A fun scenic drive to do in Yellowstone National Park is Firehole Canyon Drive. This one-way drive in the UNESCO World Heritage listed park takes you along the path of the Firehole River through a beautiful canyon. It’s two miles long with a couple places to stop and enjoy the scenery and even cool off in the river. If you decide not to swim, you can do the drive in about 15 to 20 minutes with stops.
The very first part of the drive is somewhat flat but the scenery quickly becomes more dramatic as you enter the canyon. After about a half mile there’s a small parking lot on the left side of the road where you can stop to admire Firehole Falls. The falls have a 40 foot drop.
A bit further up the road is a stairway that leads to a great swimming hole. You can park along the road or in a small parking lot not too far past the stairway. I was expecting a lot of people because it was nearly 80°F but it was completely empty except for a fisherman and one family. We didn’t want to bother the fisherman so we jumped into the river a bit upstream.
Once down the stairs, we left our shoes and towels near the calm waters of the swimming hole. We then took a short path to the left that leads to a small area where we could enter the river and float downstream to the swimming hole. It was a little slippery on the rocks getting into the water so be careful!
The currents were much stronger than I had imagined. It felt like only a few seconds before reaching the swimming hole. At one point, I tried to swim against the current but it felt like I was swimming in place. The water was also colder than advertised. Supposedly it’s heated to a comfortable temperature by runoff from the geysers upstream, but that definitely wasn’t the case that day. Once I reached the calm part I climbed out of the water and ran back to do it again!
If you aren’t a strong swimmer, I wouldn’t recommend jumping into the river upstream from the swimming hole. There is no lifeguard on duty and as I mentioned above the currents are powerful. My friend had a panic attack, tried to fight the current, and was frantically trying to grab some of the rocks as he was floating towards the swimming hole. He ended up cutting himself. I had to jump in after him or he’d still be clinging to those rocks today. It’s best to stay in the middle of the river away from the rocks and let the current take you until the water calms down.
The End of the Drive
Firehole Canyon Drive ends shortly after the swimming hole. Turning left at the end of the drive takes you to Madison Junction. Turning right takes you to the geyser fields.