Two amazing hikes starting at the Bechler Ranger Station.
By Chad J. Allen, of TRR Outfitters
When someone mentions the word “Yellowstone” it brings up many connotations of Old Faithful, Bison, fly-fishing, and many other fun things to do and places to see in Yellowstone National Park, the oldest national park in America. Yellowstone’s Cascade Corner is in the southwest corner of Yellowstone and home to some of the tallest waterfalls, open meadows, and some breathtaking vistas in the park.
Accessing the Yellowstone’s Cascade Corner is through the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway (Hwy 47) from Ashton, Idaho. The lodge at Three Rivers Ranch in Warm River, Idaho is only about 20 miles to the Bechler Ranger Station. After reaching the station, there are many trails to take. This will explore the hike into the Bechler Meadows, Bechler Canyon, and Dunanda Falls. Planning in advance is necessary, (use a day hike or overnight hike checklist as a guide).
Heading north on the Bechler Meadows Trail, you will wind through a lodge pole pine forest for just over 3.2 miles. You will cross the footbridge over the Boundary Creek, and there you are. The Bechler meadows are vast and open flat grassland that is home to the slow moving Bechler River and Boundary Creek. Both are worth fishing at some point in your life! Towering in the distance is the Teton Mountain Range. In the spring (around June), the meadows are under about ankle to thigh-high deep water. If you are not afraid of water, birds are plentiful, but so are the mosquitoes. Peak season, depending on the how much snow accumulates in the winter, is mid-to-late July through September.
If you choose to camp overnight in or around the meadows, you have a couple of choices. The closest campsite to Bechler Ranger Station off of the Bechler Meadows trail is 9B1, Lower Boundary Creek. The next would be 9B2, Bechler Ford (no campfires).
Iris Falls, Colonnade Falls, & the Bechler Canyon up to Old Faithful
If you continue on the Bechler Meadows Trail, you will cross the Bechler River and enter the Bechler Canyon. The Bechler River is a tributary of Fall River; through the canyon, the rhyolite base creates spectacular views and fishing. Towering Douglas-fir trees surround you, and you can also enjoy huckleberries along the trail around August. In the distance, you will see Ouzel falls, a magnificent 230-foot waterfall that is part of Ouzel creek. You can camp at campsite 9B4, Ouzel Falls (1-night limit). Just up the trail is Colonnade Falls; the upper falls (35 feet) and the lower (67 feet). The best view is from a short trail just downriver from the lower falls. Campsite 9B5 is about 9 miles from the Bechler Ranger Station and also has a 1-night limit.
A short hike from Colonnade Falls is Iris Falls, a 45 feet drop. Iris is crucial for anglers; above the falls, you will only catch the Yellowstone Cutthroat. Above Iris, there are many campsites available:
- 9B6 – Lower Ford (1 night limit)
- 9B7 – Talus Spring (1 night limit)
- 9B8 – Upper Ford (1 night limit)
- 9B9 – Albright Falls (2 night limit, no campfires)
- 9D1 – Ferris Fork (1 night limit, no campfires)
- 9D2 – Gregg Fork (1 night limit)
- 9D3 – Douglas Knob Meadow (1 night limit, no campfires)
If you are hiking anywhere above 9D3, you can continue on to the Lone Star trailhead (OK1). The entire hike from Lone Star (OK1) to the Bechler Ranger Station is just over 30 miles.
Dunanda Falls & Silver Scarf
Another alternative to the Bechler Canyon Hike is going up Boundary Creek. Fishing is excellent from the confluence of the Bechler River up through the meadows. There are plenty of smaller rainbows, cutthroat, and hybrids or cutt-bow trout. Some prefer the Boundary Creek to the Bechler; however, many Three Rivers Ranch guides colorfully disagree.
There are two routes to Dunanda Falls & Silver Scarf Falls. The main route is starting at the Bechler Meadows Trail, then take Boundary Creek Trail up to Dunanda Falls. The alternate route is to continue up the Bechler Meadows Trail to the Bechler Meadows Cutoff Trail. You will reach Boundary Creek Trail, then head north up to Dunanda Falls. The alternate route is a bit longer, but you will spend a little more time in Bechler Meadows.
After passing the cutoff trail, the view opens due to the remains of the 1995 Bechler / Robinson Creek Fire, which burned roughly 8000 acres. You will hike up a few hundred feet to an elevation of about 6600 feet to Dunanda Falls.
There are a few exceptional campsites along the Boundary Creek Trail. The closest campsite to the Bechler Ranger Station is 9A1, Boundary Creek Meadows. A few miles up the trail from 9A1, is campsite 9A2, Upper Boundary Creek. Campsite 9A3, Dunanda Falls is the closest to both Silver Scarf and Dunanda Falls. The furthest away is 9A4, Talus Terrace but also a terrific option.
Dunanda Falls was ‘discovered’ by explorer W.C. Gregg in 1920. The word “Dunanda” is a Shoshone Indian word meaning “straight down,” which make a 150-foot plunge (Rubinstein, 2000). Just a quarter mile downstream is Silver Scarf, which is on an unnamed tributary of Boundary Creek. Silver Scarf is a 250-foot cascade.
The Dunanda Campsite 9A3, beatiful views of the Teton Mountain Range in Yellowstone Park.
There are also many hot springs along Boundary Creek, some which are close to 9A3. Please do not enter any thermal feature in Yellowstone, it is illegal, and you could be boiled. However, you may swim or soak in a river where a “hot spring” channel enters the river. Use extreme caution before entering…
Planning and Preparing a hiking, fishing, and/or camping trip in Yellowstone
Hiking in the Yellowstone Backcountry is tremendously rewarding, exciting, and can create memories that last a lifetime. Your safety cannot be guaranteed; however, being aware of some of the dangers and through the proper preparations will make for a better backcountry experience. Finally, be respectful of the land, rivers, and wildlife. Always, read and fully abide by all the rules and regulations in Yellowstone National Park.
Additional Yellowstone Backcountry Information:
- Yellowstone National Park Website
- Beyond Roads End: Backcountry regulations and guidelines for backcountry travel in Yellowstone National Park
Rubinstein, P., & Whittlesey, L. H. (2000). The guide to Yellowstone waterfalls and their discovery. Englewood, Colo.: Westcliffe Publishers.