The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is one of the highlights of Yellowstone National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s 24 miles long, between 800 and 1200 feet deep, and between ¼ mile and ¾ miles wide. Roads along both the south rim and north rim of the canyon allow access to trails and breathtaking views. This entry focuses on what to see along South Rim Drive.
Uncle Tom’s Point
South Rim Drive has a couple of overlooks into the canyon. The first one is at Uncle Tom’s Point, where you can get great views of the Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River. The Upper Falls have a 109 foot drop.
Uncle Tom’s Trail
Uncle Tom’s Trail is also located here. It’s one of the most popular trails in the park, taking visitors near the base of the Lower Falls. With a vertical drop of nearly 500 feet in just 328 steps, it can be difficult to get back up, but it’s a truly rewarding hike with a spectacular look at the falls. The Lower Falls have a drop of 308 feet, nearly twice as high as Niagara Falls.
As you can see from the pictures below, it’s a very steep climb. The trail can be very slippery when it’s raining. Going down isn’t a problem except when it’s wet, but it’s best to take things slowly and get plenty of rest on the way back up.
The trail is a modern version of “Uncle Tom” H.F. Richardson’s trail, which used ropes, rope ladders, and was 528 steps. Guests would be ferried across the river at the current site of the Chittenden Memorial Bridge, climb down, have a picnic with a great view of the falls, and climb back up. His trail ran from 1898 to 1906.
At the end of South Rim Drive is Artist Point. A short walk to a viewpoint provides views of the Lower Falls that are worthy of a painting. There are also magnificent views looking in the other direction where you can see the brilliant colors of the canyon.
Artist Point may have been named as early as 1883 by park photographer Frank Jay Haynes, because he believed it was the place where artist Thomas Moran sketched the falls in 1872. Haynes and his son, Jack Ellis Haynes, photographed the park for nearly 80 years.