Crystal Falls

Yellowstone National Park / Canyon, Wyoming, USA

About Crystal Falls


Hiking Distance: less than 1/4 mile round trip
Suggested Time: 15 minutes

Date first visited: 2004-06-21
Date last visited: 2020-08-02

Waterfall Latitude: 44.71771
Waterfall Longitude: -110.50127

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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.

Canyon_232_08022020 - Crystal Falls
Crystal Falls

Given how much attention the Yellowstone River waterfalls would get, we had to make somewhat of a concerted effort to look for Crystal Falls.

However, once we found it the first time, we generally knew where we should be looking from that point on.

For the closest vantage point that you see pictured above, 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 parking lot before finding the Rim Trail on our right.

Canyon_213_08022020 - On the way to Crystal Falls, I walked along the shoulder of the spur road leading to the parking lot for the Brink of the Upper Falls
On the way to Crystal Falls, I walked along the shoulder of the spur road leading to the parking lot for the Brink of the Upper Falls

When we first visited back in June 2004, we followed this trail for a short distance before we saw an unsigned spur trail to our right leading to an unofficial overlook of the Crystal Falls.

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 that first trip.

Unfortunately, the view from there was not the most optimal.

Canyon_217_08022020 - Looking at the sanctioned lookout for Crystal Falls. In the past, this area was nothing more than an unsigned use-trail yielding the familiar view of the waterfall with some informal scrambling trails possibly leading lower into the canyon
Looking at the sanctioned lookout for Crystal Falls. In the past, this area was nothing more than an unsigned use-trail yielding the familiar view of the waterfall with some informal scrambling trails possibly leading lower into the canyon

When we came back to visit Crystal Falls in August 2020, it looked like the National Park Service really improved upon this seemingly informal trail with a concrete path leading to a sanctioned overlook at the same spot.

I also noticed signs pointing the way to Crystal Falls so it wasn’t the unsigned, informal attraction that it once was back in June 2004.

Yet even with all this extra infrastructure, I was the only person at this walkway and overlook for the entire time I did this excursion.

Thus, it was refreshingly quiet and free from the commotion just on the other side of the Brink of the Upper Falls Parking lot, which clearly got nearly 100% of the foot traffic.

Crystal_Falls_005_jx_06222004 - Looking across the Yellowstone River towards Crystal Falls from the Uncle Tom's Trailhead
Looking across the Yellowstone River towards Crystal Falls from the Uncle Tom’s Trailhead

Finally, there was one more way to witness Crystal Falls, but it was from across the Yellowstone River.

Indeed, we managed to steal a glimpse of the waterfall from the South Rim Trail by the Uncle Tom’s Point.

Authorities

Crystal Falls resides in Yellowstone National Park near Gardiner in Park County, Wyoming. It is administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries about the park as well as current conditions, visit the National Park Service website.

Canyon_209_08022020 - It was noticeably quiet on the northern side of the parking lot for the Brink of the Upper Falls during my visit in August 2020
Canyon_211_08022020 - I never recalled there being a sign for Crystal Falls back in June 2004, but on our visit in August 2020, I noticed this sign making Crystal Falls more of a sanctioned attraction now. Nevertheless, no one else bothered visiting it despite the new infrastructure
Canyon_214_08022020 - In my August 2020 visit, instead of a dirt trail along the North Rim Trail, it was now a paved trail leading to the Crystal Falls Overlook
Canyon_215_08022020 - During my August 2020 visit, there was still this trail junction with the continuation of the North Rim Trail, but it was closed on this day
Canyon_220_08022020 - Familiar look at Crystal Falls in August 2020
Canyon_223_08022020 - Context of Crystal Falls as seen from the sanctioned lookout in August 2020
Canyon_230_08022020 - Another contextual look at Crystal Falls in August 2020, but this time in portrait orientation
Brink_Upper_Falls_004_iPhone_08022020 - I noticed that when I took a photo of Crystal Falls with the iPhone on my August 2020 visit, it seemed to bring out the colors in the cliffs a bit better than with the Sony alpha7 mirrorless camera
Canyon_249_08022020 - Long exposure look at Crystal Falls where I used the rock barricades as a makeshift tripod during my August 2020 visit
Canyon_250_08022020 - My last look at Crystal Falls in early August 2020, but this time with a slight rainbow appearing in its mist
Crystal_Falls_002_06222004 - Looking across from the Uncle Tom's Trailhead at the Crystal Falls during our first time in Yellowstone in June 2004. This photo and the rest of the photos in this gallery was taken on this trip
Crystal_Falls_005_06222004 - View of Crystal Falls with part of the barricade on the lower left
Crystal_Falls_006_06222004 - More zoomed in look at the Crystal Falls from as close as we could get during our visit in June 2004
Crystal_Falls_014_06222004 - Even more zoomed in on the full drop of the Crystal Falls as seen in June 2004
Crystal_Falls_018_06222004 - Another look at Crystal Falls when we first came here in June 2004
Crystal_Falls_002_jx_06222004 - Contextual portrait view of Crystal Falls as seen from the north side of the Yellowstone River during our visit in June 2004
Crystal_Falls_004_jx_06222004 - Another look at the Crystal Falls from the north side of the Yellowstone River during our visit in June 2004
Crystal_Falls_017_06222004 - Contextual view of Crystal Falls from the overlook
Uncle_Toms_Trail_042_06212004 - View of Crystal Falls from near Uncle Tom's Trailhead
Uncle_Toms_Trail_041_06212004 - More zoomed in look at Crystal Falls as seen from the Uncle Tom's Trailhead area in June 2004

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To reach the Crystal Falls, we’ll describe how we did it since there may be other ways to get to the views you see described in this write-up.

We did our visit by driving to the parking area at the Brink of the Upper Falls.

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 parking lot there.

If you want to see the Crystal Falls from the Uncle Tom’s Trailhead, then 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 parking lot 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.

Sweep from the newly paved trail to panning along the flow of Crystal Falls from the new overlook


Sweep starting off with Crystal Falls before going over to different vantage points of Upper Falls from Uncle Toms Point

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Tagged with: rim drive, north rim, grotto pool, cascade creek, park county, yellowstone, canyon, uncle toms trail, wyoming, waterfall, rockies, rocky mountains



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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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