Menace Falls

Daniel / Bridger Teton National Forest, Wyoming, USA

About Menace Falls


Hiking Distance: 5.6 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 3 hours

Date first visited: 2020-08-08
Date last visited: 2020-08-08

Waterfall Latitude: 42.74304
Waterfall Longitude: -110.61434

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Menace Falls was a remote and unheralded waterfall deep in the remote and lightly-visited Wyoming Range in the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

Not only did it require a pretty extensive drive on unpaved road that became increasingly rough and slow towards the end, I also had to follow unsigned trails before finally witnessing this 80-100ft waterfall.

Menace_Falls_178_08082020 - Context of Menace Falls
Context of Menace Falls

Throughout the hike, there were a few moments where I really had to pay attention to stay on the trail.

Yet even then, I had one moment where I had lost the trail and had to figure out where I went wrong (which I’ll detail later on this page).

Indeed, there was a bit of uncertainty in terms of whether I’d be successful finding this spot (especially with the lack of literature about it when I visited), but it made the reward that much sweeter.

As for preparing for this hike, I’d recommend a sturdy pair of hiking boots over water shoes despite some of the creek crossings.

Menace_Falls_104_08082020 - The ruggedly bare mountain scenery towards the end of the Menace Falls
The ruggedly bare mountain scenery towards the end of the Menace Falls

That’s because you’ll see in the trail description below that the end of the hike was quite steep, exposed, and rough.

While it seemed like there were quite a few people camping, fishing, ranching, or just playing in creeks or lakes, I was the only person pursuing Menace Falls in the three hours I made my visit in August 2020.

That should give you an idea of how lightly visited this place was.

Of course, my visit was hastened by the onset of a thunderstorm where loud rumbles of thunder echoed in the remote wilderness.

Menace_Falls_001_08082020 - We weren't the only people parked at the unsigned South Cottonwood Trailhead in the Bridger-Teton National Forest during our August 2020 visit
We weren’t the only people parked at the unsigned South Cottonwood Trailhead in the Bridger-Teton National Forest during our August 2020 visit

Anyways, my wife and daughter interacted with one of the families who parked at the trailhead where I started the Menace Falls hike from, and apparently she was quite knowledgeable about this area.

So that gave us the sense that the only people who visited this remote area were primarily locals.

That should further provide an indication of just how remote and out-of-the-way this place was (like going to “Timbuktu” as my wife would sarcastically say).

Menace Falls Trail Description

First and foremost, the key to even starting off on the right foot, so to speak, was to park at the South Cottonwood Trailhead (see directions below).

Menace_Falls_002_08082020 - This fence blocking further progress by vehicle was not the way I went to pursue Menace Falls.  That said, I'm not completely sure if going that way might have shaved off a little more of the overall distance from my hike
This fence blocking further progress by vehicle was not the way I went to pursue Menace Falls. That said, I’m not completely sure if going that way might have shaved off a little more of the overall distance from my hike

There was no sign indicating this place name during our visit, but it seemed like the road was way too rough to even continue on by the time we got here.

Anyways, although there was fencing or a gate set up to prevent driving further up the 4wd road from where we parked, I actually followed a family going north from the South Cottonwood Trailhead.

After making a trivial stream crossing, there was a more extensive crossing across South Fork South Cottonwood Creek about 0.2-mile from the trailhead.

At this crossing, I had to trust in the waterproofability of my hiking boots as I had to pick my steps carefully since some parts appeared to be more than ankle deep.

Menace_Falls_008_08082020 - Looking back at the first crossing of South Fork South Cottonwood Creek while pursuing Menace Falls
Looking back at the first crossing of South Fork South Cottonwood Creek while pursuing Menace Falls

Beyond this crossing the trail pretty much followed what appeared to be an old 4wd track for nearly the next mile.

The terrain frequently switched between lightly dense groves of trees and wide open meadows full of wildflowers with hints of the neighboring mountains.

However, when I got to a big open area at nearly a mile into the hike, I reached a confusing part where the 4wd kept veering south back to the South Fork South Cottonwood Creek.

I realized after spending near 30 minutes on a fruitless mile-long detour where the 4wd track and trail eventually disappeared that the continuation of the hike did not involve having to cross South Fork South Cottonwood Creek for a second time.

