Rustic Falls was an interesting little 47ft roadside waterfall that rippled over a basalt cliff giving the falls a distinctive texture and character to it. It also had somewhat of an unusual fan shape (or I guess you could also think of it like a bell or bulb shape) adding to its scenic allure.
We happened to see the falls in Late June which apparently was pretty close to peak flow, but I’ve read in the literature that this waterfall could go dry not much deeper into Summer.
The falls resided below the western slopes of Bunsen Peak in a section of the Grand Loop called the Golden Gate. I’m guessing it was so named because passing through this section reminded earlier visitors of going through some entranceway en route to Mammoth. Since the canyon appeared pretty suddenly and abruptly as we passed beneath Bunsen Peak, the road made a pretty steep descent alongside Glen Creek, which was the creek responsible for both the falls and the depth of the canyon itself. Apparently, these factors also conspired to make the road through here a bit of a challenge for engineers to build.
As for seeing the falls, we had to find one of a couple of pullouts with limited space (see directions below). Then, we ended up having to walk alongside the road until we got the views of Rustic Falls that we wanted from gradually differing angles.
There are a couple of pullouts that let you get out of your car and go for a better look at the falls. The first pullout or parking spot is right near the top of the falls about 4.5 miles south of Mammoth on the Grand Loop Road between Golden Gate and Swan Flat. If you’re headed north, it’s roughly 16.5 miles from the Norris Junction. The pullouts and designated parking spots here have limited space, and you can’t really get a decent view of the waterfall from there.
The other pullout is a little further downstream. If you missed the pullout/car park area mentioned above, you could give this other pullout a try, which I think is about 0.2 or 0.3 miles further down the hill (heading towards Mammoth). If you stop here, you have to walk uphill in order to get a closer look at the falls, but at least you’d immediately get frontal views of the falls.
For context, Mammoth Hot Springs is just south of the North Entrance of Yellowstone, roughly 90 minutes drive (84 miles) from Bozeman, Montana. The Norris Junction is roughly 45 minutes drive (28 miles) east of West Yellowstone, Montana. West Yellowstone was about 4.5 hours drive north of Salt Lake City.
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