Guide to Knowles Falls: What to Do and See

Knowles Falls in Montana is an undiscovered treasure within the vast beauty of Yellowstone National Park. Tucked away in the “Ash Mountain” section, this natural wonder is a must-see for anyone who loves the great outdoors. Accessible via the Yellowstone River Trail, the journey to the falls offers an adventure through some of the most pristine wilderness in the park.

We’ll guide you through the different trails that lead to Knowles Falls, catering to various skill levels and preferences. We’ll also cover activities you can enjoy near the falls, from swimming and boating to camping and fishing.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to stand in front of a majestic waterfall, surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature? The journey to Knowles Falls promises just that. Let’s explore the paths that lead to this breathtaking destination and discover the best ways to make the most of your visit.

7 Key Takeaways on Knowles Falls

  1. Situated in the “Ash Mountain” section of Yellowstone National Park, Knowles Falls is accessible via the Yellowstone River Trail, offering a moderately challenging 15-mile hike.
  2. The trails to Knowles Falls cater to different skill levels, with options like the Blacktail Deer Creek Trail (8.2 miles) for a challenging, rewarding hike.
  3. Visitors can enjoy a range of activities, including swimming in designated areas, boating, white water rafting, fishing, and camping, making it a versatile destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
  4. Trails like the Yellowstone River Trailhead (15.5 miles) and Hellroaring Trailhead (2.1 miles) offer varying levels of difficulty, with the latter being a famous trail for families with kids aged 10 and up.
  5. While swimming at Knowles Falls is not advised due to potential dangers, there are safer water activities like boating and guided white water rafting available for a thrilling experience.
  6. Camping near Knowles Falls provides an immersive way to experience the area, with a variety of campgrounds and backcountry sites available, requiring permits for backcountry camping.
  7. For those looking for more comfort, there are various lodging options near Knowles Falls, ranging from cozy cabins to hotels, offering different experiences and amenities for visitors.

About Knowles Falls

Location CoordinatesElevationHeightNearby FeaturesLocation
45.0116° N, 110.5947° W308 feet (93.8784 meters)Approx. 15 feet (4.572 meters)Tower Falls, Gibbon Falls, and Kepler CascadesYellowstone National Park, Park County, Montana

Knowles Falls, a breathtaking natural wonder, is nestled within the stunning expanse of Yellowstone National Park. Situated in the “Ash Mountain” section of the park, this steep cascade is accessible via the Yellowstone River Trail.

The trail leading to Knowles Falls offers an adventure amid Yellowstone’s pristine wilderness. While moderately challenging, it remains suitable for families with some hiking experience, particularly for kids aged 10 and above. However, it’s important to note that this trail is best suited for backpackers and long-day hikers due to its length, spanning over 15 miles (24.1 km).

For those seeking an immersive outdoor experience in one of America’s most iconic national parks, Knowles Falls via the Yellowstone River Trail promises unforgettable vistas and a rewarding journey through nature’s splendor.

Hiking Trails Near Knowles Falls

A hiking trail to Knowles Falls winds through a lush forest in Yellowstone National Park.

Knowles Falls offers a variety of hiking trails that cater to different skill levels and preferences. If you’re looking for a stroll with stunning views or a more challenging trek through rugged terrain, the trails here promise an adventure for everyone. Here’s a look at the different trails you can explore to make the most of your visit to Knowles Falls.

1. Blacktail Deer Creek Trailhead

Two hikers walk the Blacktail Deer Creek Trailhead surrounded by beautiful yellow wildflowers.

DistanceElevation GainDifficulty LevelTrail Type
8.2 miles (13.2 km)1410 feet (429.768 m)ChallengingOut and back

The Blacktail Deer Creek Trailhead is where the adventure to Knowles Falls begins. This trail is an 8.2-mile point-to-point journey that takes you through some of Montana’s most stunning landscapes.

