Virginia Cascade Drive is one of the least used sections of road in Yellowstone. But, that does not mean you should skip this little gem on your next trip to the park. Located just a little over a mile from Norris Junction, this 2 ½ mile one-way road weaves through both a young and a mature forest.
This stretch of road is what remains of the original Norris to Canyon road which was called the, “Norris Cutoff.” That road was first built during the summers of 1885 and 1886 as a way for stagecoaches to access the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from the west side of the park.
Automobiles were first allowed in Yellowstone on August 1, 1915. It was believed that the “Norris Cutoff,” would only be used as a freight road after cars were allowed. In 1956, the National Park Service began a ten year project, called Mission 66, to update roads and facilities in our National Parks.
During those upgrades, the main road between Norris and Canyon was redesigned and it bypassed Virginia Cascades. This 60 foot waterfall had become popular with visitors, so park managers decided to leave this short section of road as a way to access the falls. There are few pullouts; if you can, take advantage of those and pull off the road; if they are full you can still get a partial view as you drive by.
Just beyond Virginia Cascades, there is a small picnic area with 6 tables and a restroom. The picnic area sits above Virginia Meadows and the Gibbon River, which is the water source for the falls. This is a great place for families to spend time fishing with young anglers. Be aware that moose and bears frequent this area and at times mosquitoes can be thick.
Standing here, it’s hard to believe that this was once a two-way road. Stay alert as you round these curves and please for your safety don’t stop in the road. Virginia Cascade drive not only can get you away from the masses, but it can also give you a taste of the roads used by our ancestors.