Union Falls and Ouzel Pool

Yellowstone National Park / Bechler, Wyoming, USA

About Union Falls and Ouzel Pool


Hiking Distance: 16 miles round trip with river ford
Suggested Time: 8-10 hours

Date first visited: 2017-08-12
Date last visited: 2017-08-12

Waterfall Latitude: 44.19243
Waterfall Longitude: -110.8707

Union Falls had to have been my favorite waterfall in Yellowstone National Park besides the powerful Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River.

It had been frequently described as the most beautiful waterfall in Yellowstone National Park, and it wasn’t difficult to imagine why.

Union_Falls_242_08122017 - Union Falls
Union Falls

While Lower Falls had the obvious power and size residing within the impossibly beautiful Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, Union Falls possessed a more delicate and graceful quality punctuated by its uniqueness and size.

As you can see from the photo above, Union Falls’ 250-260ft drop (said to be the second highest permanent waterfall behind Lower Falls) with a width that was seemingly at least as wide as it was tall made it an imposing sight.

Yet its teepee or curtain shape (resulting from the union of Mountain Ash and an unnamed creek) ensured that there was no other waterfall quite like this.

As if that wasn’t enough, I was even able to take a dip in a geothermally heated lukewarm swimming hole beneath a separate waterfall at the Ouzel Pool (also referred to as Scout Pool).

Ousel_Pool_006_iPhone_08122017 - People having a good time at Ousel Pool or 'Scouts Pool'
People having a good time at Ousel Pool or ‘Scouts Pool’

That was a short side excursion for a little play and relaxation.

Indeed, Union Falls seemed to have checked all the boxes in terms of all the things you’d want in a waterfall.

Therefore, it earned a spot on our Top 10 Waterfalls of the United States List (let alone our Top 10 Best Yellowstone Waterfalls List)!

The Logistics of the Union Falls Hike

With so much going for Union Falls, there had to be a catch, right?

Union_Falls_041_08122017 - The wide and intimidating Falls River Ford
The wide and intimidating Falls River Ford

Well, it turned out that in order to access Union Falls, I had to go on a lengthy hike that was a minimum of 15 miles round trip.

This hike included an intimidating ford of the Fall River (I’ve also seen it called the Falls River) as well as a nearly 1,000ft of net elevation gain that involved quite a few undulations.

Since I added the side excursion to the Ouzel Pool, that pretty much extended my hike by almost another mile.

The trails also passed through areas frequented by grizzly bears so being bear aware in addition to being physically and mentally prepared was a must in this backcountry adventure.

Union_Falls_100_08122017 - Noticing bear tracks on the Union Falls Trail
Noticing bear tracks on the Union Falls Trail

Julie and I learned the hard way back in June 2004 that it was not a waterfall that you could just show up without the necessary preparations and conditions.

Back then, we went as far as the Falls River ford when the swift currents and depth of the river aborted that attempt.

This waterfall had haunted me ever since that failed attempt.

And it wasn’t until a subsequent visit to Yellowstone in August 2017 when all the precautions and lessons learned finally paid off.

Preparations for the Union Falls Hike

Union_Falls_052_08122017 - Noticing bear scat along the Union Falls Trail
Noticing bear scat along the Union Falls Trail

On that second attempt, I should note that I took a calculated risk in doing this hike alone.

After all, it’s recommended to hike in groups of at least three people to minimize the likelihood of having a close encounter with a grizzly bear (and thus a higher potential of an attack).

Although it didn’t logistically work out for me to start this trail in a group (it was too long and difficult for Julie and Tahia to do), I knew that doing this hike on a Saturday meant there would be more people on the trails.

So my suspicion played out as I wound up hiking with a group that just so happened to be going at a similar pace as I was.

Union_Falls_121_08122017 - Part of the group of Montana residents who happened to be doing the Union Falls when I was
Part of the group of Montana residents who happened to be doing the Union Falls when I was

I also carried bear spray with me just in case, but I left the bear bells behind as grizzlies have learned to treat them as dinner bells.

Apparently, they’ve associated that sound with food stored in packs.

In addition to being bear aware, I also brought a pair of trekking poles, which were helpful in maintaining balance on the intimidating Fall River ford.

