SILVER GATE -- Set just out of view of Highway 212 and a stone's throw from the border of Yellowstone National Park, Silver Falls tumbles for more than 100 feet from a limestone cliff into a rocky ravine. About a mile away on the far side of Soda Butte Creek, Bridal Falls spews forth from a granite outcropping into a pool surrounded by moss and dense timber.
Both locations, among others in the Silver Gate area, offer stunning views often overlooked by the thousands of tourists who pass through North East Entrance each day on their way to Yellowstone.
Springtime in Yellowstone is often the best time of year to explore many of the park's waterfalls according Ivan Kowski, Yellowstone National Park backcountry program manager. Kowski said the famed waterfalls of the Bechler region are temporarily inaccessible due to flooding in Bechler Meadows, but there are many other places to explore waterfalls in and around the park.
One of those places is Silver Gate which offers a variety of waterfalls close to town.
Oliver and Jene Anne Cote, of Scotland, Conn., spent the afternoon exploring Sheep Creek and Bridal Falls on Tuesday.
"I love whitewater kayaking and I always wanted to see the Rockies," Oliver Cote said. "Anything along a waterfall or a river with a steep gradient, I figured I'd come look and see."
Kowski said the park has experienced heavy rainfall this spring. He said that's a boon for waterfalls, but presents some concerns for those seeking to explore them. Kowski said warm temperatures and snowmelt can rapidly elevate rivers and creeks in and around the park, and that hikers should be prepared for changing water levels and raging streams.
"A lot of the creeks are fast moving and dangerous, even small streams," Kowski said on Monday. "Even small creeks can rise dramatically from morning to afternoon."
Kowski said many park visitors on the road from Silver Gate to Lamar Valley stop to take in the views of the seasonal waterfalls of Baronet Peak.
"Just driving along the road you can stop and see pretty large falls coming off the peak," he said. "All the waterfalls in the park have more volume and force (during the spring). It is a dramatic time of year."
Waterfalls in and around Silver Gate
Located on the southern outskirts of Silver Gate, Bridal Falls plunges for approximately 40 feet from the center of a tight granite amphitheater. The water cascades into a small pool below the falls before continuing its course along Wyoming Creek to its nearby confluence with Soda Butte Creek.
Bridal Falls flows through heavy timber at the base of 10,162-foot Republic Mountain. The falls are well shaded making the surrounding area typically cool and covered with moss.
To reach Bridal Falls, take Monument Avenue south out of Silver Gate. Cross Soda Butte Creek and take a left on Bannock Avenue. Follow Bannock Avenue about a mile to the Wyoming Creek Bridge. A small parking area to the right of the bridge marks the trailhead.
The trail to Bridal Falls is an easy 0.3-mile route along Wyoming Creek through towering pine trees and underbrush. High water on the creek washed out a small section of the trail, which can easily be skirted. Be aware of slippery rocks at the base of the falls.
Sheep Creek Falls
Located midway between Silver Gate and Cooke City, Sheep Creek Falls offers a more challenging -- if equally short -- hike than Bridal Falls. The falls are located in a rugged ravine on the north side of Highway 212. A victim of the Yellowstone wildfires of 1988, the ravine is choked with downed timber and navigating the steep and unstable slopes can be difficult.
Sheep Creek Falls is a handsome compliment to the wispy allure of Bridal and Silver falls. Its wide flow tumbles over a rock face and surges through the ravine south to Soda Butte Creek. The surrounding canyonside is dotted with the gray ghost of dead trees consumed by the fires.
To reach Sheep Creek Falls take Highway 212 east from Silver Gate for approximately 1.5 miles. There is a roadside pullout where Sheep Creek crosses the highway. Proceed to the east side of the creek and look for the faint trail that follows the creek into the ravine. After 0.3 miles the trail angles east. Sheep Creek Falls is visible at the head of the canyon.
A longer hike than Bridal Falls or Sheep Creek Falls, Woody Falls rewards hikers with a triple-tiered, 150-foot cascade through steep canyon walls. Located above the confluence of Woody Creek and Republic Creek, the falls are situated 1.5 miles from Highway 212 in Cooke City.
A trailhead behind the general store in downtown Cooke City leads to the falls, but requires a ford of Soda Butte Creek -- not a good idea during high water. Republic Road on the east end of town crosses the creek. Take the left fork where the road splits to the parking area.
To reach Woody Falls follow the jeep road southeast from the parking lot. An established trail breaks off from the road five minutes from the parking lot and parallels the creek for a little more than a mile to the falls.
Silver Falls is a 100-foot waterfall that straddles the border of Yellowstone National Park. The falls are a short hike from Silver Gate and flow over limestone cliffs along Silver Creek.
Unlike Bridal Falls, Silver Falls features southern exposure. The surrounding rocky terrain is vegetated, but not moss covered and slippery. The mile-long trek to the falls rises about 350 vertical feet and offers splendid hiking through the high forest of southern Montana.
The trail to Silver Falls begins on the west edge of Silver Gate. Park in town and head back toward Yellowstone National Park on Highway 212 for 0.1 miles. Follow the gravel road on the north side of the highway uphill for 100 feet. Take the trail to the left at the private road sign. Follow the trail for 60 feet and turn right at the trail sign. After a ways the trail meets a three-way split. Follow the middle fork and the trail signs to Silver Creek. Follow the trail along Silver Creek to Silver Falls.