Mystic Falls

Yellowstone National Park / Old Faithful, Wyoming, USA

About Mystic Falls


Hiking Distance: 2.4 miles round trip (direct to falls); 4.1 miles loop (incl Biscuit Basin Overlook and top of falls)
Suggested Time: 90 minutes (direct to falls); 2.5 hours (entire loop)

Date first visited: 2004-06-19
Date last visited: 2017-08-14

Waterfall Latitude: 44.48393
Waterfall Longitude: -110.87363

Mystic Falls was a very attractive multi-tiered cascading waterfall said to tumble with a cumulative height of about 70ft on the Little Firehole River.

What was striking about this impressive waterfall was that there was noticeable steam rising from near its top, which turned out to be geothermal activity resulting in hot springs feeding the waterfall.

Mystic_Falls_17_140_08142017 - Mystic Falls
Mystic Falls

I had to believe that if someone came up with a list of largest geothermal waterfalls in the world, this waterfall would most certainly make that list.

Indeed, it was said that back in the 1930s, visitors would swim at the base of the falls to enjoy its heated waters.

That might have explained why we noticed a trail that led down there when we first visited in June 2004.

The Little Firehole River would eventually feed the Firehole River just past the Biscuit Basin – a popular geyser basin not far from Old Faithful.

Mystic_Falls_17_110_08142017 - Steam rising from the geothermally-heated waters of the Little Firehole River upstream from Mystic Falls
Steam rising from the geothermally-heated waters of the Little Firehole River upstream from Mystic Falls

So if you put that combination of hot springs and sizable waterfall together, this felt like an excursion unlike many other places in the world!

By the way, Mystic Falls has no relation to the name of the town in the Vampire Diaries TV show.

Hiking to Mystic Falls

There are actually two different ways to experience the Mystic Falls hike.

The most direct method would be to do a 2.4-mile out-and-back hike, which took us on average about 1.5-2 hours.

Mystic_Falls_17_195_08142017 - Colorful springs flanked the boardwalks in the Biscuit Basin
Colorful springs flanked the boardwalks in the Biscuit Basin

A less direct method would be a loop hike with a length of about 4.1 miles, which took me at least 2.5 hours.

Both trails started from the Biscuit Basin Parking Lot, which then crossed a bridge over the Firehole River and meandered over boardwalks passing by many geothermal features.

Among the features within the Biscuit Basin were the abyss of the Sapphire Pool and the spasming Jewel Geyser.

The Mystic Falls Trail then continued at the end of the boardwalk at the far end of the basin (about 0.4 miles from the parking lot).

Mystic_Falls_17_190_08142017 - Looking into the abyss of the Sapphire Pool while walking along the Biscuit Basin boardwalks
Looking into the abyss of the Sapphire Pool while walking along the Biscuit Basin boardwalks

From there, the fairly easy trail meandered through a forest of lodgepole pines recovering nicely from the 1988 wildfires.

As of our visit in August 2017, these trees had grown tall enough to obscure the neighboring hillsides once again.

When we first came here in June 2004, these trees were ghostly and bare.

After climbing a short hill, where the scenery briefly opened up before it meandered back into the forest, we then reached a signposted trail junction.

Mystic_Falls_17_167_08142017 - This was where the Mystic Falls Trail briefly opened up after climbing up to this hill before re-entering the forest and eventually reaching the trail junctions
This was where the Mystic Falls Trail briefly opened up after climbing up to this hill before re-entering the forest and eventually reaching the trail junctions

This was roughly 0.3 miles later (or about 3/4-mile from the parking lot).

While both paths would eventually lead to Mystic Falls (as it was a loop trail), the easiest and more straightforward path was on the left.

The path on the right was actually a pretty tough steeply climbing trail over several switchbacks eventually leading to an overlook of the Biscuit Basin.