Menace_Falls_224_08082020 - This was the confusing open area where the 4wd track kept veering left, but if you look closely, there's a hard-to-see pole (that once held up a sign) towards the right-center of this picture just to the right of a patch of shrubs in the grass. That was the way I should have taken to continue to Menace Falls in the first place!
This was the confusing open area where the 4wd track kept veering left, but if you look closely, there’s a hard-to-see pole (that once held up a sign) towards the right-center of this picture just to the right of a patch of shrubs in the grass. That was the way I should have taken to continue to Menace Falls in the first place!

Instead, towards the right side (facing west) of the open meadow where I got confused, there was some hard-to-see signage (or at least remnants of it) that ultimately led me onto the continuation of the trail.

At this point, the trail climbed gently as it became more single-track while still going back-and-forth between open meadows and lightly dense groves of trees.

After another 0.9-mile from the confusing open area (or almost 2 miles from the South Cottonwood Trailhead), the trail made ascended towards the actual second crossing of South Fork South Cottonwood Creek around some small rapids and cascades.

Beyond this crossing, the single-track trail continued to climb in earnest as it rose above the ravine carved out by the other branch of stream feeding the South Fork South Cottonwood Creek.

Menace_Falls_071_08082020 - Crossing some rapids or small cascades on the South Fork South Cottonwood Creek nearly 2 miles from the trailhead
Crossing some rapids or small cascades on the South Fork South Cottonwood Creek nearly 2 miles from the trailhead

In about the next half-mile, the trail skirted alongside some steep cliffs before rising up to an extensive scree section.

Pretty much most of the rest of the hike involved hiking along this narrow and quite loose section of scree while the trail continued to climb higher above the V-shaped canyon.

Throughout this scree section, the mountains on both sides seemed to be mostly bare and almost completely devoid of vegetation due to the loose soil and loose shale.

Meanwhile, within the canyon, the creek went over some minor cascades and one 15ft waterfall over a red slab of rock, but it was not the Menace Falls.

Menace_Falls_111_08082020 - Looking down over the context of a small 15ft cascade spilling over a red slab in the scree-filled V-shaped canyon near the end of the hike up to Menace Falls
Looking down over the context of a small 15ft cascade spilling over a red slab in the scree-filled V-shaped canyon near the end of the hike up to Menace Falls

Towards the end of the scree section, the trail then made an even steeper ascent, and it was this part that I was glad I wore hiking boots with good grip.

That’s because I’d argue shoes with inferior traction would make this part hard to stay balanced, especially when coming back down.

Finally after the steep ascent plateaued and veered to the right into a side canyon, that was when I finally witnessed Menace Falls and its definite drop.

It took me about 2 hours to hike to the view of Menace Falls, but if not for the mile-long detour that got me lost, then this distance would have been only 2.8 miles in each direction (possibly shaving off 30 minutes).

Menace_Falls_165_08082020 - Focused look at the main drop of Menace Falls after finally making it up past the scree section
Focused look at the main drop of Menace Falls after finally making it up past the scree section

Ordinarily, I would have spent some time to explore around Menace Falls (maybe even try to find a way to its brink), but a quickly budding thunderstorm with the threat of lightning strikes hastened me to go back to the trailhead.

It only took me a little under an hour to return all the way back to the South Cottonwood Trailhead, which gives you an idea of how much trail running I did, especially in the open grassy areas.