As you set off, get ready for a hike that’s both challenging and rewarding. You’ll start by climbing through meadows, making your way towards the majestic Knowles Falls. Along the way, you might spot elk, especially near their enclosures, and in the summer, the trail is dotted with colorful wildflowers.

The path then leads you on a descent alongside Blacktail Deer Creek, treating you to views of a small waterfall and a remarkable rock wall made of columnar basalt. This unique feature is a highlight for many hikers.

One of the most exciting parts of the trail is the crossing of a steel suspension bridge, adding a touch of adventure to your journey. After this, you’ll merge with the Yellowstone River Trail, which eventually guides you to Crevice Lake. Your final destination, Knowles Falls, welcomes you at the 5.5-mile (8.8-km) mark.

This trail is perfect for those looking to challenge themselves and immerse in Montana’s natural beauty. Just be sure to pack plenty of water, some snacks, and your camera to capture the breathtaking views.

2. Yellowstone River Trailhead

A view of the rushing waters of the Yellowstone River as it flows through a gorge from the Yellowstone River Trailhead.

DistanceElevation GainDifficultyTrail Type
15.5 miles (24.94 km)1765 feet (537.9 m)ChallengingPoint to Point

The Yellowstone River Trail is the go-to path for reaching Knowles Falls, kicking off from the Eagle Creek Campgrounds. If you’re eager to see what this hike is all about, Stan Mills’ YouTube video offers a sneak peek into the adventure.

This trail is a favorite among hikers, offering a serene experience most of the day without being too crowded. However, it’s good to keep in mind that peak hours might see more foot traffic.

One important note for pet owners: dogs are not allowed on this trail, so plan accordingly. The trail itself stretches over 15.5 miles (25 km) and includes a challenging elevation gain of 1765 feet. It’s a point-to-point trail, meaning you’ll start at one end and finish at the other.

It’s a great option for those looking to immerse themselves in a longer, more demanding hike with the ultimate reward of witnessing the majestic Knowles Falls.

3. Hellroaring Trailhead

The Hellroaring trailhead path leading to Knowles Falls and Jardine's Eagle Creek Campgrounds, winding through a quiet, dense forest.

DistanceElevation GainDifficultyTrail Type
15.5 miles (24.94 km)1765 feet (537.9 m)ChallengingPoint to Point

Hellroaring Trailhead is a great starting point for your adventure to Knowles Falls. This route is known for being peaceful and not too tough, perfect for families with kids aged 10 and up. It’s the least challenging way to get to the falls, leading you to Jardine’s Eagle Creek Campgrounds.

The trail isn’t on all maps yet, but finding it is quite simple. Just keep walking past Bear Creek until you see a sign that points you uphill. Along the way, you’ll pass through Black Canyon, adding to the scenic experience.

This trail offers a nice balance of challenge and tranquility, making it a favorite for those wanting to experience the beauty of Knowles Falls without tackling a super difficult hike.

Activities to Do in Knowles Falls

The raging waters of a river rush through a gorge near Knowles Falls.

Exploring Knowles Falls offers a range of activities that suit different interests. You can start with a leisurely hike to admire the waterfall’s beauty, then enjoy a picnic in the serene surroundings. For those seeking more adventure, fishing, and wildlife spotting are popular choices near the falls.

1. Swimming

A little girl swims in a lake near Knowles Falls, which is generally a safer area for swimming.

Swimming at Knowles Falls is a bit of a mystery. While we don’t have specific reports about swimming there, it’s important to note that the park service only allows swimming in designated areas within Yellowstone National Park. These spots include the Boiling River Swim Area (which is temporarily closed) and the Firehole Swim Area.

Waterfalls, in general, can be risky places to swim. The strong undercurrents and unpredictable water flow can be dangerous. That’s why it’s a good idea to enjoy water activities in safer spots like rivers, streams, and lakes nearby. Always follow the rules and respect any restrictions in the park and surrounding areas.

