Gibbon Falls

Yellowstone National Park / Madison / Teton County, Wyoming, USA

Rating: 2     Difficulty: 1.5
Gibbon Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Gibbon Falls was an attractively long and wide cascade on the Gibbon River tumbling a reported total of 84ft in height over or near the caldera rim of the Yellowstone Supervolcano. With its unusual trapezoidal shape and seemingly brush-like texture, this was one of the more photogenic waterfalls we've encountered in the park, especially for those long long exposure photographs that create the silky effect. The texture of the falls owed its existence to the underlying Lava Creek tuff, which was ash fused by immense heat as a result of the last Yellowstone Volcano eruption about 640,000 years ago. The size of the Lava Creek tuff walls surrounding the waterfall as well as some of the cliffs further up the Grand Loop Road provided a humbling sense of scale and magnitude of the volcano.

When we first visited Gibbon Falls in June 2004, there were a few roadside pullouts along a narrow cliff-hugging stretch of the Grand Loop Road. When we returned in August 2017, the park service completely redid this area by setting up a parking lot further upstream of the falls, then providing a wide and gently sloping paved walking path towards at couple of signed lookouts as well as some additional unsigned intermediate views in between. In my mind, this was an example of how a change was for the better as this section of the Grand Loop Road was no longer congested, and there was plenty of space for people to enjoy the falls without feeling overly claustrophobic.

According to my GPS logs, it was about a quarter-mile round trip to reach the first signed lookout near the top of Gibbon Falls. It was about 0.6 miles round trip to make it all the way down to the last signed lookout and back. As a result of the extra walking necessary to experience the falls (as it was no longer roadside), I bumped up the difficulty score to reflect this change since our first visit. That said, according to The Guide to Yellowstone Waterfalls and Their Discovery, the authors managed to take an unusual photo of the falls from the opposite side of the river as that was where the stagecoaches used to follow a road there then drop down towards Canyon Creek for the view of the falls. I didn't pursue that way to experience the falls as there was no sanctioned trail from the nearest lookouts on the north and west side of the Gibbon River. That said, I suspect that the authors might have gone to the Gibbon Meadow picnic area then scrambled their way in the upstream direction on the opposite banks of the river.

Finally, I should mention that this waterfall faced west so it was more of an afternoon waterfall as far as sunlight was concerned. I was once here in the early morning during our June 2004 trip, and we were pretty much looking smack against the sun! I learned my lesson from that visit during our August 2017 trip, and the improved lighting was pretty obvious as you can see in the photos on this page.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

With the extensive rework done to the Gibbon Falls area, I was now able to better enjoy the scenery around the falls, including this view downstream towards Gibbon Meadows and the Yellowstone CalderaWith the extensive rework done to the Gibbon Falls area, I was now able to better enjoy the scenery around the falls, including this view downstream towards Gibbon Meadows and the Yellowstone Caldera
Nearby Gibbon Falls is the otherworldly and geothermically active Norris Geyser Basin.  I could see why they called this part the Porcelain BasinNearby Gibbon Falls is the otherworldly and geothermically active Norris Geyser Basin. I could see why they called this part the Porcelain Basin
The Madison area also seemed to be a good place for wildlife viewing.  We spotted this bison in front of the so-called Purple MountainThe Madison area also seemed to be a good place for wildlife viewing. We spotted this bison in front of the so-called Purple Mountain
The parking lot and paved walkway for Gibbon FallsThe parking lot and paved walkway for Gibbon Falls

Following along the wide and paved walkway for Gibbon FallsFollowing along the wide and paved walkway for the falls

Approaching the first main viewing area for Gibbon FallsApproaching the first main viewing area for the falls

First look at Gibbon Falls near its brinkFirst look at Gibbon Falls near its brink

Back in June 2004, we got this roadside view of Gibbon Falls. Notice how seemingly closer it was than on our most recent visit in August 2017Back in June 2004, we got this roadside view of Gibbon Falls. Notice how seemingly closer it was than our most recent visit in August 2017

Continuing further down the paved path for more views of Gibbon FallsContinuing further down the paved path for more views of the falls

View from an intermediate lookout for Gibbon Falls. Note the small shelter and the railings to the topleft showing how big the Lava Creek tuff cliffs wereView from an intermediate lookout for Gibbon Falls. Note the small shelter and the railings on the topleft showing how big the Lava Creek tuff cliffs were

Zoomed in look focused on that intermediate view of Gibbon FallsZoomed in look focused on that intermediate view of the falls

Approaching the very end of the walking and viewing area for Gibbon FallsApproaching the very end of the walking and viewing area for Gibbon Falls

This was the view of Gibbon Falls from the lowermost viewpointThis was the view of Gibbon Falls from the lowermost viewpoint

Contextual morning view against the sun of Gibbon Falls from a different pullout further downstream of the more official and popular pullout seen in June 2004Contextual morning view against the sun of the falls from a different pullout further downstream of the more official and popular pullout seen in June 2004


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


The complete experience of the falls from all the overlooks along the new walkway that previously used to be roadside pullouts


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

The parking lot for Gibbon Falls was on the Grand Loop Road about 8.5 miles south of the Norris Junction on the left side of the road and about 4.8 miles east of the Madison Junction. Madison Junction was about 15 miles (under 30 minutes drive) east of West Yellowstone, Montana while Norris Junction was about 29 miles (about 75 minutes drive) south of Gardiner, Montana.

For additional context, West Yellowstone, Montana was 58 miles (at least 90 minutes drive) south of Gardiner, Montana, 90 miles (over 90 minutes drive) south of Bozeman, Montana, 72 miles (under 2 hours drive) north of Flagg Ranch (near Yellowstone's South Entrance), and 321 miles (about 4.5 hours drive) north of Salt Lake City, Utah.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



Click here for the full World of Waterfalls map





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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES





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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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