Authorities

Menace resides in the Bridger-Teton National Forest near Daniel, which itself is in the vicinity of Jackson in Sublette County, Wyoming. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Menace_Falls_002_iPhone_08082020 - Our Menace Falls adventure really started when we left the US189 and headed west on the Cottonwood-Ryegrass Road which initially started off paved for the first 3 miles
Menace_Falls_004_iPhone_08082020 - Then the Cottonwood-Ryegrass Road became unpaved, but it was still smooth and relatively quick
Menace_Falls_006_iPhone_08082020 - The Cottonwood-Ryegrass Road seemed to get quite a bit of regular maintenance as evidenced by this stretch of wet road to keep the dirt packed
Menace_Falls_008_iPhone_08082020 - Approaching an undulating part of the Cottonwood-Ryegrass Road
Menace_Falls_011_iPhone_08082020 - By this point, the Cottonwood-Ryegrass Road went curved to the south and went over some cattle guards
Menace_Falls_012_iPhone_08082020 - This part of the Cottonwood-Ryegrass Road was noticeably bumpier than earlier on, but it was still pretty good for 2wd traffic
Menace_Falls_013_iPhone_08082020 - This was the Ryegrass Junction, where I turned right to leave the Cottonwood-Ryegrass Road for the North Cottonwood Road
Menace_Falls_014_iPhone_08082020 - Passing by some cattle while driving the North Cottonwood Road
Menace_Falls_022_iPhone_08082020 - Continuing past some ranch infrastructure along the North Cottonwood Road as we were getting closer to the foothills of the Wyoming Range
Menace_Falls_023_iPhone_08082020 - Approaching the turnoff where we'd turn left onto the BLM Road connecting to the South Cottonwood Road right where that pick-up truck was parked
Menace_Falls_024_iPhone_08082020 - There was already some thunderstorm squalls producing rain as we were headed south towards the South Cottonwood Road
Menace_Falls_025_iPhone_08082020 - Finally, we were on the Forest Service Road 10050, which took us the final 6-7 miles to the South Cottonwood Trailhead. But this road became rough real quick despite its fairly moderate use
Menace_Falls_026_iPhone_08082020 - Following the Forest Service Road 10050 as it continued to go towards the Wyoming Range in the Bridger-Teton National Forest
Menace_Falls_029_iPhone_08082020 - Keeping right at this fork to stay on the Forest Service Road 10050 en route to South Cottonwood Trailhead
Menace_Falls_031_iPhone_08082020 - There were lots of free-roaming cattle in this stretch of the Forest Service Road 10050 in the Bridger-Teton National Forest
Menace_Falls_032_iPhone_08082020 - Continuing along the rough Forest Service Road 10050 where there were some vehicles hauling cattle and horses up ahead
Menace_Falls_034_iPhone_08082020 - Approaching the Bridger-Teton Forest as the tree cover started to increase the further into the Wyoming Range we went
Menace_Falls_003_08082020 - Finally after parking the car at the South Cottonwood Trailhead, I then started walking in a northerly direction, which got me to this trivial stream crossing
Menace_Falls_006_08082020 - Continuing further north along the hike in search of Menace Falls as the unmarked trail seemed to be pretty straightforward to follow so far
Menace_Falls_007_08082020 - Crossing the South Fork South Cottonwood Creek to continue the hike to Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_009_08082020 - At this point, the 4wd track continued to veer to the left. The family that shared the South Cottonwood Trailhead actually went right here to head towards some lake
Menace_Falls_010_08082020 - Crossing through one of the handful of open meadows while still following the 4wd track in pursuit of Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_014_08082020 - One of the wildflowers that I noticed while walking the 4wd track towards Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_018_08082020 - Continuing along the 4wd track, where it was pretty easy to follow as it meandered through lightly dense groves of trees en route to Meance Falls
Menace_Falls_020_08082020 - Still walking along the 4wd track en route to Menace Falls with wildflowers flanking the path and hints of mountains in the background
Menace_Falls_024_08082020 - Closeup look at some droopy wildflowers that seemed ubiquitous in the Rocky Mountains while walking the 4wd track towards Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_026_08082020 - Passing through another opening while still trying to follow the 4wd track leading to Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_027_08082020 - Looking ahead towards some interestingly-layered cliffs while still following the 4wd track in the first couple of miles en route to Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_032_08082020 - Another contextual look at wildflowers flanking the 4wd track leading to Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_034_08082020 - Finally making it to the large grassy clearing where it got tricky trying figure out where the trail to Menace Falls would continue. It was somewhere around this stretch that I got lost following the 4wd track as I should have taken a less obvious single-track trail
Menace_Falls_039_08082020 - This was the unexpected second crossing of South Fork South Cottonwood Creek, where I really started to suspect that something was wrong
Menace_Falls_044_08082020 - Continuing uphill beyond the ill-taken second stream crossing of South Fork South Cottonwood Creek, where the trail really started to disappear, and I had to consider backtracking
Menace_Falls_045_08082020 - Going back across the South Fork South Cottonwood Creek in search of the continuation of the trail to Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_051_08082020 - It took a bit of scrambling, but I eventually found this single-track trail to continue hiking towards Menace Falls. The bad detour ended up costing me around a half-hour as I wound up hiking a mile more than I needed to
Menace_Falls_057_08082020 - Passing through another stretch of open meadow on the now single-track trail as I continued to pursue Menace Falls not knowing if I'm going the right way or not
Menace_Falls_061_08082020 - More droopy wildflowers seen along the single track in pursuit of Menace Falls somewhere within the first couple of miles from the trailhead
