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Knowles Falls, Park County

Knowles Falls is situated within Yellowstone National Park, along the Yellowstone River Trail. The falls are located in the “Ash Mountain” quadrant of the park and can be accessed via hiking along the famous trail while you’re within the park’s bounds.

The trail is suitable for families with some hiking experience (ideally, kids 10-plus in age only!), groups, or hiking duos. The moderately challenging hike is suitable for backpackers and long-day hikers only, as the trail is more than 15 miles long.

Knowles Falls, Park County

knowles falls stats
Image: Laura Scudder

Knowles Falls Stats

There aren’t many photos or much information on the web for Knowles Falls, but hikers have commented on their blogs that the trail to get there is beautiful, full of wildlife, wildflowers, and beautiful scenery, as well as amazing campsites.

  • Location: West Yellowstone National Park, Park County, Montana
  • Latitude: 0120128
  • Longitude: -110.594602
  • Stream: Yellowstone River
  • Height: Unknown
  • Season: Late spring to early autumn
  • Campgrounds and RV parks nearby: Dozens within park boundaries and nearby in Jardine and Gardiner areas
  • Backcountry campsites: 293 designated sites

Recreational Activities Knowles Falls

There are plenty of things to do at Knowles Falls, from camping along the way in backcountry campsites to hiking, horseback riding, white water rafting, and birdwatching.

Swimming

swimming

If you’re wondering “can you swim in Knowles Falls?” the answer is unclear. Hikers have not reported swimming here specifically, but it is likely that some have.

The parks service page states that the Boiling River Swim Area (temporarily closed) and Firehole Swim Area are the only permissible swimming locations within Yellowstone NP.

It is never recommended that you swim in a waterfall due to the intense undercurrent that can sweep you away. Instead, it’s better to swim in milder rivers, streams, and lakes in the area, and obey all restrictions of the park and surrounding locations.

Boating

Yellowstone offers many boating opportunities throughout the park. The park itself has vendors within the boundaries with rentals, or you may bring your own in, or rent from a local outfitter. Boating tours are available from many companies, as well.

Some of the popular rental companies in the area include

Beware of boating restrictions, such as which locales welcome motorized boats versus which ones do not.

White Water Rafting

white water rafting

Of course, another form of boating that’s incredibly popular in the Yellowstone area is whitewater rafting. There are many companies who welcome visitors with tours throughout the park and nearby.

Birdwatching and Wildlife Viewing

One of the most popular things to do in Yellowstone is catch glimpses of the wildlife that makes its home in the park. As you hike to Knowles Falls, you’re likely to spot at least a few of these creatures and birds along the way.

  • Badgers
  • Black bears
  • Bobcats
  • Canada Lynx
  • Cougars
  • Coyotes
  • Grey wolves
  • Grizzly bears
  • Long-tailed weasels
  • Martens
  • Red Foxes
  • River otters
  • Short-tailed weasels
  • Wolverines
  • Bison
  • Bighorn sheep
  • Moose
  • Elk
  • Mountain goats
  • Mule deer
  • Pronghorn
  • White tailed deer
  • Beavers
  • Ground squirrels
  • Chipmunks
  • Montane voles
  • Pocket gophers
  • Red squirrels
  • Uinta ground squirrels
  • Yellow-bellied marmots
  • Pikas
  • Snowshoe hares
  • Jackrabbits
  • Bats
  • Owls
  • Eagles
  • Ospreys
  • Falcons
  • Common loons
  • Woodpeckers
  • Chickadees
  • Pelicans
  • Ibis
  • Cormorants
  • Ducks
  • Geese
  • Swans
  • Nuthatches
  • American dippers
  • Ravens
  • Sandhill cranes
  • Coots
  • Frogs
  • Toads
  • Salamanders
  • Snakes
  • Lizards

Scenic Drives

Yellowstone is one of the most beautiful, scenic parks in the nation, with some of the easiest pullover access for viewing incredible vistas and stunning sites.

Enjoy the park via car ride along the roads or book a tour with one of the local companies, such as Mountain Mike’s Tours and Yellowstone Scenic Tours.

Photography

Knowles Falls and the hike there promise some lovely scenic moments for your photography. The entire Yellowstone National Park is equally scenic and offers many vistas and stunning shots.

Be sure to bring your camera along for the hike and be ready to snag photos of the critters you meet along the way, as well as the lovely lakes, rivers, and meadows out there.

Fishing

Fishing is a popular activity in Yellowstone National Park. Knowles Falls probably isn’t the greatest spot for fishing itself, but nearby bodies of water are plentiful with Arctic Grayling, Mountain Whitefish, West Slope Cutthroat Trout, and others.