Moreover, I would recommend bringing a change of shoes (preferably river shoes or sandals) so the hiking boots wouldn’t get ruined.

Union_Falls_337_08122017 - Across the Fall River were some guys changing shoes as a result of this crossing of the Fall River
Across the Fall River were some guys changing shoes as a result of this crossing of the Fall River

Then, of course, I had gotten an early start to ensure that I’d be back before dark.

As a result, I was on the trail by 7:30am and it took me over 10 hours to complete.

Finally, if all this preparation might make it seem like too much trouble, I realized after the fact that there were plenty of groups on horseback.

Thus, it was possible join tour operators offering such excursions (making it possible to bring kids).

Union_Falls_280_08122017 - Corral with pack horses parked at the junction of the Ousel Pool and Union Falls spur trails
Corral with pack horses parked at the junction of the Ousel Pool and Union Falls spur trails

Logistically speaking, there were actually a few different ways to visit Union Falls.

Each one had differing lengths and degrees of difficulty.

On this page, I’m describing the shortest route, which began from the Grassy Lake Trailhead (see directions below).

There were also trailheads at Cascade Creek (the same trailhead for Terraced Falls) as well as Cave Falls near the Bechler Ranger Station accessed from the Cave Falls Road (which crossed into Yellowstone National Park from Idaho).

These longer options make the round trip hiking distances (not including Ouzel Pool) 15.6 miles and 23 miles, respectively.

Union Falls Trail Description – from Grassy Lake to through the Fall River Crossing

Union_Falls_020_08122017 - The Union Falls Trail alternated between densely wooded areas and more open spaces like what's shown here
The Union Falls Trail alternated between densely wooded areas and more open spaces like what’s shown here

From the fairly spacious Grassy Lake Trailhead, which was at the bottom of the dam holding up the Grassy Lake Reservoir, the trail started from the west end of the clearing.

After going past a bridge traversing some kind of spillway, I then passed by a sign indicating that I was entering Yellowstone National Park.

The trail then traversed a wooded area that alternated between being densely packed with thin trees and pockets of clearings.

Along the trail, I noticed some berries, which was an indicator that bears would forage here.

Union_Falls_027_08122017 - Trail junction between the Mountain Ash Creek Trail (the one to Union Falls) and the Cascade Creek Trail
Trail junction between the Mountain Ash Creek Trail (the one to Union Falls) and the Cascade Creek Trail

After a little over a mile, the trail then was joined by the Cascade Creek Trail on the left.

This junction was noteworthy because it could be confusing on the return hike which fork to take.

For roughly the next 400-500ft beyond this trail junction, the trail descended as the sounds of the Falls River grew louder.

Eventually, the trail met the Falls River at about 1.2 miles from the trailhead.

Union_Falls_029_08122017 - Starting at the traverse of the Fall River en route to Union Falls
Starting at the traverse of the Fall River en route to Union Falls

This would be the time to change into shoes that could get wet while hopefully the mosquitos wouldn’t be too bad as we were sitting ducks for them.

At first glance, it seemed like the routing of the trail suggested to cross the Fall River via a small grassy island just past the middle of the wide river.

However, I was with a group that figured out that it was a bit less deep if we made our crossing not far to the left of that island.

With the aid of wooden sticks or trekking poles, we managed to keep our balance, especially through the deepest part (which got to about thigh deep just past the island).

Union_Falls_039_08122017 - A group doing their traverse of the intimidating Fall River traverse
A group doing their traverse of the intimidating Fall River traverse

As we were doing this, we made our traverse diagonally while facing downstream (so you’d fall forward if such a calamity happened) before reaching the other side.

Surprisingly, the Fall River was not as cold as mountains rivers would typically be.

This suggested that there were plenty of geothermal tributaries and sources feeding the Fall River to warm it up to the extent that the morning crossing wasn’t as painfully cold as anticipated.

Once on the other side, we could change shoes to resume the hike (I was able to continue straight away since I was wearing Keens though I did experience a problem with chafing later on).