Mystic Falls Trail Description – the out-and-back option

Assuming we didn’t take the longer detour to the Biscuit Basin Overlook, we continued left of the fork at the bottom of the loop.

Mystic_Falls_17_150_08142017 - Approaching Mystic Falls from the shorter main trail
Approaching Mystic Falls from the shorter main trail

This trail meandered some more towards another trail junction just a few paces later.

At this junction, we kept right (the trail on the left went to Summit Lake) then the forest started to thin out as the trail followed along the Little Firehole River.

After rounding a bend to the right roughly 0.4 miles from the trail junctions, Mystic Falls started coming into view.

The views would continue to improve the closer we’d get to the falls.

Mystic_Falls_004_06192004 - Looking up at a seasonal or temporary waterfall on the trail leading up to the view of Mystic Falls as seen in June 2004
Looking up at a seasonal or temporary waterfall on the trail leading up to the view of Mystic Falls as seen in June 2004

However, it wouldn’t be until the trail climbed high enough past a thin seasonal waterfall before reaching a switchback with a signpost.

That was where we got the attractive view of the Mystic Falls that you see pictured at the top of this page.

This was about 0.6 miles from the trail junctions or 1.2 miles from the Biscuit Basin Parking Lot.

Overall, the first time Julie and I did this hike in this manner, it took us a leisurely 1.5-2 hours to complete.

Mystic Falls Trail Description – the loop hike with detour to the Biscuit Basin Overlook

Back at the signposted trail junction, this section now describes the longer detour to Mystic Falls via the Biscuit Basin Overlook.

Mystic_Falls_17_053_08142017 - One of many steep switchbacks on the longer loop detour leading up to the Biscuit Basin Overlook
One of many steep switchbacks on the longer loop detour leading up to the Biscuit Basin Overlook

So the path on the right of the junction started off innocently enough amidst the lodgepole pines.

However, it didn’t take long before the trail started ascending switchbacks in earnest.

I had lost count of the number of switchbacks in this stretch of trail.

But given that the aforementioned Biscuit Basin Overlook sat at the top of the neighboring plateau, it was no wonder why I found these switchbacks to be pretty tiring.

Mystic_Falls_17_087_08142017 - Looking over the Biscuit Basin and towards the Upper Geyser Basin in the distance from the Biscuit Basin Overlook
Looking over the Biscuit Basin and towards the Upper Geyser Basin in the distance from the Biscuit Basin Overlook

Afterwards the trail followed along the plateau back towards the Fairy Creek Trail.

That meant that I could have combined Mystic Falls with Fairy Falls as part of an even longer loop.

Anyways, continuing past this junction with the Fairy Creek Trail, the Mystic Falls Trail then descended steeply to the Mystic Falls itself.

This path from the top included an unsanctioned spur trail that descended rather steeply to the waterfall’s top.

Mystic_Falls_17_095_08142017 - After the Biscuit Basin Overlook, I then hiked along a plateau towards the junction between the Fairy Creek Trail and the Mystic Falls Trail
After the Biscuit Basin Overlook, I then hiked along a plateau towards the junction between the Fairy Creek Trail and the Mystic Falls Trail

That was where I was able to look carefully over the brink of the falls.

The spur also revealed some thermal springs feeding the Little Firehole River.

Mystic Falls Trail Description – closing the loop and exploring an old spur

After scrambling back up to the main trail, it then descended a series of long switchbacks.

During the descent, I experienced interesting views of the Mystic Falls cascading in multiple tiers.

Mystic_Falls_17_112_08142017 - Looking over the brink of Mystic Falls towards the Upper Geyser Basin in the background
Looking over the brink of Mystic Falls towards the Upper Geyser Basin in the background

Eventually, the trail reached an area where I got to a signed lookout for the Mystic Falls view, which provided a more frontal and vertical-looking perspective of the waterfall.

The rest of this trail’s descent pretty much followed as the out-and-back trail description earlier on in this page (but in reverse).

