That’s WY: The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park is breathtaking. It leaves me speechless, wonderstruck, and inspired every time I visit. The Yellowstone River run through the canyon with such power; you can hear the thunder of the upper and lower falls even before you see them.

In my opinion, the name is a little wonky, The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park. It brings to mind the actual Grand Canyon in Arizona and to be honest, that is probably exactly what the person or people who named it want you to think about. A large canyon with steep walls, jagged rocks, and a river running through the bottom that continues to shape and carve the canyon. But this isn’t the Grand Canyon. It is much much smaller. This is the Grand Canyon in Yellowstone National Park and it is one of the amazing sites to be seen in the park. Just be sure when you all get back home from visiting it and you start talking about it that you name it can correctly or your friends and family will be heading out to the wrong place.

We spent our first sunset in Yellowstone at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  Over the course of our week in Yellowstone, each of us individually or as a group would return to this area several additional times.

The Grand Canyon area is comprised of the north rim and south rim. Which should all be familiar to those familiar with the actual Grand Canyon. We found the entire area under construction during our visit but we were still able to access the hiking trails; parking was just a little more difficult.

We spent time at the North Rim and the South Rim. Here is a glimpse at our time in the Canyon.

The North Rim:

Grand View

Who doesn’t want to see that grand big picture view? This is a great place to see the whole canyon and is fully accessible. You can see the river rushing toward the falls and you can hear the water falling over Lower Falls.

Lookout and Red Rocks Points Trails

This was our first hike in Yellowstone. It was also our first lesson on how to lose the crowd.  It is not a very long hike but it is steep (drops 500 feet in less than 1/2 mile) and that is all it takes to leave the majority of the tourist standing at the rim while the adventurous are rewarded with beautiful sites, sounds, and breathing space. The keen tourist might also be able to spy osprey nest

The path down Red Rocks Point Trail is either hard packed dirt or wooden boardwalks. I would suggest good solid hiking shoes but this is not a serious back country hike.  The lighting in the canyon has such an effect on the canyon. In bright light, the ground looks washed out and a pale brown. But as the sun dips, you start to see even more color and the ground turns to a reddish brown. The trail gets its name from the hot springs which are wet, rust colored rocks.


Brink of Lower Falls Trail

The Todd family was able to visit the brink of both the Lower and Upper Falls. The Brink of the Lower Falls trail took them to the spot where the water plunges 308 feet over the Lower Falls. Depending on the time of the year, anywhere between 5,000 and 6,000 gallons of water falls here per second.  Standing near the water as it falls was pretty amazing.  The Todd’s were able to see the staircase of Uncle Tom’s Trail from the brink.

Brink of the Upper Falls

This trail was much shorter than the Brink to the Lower Falls but still offers breathtaking views of the waterfall. A shorter trail also means a lot more tourist to maneuver as you see the attraction.



Canyon Visitor Center

We stopped into the Canyon Visitor Center to stamp our passports and to pick up the Junior Ranger booklets. Junior Ranger booklets in Yellowstone cost $3.00 per child. We wanted to give our kids as long as possible to work on the books so we picked them up our first night.

The South Rim

The day we decided to stop back by the Canyon for the second time to do Uncle Tom’s Trail, we knew we were dealing with construction and would have to hike. We parked and began walking the road. We walked for an entire hour before we realized we were looking for the trail on the North Rim and we needed to be on the South RIm! We actually thought about giving up but we all got a second wind on the drive over from the North to the South Rim.

Uncle Tom’s Trail

This trail was at the top of my Yellowstone bucket list. To prepare for this hike Wayne and I each lost 30 pounds before this vacation. I was going to Yellowstone to do this hike. Imagine my surprise when we pulled in on that first night and learned the entire area was under construction with ugly orange “CLOSED” signs everywhere. My heart sank. Thankfully the park rangers at the Canyon Visitor Center told us the trail wasn’t closed; just the parking lot and area around it. Well that was a relief! But we still had to figure out how to get to the trail.

We decided to park along the road outside the closed parking lot. We took off on foot looking for a way around the “CLOSED” signs and fences. We may or may not have passed through or under or around several fences designed to keep us out of the area. We may or may not have scaled downed trees. We may or may not have walked around forever looking for the trail head. Once we found the trail head,  we found a few die hard tourist who had hiked down from Artist Point to do the Uncle Tom’s Trail.

“Uncle” Tom Richardson used to take visitors down into the Canyon using rope ladders. Today visitors descend 3/4 of the way down the Canyon on metal stairs bolted into the sides of the Canyon. Each of us got down and up the trail on our own accord. The little’s in our group bounced down (and back up) without a hesitation. Meeghan had a near panic attack on the way down. I knew I would struggle to get back up so I did not linger too long at the bottom and gave myself plenty of time to get back up.

When I finally made it up, I told Wayne I felt like my water bladder was leaking. He wanted to know why I thought that and I told him it was because my back was soaked. As he laughed he informed me that it was from sweat. Who says you can’t go on vacation and work out?




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