Dunanda Falls is in the remote southwest corner of Yellowstone National Park, in an area that the park's first superintendent, Horace Albright, called Cascade Corner for its profusion of waterfalls. It is a nine-mile hike from the Bechler Ranger Station and just under eleven miles if you start from nearby Cave Falls. I usually opt to start at Cave Falls because it’s a more scenic walk; the first five miles parallel the Bechler River, passing the confluence of the Bechler and Falls Rivers along the way. Emerging into the vast and swampy Bechler Meadows, there’s a beautifully constructed suspension bridge spanning one of the Bechler’s many tributaries. A sign at either end actually states, “No playing on bridge. Violators subject to prosecution.”
Once you cross the bridge, you'll emerge into Bechler Meadows. I've been in the meadows late in the summer and they've been dry. I've also been there late in the summer and it was impossible to keep feet dry. The meadows are criss-crossed by countless creeks and streams.
The hiking trail to Dunanda Falls takes you to the top of the falls, although going to the bottom of the falls gives you the best view, and there are hot spring fed pools around its base. Descend to Boundary Creek. It's slightly treacherous, but well worth it.
Campsite 9A3 is the most direct access to the hot pools. Leave the main hiking trail at the sign for the 9A3 campsite. Walk through the campsite, heading for the food storage area. From there, you should see a trail to your right, heading downhill. It will take you to Boundary Creek. A large pine tree has fallen across the creek and now provides the easiest--and driest--way to cross the creek.
As soon as you cross the tree, you’ll see steaming, rock-ringed pools on the banks of Boundary Creek. You won’t see Dunanda Falls. In fact, you won’t have any idea there’s a 150-foot tall waterfall anywhere near. Dunanda Falls is stealthy. Explorers didn’t discover it until 1920. As tempting as these pools look, don't fall for them. Press on.
Dunanda Falls come into view after about ten minutes of walking through hip-height greenery. They are almost as wide as they are tall. And there is a hot spring-fed pool almost at their base. If you go after mid-September it's likely you won't encounter anyone else. Dunanda Falls might just be the best waterfall in the world.
If you want to do this as a backpacking trip, reserve campsite 9A3, which is a 10-minute walk from the falls. Permits are needed to camp in Yellowstone’s backcountry.