Silver Cord Cascade (I’ve also seen it spelled Silver Chord Cascade) was one of the seemingly lesser known waterfalls (at least compared to the waterfalls closer to the main roads further to the west). This was peculiar since it could very well be Yellowstone National Park’s tallest waterfall as it was said to drop some 1200ft (I’ve seen reports vary from as little as 1000ft to as much as 1300ft) where Surface Creek would drain Ribbon Lake before dropping into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. Perhaps a big reason why it didn’t get as much fanfare was because it required a hike on the relatively quiet Seven Mile Hole Trail in order to get the view you see pictured above. Moreover, it was also thin and hard to experience it up close in a satisfying way like most of the park’s other waterfalls. The benefit to this relative obscurity was that each time I’ve done this hike, it was peaceful as I was but one of a handful of people on the trail.
The Seven Mile Hole Trail was more known to hikers looking to really experience the bottom of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, especially since it could very well be the only such access in the Canyon Village vicinity. The “hole” was said to refer to a fishing spot on the river. The hike was also said to have surprising geothermal features as well as a fairly high chance at seeing wildlife. I’ve never done the entirety of this hike as it was said to be about 10 miles round trip with a brutal 1400ft descent on loose and slippery terrain towards the end with an equally taxing climb on the return hike.
Fortunately, in order to experience Silver Cord Cascade, I only had to hike a mile in each direction from the Glacial Boulder Trailhead. The glacial boulder was referring to a house-sized granite-gneiss rock that was assumed to have been carried here by a glacier since its composition was nothing like the bedrock around the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. The hiking was pretty benign as it was mostly on somewhat level terrain with only a few minor undulations. The first time I did this hike in June 2004, it took me a little over an hour round trip. The second time I did this hike in August 2017, the Inspiration Point Road was closed to vehicles so I had to walk the additional mile for a four-mile round trip hike (not including the walk to Canyon Village from the barricade on North Rim Drive), and that took me about 90 minutes.
From the Glacial Boulder Trailhead, the trail followed a seemingly well-used path amongst lodgepole pine trees as it made a brief descent towards a small stream before briefly climbing out towards the north rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. That was where I started to get partial views of the river down below as well as gaining a better appreciation for the yellows, oranges, and whites of the cliffs, which seemed to suggest some kind of volcanic or geothermal activity in the area. The trail continued along the rim weaving in and out of edge of the lodgepole forest before there was a noticeable descent near the one-mile point of the hike. This was where I spotted some unsigned use-trails leading towards the canyon rim, and that was where I eventually was able to peer right across the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River towards the Silver Cord Cascade. With no fencing, I had to use my best judgment to not get too close to the cliff edges. Finally, each time I’ve been here, it was either at midday or early in the afternoon, and as you can see, the sun was pretty much on top of the canyon. Since it was a north-facing waterfall, it was hard to tell when would be the best time of day for photos if the sun was out.
The Glacial Boulder Trailhead was about 0.4 miles along on the Inspiration Point Drive. When the North Rim Drive was a one-way road going clockwise, the turnoff for Inspiration Point Road used to be on the left after a very short drive about a half-mile east of Canyon Lodge. However, since they re-directed the North Rim Drive to go counterclockwise from Canyon Village, this turnoff was on the right after driving about 1.6 miles (and contending with the congestion at the North Rim Drive itself).
The Canyon Junction was on the Grand Loop Road about 15.4 miles north of the Lake junction (through Hayden Valley), 11.5 miles east of the Norris Junction, or 18.3 miles south of the Roosevelt Junction (over Dunraven Pass).
To give you some context, Canyon Village was about 52 miles (about 90 minutes drive) southwest of Cooke City-Silver Gate, Montana, 94 miles (over 2 hours drive) west of Cody, 115 miles (over 2.5 hours drive) north of Jackson, 42 miles (under about 90 minutes drive) southeast of Gardiner, Montana, 40 miles (one hour drive) east of West Yellowstone, Montana, 128 miles (over 2.5 hours drive) southeast of Bozeman, Montana, 147 miles (under 3 hours drive) northeast of Idaho Falls, Idaho, and 360 miles (under 6 hours drive) north of Salt Lake City, Utah.
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