However, during the initial quarter-mile of this descent (or the last quarter-mile up to the lookout if headed in the other direction), I swore that the park service must have re-routed the trail at some point.

That’s because I recalled in our first visit in June 2004 that it used to switchback somewhere downstream of a seasonal waterfall.

Mystic_Falls_001_jx_06192004 - Back on our first visit in June 2004, we inadvertently took a path along the Little Firehole River and ended up with this partial view of Mystic Falls.  That was when we realized the official trail climbed higher than where we somehow deviated from it
Back on our first visit in June 2004, we inadvertently took a path along the Little Firehole River and ended up with this partial view of Mystic Falls. That was when we realized the official trail climbed higher than where we somehow deviated from it

And near one of those switchbacks we inadvertently took a spur trail that we used to think led us closer to the bottom of Mystic Falls.

However, it that “trail” to the bottom of the falls disappeared into the Little Firehole River as a scramble that we eventually decided not to pursue.

It was only when we realized that the views of the waterfall weren’t that great from down there that we backtracked and found the correct trail.

Anyways, in hindsight, that must have been the historical trail and scramble that visitors from the past would use to access the geothermally-heated waters at the base of the falls.

Mystic_Falls_17_157_08142017 - Following the Little Firehole River downstream from Mystic Falls to wrap up the longer loop hike during my August 2017 visit
Following the Little Firehole River downstream from Mystic Falls to wrap up the longer loop hike during my August 2017 visit

So in retrospect, it made sense that the park service would obscure that lower path because it was rugged and prone to erosion from the heavy foot traffic on the main trail up above.

Regardless, the longer loop trail that encompassed the Biscuit Basin Overlook and the top of Mystic Falls added an additional 1.7 miles to the overall hike.

Thus, that made this route 4.1 miles round trip instead of just 2.4 miles round trip, and it took me about 2.5 hours to complete solo.

Authorities

Mystic 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.

