The Wonders of Cave Falls in Yellowstone: An Ultimate Guide

Yellowstone National Park is a treasure trove for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers. This natural wonderland spans nearly 3,500 square miles, encompassing a diverse range of geothermal features, waterfalls, canyons, rivers, and lakes.

cave falls in yellowstone

Among its stunning sights, one of the most beautiful and lesser-known attractions is Cave Falls. Located in the remote Bechler region of the park, Cave Falls, Yellowstone is a dramatic waterfall cascading from a basalt cliff. It is a hidden gem that is often overlooked by visitors, but it is well worth the effort to explore.

The Geology of Cave Falls in Yellowstone Park

Cave Falls has a captivating history and geology that adds to its allure. The waterfall was carved by the Yellowstone River, which flowed over a volcanic bedrock, composed mainly of basalt, a common volcanic rock formed from the rapid cooling of lava. Over time, the erosive force of the river carved out a depression, giving birth to the waterfall we see today.

The significance of Cave Falls lies in its geological representation of Yellowstone’s volcanic past. The basalt layers that make up the cliff from which the waterfall descends date back to the Park’s intense volcanic activity millions of years ago. These layers provide physical evidence of the lava flows that once covered Yellowstone, adding to the scientific importance of this natural wonder.

What makes Cave Falls unique is its wide, low profile. Unlike most waterfalls, Cave Falls is wider than it is tall, stretching 250 feet across while only standing 20 feet high. This unusual dimension is due to the extensive lava flows that flattened the landscape, creating a broad waterfall rather than a tall, narrow one. This feature sets Cave Falls apart from other falls in the park, making it a must-visit spectacle for those intrigued by the geological complexity of Yellowstone.

How to Reach Cave Falls in Yellowstone

Getting to Cave Falls can be a bit of an adventure, but the journey is as rewarding as the destination itself.

  • Starting from Ashton, Idaho: This is the most straightforward route to Cave Falls. From Ashton, follow the ID-47 east and continue onto the Cave Falls Road. This will lead you directly to the waterfall. Please note that the last 26 miles of this route is a gravel road.
  • From Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park: If you’re already in Yellowstone, you can reach Cave Falls from Old Faithful. Follow the Grand Loop Road to Madison, then the West Entrance Road out of the park. After exiting the park, take US-20 East to Ashton, then follow the directions above.
  • From Jackson, Wyoming: If you’re coming from Jackson, take the US-26 West to Swan Valley, then turn onto ID-31. Follow this to Ashton, then continue as described in the Ashton route.
cave falls yellowstone

Top Things to Do at Cave Falls in Yellowstone

  • Hiking: The Cave Falls area offers several hiking trails for different skill levels. One of the popular trails is the Cave Falls Hike, a 2-mile round trip that provides stunning views of the waterfall and surrounding scenery. The trail is well-maintained and relatively flat, making it suitable for all ages.
  • Photography: As a hidden gem of Yellowstone, Cave Falls offers unique photographic opportunities. Capture the wide cascading waterfall against the backdrop of rugged cliffs, or focus on the intricate textures of the basalt rocks worn away by the river’s force.
  • Picnicking: There are a number of picnic tables spread across the area near the falls. This is an ideal spot to relax and enjoy a meal amidst the grandeur of nature after a long hike.
  • Bird Watching: The surrounding woodlands are home to a variety of bird species, making this area a paradise for bird enthusiasts. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars!
  • Exploring the Bechler Region: With Cave Falls as your starting point, you can explore the Bechler region, often referred to as the “Cascade Corner” of Yellowstone due to the high concentration of waterfalls.

Day Trip to Cave Falls, Yellowstone

If you’re planning just a day trip to Cave Falls, here’s a suggested itinerary to help you make the most of your visit.


  • Start your day early to maximize your time at the park.
  • Once you arrive at Cave Falls, take the time to soak in the majestic view of the waterfall cascading from the basalt cliff. Capture some photos of the wide waterfall against the rugged cliff backdrop.

Mid-Morning to Afternoon:

  • Embark on the Cave Falls Hike, a 2-mile round trip that offers stunning views of the waterfall and the surrounding landscape. Remember to pack a good pair of hiking shoes and plenty of water.
  • Enjoy a picnic lunch amidst the natural beauty near the falls. There are several picnic tables available, and the setting is perfect for a quiet, relaxing meal.


  • Spend the afternoon bird watching. The surrounding woodlands provide a habitat for a variety of bird species, a delight for bird enthusiasts.
  • If you have time, venture out to explore more of the Bechler region. Known as the “Cascade Corner” of Yellowstone, it boasts a high concentration of waterfalls that are within a reasonable distance.

Late Afternoon to Evening:

  • As the day concludes, find a comfortable spot to watch the sunset over Cave Falls. The golden hour provides a beautiful light for photography, and the quiet ambience makes it a perfect end to your day trip.
yellowstone park cave falls

Safety Tips for Visiting Cave Falls, Yellowstone

When planning your visit to Cave Falls, safety should be your top priority. Here are some tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

  • Navigating the Area: Always stay on designated trails to protect the environment and avoid the risk of getting lost. If you’re hiking, remember that the altitude can be challenging for some. Take it slow, drink plenty of water, and watch for signs of altitude sickness such as headaches or dizziness.
  • Wildlife Encounters: Yellowstone is home to a variety of wildlife. Maintain a safe distance from all animals. Never feed wildlife or attempt to touch them. If you encounter a bear, for example, avoid direct eye contact, back away slowly and speak in a calm voice.
  • Changing Weather Conditions: Yellowstone’s weather can change rapidly. Always check the forecast before you head out and be prepared for all weather conditions. Pack layers to adjust to changing temperatures, and don’t forget rain gear.
  • Emergency Situations: In case of emergency, contact a park ranger immediately. Keep important numbers saved in your phone or written down. Most importantly, always let someone know of your plans before heading out to explore.
  • Leave No Trace: Remember, take only pictures, leave only footprints. Pack out all your trash and respect the natural environment to preserve it for future generations.
yellowstone cave falls

Frequently Asked Questions about Cave Falls, Yellowstone

Is there an admission fee to visit Cave Falls?

The admission to Grotto Geyser falls under the entrance fee for Yellowstone National Park as follows:

  • Private, non-commercial vehicle: $35.00.
  • Motorcycle or snowmobile: $30.00 per vehicle.
  • Individuals entering by foot, bike, or ski: $20.00 per person.

Additionally, an annual pass, dubbed the “Yellowstone National Park Annual Pass”, is available for $70. It offers unlimited access to the park for one year from the date of purchase. Please note that these fees are subject to change.

Is Cave Falls accessible all year round?

Cave Falls is generally accessible from late spring to early fall. However, the access road may be closed or difficult to navigate during the winter months due to snow.

Is Cave Falls suitable for families with children?

Cave Falls is a family-friendly destination. The terrain is generally flat around the waterfall, and there are a number of picnic areas available.

Is swimming allowed at Cave Falls?

Swimming is not allowed at Cave Falls.

Final Thoughts

Cave Falls in Yellowstone National Park is a hidden treasure that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. This majestic waterfall and the surrounding area are a haven for adventure enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. It’s often overlooked by visitors, but it’s worth making the effort to explore. From the picturesque trails to the crystal-clear rivers and the stunning scenery and abundant wildlife, Cave Falls has much to offer. So what are you waiting for? Invite your friends and family then pack your bags, and plan a great outdoor adventure to Cave Falls in Yellowstone.

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