First photographed by William Henry Jackson in 1871, Tower Fall has captivated the imaginations of explorers, travelers and even legislators for more than 140 years. When Jackson and artist Thomas Moran returned from the Yellowstone area in 1871 and shared their photographs and paintings with Congress of Tower Fall, among others, they caused quite a stir. The beauty of the landscape led Congress to create Yellowstone National Park, the country’s and world’s first national park, in 1872.
Located in the northeastern part of Yellowstone near Tower Junction, the fall plunges a stunning 132 feet. The unusual rock columns north of the fall were created by lava flow the cracked as it cooled. And interestingly enough, up until 1986, visitors could see a large boulder perched on the edge of where the fall drops. It fell victim to gravity in June 1986, but if you see Jackson’s photo of the Tower Fall, you’ll spot the boulder.
While you can no longer hike to the bottom of the falls because of severe erosion, you can walk past the Tower Fall overlook for three-quarters of a mile to see Tower Creek flow into the Yellowstone River. Look for bighorn sheep, peregrine falcons, osprey, red-tailed hawks. Bears do visit the area, but black bears are more common than grizzlies.
In 2021, the park redesigned and constructed the trail that’s about 150 yards (137 m) of asphalt that leads to a view of Tower Fall. It varies from a 2-4 percent grade. There’s also designated accessible parking at the parking lot here. Thanks to the same 2021 construction project, the parking lot is much larger and safer than it was in years past.
See Tower Fall by driving 2.2 miles south of Tower-Roosevelt Junction between Tower-Roosevelt Junction and Canyon Village. The viewpoint is roughly 100 yards from parking area. Down the road from Tower Fall is the Roosevelt Lodge, which opened in 1920, 17 years after President Theodore Roosevelt camped in the area. It’s home to a collection of cabins where visitors can stay as well as the Roosevelt Lodge, a restaurant housed in a charming log-hewn cabin.