Union Falls Trail Description – from the Fall River to Mountain Ash Creek

Union_Falls_047_08122017 - After the Fall River crossing, the Union Falls hike ascended towards a section with less tree density before descending to a seasonal creek
After the Fall River crossing, the Union Falls hike ascended towards a section with less tree density before descending to a seasonal creek

Beyond the Fall River ford, the trail then made a moderate climb for at least 200ft or so going past a junction with the Pitchstone Plateau Trail.

The trail then followed along more wooded terrain as the climb eventually leveled out.

This wooded scenery would persist for nearly the next 1.5 miles before I then descended towards a seasonal creek.

At this creek, there was standing water and fallen logs that I was able to use to keep from getting wet.

Union_Falls_051_08122017 - Some fallen logs that I used to get across a seasonal creek without getting wet on the Union Falls hike
Some fallen logs that I used to get across a seasonal creek without getting wet on the Union Falls hike

Beyond this obstacle, the trail then made a short climb before leveling out again as the trail surface became rockier in spots.

At the top of this climb, the trail revealed hints of mountains and plateaus in the distance.

The flat part didn’t last long however, as I then found myself making a steeper and more prolonged descent towards Proposition Creek.

This creek was about 2 miles from the seasonal creek crossing or 3.5 miles from the Fall River ford.

Union_Falls_060_08122017 - Some plateau scenery revealed during the descent towards Proposition Creek on the Union Falls hike
Some plateau scenery revealed during the descent towards Proposition Creek on the Union Falls hike

The long descent would be a pretty tiring climb on the return hike so I braced myself for this mentally.

By the way, the elevation loss here was about 600ft of the nearly 1,000ft elevation change.

Unlike the Fall River ford, the crossing at Proposition Creek was more like ankle deep.

The water was also bitterly cold as this was more like what you’d expect the water temperatures to be on a typical mountain stream.

Union_Falls_293_08122017 - Looking back at the crossing of Proposition Creek deep into the Union Falls hike
Looking back at the crossing of Proposition Creek deep into the Union Falls hike

Depending on its depth, some time would have to be spent changing shoes again.

Beyond the crossing of Proposition Creek, the trail meandered through extensive patches of lush low-lying bush and shrub (many of which grew berries and wildflowers).

At the same time, I was surrounded by tall trees as the trail continued its descent towards Mountain Ash Creek.

I’d have to say that this seemingly more moist part of the Union Falls Trail was a haven for mosquitos, which seemed to be pretty fierce during my visit in August 2017.

Union_Falls_085_08122017 - Trail junction joining up with the trail following along Mountain Ash Creek
Trail junction joining up with the trail following along Mountain Ash Creek

So I tried to keep moving while also re-applying DEET.

Finally after about another mile from the Proposition Creek crossing, the trail joined the Union Falls Trail, which ran alongside the fairly sizeable Mountain Ash Creek.

I turned right at the junction to follow along the creek in the upstream direction.

Union Falls Trail Description – following Mountain Ash Creek to Union Falls

The Union Falls Trail seemed to be pretty wide and well-used compared to the Mountain Ash Creek Connector Trail that I was just on.

Union_Falls_092_08122017 - Context of the Union Falls Trail following upstream alongside the fairly sizable Mountain Ash Creek
Context of the Union Falls Trail following upstream alongside the fairly sizable Mountain Ash Creek

Next, the trail went through some more low-lying shrubs with berries (so this was definitely a spot where bears would forage).

Then, I encountered a part where the trail disappeared into the Mountain Ash Creek at about 0.6 miles from the last trail junction.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to ford this large creek as there was a sign pointing to a narrow single-log footbridge.

So after taking that footbridge, I then continued following the trail before encountering a ranger station some 500ft later.

Union_Falls_096_08122017 - The bridge traversing Mountain Ash Creek
The bridge traversing Mountain Ash Creek

As I continued hiking beyond this station (noting that there were more signs indicating backcountry camping spots), the trail had more sand and horse poop,

It was clear by now that this trail saw more than its share of stock.

Eventually at nearly another mile beyond the ranger station (or 1.5 miles beyond the Mountain Ash Creek footbridge), I reached another trail junction.

At this junction, there was a fairly large corral accompanied by a sign saying stock use ended there.

