Gibbon Falls

Yellowstone National Park / Madison, Wyoming, USA

About Gibbon Falls


Hiking Distance: 0.6 miles round trip (all viewpoints)
Suggested Time: 15-30 minutes

Date first visited: 2004-06-18
Date last visited: 2017-08-10

Waterfall Latitude: 44.65387
Waterfall Longitude: -110.77093

Gibbon Falls was an attractively long and wide cascade on the Gibbon River tumbling a reported total of 84ft in height over or near the caldera rim of the Yellowstone Supervolcano.

With its unusual trapezoidal shape and seemingly brush-like texture, this was one of the more photogenic waterfalls we’ve encountered in the park.

Gibbon_Falls_17_008_08102017 - Gibbon Falls
Gibbon Falls

It was especially friendly for those long exposure photographs that create the silky effect.

The texture of the falls owed its existence to the underlying Lava Creek tuff, which comprised of ash fused by immense heat as a result of the last Yellowstone Volcano eruption about 640,000 years ago.

The size of the Lava Creek tuff walls surrounding the waterfall as well as some of the cliffs further up the Grand Loop Road provided a humbling sense of scale and magnitude of the volcano.

Changes to the Gibbon Falls Experience

When we first visited Gibbon Falls in June 2004, there were a few roadside pullouts along a narrow cliff-hugging stretch of the Grand Loop Road.

Gibbon_Falls_002_06182004 - This was what Gibbon Falls looked like back in June 2004
This was what Gibbon Falls looked like back in June 2004

When we returned in August 2017, the park service completely redid this area by setting up a parking lot further upstream of the falls.

From that parking area, there was then a wide and gently sloping paved walking path towards a couple of signed lookouts as well as some additional unsigned intermediate views in between.

In my mind, this was an example of how a change was for the better as this section of the Grand Loop Road was no longer congested.

Indeed, there was plenty of space for people to enjoy the falls without feeling overly claustrophobic.

Gibbon_Falls_17_029_08102017 - The widened footpath alongside the Grand Loop Road besides Gibbon Falls. Back in 2004 when we first visited Yellowstone, it used to be that the road went right up against the railings with only a few pullouts to stop and take a look.
The widened footpath alongside the Grand Loop Road besides Gibbon Falls. Back in 2004 when we first visited Yellowstone, it used to be that the road went right up against the railings with only a few pullouts to stop and take a look.

According to my GPS logs, it was about a quarter-mile round trip to reach the first signed lookout near the top of Gibbon Falls.

It was about 0.6 miles round trip to make it all the way down to the last signed lookout and back.

As a result of the extra walking necessary to experience the falls (as it was no longer roadside), I bumped up the difficulty score to reflect this change since our first visit.

Photographing Gibbon Falls

That said, according to The Guide to Yellowstone Waterfalls and Their Discovery, the authors managed to take an unusual photo of Gibbon Falls.

Gibbon_Falls_17_036_08102017 - Looking upstream right at Gibbon Falls in afternoon light from the last of the lookouts during our August 2017 visit
Looking upstream right at Gibbon Falls in afternoon light from the last of the lookouts during our August 2017 visit

They took it from the opposite side of the Gibbon River as that was where the stagecoaches used to follow a road there then drop down towards Canyon Creek for the view of the falls.

I didn’t pursue that way to experience the falls as there was no sanctioned trail from the nearest lookouts on the north and west side of the Gibbon River.

That said, I suspect that the authors might have gone to the Gibbon Meadow picnic area then scrambled their way in the upstream direction on the opposite banks of the river.

Finally, I should mention that this waterfall faced west so it was more of an afternoon waterfall as far as sunlight was concerned.

Gibbon_Falls_002_jx_06212004 - Morning view of Gibbon Falls in shadow against the sun as seen during our first time here in June 2004
Morning view of Gibbon Falls in shadow against the sun as seen during our first time here in June 2004

I was once here in the early morning during our June 2004 trip, and we were pretty much looking smack against the sun!

I learned my lesson from that visit during our August 2017 trip, and the improved lighting was pretty obvious as you can see in the photos on this page.

Authorities

Gibbon Falls resides in Yellowstone National Park near West Yellowstone 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.

Gibbon_Falls_17_003_08102017 - Following along the wide and paved walkway for Gibbon Falls during our August 2017 visit
Gibbon_Falls_17_004_08102017 - Approaching the first main viewing area for Gibbon Falls during our August 2017 visit
Gibbon_Falls_17_007_08102017 - First look at Gibbon Falls near its brink during our visit in August 2017
Gibbon_Falls_17_018_08102017 - Zoomed in look at the Gibbon Falls as seen from one of the lower lookouts during our August 2017 visit
Gibbon_Falls_17_021_08102017 - Contextual view from an intermediate lookout for Gibbon Falls during our visit in August 2017. Note the small shelter and the railings to the topleft showing how big the Lava Creek tuff cliffs were
Gibbon_Falls_17_027_08102017 - In between zooms for this Gibbon Falls photo taken on August 2017 visit from the intermediate lookout
Gibbon_Falls_17_028_08102017 - Portrait view that was focused on that intermediate view of Gibbon Falls in afternoon light during our August 2017 visit
Gibbon_Falls_17_030_08102017 - Approaching the very end of the walking and viewing area for Gibbon Falls during our August 2017 visit
Gibbon_Falls_17_040_08102017 - Zoomed in look from the bottommost of the lookouts for Gibbon Falls during our August 2017 visit
Gibbon_Falls_17_047_08102017 - Looking downstream in the direction of the Gibbon Meadow from the lowermost of the lookouts of Gibbon Falls during our August 2017 visit
Gibbon_Falls_001_jx_06182004 - Looking down at the Gibbon Falls when it was a roadside attraction during our June 2004 visit
Gibbon_Falls_004_06212004 - Contextual morning view against the sun of Gibbon Falls from a different pullout further downstream of the more official and popular pullout seen in June 2004
Gibbon_Falls_006_06212004 - Zoomed in direct look at the Gibbon Falls against the morning sun on our first visit in June 2004

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The parking lot for Gibbon Falls was on the Grand Loop Road about 8.5 miles south of the Norris Junction on the left side of the road and about 4.8 miles east of the Madison Junction.

Madison Junction was about 15 miles (under 30 minutes drive) east of West Yellowstone, Montana.

Gibbon_Falls_17_001_08102017 - The new parking lot and paved walkway at Gibbon Falls, which we got to experience during our August 2017 visit
The new parking lot and paved walkway at Gibbon Falls, which we got to experience during our August 2017 visit

Meanwhile, Norris Junction was about 29 miles (about 75 minutes drive) south of Gardiner, Montana.

For additional context, West Yellowstone, Montana was 58 miles (at least 90 minutes drive) south of Gardiner, Montana, 90 miles (over 90 minutes drive) south of Bozeman, Montana, 72 miles (under 2 hours drive) north of Flagg Ranch (near Yellowstone’s South Entrance), and 321 miles (about 4.5 hours drive) north of Salt Lake City, Utah.

The complete experience of the falls from all the overlooks along the new walkway that previously used to be roadside pullouts

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Tagged with: madison, norris, 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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