Tourist caught clambering onto cliffs over roaring Yellowstone waterfall, to horror of onlookers

Man's hands climbing rock face
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Yellowstone National Park is famous for its spectacular scenery, including almost 300 stunning waterfalls, but one visitor has been caught on camera getting much too close to one of the most powerful falls – risking life and limb in the process.

The man was one of three tourists who hopped over a wall at the middle brink of the 110ft Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River (pictured above), and climbed out onto the vertiginous rock face in an attempt to take better photos of the roaring water.

He was spotted clambering across the rock by another park visitor, Lydia Toelle, who recorded the incident on her phone and submitted it to authorities. Her video, which was shared via Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone this week and is embedded below, shows that he was also inappropriately dressed for a waterfall hike, wearing jeans and regular sneakers.

Viewers were variously shocked and upset, with several commenting on the risk posed to rescuers if things had gone wrong.

"This is ridiculous!" wrote Carole Ruth Harty Burge. "I grew up in a mountain community in California. We had a beautiful falls that was meant to be looked at and not climbed. There are signs letting the visitors know that they might die if they climbed the face or attempted to climb down from the trail above. Both of my brothers served on the search and rescue team and risked the fall to pull people (sometime bodies) out."

Apart from the fall risk, the National Park Service warns that water features at Yellowstone are dangerous, and even popular swimming sites are unsupervised so visitors take the plunge at their own risk. Entering thermal water features is strictly prohibited for public safety.

"Yellowstone offers very limited opportunities to swim or soak," says the NPS. "High-elevation lakes and rivers swollen with snowmelt make for cold water where hypothermia always presents a risk. On the other end of the temperature spectrum, the water in park hot springs often reaches the boiling point."

Waterfall hiking safety

If you embark on a waterfall hike, remember that the rocks near the water are likely to be wet and slick, so wearing proper hiking boots or hiking shoes with deep lugs and good grip is important. 

You should also stick to established trails and viewing platforms. It may be tempting to get closer to the falls for a better view, but the fast-moving water can carve out deep gorges that aren't immediately obvious, and there's a high risk of falling.

For more advice, see our guide nine safety tips for waterfall hikes.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.