Union_Falls_187_08122017 - The corral at the fork between the Union Falls spur trail and the Scouts Pool Trail
The corral at the fork between the Union Falls spur trail and the Scouts Pool Trail

I first took the right fork at the junction, which then proceeded to climb another 200ft on a narrower path.

Eventually, after another 1/2-mile from the trail junction at the corral, the official trail terminated on a ridge overlooking the impressive Union Falls through a couple of clearings in the vegetation.

At this point, I had hiked about 7.5 miles from the Grassy Lake Trailhead.

As of my August 2017 visit, this west-facing waterfall still produced enough spray to be felt even on the ridge I was on.

Union_Falls_237_08122017 - A couple checks out Union Falls from the lookout ridge
A couple checks out Union Falls from the lookout ridge

While I first showed up in the late morning when the sun was right on top of the falls, I would later come back for more reasonable lighting in the early afternoon.

I also noticed that there was a steep scramble leading to a moist and muddy trail that eventually led down to the base of Union Falls.

Although I didn’t do this, I saw plenty of people that did so it didn’t seem all that bad to do it (and it made me wonder if I regretted not doing it).

Anyways, after having my fill of this spot (which was perfect for a picnic lunch), I then descended back down to the corral where I then headed onto the other fork.

Union_Falls_164_08122017 - People doing the steep descent to get down from the overlook towards the base of Union Falls
People doing the steep descent to get down from the overlook towards the base of Union Falls

By the time I got back there, I saw horses parked at the corral as well as a handful of more people (including kids) on the trails.

This made me realize that it might have been possible to bring Julie and Tahia here with a little more planning and willingness to spend more money.

Union Falls Trail Description – extending the hike to the Ousel Pool

Nonetheless, on the other spur trail, it continued for the next 0.3-0.5 miles or so towards what the topographic maps had labeled as “Falls”.

Well, towards the end of this trail, I approached an attractive small waterfall with a plunge pool that had a nice deep blue color to it.

Union_Falls_193_08122017 - Looking back at the creek responsible for the Ousel Pool on the spur trail deviating from the Union Falls Trail
Looking back at the creek responsible for the Ousel Pool on the spur trail deviating from the Union Falls Trail

There were a trio of people here doing cliff jumps and swims.

I also noticed some rock cairns set up to indicate the end of this short trail.

It appeared that the trail kept going, but signage here said that this was the Ouzel Pool Restoration Area and so I didn’t bother to pursue those trails any further.

By the way, this sign revealed to me the name of this place.

Union_Falls_234_08122017 - Approaching the Ousel Pool or the Scouts Pool at the end of the other spur trail from the corral
Approaching the Ousel Pool or the Scouts Pool at the end of the other spur trail from the corral

Contrasting the physical exertion and amount of time spent hiking, this opportunity to dip at the Ouzel Pool was refreshing.

It was also lukewarm as the stream must have had geothermal sources and springs feeding it further upstream.

Over the next few minutes as more and more people started showing up, this place then took on a more festive (almost party-like) scene.

People took turns doing cliff jumps and some kids were enjoying the water in some calmer spots further downstream.

Ousel_Pool_013_iPhone_08122017 - The Ouzel Pool or Scouts Pool was a great place for a dip as well as a little fun
The Ouzel Pool or Scouts Pool was a great place for a dip as well as a little fun

After having my fill of this falls, this would be the turnaround point and the start of the long return hike to the trailhead.

I actually extended my hike by going back to Union Falls to take some more pictures of the falls in better afternoon lighting.

If I had to be more efficient about my visit, I would have gone to this pool first and then go to the Union Falls later before starting the return hike.

Union Falls Trail Description – the long return hike tothe Grassy Lake Trailhead

On the return hike, I noticed a lot more stock groups going the other way as well as a few dozen more hikers.

Union_Falls_306_08122017 - Catching up to one guy who struggled with the long ascent from Mountain Ash Creek and beyond the Proposition Creek Crossing on the return hike from Union Falls
Catching up to one guy who struggled with the long ascent from Mountain Ash Creek and beyond the Proposition Creek Crossing on the return hike from Union Falls

It further attested to the relative popularity of this backcountry adventure though there was no tourist crush you’d get by Yellowstone’s main roads.

