Passage Falls is a beautiful backcountry waterfall that’s accessible via hiking, trail running, mountain biking, and snowshoeing. The moderately short hike to the waterfall through the Absaroka Mountains is well worth it when you get to the waterfall that rushes over the mossy rocks and drops to the canyon floor.
A Guide to Passage Falls, Park County
Passage Falls Stats
- Location: Backcountry, Gallatin National Forest, Greater Yellowstone, Park County, Montana
- Latitude: 45.24155
- Longitude: -110.49693
- Stream: Passage Creek
- Elevation: 6520 feet
- Season: Year-round
- Campgrounds and RV parks nearby: 20+ campgrounds located within the park or nearby, with hundreds of sites available
Recreational Activities Near Passage Falls
Passage Falls is nestled within one of the most incredible naturally preserved areas in the United States and North America.
The mountain ranges offer hiking, climbing, wildlife viewing, and more, while the many lakes, rivers, streams, and waterfalls offer water sports, scenic photography, and fishing.
You’ll find dozens of trails for running, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and much more within the forest and nearby Yellowstone National Park.
Swimming in Passage Falls is not advised – nor is swimming in any waterfall in a natural setting. Waterfalls are dangerous, gushing water points that create intense undercurrents beneath the surface, which can sweep you away and cause severe harm.
Instead of trying to swim in Passage Falls, find some of the local swimming holes like Firehole Swim Area. Check the parks service page for current information on Boiling River Swim Area and others to verify that they are currently accessible for swimming.
You’ll find a number of enjoyable boating opportunities throughout Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas. Rent canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, and others within and without the park boundaries, or bring your own, if you’ve got a rack.
You’ll also find boat tours available throughout the area, with many trip types available.
- Yellowstone National Park Lodges
- Kirkwood Marina
- Geyser Kayak Tours
- Madison Arm Resort
- Shurr Adventures
If you’re not on a trip with a guide, be sure to pay attention to boating restrictions. Some bodies of water do not permit motorized boats under any circumstances.
White Water Rafting
If a gentle paddle along a creek in the park isn’t bold enough for you, you’ll be glad to know there are plenty of white water rafting options in and around the nation’s first national park, as well.
Many rafting companies offer great packages that range from a single-hour trip (great for newbies) to several day trips with portage, camping, and meals included.
Be sure to review the various add-ons and trip lengths to ensure you find the right one for you and your crew.
Birdwatching and Wildlife Viewing
In and around Yellowstone National Park, you’ll find an incredible amount of intriguing wildlife roaming the trails, the meadows, and the forests.
You’ll likely also spot some incredible birds along the way, as you hike and bike, run and boat your way through the region. Some of the most likely creatures you’ll spot include:
- Black bears
- Canada Lynx
- Grey wolves
- Grizzly bears
- Long-tailed weasels
- Red Foxes
- River otters
- Short-tailed weasels
- Bighorn sheep
- Mountain goats
- Mule deer
- White tailed deer
- Ground squirrels
- Montane voles
- Pocket gophers
- Red squirrels
- Uinta ground squirrels
- Yellow-bellied marmots
- Snowshoe hares
- Common loons
- American dippers
- Sandhill cranes
This whole region of Montana is a photographer’s paradise. From the immense beauty of the mountains with their sparkling snow-capped peaks to the gurgling streams passing along through the valleys, every corner is filled with incredible sights worthy of snapping a shot.
If you love photography, you’ll find plenty to shoot here. Just remember to bring full batteries, memory cards, and some way to recharge.
Fishing is a popular activity throughout Gallatin National Forest and the surrounding regions. With trout, salmon, and others all around, there’s plenty to fish for, whatever your skill level.
The easiest way to find the best fishing spots is to hire a local guide. Some of the companies that provide partial, full, and multi-day fishing trips include
The Trail Run Project and All Trails have put together some fantastic lists of trails in the Gallatin Gateway for your running pleasure. Additionally, you’ll find more amazing trails in nearby Yellowstone National Park, via All Trails, The Trail Run Project, and Great Runs.
