Crystal Falls was an impressive 129ft waterfall that we could imagine would be easily overlooked by its powerful neighbors on the Yellowstone River – Lower and Upper Falls. Contrasting its more famous neighbors, this waterfall was one of the tall and graceful types as well as belonging to a tributary of the Yellowstone River on Cascade Creek. Given how much attention the Yellowstone River waterfalls would get, we had to make somewhat of a concerted effort to look for Crystal Falls, but once we found it the first time, we generally knew where we should be looking.
For the closest vantage point that you see pictured at the top of this page, we went on a short hike. From the parking lot for the brink of the Upper Falls (see directions below), we initially walked back along the short road we took to get to the car park before finding the Rim Trail on our right. We followed this trail for a short distance before we saw an unsigned spur trail to our right leading to an overlook of this waterfall. The trail looked like it kept going (beyond the closure sign), but we could only speculate whether it went to the base of the falls or to somewhere else since we didn’t bother crossing the barricade.
To my knowledge, the vantage spot looking down at the waterfall from this spur trail was the best place to see the falls from as close as the sanctioned trails would allow on our June 2004 trip. However, we did manage to steal a glimpse of the waterfall from across the canyon on the South Rim near the Uncle Tom’s Trailhead. However, the view from there was not the most optimal.
To reach the car park and the trail leading to the closeup view of the falls described above, you have to park at the Brink of the Upper Falls lot. It is reached by a short signposted spur road 1.7 miles south of Canyon Junction along the Grand Loop Road. The short spur road leads to a fairly large car park.
If you want to see the falls from the Uncle Tom’s Trailhead, you have to drive onto the South Rim Drive 2.3 miles south of Canyon Junction on the Grand Loop Road. Then, you drive about 0.6 miles on South Rim Drive to the large car park for Uncle Tom’s Trail and Overlook.
To provide you with a bit of context, the Canyon Junction was an hour drive (40 miles) east of West Yellowstone, Montana. West Yellowstone was 4.5 hours drive north of Salt Lake City. Canyon Junction was also nearly 3 hours drive (115 miles) north of Jackson Hole and 2.5 hours drive (117 miles) south of Bozeman.
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