Tower Fall drops 132 feet from a cataract on Tower Creek just before the creek converges with the Yellowstone River. A hellish collection of towering volcanic spires surrounding the creek gives Tower Fall its name. There is an excellent view of Tower Fall from an easy-to-reach roadside overlook. A 1-mile round trip hike drops down to the Yellowstone River alongside Tower Creek and previously connected to a viewing platform at the base of the falls. Unfortunately, the last section of the trail was washed out by rock and mud slides in 2004, and the trail to the base of the waterfall remains closed.
To see Tower Fall, start from a large parking area on Grand Loop Road in the Tower-Roosevelt region of Yellowstone National Park. If you are in the need of a snack or some souvenirs, there is a Yellowstone General Store next to the trailhead. From the parking lot, walk a tenth of a mile to Tower Fall Overlook, where you will find a great head-on view of Tower Creek as it begins the 132-foot plunge.
A sign at the overlook explains how Tower Fall was formed:
Like many of Yellowstone’s waterfalls, Tower Fall began as a low ledge at the junction of two different bedrocks. Rock at the brink and underlying the fall is a tough, volcanic breccia; the weaker downstream rock erodes faster. Where Tower Creek drops into space, imagine the missing streambed—a channel of softer rock long since worn away. Just downstream from the base of the Fall, the Yellowstone River enters a narrow, swift-running gorge. Tower Creek cannot downcut fast enough to keep pace—and is left hanging high above the river.
Above the waterfall, Tower Creek passes through a jungle of orange volcanic spires that look like oversize-crocodile teeth. A view of the bottom of Tower Fall is obscured by the pine trees that grow beneath the overlook. If you are hoping to catch more views of Tower Fall by continuing down the open section of the trail, you will be disappointed. The trail does offer nice views down Yellowstone River as it descends 225 feet in 1/3 of a mile, but there are no views of Tower Fall beyond the overlook.
Looking up the Yellowstone River from the bottom of the trail
The final leg of the trail, which would have reached the base of Tower Fall is barricaded off, and there is no safe way to the bottom of the waterfall (as of 2012). A notice on the Yellowstone National Park website explains:
The final third of the trail running along the Tower Creek on it’s way to the lower viewing platform experienced rock and mud slides which caused the destruction of the lower viewing platform and a loss of structural integrity to several portions of the trail in this area. We were forced to close this section of the trail to protect our visitors. At present we are looking at solutions to these challenges as the hazardous conditions have gone beyond the realm of standard repair regimes.
Though the open section of Tower Fall Trail passes through a pleasant pine forest and is well maintained, the hike is steep and anti-climactic without the visit to the base of the falls. The best use of your time may be to spend five minutes walking to and from Tower Fall Overlook before moving on to other adventures in the park. No permit is required to hike Tower Fall Trail, but there is an entrance fee for Yellowstone National Park.
To get to the trailhead: Drive 2.4 miles south of Tower Junction on Grand Loop Road and pull in to the large parking area for Tower Fall on the east side of the road, 1.6 miles past the pullout for Calcite Springs Overlook. Coming from the south, drive 15.9 miles north of Canyon Junction to Tower Fall. The 32-site Tower Fall Campground is located on the opposite side of the road from the trailhead.
Trailhead address: Grand Loop Road, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
Trailhead coordinates: 44.891908, -110.38711
Use the map below to create your own directions:
|Calcite Springs Overlook|
This 0.25-mile loop overlooks a dramatic section of the Yellowstone River lined by bleached cliffs and steam venting hydrothermal springs.
|Inspiration Point on the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone|
This jutting point is one of the premier vistas along the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, reachable at the bottom of a flight of stairs from a parking area at the east end of North Rim Trail.
This easy 0.8-mile round trip hike climbs 100 feet to a ghostly 100-foot cascade.
|Mammoth Hot Springs|
This series of boardwalks explores a park highlight, a collection of colorful hot springs terraces.
This 1.25-mile round trip hike follows a riverbank to a natural hot tub where a stream of water cooked by nearby hydrothermal features mixes with the river.
|Pebble Creek Trail|
This 12-mile long trail travels down a beautiful backcountry meadow between Montana and Wyoming, bringing through hikers to a second trailhead (shorter out and back hikes are also possible without a car shuttle).
|More trails in Yellowstone|
Explore other hikes to waterfalls and hydrothermal hot spots in Yellowstone National Park.
|Yellowstone National Park Campgrounds|
There are 12 developed campgrounds with over 2,000 total sites spread throughout Yellowstone.