mile north of the burn at the end of a moderately steep climb with spectacular views of the Tetons and meadows. Return to the ranger station via the same route.

    This trip is somewhat arduous due to the long distance but is well worth the effort to get a glimpse of one of the park's most spectacular waterfalls.

    Iris Falls - 18 miles - 400 feet elevation gain

    From the ranger station, take the Bechler Meadows Trail north 3.5 miles to the meadows, cross the footbridge over Boundary Creek, traverse the meadows and cross the Bechler River on a bridge at Bechler Ford. Through the meadows, look southeast for a view of the Grand Tetons and look northwest to see Ouzel Falls in the adjacent drainage. From Bechler Ford, the trail travels gradually up into the lush and diverse Bechler Canyon, home to some of the park's largest Douglas firs. Watch for pikas in the talus as well as moose and bears. Soon you will reach Colonnade Falls, a two part falls with good fishing at its foot. The falls is the barrier for rainbow trout. Upstream one will find only cutthroats. After another mile, you will reach Iris Falls. Look for a rainbow glittering at the base of the falls. From here, retrace your steps to the ranger station.


    The Bechler Region is home to a large population of black bears, and special precautions must be taken when traveling in the area. Be cognizant of your surroundings; do not hike with your head down. Look for bear sign and make some noise in the areas where visibility is poor. Be sure never to leave food unattended without hanging it at least 10 feet up in a tree and 4 feet out from the trunk. Also, be aware that grizzlies are in the area though not as frequently sighted. If sighted, give them plenty of room, do not approach a bear and back away slowly. Report bear sightings to a ranger. Inhabitants of the river and riparian zone include: bald eagles, beaver, moose, muskrats, osprey, river otters and water fowl. In the meadows, keep an eye out for coyotes, moose, and sandhill cranes as well as ever changing casts of wildflowers in the spring and early summer.

    Other Information

    You will get your feet wet!

    You may choose an extended trip or an alternate route from those mentioned. In so doing, be prepared to ford a river. The Bechler region is the wettest in Yellowstone and is dubbed, "Cascade Corner" for the many waterfalls descending from the Pitchstone Plateau. Spending time in the region, on cannot help but respect the power of water in the Bechler River drainage. Bring extra shoes for fords. Never cross barefoot. Carefully choose your route across rivers and pack gear in plastic bags in case your pack gets wet.

    This information was provided by the Yellowstone National Park Service Handout.

    This information is provided by the National Park Service Backcountry Office. As with all information, it is subject to change, for current information, it is suggested that you call, write or visit the Backcountry Office when you arrive in the park." You can write or call the backcountry office at:

    Mammoth Backcountry Office
    PO Box 168
    Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
    Phone: 307-344-2160

    Campsites have a three night limit, allow one party per site and wood fires (except when noted otherwise).
    Food Poles exist at most campsites, however, they may not always be suitable for use.
    A good topographic map is a must for camping and hiking in Yellowstone's backcountry.

    Bechler Area
    Camp # # of People # of Stock Name Restrictions
    9A1 12 0 Boundary Creek Meadows
    9A2 12 25 Upper Boundary Creek
    9A3 12 0 Dunanda Falls
    9A4 20 25 Talus Terrace
    9A5 20 25 Buffalo Lake
    9A6 20 25 Robinson Creek
    9A7 12 0 Little Robinson Creek
    9B1 12 25 Lower Boundary Creek NWF
    9B2 12 25 Bechler Ford NWF
    9B3 20 25 Trail Spring Stock parties only - 2 night limit
    1 night limit for parties with 10 or more stock
    9B4 12 0 Ouzel Falls 1 night limit
    9B5 12 0 Colonnade Fall 1 night limit
    9B6 12 0 Lower Ford 1 night limit
    9B7 12 0 Talus Spring 2 night limit
    9B8 12 0 Upper Ford 1 night limit
    9B9 12 25 Three Rivers Meadow NWF - 2 night limit
    1 night limit for parties with 10 or more stock
    9C1 12 0 Rocky Ford 2 night limit
    9C2 20 25 Falls River Cutoff
    9C3 12 25 Mountain Ask Creek NWF
    9C4 12 25 Union Falls NWF - 2 night limit
    1 night limit for parties with 12 or more stock
    9C5 12 0 Upper Falls River 1 night limit
    9C6 12 0 Lower Falls River
    9D1 12 0 Ferris Fork NWF - 1 night limit
    9D2 12 0 Gregg Fork 1 night limit
    9D3 12 25 Douglas Knob Meadow NWF
    9D4 12 0 Continental Divide NWF - 1 night limit

    Bechler Ranger Station Southwest Area

    Cave Falls Southwest Area

    Fish Lake* Southwest Area

    Cascade Creek Southwest Area

    Grassy Lake Southwest Area

    Robinson Creek Westsouth Border

    Summit Lake Westsouth Border

    NWF = No Wood Fires
    9K1 (Blue Text) = Trail Head
    *Four wheel drive recommended

    See the Backcountry Campsite Page for a campsite map of Bechler.

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