Firehole Falls and the Cascades of the Firehole

Yellowstone National Park / Madison, Wyoming, USA

About Firehole Falls and the Cascades of the Firehole


Hiking Distance: roadside
Suggested Time:

Date first visited: 2004-06-18
Date last visited: 2017-08-14

Waterfall Latitude: 44.62892
Waterfall Longitude: -110.86331

Firehole Falls and the Cascades of the Firehole were two notable waterfalls and cascades amongst a larger series of pretty impressive waterfalls on the Firehole River.

They were definitely noteworthy roadside stops along the one-way Firehole Canyon Drive.

Firehole_Canyon_Drive_021_08142017 - Firehole Falls
Firehole Falls

However, the popular road also featured precipitous rhyolite cliffs flanking the narrow road as well as the Firehole Swimming Area.

That swimming area allowed us the opportunity to dip in the geothermally heated waters at a calm part of the river.

Indeed, the waterfalls found along this stretch of the river could technically be considered geothermal waterfalls!

As with roadside attractions like these, the temptation would be to take pictures and keep driving.

Firehole_Canyon_Drive_063_08142017 - The geothermally-heated swimming area on the Firehole River
The geothermally-heated swimming area on the Firehole River

But I’ve found that actually getting out of the car and spending time to really pay attention to the subtleties of Nature made the experience more fulfilling and memorable.

After all, it seemed like exclusively experiencing things from the car created some kind of detachment from the immediate surroundings.

Firehole Falls

Pictured at the top of this page was the 40ft Firehole Falls, which was perhaps the main scenic attraction of the Firehole Canyon Drive.

Thus, it was a real busy and popular roadside stop.

Firehole_Canyon_Drive_023_08142017 - Context of the road and Firehole Falls with the sign that people tended to crowd around
Context of the road and Firehole Falls with the sign that people tended to crowd around

The waterfall was said to be the result of a large pool of lava that once filled the massive Yellowstone Supervolcano’s caldera.

The lava eventually hardened into the more erosion-resistant rhyolite layer over which the falls dropped.

The Firehole River would continue to erode away the softer layers thereby growing this waterfall over time.

The roadside pullout for Firehole Falls was pretty large though often times dozens of vehicles would crowd the area.

Firehole_Canyon_Drive_028_08142017 - Unusual view of the Firehole Falls from a little further downstream from the sign
Unusual view of the Firehole Falls from a little further downstream from the sign

So we exercised some patience in order to both get in and get out of the congestion.

While the best and most direct views of the falls were by the sign pointing out the falls, I also spotted a more unusual view further down the hill by some fencing.

I’d imagine at one point that fence might have blocked off scrambling access to the waterfall’s base (very steep and not recommended).

The pullout for this falls was about 0.9 miles from the start of the Firehole Canyon Drive.

The Firehole Swimming Area

Firehole_Canyon_Drive_079_08142017 - Context of the one-way Firehole Canyon Drive and the changing rooms nearby the trail leading down to the swimming area on the Firehole River
Context of the one-way Firehole Canyon Drive and the changing rooms nearby the trail leading down to the swimming area on the Firehole River

While Firehole Falls was not safely accessible, further upstream along the Firehole River was the Firehole Swimming Area.

We noticed that parking was very limited for this spot as there were only a handful of roadside pullouts nearby.

We also noticed that there were a couple of change rooms by the road.

In addition, we went down a well-established boardwalk and stairs ultimately leading us to the rocky shores flanking a wide and calm part of the Firehole River.

Firehole_Canyon_Drive_060_08142017 - Descending the established trail towards the swimming area on the Firehole River
Descending the established trail towards the swimming area on the Firehole River

Upstream from the calm section, there were a few rapids and mini-cascades as the river was channeled through a narrow canyon.

Meanwhile, downstream of the calm section were a few more wide cascades before the river would become turbulent again.

The Firehole River Swimming Area was about a mile further from Firehole Falls or nearly 1.9 miles from the start of the Firehole Canyon Drive.

The Cascades of the Firehole

Finally, the Cascades of the Firehole were actually an attractive set of cascades and waterfalls seen right at the very end of the one-way Firehole Canyon Drive.

Firehole_Canyon_Drive_083_08142017 - The Cascades of the Firehole
The Cascades of the Firehole

I noticed a paved walkway along the Firehole River following this stretch towards a picnic area right off the Grand Loop Road further upstream.

Although I didn’t see any signage acknowledging this name for the cascades, it was apparently named by park superintendent P.W. Norris according to The Guide to Yellowstone Waterfalls and Their Discovery.

