Tower Fall Trail Yellowstone National Park Wyoming Waterfall Hike

Tower Fall drops 132 feet down 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.

Tower Fall Yellowstone
Tower Fall

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.

Tower Fall Yellowstone
Tower Fall

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.

Yellowstone River Tower Fall Trail
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 turnout 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 (44° 53′ 30.86″N 110° 23′ 13.59″W)

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These photos were taken in August of 2011. Click to enlarge.
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Pebble Creek Trail Pebble Creek Trail
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Tagged with · National Parks · Waterfalls · Yellowstone River
Distance: 1 mile · Elevation change: 225 feet

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4 Comments on Tower Fall in Yellowstone National Park

  1. Kent in SD wrote:

    Have just returned from Yellowstone. I’m an avid outdoor photographer and considered this “half way” hike a waste of time. Hopefully they come up with a new way to get to the bottom. I was there 15 years ago and it was spectacular!

    • Rayce Anderson wrote:

      I know it’s illegal so don’t hate me but whenever we go I just hop over the fenced-off trail to go see the falls

  2. jerry wrote:

    Is there a cave or cavern behind the base of the falls at Tower Falls?