Mystic_Falls_17_004_08142017 - Crossing a bridge over the Firehole River and onto the Biscuit Basin Boardwalks during my August 2017 hike to Mystic Falls
Mystic_Falls_17_008_08142017 - The Biscuit Basin was a nice warm-up to the Mystic Falls hike, especially given the colorful springs where algae thrived in the hot water
Mystic_Falls_17_201_08142017 - Looking in the other direction towards more colorful hot springs and runoff thanks to the algae that thrive within the otherwise inhospitable environment
Mystic_Falls_17_019_08142017 - The boardwalk going around what I think was the Jewel Geyser during my hike to Mystic Falls in August 2017
Mystic_Falls_17_022_08142017 - Looking across another one of the attractive springs near the end of the boardwalk at the Biscuit Basin leading me to the Mystic Falls Trail in August 2017
Mystic_Falls_17_029_08142017 - This was the end of the Biscuit Basin Boardwalk and the start of the Mystic Falls Trail
Mystic_Falls_17_031_08142017 - The Mystic Falls Trail meandered amongst a grove of lodgepole pine trees, which appeared to have recovered nicely on my August 2017 hike as compared to the June 2004 visit when the trees were bare
Mystic_Falls_17_033_08142017 - After climbing out of the initial grove of lodgepole pines, the Mystic Falls Trail briefly opened up on this hill before returning back into the lodgepole pine forest up ahead
Mystic_Falls_17_034_08142017 - Back amongst the lodgepole pines after descending from the hill and heading towards the trail junction where I could choose to do an out-and-back hike or a longer loop hike to Mystic Falls
Mystic_Falls_17_037_08142017 - During my August 2017 hike to Mystic Falls, I actually made a right turn at the trail junction and it ultimately put me on a longer and much steeper path up to the Biscuit Basin Overlook.  I probably should have suspected something was off when it already had a steep climb like this
Mystic_Falls_17_040_08142017 - Continuing along the longer trail (going right at the first trail junction) which eventually led up to the Biscuit Basin Overlook in a bit of a more roundabout way to Mystic Falls during my August 2017 visit
Mystic_Falls_17_043_08142017 - What I didn't realize was that it was a steep climb going up several switchbacks en route to the Biscuit Basin Overlook during my August 2017 hike
Mystic_Falls_17_047_08142017 - The switchbacking trail was also steep and narrow in spots en route to the Biscuit Basin
Mystic_Falls_17_056_08142017 - Continuing up the steep switchbacks leading up to the Biscuit Basin Overlook on the more roundabout way to Mystic Falls in August 2017
Mystic_Falls_17_057_08142017 - Looking back at another one of the narrow switchbacks en route to the Biscuit Basin Overlook en route to Mystic Falls in August 2017
Mystic_Falls_17_067_08142017 - Looking back at another very steep switchback that looked like it was on the verge of eroding away in my August 2017 hike to Mystic Falls via the Biscuit Basin
Mystic_Falls_17_069_08142017 - Continuing even higher on the switchbacks leading up to the Biscuit Basin Overlook on my August 2017 hike to Mystic Falls
Mystic_Falls_17_075_08142017 - Eventually, I had climbed so high on the Mystic Falls Loop Trail that I started to get commanding views back in the direction of both the Biscuit Basin and the Upper Geyser Basin during my August 2017 hike. I swore I managed to see some of the geysers in the distance erupting
Mystic_Falls_17_080_08142017 - Even higher up the hillside looking back towards the Upper Geyser Basin in the distance on my way up to Biscuit Basin Overlook in Aguust 2017
Mystic_Falls_17_092_08142017 - Beyond the Biscuit Basin Overlook, the Mystic Falls Trail then followed along this grove of lodgepole pines at the top of the plateau as I continued my more roundabout loop hike to Mystic Falls in August 2017
Mystic_Falls_17_104_08142017 - Looking towards the Little Firehole River and some cascades on it as I was approaching the top of Mystic Falls during my August 2017 visit
Mystic_Falls_17_107_08142017 - Looking upstream along the Little Firehole River from the top of Mystic Falls during my August 2017 visit
Mystic_Falls_17_114_08142017 - Continuing the main trail towards the Mystic Falls lookout after having had my fill of the scramble to its top in August 2017
Mystic_Falls_17_115_08142017 - Context of the steep hillsides as the trail switchbacked its way down to Mystic Falls lookout during my hike in August 2017
Mystic_Falls_17_116_08142017 - Continuing the steep downhill hike towards Mystic Falls as I could see it in the distance on my August 2017 visit
Mystic_Falls_17_119_08142017 - A top down angled view of Mystic Falls as I was descending switchbacks to its signed lookout during my August 2017 visit
Mystic_Falls_17_120_08142017 - Looking further downhill at another switchback before finally arriving at the main lookout for Mystic Falls in August 2017
Mystic_Falls_17_121_08142017 - Finally reaching the signed lookout for Mystic Falls in August 2017
Mystic_Falls_17_124_08142017 - Broader look back down at the impressive Mystic Falls in August 2017
Mystic_Falls_17_137_08142017 - Long exposure look at the Mystic Falls during my visit in August 2017
Mystic_Falls_17_144_08142017 - Looking back at Mystic Falls as I was descending the part of the trail that I probably meant to take in the beginning before I ended up on the long loop detour via the Biscuit Basin Overlook in August 2017
Mystic_Falls_17_148_08142017 - Looking at one of the switchbacks on the descent from the Mystic Falls lookout on the return hike in August 2017
Mystic_Falls_17_158_08142017 - As I went further down away from Mystic Falls during my August 2017 visit, I could still see steam rising in the distance
Mystic_Falls_17_161_08142017 - Another look back at the trail that I should have taken on the way to Mystic Falls in the first place in August 2017
Mystic_Falls_17_165_08142017 - On the return hike from Mystic Falls, I noticed this trail junction where this flagged path led to the Summit Lake Trail during my August 2017 visit
Mystic_Falls_17_202_08142017 - When I met up with Julie and Tahia again, all of us were enjoying the Biscuit Basin as the crowds had also shown up at the end of my August 2017 hike to Mystic Falls
Biscuit_Basin_003_06192004 - Watching the Jewel Geyser trying to go off in the Biscuit Basin during our first visit back in June 2004
Biscuit_Basin_002_06192004 - Looking into the Sapphire Pool back on our first visit in June 2004
Biscuit_Basin_007_jx_06192004 - Another look into the Jewel Geyser during our June 2004 visit
Mystic_Falls_001_06192004 - Back in June 2004, the Mystic Falls Trail area was still recovering from the 1988 wildfires. Notice how visible the neighboring plateau was given all the burnt trees and new sproutlings starting to grow in place of the trees that didn't make it
Mystic_Falls_003_06192004 - Our first look at Mystic Falls from a riverside trail that ended up disappearing here in June 2004
Mystic_Falls_005_06192004 - Back in June 2004, we saw this bold rainbow while looking back on the Mystic Falls Trail.  Given the foul weather we had on our trip, this kind of was the silver lining.
Mystic_Falls_009_06192004 - This was as close to the Mystic Falls as we could get from the 'historical' trail that disappeared into the Little Firehole River on our June 2004 visit
Mystic_Falls_005_jx_06192004 - Partial view of Mystic Falls as we climbed higher to regain the main trail (as seen from back in June 2004)
Mystic_Falls_015_06192004 - Finally at the best spot to view Mystic Falls during our June 2004 visit
Mystic_Falls_015_jx_06192004 - Zoomed in look at the Mystic Falls when we first saw it in June 2004
Mystic_Falls_014_jx_06192004 - Another look of Mystic Falls when we first visited back in June 2004
Mystic_Falls_021_06192004 - Back in our first visit in June 2004, Julie and I saw this elk grazing on the hillside across the Little Firehole River
Mystic_Falls_027_06192004 - Another look at that elk grazing while we were visiting Mystic Falls in June 2004

