About Crystal Falls
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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