Here are some tips for safe swimming adventures in the Knowles Falls area:

  • Stick to designated swimming spots within Yellowstone National Park.
  • Avoid swimming at Knowles Falls until its safety for swimming is officially confirmed.
  • Choose to swim in calmer waters like rivers, streams, and lakes in the area.
  • Be aware of and follow all park and local guidelines for water activities.
  • Always prioritize safety and be cautious around natural water features.

2. Boating

A pair of red and yellow canoes offered by boating companies around the Yellowstone area near Knowles falls

Boating is a fantastic way to explore the waterways of Yellowstone National Park, and there are plenty of opportunities waiting for you. You can either bring your boat, rent from vendors within the park, or choose from local outfitters. This flexibility makes it easy for anyone to enjoy a day on the water.

If you’re looking for a guided boating experience, several companies offer tours that can enhance your visit. These tours often provide unique perspectives and insights into the park’s water-based ecosystems and sights.

Here are some popular rental and tour companies that you might want to check out:

  • Yellowstone National Park Lodges
  • Kirkwood Marina
  • Geyser Kayak Tours
  • Madison Arm Resort
  • Shurr Adventures

While boating is a great way to enjoy the park, it’s important to be aware of any restrictions. For instance, some areas might limit the use of motorized boats to protect the environment and wildlife. Always check the rules and regulations to ensure a safe and respectful boating experience.

3. White Water Rafting

Groups of people enjoy whitewater rafting in the Yellowstone River near Knowles Falls with the assistance of the Yellowstone Raft Company.

White Water Rafting is a big deal around Knowles Waterfall and the Yellowstone area. It’s a thrilling way to experience the region’s natural beauty and get your adrenaline pumping. If you’re up for a wet and wild adventure, this is the activity for you.

You won’t have any trouble finding a company to take you on a rafting tour. There are plenty of them that operate in and around the park. These companies are experts at guiding rafting trips and ensuring you have a safe and memorable experience.

Some of the well-known ones include:

  • Wild West Rafting
  • Flying Pig Adventures
  • Montana White Water
  • Yellowstone Raft Company

4. Fishing

A person casts a line into a prime fishing spot near Knowles Falls in Yellowstone National Park.

Fishing is a big deal in Yellowstone National Park, and even though Knowles Falls itself isn’t a top fishing spot, there are plenty of great places nearby to cast a line. The waters around here are full of different kinds of fish, making it a paradise for anglers.

If you’re serious about your fishing, it’s a smart move to book a guide. They’ll know all the best spots and can help you navigate the fishing regulations in the area. They’re also full of tips and tricks to make sure you have the best fishing experience possible.

Consider these fishing guide companies to make the most of your time on the water:

  • Fish Tales Outfitting
  • Fish the Fly
  • North Fork Anglers
  • High Alpine Anglers

These guides are experts in the local fishing scene, and they can take you to some of the most beautiful and productive fishing spots in the area.

5. Camping

A tent and small fire area are set up near one of the lush established camping grounds close to Knowles Falls.

Camping near Knowles Falls is a fantastic way to experience the beauty of Yellowstone. You’ll find a variety of camping options, from established campgrounds to backcountry sites. Here’s what you need to know to plan your trip:

  • Permits – If you’re looking to hike out and pitch a tent in the backcountry, you’ll need a permit. This ensures that the natural beauty of the area is protected and that the experience is safe for everyone.
  • Best Time to Camp – The best time to camp in the area is from May to October when the weather is milder. If you’re planning on camping outside of these months, make sure you have the right gear for cold weather.
  • Campground Variety – There are dozens of campgrounds in and around Yellowstone, with hundreds of sites available. Some of the popular campgrounds near Knowles Falls include Grant Village, Canyon, and Bridge Bay. Each offers its own unique experience, from lakeside views to forest settings.
  • Booking in Advance – It’s important to plan ahead and book your campsite early, especially during the peak season. Yellowstone’s campgrounds are in high demand, so securing your spot in advance ensures you have a place to stay.

If you prefer the convenience of an established campground or the solitude of a backcountry site, camping near Knowles Falls offers a chance to immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Yellowstone. Just remember to respect the rules of the park, leave no trace, and enjoy the adventure.