join-booking-970x240-1.jpg


The hike to Mystic Falls began from the Biscuit Basin.

This was about 2 miles north of the Old Faithful turnoffs and ramps (or 3 miles from Old Faithful Village) along the Grand Loop Road between Madison Junction and West Thumb Junction.

The turnoff was well signed, and although the parking lot was spacious, I did notice that it filled up quickly, even on a rainy day!

Mystic_Falls_17_002_08142017 - The Biscuit Basin Parking Lot, which was where we started the hike to Mystic Falls
The Biscuit Basin Parking Lot, which was where we started the hike to Mystic Falls

For a little context, Old Faithful was about 17 miles (under 30 minutes drive) south of the Madison Junction and about 19 miles (30 minutes drive) west of the West Thumb Junction. It was also about 98 miles (2.5 hours drive) north of Jackson and about 32 miles (an hour drive) east of West Yellowstone, Montana.

For additional geographical 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.

360 degree sweep showing the falls and its creek as well as the surrounding cliffs


Back and forth sweep from one of the switchbacks above the official viewing spot of Mystic Falls


Scrambling down to the brink of Mystic Falls showing the thermal spring responsible for all the steam rising out from its creek

Tagged with: biscuit basin, midway, old faithful, madison, fire, yellowstone, west yellowstone, wyoming, waterfall, rockies, rocky mountains, jackson, park county



Visitor Comments:

No users have replied to the content on this page


Share your thoughts about what you've read on this page

You must be logged in to submit content. Refresh this page after you have logged in.

Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

No users have submitted a write-up/review of this waterfall


Have you been to a waterfall? Submit a write-up/review and share your experiences or impressions

Review A Waterfall

Nearest Waterfalls

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.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.