We managed to pull over at an informal shoulder just before the stop sign marking the end of the Firehole Canyon Drive.

However, if we happened to miss this pullout, we could have driven over to a much larger pullout about 250ft south (right) from where the Firehole Canyon Drive rejoined the Grand Loop Road.

Firehole_Canyon_Drive_090_08142017 - Looking downstream over some of the lower drops of the Cascades of the Firehole from a wide paved path alongside the Firehole River
Looking downstream over some of the lower drops of the Cascades of the Firehole from a wide paved path alongside the Firehole River

This pullout was near an island in the Firehole River that was apparently used as a camping spot by the park’s earliest visitors.

Authorities

Firehole Falls and the Cascades of the Firehole reside in Yellowstone National Park near West Yellowstone in Park County, Wyoming. They are administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries about the park as well as current conditions, visit the National Park Service website.

Firehole_Canyon_Drive_004_08142017 - Looking down over an attractive cascade on the Firehole River that was about 0.8 miles from the start of the Firehole Canyon Drive or 0.1 mile before the Firehole Falls during our August 2017 visit
Firehole_Canyon_Drive_017_08142017 - Looking back at the one-way Firehole Canyon Drive next to a pullout
Firehole_Canyon_Drive_020_08142017 - This was the impressive Firehole Falls
Firehole_Canyon_Drive_026_08142017 - Context of the large pullout area with people taking photos of the Firehole Falls during our August 2017 visit
Firehole_Canyon_Drive_045_08142017 - Context of the Firehole Canyon Drive continuing further beyond the Firehole Falls during our August 2017 visit
Firehole_Canyon_Drive_057_08142017 - There was limited parking space along the Firehole Canyon Drive for the Firehole Swimming Area during our August 2017 visit
Firehole_Canyon_Drive_059_08142017 - Looking down at the canyon just upstream from the Firehole Swimming Area
Firehole_Canyon_Drive_062_08142017 - Looking down towards the wide calm part of the Firehole River on our August 2017 visit. It wasn't hard to imagine why the Firehole Swimming Area was here
Firehole_Canyon_Drive_070_08142017 - Those two outhouses actually doubled as change rooms near the swimming area on the Firehole River
Firehole_Canyon_Drive_072_08142017 - Looking towards the calm swimming area of the Firehole River on our visit in August 2017
Firehole_Canyon_Drive_086_08142017 - Looking downstream at more cascades further along the Firehole River, which I believe were also part of the Cascades of the Firehole ensemble
Firehole_Canyon_Drive_091_08142017 - Context of the paved walkway connecting the end of the Firehole Canyon Drive with the Grand Loop Road along the Cascades of the Firehole as seen during our August 2017 visit
Firehole_Drive_001_06182004 - On our first visit of the Firehole Canyon Drive in June 2004, we saw this pair of elk grazing across the Firehole River in the narrow section near the start of the drive
Firehole_Drive_003_06182004 - This was what Firehole Falls looked like back in June 2004
Firehole_Drive_004_06182004 - Signpost before the Firehole Falls as seen in June 2004

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All the attractions mentioned on this page were along the one-way Firehole Canyon Drive.

To reach the entry point of this drive, we drove about 0.8 miles south of the Madison Junction.

The entrance to the Firehole Canyon Drive was on the right.

Firehole_Canyon_Drive_001_08142017 - Pulling over and letting someone pass while on the one-way Firehole Canyon Drive
Pulling over and letting someone pass while on the one-way Firehole Canyon Drive

Coming from the other direction, we drove a little over 15 miles along the Grand Loop Road north of the Old Faithful turnoffs (or about 33 miles along the Grand Loop Road northwest of the West Thumb Junction).

The entrance to the Firehole Canyon Drive was on the left.

For context, the Madison Junction was about 14 miles (under 30 minutes drive) east of West Yellowstone, Montana, about 40 miles (over an hour drive) south of Gardiner, Montana, 104 miles (over 2 hours drive) south of Bozeman, Montana, 123 miles (over 2 hours drive) northeast of Idaho Falls, Idaho, about 141 miles (about 3 hours drive) north of Jackson, and about 335 miles (over 5 hours drive) north of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Viewing the falls from pretty much all the different angles possible alongside the road


360 degree sweep of the Firehole Swimming Area


Left to right sweep of the last of the Firehole Cascades near the end of the one-way drive

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Tagged with: madison, firehole, old faithful, geyser basin, yellowstone, west yellowstone, bozeman, park county, 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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