6. Lodging

A cabin rental near Knowles Falls in Yellowstone National Park

When you’re planning a trip to Knowles Waterfall, it’s smart to think about where you’ll stay. There are lots of choices, from cozy cabins to comfortable hotels. You can find places to stay all around Yellowstone National Park, but not all of them are the same distance from the waterfall.

That’s why it’s a good idea to pick a place that’s close to where you want to spend most of your time. Here are some popular places to stay near Knowles Waterfall and Yellowstone National Park:

  • Yellowstone Lodge
  • Yellowstone West Gate Hotel
  • Key Inn West Yellowstone
  • Yellowstone National Park Cabin Rentals

Each of these places offers a different experience, so you can choose the one that fits your style and budget. Some are right in the heart of the action, while others are a bit more secluded. If you’re looking for a quiet retreat or a place with lots of activities, you’ll find something that’s just right for you.

Knowles Falls Final Thoughts

The section of Yellowstone River near Knowles Falls amid rocky mountainside terrain with trees.

Knowles Falls is a haven for nature enthusiasts, offering a diverse range of activities suited to various interests and energy levels. Whether you’re keen on hiking, boating, fishing, or camping under the stars, Knowles Falls caters to all preferences.

Accessing Knowles Falls is possible through several hiking trails, each offering unique perspectives and challenges. These trails provide an excellent opportunity to explore the area and admire the falls from different angles.

While the allure of swimming at the falls may be tempting, it’s crucial to exercise caution due to potential undercurrents. Opting for safer water activities such as boating and white water rafting ensures a fun yet secure experience.

For those less inclined toward water-based activities, nearby backcountry campsites and lodges offer alternative ways to appreciate the natural beauty of Knowles Falls and its surroundings.

When planning your visit, remember to adhere to park regulations and fully immerse yourself in the marvels of Knowles Falls. Whether you seek an adrenaline rush on the trails or a tranquil moment by the water, Knowles Falls promises an enriching experience in Yellowstone National Park.

Knowles Falls FAQs

1. Is Swimming Allowed at Knowles Falls?

Knowles Falls is not a designated swimming area, and swimming is discouraged due to potential risks from strong undercurrents. Visitors are advised to explore safer water activities such as boating or enjoy nearby swimming areas recommended by the park service.

2. How Do I Access Knowles Falls?

Knowles Falls can be accessed via various hiking trails within Yellowstone National Park, including routes such as Blacktail Deer Creek Trail, Yellowstone River Trail, and Hellroaring Trail. Each trail offers its own unique experience, leading hikers to the scenic beauty of Knowles Falls.

3. Are Pets Allowed on the Trails to Knowles Falls?

Pets are generally not permitted on the trails leading to Knowles Falls within Yellowstone National Park. It’s essential to check park regulations and trail guidelines before bringing pets, as they may disrupt wildlife or pose safety concerns for both animals and other visitors.

4. Can I Camp Near Knowles Falls?

Camping opportunities are available near Knowles Falls within Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas. Visitors can choose from a variety of campgrounds within the park boundaries or nearby sites in Park County, Montana. It’s recommended to book campsites in advance, especially during peak seasons.

5. What Activities Can I Enjoy at Knowles Falls?

Knowles Falls and its surroundings offer a range of activities for outdoor enthusiasts. Apart from hiking to the falls, visitors can enjoy boating, white water rafting, fishing, or simply immersing themselves in the natural beauty of the area.

Stay curious! Explore our archives for lots of interesting Montana content:

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Written by:

Ashley Smith
Hello there! I'm Ashley Smith, born on a chilly winter's day, Montana has been my playground since childhood. The first snowfall of the year always brings back memories of building snowmen and winter hikes. Co-founding was my way of sharing the magic of Montana's seasons with the world. While Chris dives deep into the landscapes, I'm obsessed with Montana's rich culture, from the local festivals to the tales passed down generations.

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