You may want to book a fishing guide while you’re in the area, however, to ensure you find the best fishing spots and know all the ins and outs of fishing permits and which fish you can legally keep or not. Some companies include

Trail Running

trail running

Many of the trails in Yellowstone National Park are ideal for a good trail run early morning or evening as the world cools off. Be prepared with plenty of water, snacks, and supplies, as well as GPS monitoring to ensure your safety.

Check out All Trails, The Trail Run Project, and Great Runs to find the best trails to run in the national park.

Museums and Educational Programs

At Yellowstone, you’ll find many educational programs and museums, both on-site and nearby. In the park, ranger-led programs abound with tours and guided walks, and more.

Check their website to learn more about the specific programs you and the family would enjoy. At Yellowstone, you’ll also find the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center and the Museum of the National Park Ranger.

Near Yellowstone, you’ll find many galleries and museums, including

Horseback Riding

Horseback riding through Yellowstone is an extremely popular activity for folks of all ages. Many of the outfitting companies in the area have special trail access, as well as rentals, and guided tours at various locations around the park.

Some of the best companies include

Camping

Camping is available aplenty in Yellowstone, though there are some restrictions and things to be aware of. For one, you must have a backcountry camping permit to hike out and pitch a tent on the way anywhere in Yellowstone.

Additionally, camping is only recommended from May to October, unless you’re equipped with proper cold weather gear.

There are dozens of campgrounds located in and around Yellowstone, with hundreds of sites available. Be sure to choose ahead and book your sites before heading over, though, as the sites fill fast.

Hotels and Cabin Rentals

Because Yellowstone is such a popular tourist destination, there are many hotels and rental cabins nearby. Compare locations with your ideal activity locations, though, before booking, as there are many Yellowstone entrances and hotels near each, and these may be farther than you want to head each night after your adventures.

Some of the most popular accommodations in and around Yellowstone are

Trail Routes

There is one primary route to reach Knowles Falls. The trail begins at Blacktail Deer Creek Trail which adjoins it, or you can head out from Eagle Creek Campground.

Blacktail Deer Creek Trail to Knowles Falls

blacktail deer creek trail

The Blacktail Deer Creek Trail is a point-to-point trail of 8.2 miles, leading past Knowles Falls.

Along the trail, you’ll see meadows as you climb your way toward the beautiful waterfall. The trail starts climbing half a mile from the road (there’s parking there), passing fenced-in areas which are elk enclosures.

For two miles, you’re met with the beautiful meadows filled with wildflowers all summer, then you join the Blacktail Deer Creek, going down about 800 feet to the bottom of the Black Canyon of Yellowstone.

There will be a small waterfall a few yards off the trail, and farther on a unique rock wall opposite the creek, which is a columnar basalt, which forms from the cooling of lava flows.

Eventually, you’ll come to a steel suspension bridge, which you’ll cross, and join the Yellowstone River Trail. Shortly after joining the trail, you’ll reach Crevice Lake. Finally, at the 5.5 mile marker, you’ll reach Knowles Falls.

  • Distance: 8.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1410 feet
  • Difficulty level: Challenging
  • Trail type: Out and back

Yellowstone River Trail from Eagle Creek Campground

Perhaps the most well-known trail leading to Knowles Falls is the Yellowstone River Trail heading out from Eagle Creek Campgrounds. For a sneak peek of the hike, check out this YouTube video from Stan Mills.

The trail is popular for hikers but it’s not overly populated most hours of the day. You’ll likely find others out with you during peak hours, but the rest of the time, you’ll have peace and quiet.

Remember to leave your pooch at home before you head out, as dogs are not permitted on the trail.

  • Distance: 15.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1765 feet
  • Difficulty level: Challenging
  • Trail type: Point to point

Hellroaring Trailhead to Eagle Creek Campgrounds

hellroaring trailhead

The other most popular way to reach Knowles Falls is via Hellroaring Trailhead to Eagle Creek Campgrounds near Jardine.

This is probably the calmest and least challenging option and works for families with kids 10+. The updated trail isn’t on all the maps yet, but it’s fairly easy to find. Walk past Bear Creek for several minutes until you find a trail sign that points uphill.

After a few miles, you’ll pass a Forest Service campground (parking available!) Follow the river to avoid getting lost.

You’ll pass through Black Canyon on the hike and generally find the trail moderately quiet, though it is popular with many hikers looking for an easier hike.

  • Distance: 2.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 626 feet
  • Difficulty level: Moderately challenging
  • Trail type: Out and back

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