Given their late starts, I’d imagine most of them were backcountry camping.

Anyways, as expected, the return hike went pretty swiftly.

The lone exception to the fast progress was the long ascent that began on the Mountain Ash Creek Trail junction and really got steeper beyond the Proposition Creek crossing.

Union_Falls_314_08122017 - Part of the group of Montana residents who happened to be doing the Union Falls when I was
Part of the group of Montana residents who happened to be doing the Union Falls when I was

This was where I caught up to the group of hikers I encountered throughout the day, who had gotten an early start than me on the return hike.

On the Fall River ford, the water seemed to have gotten slightly deeper and more swift.

I’m sure more snow that was still around upstream had melted in the heat of the mid-Summer day.

So again, the hiking sticks and the slightly diagonal downstream trajectory while facing downstream were helpful to make this traverse.

Union_Falls_329_08122017 - Back at the crossing of the Fall River as there was another trio of strong hikers who made quick work of the river ford
Back at the crossing of the Fall River as there was another trio of strong hikers who made quick work of the river ford

I then kept left at the trail junction with the Cascade Creek Trail, which could be potentially confusing if one forgot which trailhead he or she parked at.

Eventually after 10 hours away from the car, I finally returned to the Grassy Lake Trailhead to conclude this epic hike.

That said, the end of the hike couldn’t have come soon enough as my hiking 16 miles in Keens also managed to chafe both my feet so they were bleeding and definitely needed the breathing room.

Authorities

Union Falls and the Ousel Pool reside 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.