Menace_Falls_067_08082020 - Passing through yet another open meadow along the single-track trail while pursuing Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_068_08082020 - Closeup look at these black-headed flowers that I noticed quite a few of while hiking the single-track path hopefully leading me closer to Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_070_08082020 - Approaching a crossing of South Fork South Cottonwood Creek, where it was nearly half the volume it was earlier on in the hike. This crossing was near some tiny cascades and rapids at nearly the 2-mile point of the hike from the South Cottonwood Trailhead
Menace_Falls_076_08082020 - Crossing a minor stream as I continued to pursue Menace Falls shortly after the second legitimate crossing of South Fork South Cottonwood Creek
Menace_Falls_082_08082020 - Going across yet another clearing as the single-track trail was getting closer to these layered cliffs in pursuit of Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_085_08082020 - Looking uphill at the layered and wrinkly cliffs while passing through an open meadow as seen along the single-track trail en route to Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_088_08082020 - After passing through the clearing near the wrinkly layered cliffs, the single-track trail entered one final grove of trees en route to Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_096_08082020 - After traversing the grove of trees, the trail then started to traverse scree slopes full of loose shale while clinging to the slope
Menace_Falls_097_08082020 - Looking uphill at the wrinkly layered cliffs shedding and producing the shale that I had to traverse while still pursuing Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_098_08082020 - Context of one section of the scree traverse on the way to Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_105_08082020 - Looking down towards some intermediate cascade on the stream at the base of the scree and the V-shaped canyon somewhere hopefully near Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_109_08082020 - A cleaner look at that red-slabbed cascade as the trail passed above it en route to Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_114_08082020 - The loose scree part of the trail was becoming even more faint and narrow, and this was one of the main reasons why I thought I made the right choice wearing legitimate hiking boots for better traction in pursuit of Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_122_08082020 - Context of more narrow slope-hugging sections of track on the way to Menace Falls with some random cascades further below
Menace_Falls_126_08082020 - The narrow slope-hugging sections of the track was still climbing even higher up the canyon at this point, which made me wonder just how close am I to the Menace Falls?
Menace_Falls_129_08082020 - Looking back at how far I've come along the scree section of track so far in pursuit of Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_130_08082020 - Looking ahead at some random cascade that I was hoping was not Menace Falls at the time.  Notice that there were still some patches of snow at this point
Menace_Falls_133_08082020 - The scree track was still climbing steeply in addition to being both slippery and narrow, and I was really wondering if I was ever going to find Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_135_08082020 - Looking back across the steep canyon towards the bare mountain as I was pursuing Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_138_08082020 - Contextual look further upstream at the bare mountain and the side creek that would eventually feed South Fork South Cottonwood Creek further downstream
Menace_Falls_155_08082020 - Finally making it to Menace Falls after all the uncertainty and adventure it took to get here
Menace_Falls_159_08082020 - Portrait view of the impressive Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_168_08082020 - Broad look at Menace Falls from the bend in the trail as it veered away from the scree-filled V-shaped canyon
Menace_Falls_189_08082020 - For a brief moment, the sun came out and added a bit of color to the scenery at Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_179_08082020 - Looking down the steep canyon from Menace Falls towards its confluence with the scree-filled V-shaped canyon beneath the bare mountain
Menace_Falls_200_08082020 - Context of the steep scree trail as I was returning from Menace Falls and racing a threatening thunderstorm that was blowing over me
Menace_Falls_215_08082020 - I decided that in these open sections, I would trail run through them as I knew there could be sideways lightning at the front of a thunderstorm even though there were blue skies up ahead
Menace_Falls_222_08082020 - Looking towards a reddish mountain as I looked in the direction where I heard echoing thunder after it boomed loudly against the silence of the Bridger-Teton Forest
Menace_Falls_049_iPhone_08082020 - It was only after the fact on the way back from Menace Falls when I saw this pole (that looked like it used to be a sign) at the confusing clearing where I had momentarily lost the path while staying on the 4wd track to the mistaken crossing of South Fork South Cottonwood Creek
Menace_Falls_228_08082020 - Still trail running across this stretch of open space as dark thunderclouds loomed overhead on the way back from Menace Falls
Menace_Falls_234_08082020 - Heading back to the South Cottonwood Trailhead as my fear of getting hit by lightning while hiking back from Menace Falls was finally subsiding
Menace_Falls_056_iPhone_08082020 - Even back in the car, we weren't out of the woods yet (literally) as we had to get through the thunderstorm along with worries about possible washouts from flash flooding
Menace_Falls_057_iPhone_08082020 - This was kind of a interesting moment as we drove out of Bridger-Teton National Forest when we saw this column coming down from the thunderstorm.  We weren't sure if it was a twister or not, but it turned out to be nothing bad
Menace_Falls_061_iPhone_08082020 - Driving back along the Cottonwood-Ryegrass Road as we continued to make our way back to the US189 to finally end this Menace Falls adventure

