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By Ruffin Prevost
Cave Falls in the southwestern corner of Yellowstone National Park is only about 20 feet tall, but what it lacks in height, it makes up for in width. At 250 feet wide, there is no wider waterfall in the park, and it’s a short and easy hike from the parking area to view Cave Falls.
The Bechler area of Yellowstone is a remote section that most folks have never heard of, much less visited. Unlike the five major entrances to the park, the vehicle entrance at Bechler gets you just inside Yellowstone’s boundaries, but not much further.
In fact, if you want to explore Cascade Corner, as this part of Yellowstone is called, you’ll have to do it on foot or on horseback. Visitors to this area love it for its abundant waterfalls and because it’s less crowded than sections of the park that are closer to the major roads and developed areas.
If you’re driving to Yellowstone from Interstate 15 and the Idaho Falls area, you can make a side-trip to Bechler and take a quick and easy walk to view Cave Falls. It’s about 25 miles east from Ashton, Idaho along Highway 47. In the winter, the road from Ashton is closed to cars, but you can visit via snowmobile.
The Bechler Ranger Station, just a few miles from Cave Falls, was built in 1911 by the U.S. Army and used by soldiers who protected the park’s wildlife and resources until the National Park Service was established in 1916. The buildings haven’t changed much over the past century, but you’ll see a large solar array there now that provides electric power to the rangers who work at Bechler.
You will have to pay the standard entrance fee or have a park pass when entering at Bechler. Though there isn’t the same kind of entry kiosk you’ll find at the five major park gates, you should be prepared to pay your fees or show a pass if you encounter park staff members.
The parking area for Cave Falls is just downstream from the falls, and it’s a short hike up the river to view the falls. The trail follows the western shore of the river and offers views of the falls from an overlook.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can check out the cave just below Cave Falls for which the feature is named. It’s about 20 feet tall and 100 feet wide, but be prepared to get your feet wet as you explore the cave and the other low-lying trails that wind around the river.
Bechler is a popular spot for backcountry hikers and horseback riders, and the area’s rivers are popular with anglers, including the waters just below Cave Falls. Permits are required for overnight backcountry trips and fishing, and are available at the Bechler Ranger Station.
While Bechler is out of the way and takes a little time to reach, it’s worth the trip. You’ll get to see a corner of the park that many longtime greater Yellowstone area residents never visit. And if you’re into waterfalls, it’s a great place to start exploring the park’s largest concentration of gorgeous and inspiring falls.