Museums and Educational Programs
Montana’s incredibly rich history is full of intriguing personalities, textures, and unique stories, from the First Nations peoples as well as early settlers, artists, and beyond. To enjoy the unique landscape of culture, consider visiting some of the local museums and galleries.
Some of the most beloved museums and galleries in the area include
- American Computer and Robotics Museum
- Gallatin Historical Society and Pioneer Museum
- Montana Science Center
- Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center
- Museum of the National Park Ranger
- Gallatin History Museum
- Museum of Yellowstone
- Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center
- Yellowstone Wild Galleries
- Parks Reece Gallery
- Elk River Art
- Buffalo Bill Center of the West
- The National Museum of Wildlife Art
- Crail Ranch Homestead Museum
- Museum of the Rockies
- Yellowstone Gateway Museum
- Yellowstone Art Museum
- Yellowstone County Museum
Horseback riding is one of the most popular adventures to be had in the Gallatin Gateway region, Yellowstone, and surrounding areas.
There are many different trail ride lengths and types, including one-hour, several-hour, overnight, and multi-day rides.
Some of the best companies include
- Paradise Rafting Outfitters
- Yellowstone National Park Lodges
- The Diamond P Ranch
- Yellowstone Roughriders
- Yellowstone Mountain Guides
- Hells A-Roarin’ Outfitters
- Wilderness Pack Trips
- Flying Pig Adventures
- Rockin’ HK Outfitters
- Horsetrack Outfitters
Campsites are available all throughout the Yellowstone and Gallatin region of Montana. From backcountry camping where sites are undesignated, to fully set up RV hookup sites, you’ll find a site right for your needs.
The only potential challenge is that many sites book up quickly, so it’s important to reserve spots or arrive early when reservations aren’t taken.
Remember that you must have a backcountry camping permit for pitching a tent in backcountry terrain. Also, camping is only recommended from May to October, unless you’re equipped with proper cold weather gear.
Hotels and Cabin Rentals
For those who don’t want to camp, there are many cabins, lodges, hotels, and motels in the area, in a range of budget options.
- Lake Front Log Home on Henry’s Lake
- Rand Creek Ranch
- Faithful St. Inn
- West Fork Cabin Camp
- Yellowstone National Park Cabin Rentals
- Big Moose Resort
- City Center Motel
- Clubhouse Inn
- Yellowstone Lodge
- Yellowstone West Gate Hotel
- Key Inn West Yellowstone
- Stagecoach Inn
There are two trails that basically intersect at Passage Falls, both coming from the north, with one heading on past the falls to Mount Wallace.
Each trail is a bit different and offers unique views and aspects of the wilderness area of the Gallatin National Forest.
The shorter, out and back trail known Passage Falls Trail is a lovely 5.1 mile hike that’s generally considered a moderately challenging trail for non-regulars of the altitude and area.
For locals and regular mountain hikers, it’s considered a fairly easy hike. Some hikers give some fairly detailed descriptions on their trail project websites, but for the most part, your All Trails app will give you enough information on Passage Falls Trail.
The trail is located near Livingston, Montana, and takes most folks a little over 2 hours to complete. Many do continue on past the trail and join up with Wallace Pass Trail, as well, for a different hike southward.
The trail is great for trail runners and hikers, mountain biking, snowshoeing, and similar sports. The trail is mostly quiet, so you won’t run into a lot of folks while out there. And do feel free to bring along your pups – as long as they’re on leashes.
- Distance: 5.1 miles
- Elevation Gain: 623 feet
- Difficulty Level: Easy to moderately challenging
- Trail Type: Out and back
There’s not much information out there about Wallace Pass Trail, though it has been ranked as #54 in the Gallatin National Forest.
The trail is ranked as challenging (which may be part of why folks don’t know as much about it). Ultimately, the trail leads to Wallace Mountain, a fairly hefty hike, leading upward to the mountain peak.
- Distance: 7.5 miles
- Elevation Gain: Unknown
- Difficulty Level: Challenging
- Trail Type: Point to point