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Menace Falls resides in the Bridger-Teton National Forest nearest to the small town of Daniel, which itself was within the vicinity of Jackson Hole, which was the nearest city of note.

Therefore, I’ll describe the driving directions from Jackson.

Menace_Falls_010_iPhone_08082020 - The Cottonwood-Ryegrass Road started off paved, then went along a pretty smooth dirt road
The Cottonwood-Ryegrass Road started off paved, then went along a pretty smooth dirt road

So from downtown Jackson, we followed the US191 for about 13 miles to the roundabout at the Hoback Junction.

Then, we took the second exit to go east on the US189/US191 for another 53 miles or so before leaving the US191 and turning right onto the US189.

We then followed the US189 south through the small town of Daniel before turning right onto the Cottonwood Ryegrass Road (County Road 117).

The Cottonwood-Ryegrass Road was less than 2 miles south of the US191 departure point or about 1 mile south of Daniel.

Menace_Falls_018_iPhone_08082020 - While driving the North Cottonwood Road, there were some deer that crossed the road as we were getting closer to the Wyoming Range and the Bridger-Teton National Forest
While driving the North Cottonwood Road, there were some deer that crossed the road as we were getting closer to the Wyoming Range and the Bridger-Teton National Forest

The Cottonwood-Ryegrass Road initially started off paved for around the first 3 miles.

Then, it became a somewhat smooth unpaved road after turning left to continue on the Cottonwood-Ryegrass Road.

We stayed on the Cottonwood-Ryegrass Road for nearly 14 miles before turning right at the Ryegrass Junction onto the North Cottonwood Road.

We then drove roughly 9.3 miles before turning left onto a signed connector road on BLM Land.

Menace_Falls_033_iPhone_08082020 - One of the landmarks on the long bumpy ride in the final stretch on the Forest Service Road 10050 (South Cottonwood Road) was Soda Lake
One of the landmarks on the long bumpy ride in the final stretch on the Forest Service Road 10050 (South Cottonwood Road) was Soda Lake

Next, we drove roughly 1.3 miles south (becoming Forest Service Road 10046) before turning right onto the Forest Service Road 10050.

By this point, the Forest Service Road 10050 was quite bumpy and rough (a lot slower going that I anticipated), and .

After following the Forest Service Road 10050 for about 6.7 miles to the end of the drivable road at what I believe to be the South Cottonwood Trailhead.

Overall, this 100-mile drive took us over 2.5 hours, but of that time, it took under 90 minutes to drive 68 miles to Daniel from Jackson.

Menace_Falls_235_08082020 - Looking back at the South Cottonwood Trailhead where we stopped the car and I started the solo hike to Menace Falls
Looking back at the South Cottonwood Trailhead where we stopped the car and I started the solo hike to Menace Falls

However, it took us around an hour to get from Daniel to the South Cottonwood Trailhead.

Of that time, it took almost 30 minutes to drive the nearly 7 miles of Forest Service Road at the end!

For context, Jackson was 86 miles (over 90 minutes drive) west of Dubois, 160 miles (under 3 hours drive) west of Lander, 89 miles (under 2 hours drive) east of Idaho Falls, Idaho, 127 miles (2.5 hours drive) south of West Yellowstone, Montana, and 275 miles (over 4.5 hours drive) north of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Sweep checking out the Menace Falls just as a thunderstorm was rolling in

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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