Grassy_Lake_Rd_17_004_08122017 - You know you're getting an early start when you see the sun rise.  This was from the Grassy Lake Road as I was driving towards the Union Falls Trailhead
Grassy_Lake_Rd_17_008_08122017 - Looking at the surface of the Grassy Lake Road
Grassy_Lake_Rd_17_013_08122017 - Looking over the dam holding up Grassy Lake Reservoir
Union_Falls_002_08122017 - On the steep and rough road descending from the Grassy Lake Reservoir towards the Union Falls Trailhead on my August 2017 visit
Union_Falls_006_08122017 - Crossing over the spillway creek beneath the Grassy Lake Dam at the start of the Union Falls hike
Union_Falls_008_08122017 - Entering the Bechler Region of Yellowstone National Park early on in the Union Falls hike
Union_Falls_011_08122017 - The early part of the Union Falls hike traversed this wooded trail as it gradually descended to the Fall River on my August 2017 visit
Union_Falls_013_08122017 - The Union Falls Trail continued passing through the forested terrain of the first mile of the Union Falls Trail
Union_Falls_021_08122017 - Berries growing along the Union Falls Trail so I knew that bears would forage around this area
Union_Falls_025_08122017 - Looking towards the Fall River as the Union Falls Trail descended towards a spot where I'd have to cross it
Union_Falls_034_08122017 - One guy from the hiking group that did the Union Falls Trail at the same time as me took the lead as he was the tallest of the bunch. Thus, he was better able to scout out the easiest or most shallow approach to the other side of the Fall River
Union_Falls_043_08122017 - Beyond the Fall River Ford, the Mountain Ash Creek Trail made a brief climb
Union_Falls_049_08122017 - Towards the top of the climb, the scenery turned to lightly wooded forest, which was somewhat helpful in that I had more visibility in case of the odd bear encounter on the Union Falls hike
Union_Falls_054_08122017 - These backpackers were the first people besides the hiking group fording the Falls River with me that I saw on the Union Falls Trail during our August 2017 visit
Union_Falls_061_08122017 - The Mountain Ash Creek Trail then began a pretty lengthy 600ft descent towards Proposition Creek, which revealed some distant plateau scenery and forest at the top before disappearing back into the thickness of the forest
Union_Falls_063_08122017 - I noticed this pair of mating chipmunks during my Union Falls hike in August 2017 visit. You never know what you might find in Nature
Union_Falls_074_08122017 - This was the crossing of Proposition Creek, which was very cold. At least it was only ankle deep and was nowhere near as intimidating as the Falls River Ford
Union_Falls_081_08122017 - Beyond Proposition Creek, the Mountain Ash Creek Trail to Union Falls descended through an extensive patch of low-lying shrubs full of wildflowers and berries (as well as mosquitos)
Union_Falls_094_08122017 - This ominous sign along the Union Falls hike warned of the likelihood of encountering bear, further reinforcing the need to be aware of the surroundings and make as much noise as possible
Union_Falls_095_08122017 - If not for this sign, I very easily could have missed the footbridge traversing Mountain Ash Creek and wade through its creek
Union_Falls_284_08122017 - Looking back towards the bridge traversing Mountain Ash Creek so I didn't need to wade through it
Union_Falls_102_08122017 - This was the Union Falls Ranger Station, which I saw along the way on the Mountain Ash Creek stretch of the hike
Union_Falls_108_08122017 - Looking back from the Union Falls hike towards a part of the forest thick with tall grass and shrubs, which was probably a prime area for bears to forage around
Union_Falls_110_08122017 - Following along the sandy part of the Union Falls hike, which was pounded by stock
Union_Falls_111_08122017 - When I first arrived at this corral at the fork between the Ouzel Pool Trail and the Union Falls Trail, there were no horses yet on my August 2017 visit
Union_Falls_113_08122017 - The spur trail leading the final quarter-mile or so to Union Falls on my August 2017 hike
Union_Falls_117_08122017 - The narrow ascending trail leading up to Union Falls
Union_Falls_122_08122017 - Finally arriving at the Union Falls lookout during my August 2017 visit
Union_Falls_135_08122017 - Portrait view from the overlook for Union Falls in August 2017
Union_Falls_157_08122017 - The late morning sun starting to break through the haze and shine on Union Falls on my August 2017 visit
Union_Falls_160_08122017 - Looking towards Union Falls again with some soft glow from the late morning sun during my August 2017 visit
Union_Falls_162_08122017 - Context of some people descending to the bottom of Union Falls during my August 2017 visit
Union_Falls_169_08122017 - Context of the folks getting further down the ravine in front of Union Falls during my August 2017 visit
Union_Falls_178_08122017 - Context of the folks who went to the bottom of Union Falls getting sprayed in its mist during my August 2017 visit
Union_Falls_197_08122017 - A trio of folks already enjoying the Ouzel Pool when I first showed up during my August 2017 visit
Union_Falls_219_08122017 - One guy did a backflip into the plunge pool before the Ouzel Pool Waterfall on my August 2017 visit
Ousel_Pool_003_iPhone_08122017 - It was quite the fun and festive scene at the Ouzel Pool during my August 2017 visit, especially when the group that went to the bottom of the Union Falls showed up
Union_Falls_250_08122017 - Back at the Union Falls lookout in afternoon light during my August 2017 visit
Union_Falls_267_08122017 - Portrait view of the Union Falls in the early afternoon light during my August 2017 visit
Union_Falls_277_08122017 - If you look very carefully in this picture, there was a white dot on the lower left just behind or next to Union Falls' base. That was a person, which gave you an idea of how large this waterfall was!
Union_Falls_285_08122017 - Hiking back alongside Mountain Ash Creek on the return hike from Union Falls during my August 2017 visit
Union_Falls_300_08122017 - On the long and strenuous 600ft ascent after crossing back over Proposition Creek to ascend the Pitchstone Plateau during my return hike from Union Falls in August 2017
Union_Falls_303_08122017 - About to catch up to the group that started their return hike from Union Falls sooner than I did during my August 2017 visit. They were really struggling on the long uphill part around Proposition Creek
Union_Falls_324_08122017 - Back at the crossing of the Fall River on the return hike from Union Falls during my August 2017 visit
Union_Falls_335_08122017 - Looking back at some rapids and cascades on the Fall River, which underscored how swiftly the river was moving at the ford as seen during my August 2017 hike
Union_Falls_339_08122017 - The final ascent beyond the Fall River and back up to the Grassy Lake Trailhead near the end of my August 2017 adventure to Union Falls
Union_Falls_344_08122017 - Ironically, this spillway was a welcome sight as it meant I had returned to the Grassy Lake Trailhead and I could finally take off the Keens that had chafed my feet to the point it was bleeding and stinging on my Union Falls adventure in August 2017
Union_Falls_346_08122017 - Back at the Union Falls Trailhead parking lot to end my August 2017 adventure
Union_Falls_354_08122017 - The adventure wasn't over yet as I still had to drive up this rugged road to regain the Grassy Lake Road on my August 2017 visit. The key for me was to gain enough momentum to keep going uphill and keep that momentum or else I'd lose traction and have to back up and start again
Grassy_Lake_Rd_17_017_08122017 - Looking across this meadow on the Grassy Lake Road as I was returning to Flagg Ranch to end this long Union Falls day in August 2017
Grassy_Lake_Rd_17_026_08122017 - On the home stretch along the Grassy Lake Road as I was headed back to Flagg Ranch to rejoin Julie and Tahia for dinner and end the Union Falls adventure in August 2017
Bechler_030_06202004 - Back in June 2004, Julie and I made an attempt to hike to Union Falls. This was us going past one of the signs near the trailhead
Bechler_035_06202004 - This was what the Fall River crossing looked like when we first attempted the Union Falls hike back in June 2004
Bechler_036_06202004 - We were trying to evaluate where would be the best spots to cross the Fall River during our first Union Falls attempt back in June 2004
Bechler_039_06202004 - Looking back at the spillway beneath the Grassy Lake rubble dam after aborting our Union Falls attempt in June 2004

