If there’s one thing that Yellowstone is famous for, it’s Old Faithful. But if there’s one thing that it shouldbe famous for, it’s the incredible Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This beautiful, deep canyon includes two huge waterfalls, and remarkably colorful, steep walls which, in places, are still steaming and bubbling with geothermal activity. If you’ve seen Old Faithful, and only have time to visit one more attraction in Yellowstone, this is what you should choose.
As you travel the one-way road from the Canyon Village visitor center, you come upon another side road, which leads to Inspiration Point. From the parking lot, steps lead out to the point, which isn’t far away. Expect a crowd here, and at every other stop along the canyon rim.
As you stand on the point, you get an absolutely awesome view up the canyon (to the west). In the distance, far, far away, you can see the Yellowstone River’s Upper Falls. At this viewpoint, the lower falls are hidden.
Looking to the east, you also get a great view of the rest of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Notice the pink and yellow canyon walls here. In places, they’re still steaming from underground vents, which explains why there are no trees growing in certain spots.
Even though it offers a great view, Inspiration Point offers just one view. Your only choice is to walk to the end of the trail and stand in one designated place, and see exactly what everyone else sees.
As I continued along the one way road, I passed the next viewpoint (Grand View), then stopped at Lookout Point.
From Lookout Point, you get a great view of the Lower Falls.
Look closely, and you can see the railings surrounding the “brink of the lower falls” viewpoint, just above the point where the Yellowstone River takes the plunge.
From Lookout Point, you also enjoy another great view of the lower canyon.
Brink of the Upper Falls Viewpoint
I passed by the Brink of the Lower Falls Viewpoint (it required a pretty hefty walk downhill), and continued back to the main road. Once there, I took a left, then another left, which led to the Brink of the Upper Falls Viewpoint.
As you stand at the Brink of the Upper Falls, you watch the Yellowstone River flow lazily along. It has no idea what’s coming as it rounds this curve…
… then plunges 109 feet.
At this point, I decided I had seen enough of the canyon and the waterfalls, and headed on my way. However, there are plenty more viewpoints and trails in this area–enough that you could easily spend an entire day, devoted solely to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. By car, you can reach an excellent viewpoint on the south rim: Artist Point. Also starting here is Uncle Tom’s Trail, which follows the south rim.
One more thing I should mention:
Be sure to look for these restored park tour busses in the canyon area. If you’re lucky, one will be parked out in front of the Canyon Village Visitor’s Center.
I checked out the yellow busses after having lunch at the Canyon Lodge. It looked like it should have been a great place for lunch, but it wasn’t. The food was overcooked and overpriced, and even worse, the slow service wasted at least an hour, which I would have much rather used exploring a trail somewhere in the park.
Note: This trip was first published in 2007.