Bechler River Trail
ElevationAscent: 1,108' 338 m
Descent: -2,794' -852 m
High: 8,551' 2,606 m
Low: 6,219' 1,895 m
GradeAvg Grade: 3% (2°)
Max Grade: 22% (12°)
Current trail conditions
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“A classic Yellowstone backpacking trip -- if waterfalls are your thing, this one”— Tom Carter
The trail crosses Littles Fork and enters its lovely meadow at 5 mi, continues past Douglas Knob, and crosses the Gregg Fork at 7.2 miles. Thereafter, the short Twister Falls Trail (on right) leads to an overlook of the 55 ft falls (misplaced upstream on some maps). The trail continues along the Gregg 2 more miles, passes the Farris Fork Spur Trail (on left), crosses the Farris Fork, and reaches Three Rivers Junction at 9 miles.
Three Rivers is special! Here the Gregg, Farris, and Phillips forks join to form the Bechler River, named for Gustavus Bechler, chief topographer for the 1872 Hayden Survey. Little attention was paid to the park's southwest corner for the next 50 years. Then, in the face of attempts to dam the Bechler for irrigation, William Gregg explored the area and published articles describing its numerous waterfalls. There are 30 falls and cascades within 2 miles of Three Rivers, including 45-ft Ragged Falls, just up stream on the Farris Fork.
For 6.7 miles the trail follows the river through Bechler Canyon, passing Three Rivers Cabin Trail (at 9.7 mi), Treasure Island (at 13.5), 45-ft Iris Falls (at 13.6), stunning, two-tiered Colonnade Falls (35 ft & 67 ft; at 14 mi), before entering Bechler Meadows. Along the way youll cross numerous streams and twice ford the Bechler. By early August the Upper Ford (at 11 mi) is usually knee-deep but the Lower Ford (at 12.6 mi) may be hip-deep (look for a shallow course on the downstream side).
The trail passes Bechler Meadows Cutoff Trail (at 17.2 mi) and skirts the east side of this beautiful meadow, passes Mountain Ash Creek Trail (at 20.4), and makes its final knee-to-hip-deep ford of the Bechler at Rocky Ford (at 21.4). It then follows the Bechler (past Bechler Cuttoff Trail at 23.4) past 15-ft Bechler Falls and the Falls River confluence (at 25.4), and reaches 250-ft wide & 20-ft high Cave Falls at 25.2 miles. No need to take the last 1.2 mi along the road.
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone.
Local Club: Yellowstone Forever
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Land Manager: National Park Service - Yellowstone National Park