join-booking-970x240-1.jpg


The Grassy Lake Trailhead for Union Falls was at the base of the Grassy Lake Reservoir.

This was about 11 miles (about 45-60 minutes drive) west of Flagg Ranch along the unpaved Grassy Lake Road (it became unpaved after the bridge over Polecat Creek).

Grassy_Lake_Rd_17_005_08122017 - On the fairly extensive drive along the unpaved Grassy Lake Road west of Flagg Ranch
On the fairly extensive drive along the unpaved Grassy Lake Road west of Flagg Ranch

The road had a few rough patches with potholes and some water-damaged ruts, but it was otherwise doable by passenger vehicles.

Once the road descended to the Grassy Lake Reservoir, that was where there was a spur road to the right just before crossing the dam.

That road was very rough and steep, and a high clearance vehicle would definitely be necessary there.

So if you have a car that can’t handle it, then it would be best to park off to the side at the top of that road.

Union_Falls_003_08122017 - The trailhead parking for the Union Falls hike beneath the Grassy Lake Reservoir
The trailhead parking for the Union Falls hike beneath the Grassy Lake Reservoir

Then, you can walk the quarter-mile to the parking area and trailhead below.

For some context, Flagg Ranch was about 2.5 miles south of the South Entrance to Yellowstone National Park, 55 miles (75 minutes drive) north of Jackson, and 72 miles (under 2 hours drive) southeast of West Yellowstone, Montana.

While Flagg Ranch was also a mere 48 miles (over 2 hours drive) east of Ashton, Idaho, it was on the Grassy Lake Road (also called the Reclamation Road).

This road was said to be pretty rough the closer to the Idaho border you go, but I’ve never taken the Grassy Lake Road that far before so I can’t say much more about the road conditions.

Grassy_Lake_Rd_17_014_08122017 - At the top of the last quarter-mile descent from the Grassy Lake Reservoir down to the Union Falls Trailhead
At the top of the last quarter-mile descent from the Grassy Lake Reservoir down to the Union Falls Trailhead

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, 108 miles (under 2 hours drive) north of Idaho Falls, Idaho, and 321 miles (about 4.5 hours drive) north of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Checking out the falls from a lower vantage point near the start of the dicey part of the scramble showing that other people made it down to the base


360 degree sweep at the Ousel Pool before scrambling back for a more contextual look


Showing the Falls River crossing in the morning


Fully checking out the falls from the lookout just as someone was scrambling to its base at the end

Tagged with: yellowstone, yellowstone national park, grassy lake, grassy lake reservoir, falls river, falls river ford, falls river crossing, mountain ash creek, ouzel pool, stock, wyoming, waterfall, bechler, cascade corner, fall river, fall river ford



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Have You Been To Union Falls? November 5, 2008 3:11 am by John F. Barton - Have you seen Union Falls in the southeast part of Yellowstone? Height is 260 ft. ...Read More

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