About Menace Falls
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Therefore, I’ll describe the driving directions from Jackson.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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