The southwest section of Yellowstone is known as Cascade Corner, a reference to its many tall waterfalls; more than half of the park’s falls are here. This scenic and wild country escaped the fires of 1988 and is popular with anglers.
Primary access is from either the Bechler Ranger Station (pronounced BECK-ler) or the Cave Falls Trailhead, both of which are well off the beaten path and must be reached via Cave Falls Road from the Idaho side. It’s 22 miles in from Ashton, Idaho, the last 10 on a gravel road.
As an alternative, Grassy Lake Road provides a narrow and rough gravel connection to Cave Falls Road. Grassy Lake Road begins at Flagg Ranch Resort near Yellowstone’s South Entrance; see a good map for the exact route.
All hikers must register at the Bechler Ranger Station, even if they are heading out from Cave Falls Trailhead, three miles farther down the road. Cave Falls is a wide but not particularly tall drop along the Falls River. It’s named for a cave on the west end of the waterfall. The Forest Service’s Cave Falls Campground ($10) is open June-September.
A spiderweb of trails cuts across the Bechler country, leading to many waterfalls and past several hot springs. One popular hike goes from Bechler Ranger Station to the Old Faithful area, a distance of 30 miles; it’s downhill much of the way if you hike it in reverse by starting at Old Faithful.
From Bechler Ranger Station the trail cuts across expansive Bechler Meadows and then up narrow Bechler Canyon, passing Colonnade, Ouzel, and Iris Falls along the way. Many people stop overnight at Three River Junction to enjoy the hot springs-warmed water. Beyond this point, the trail punches over the Continental Divide and then runs west of Shoshone Lake to Lone Star Geyser and the trailhead at Kepler Cascades.
It’s best to hike this route in August or September after the Bechler River drops enough to be more safely forded. This also allows time for the meadows to dry out a bit (watch out for leeches) and for the mosquitoes to quiet to a dull roar.
For the long trek between Bechler Ranger Station and Old Faithful you will need to set up some sort of vehicle shuttle, but shorter in-and-out loop trips can be created by reading the various Yellowstone hiking guides and studying topographic maps. Back Country Sports (208/652-3385) provides a shuttle service to the Bechler area from Ashton, Idaho.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Yellowstone & Grand Teton, 5th Edition