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Home » National Parks » Yellowstone National Park » A Trip to the Awesome Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Updated September 2023

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is the cornerstone of the park. It is simply spectacular! A trip to the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is like stepping into a world of natural wonder and geological marvel. The best way to experience the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone with all the different facets of the canyon’s charm is to pick a trail and go for a hike. There are many trails along both canyon rims, from quick jaunts to all-day treks. The canyon stretches 22 miles through the heart of Yellowstone National Park and is 1400 feet across, and 800 to 1200 feet deep. It is dwarfed by both the Grand Canyon and Yosemite Valley but has the beauty and features of both those parks. This breathtaking canyon is a testament to the forces that have shaped our planet over millions of years.

The Canyon of Yellowstone is central in the park’s heart. Therefore, it is one of the busiest areas in Yellowstone compared to the Lamar Valley. 

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What’s Available at Canyon Village in Yellowstone National Park?

Canyon Village has many amenities for park visitors. There is a National Park Visitor Center, clean restrooms, a large General Store with plenty of souvenirs plus sit down eatery, and an ice cream store. Canyon Lodge has different places to eat, ample parking, and picnic tables for those of us who bring our food. This is a prime location close to all the major attractions of the park, namely the North and South Rim trails, are just a stepping stone away. Staying here, you have great access to incredible views of the Upper and Lower Yellowstone River Falls that created the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Canyon visitor Center-Wendy
Yellowstone Canyon Visitor Center

Canyon Village Lodging: Your Gateway to Yellowstone’s Grandeur

Whether you’re seeking the rustic charm of a cozy cabin or the modern amenities of a comfortable hotel room, Canyon Village Lodging has options to suit all tastes. The Lodge is an expansive grouping of 6-3-story buildings next to the commercial area that contains restaurants, general stores, shopping, etc. The Lodge is central in the Yellowstone River Canyon loop just off the main Circle Road in the Park. It’s an example of the National Park System’s new LEED green building certification lodges. The lodge is an excellent central location for visiting other areas of the park, such as the Norris Geyser Basin or the Hayden Valley.

Canyon Village Lodge, YNP
Canyon Village Lodge, YNP

They designed the newly constructed Canyon Lodge buildings to blend in with the surrounding forest. The rooms have views of the woods, queen-size bed, bathroom, and a small desk. Coffeemaker and mini-fridge. They remind you of college dorm rooms. The only problem was having a shower and figuring out why the lights kept going out. It appears that the key card needs to be inserted into the slot and left in for lights to work? Instead of mini-bottles of toiletries, we had big dispensers on the shower wall and near the sink. The most welcoming thing was the “Teddy Bear” soap on the sink. Although full to capacity, we found the lodge to be very peaceful. Each room had bins for recycling, composting, and trash.

Bison on the prairie

Essential Information for Your Canyon Lodge Stay in Yellowstone

If you’re planning a visit to Canyon Lodge in Yellowstone National Park, here are some essential things you need to know:

1. Reservations: It’s advisable to make reservations well in advance, especially during the peak summer season. Canyon Lodge is a popular destination, and accommodations can fill up quickly.

2. Accommodation Options: Canyon Lodge offers various lodging options, including hotel rooms, suites, and cabins. Each has its own amenities and price range, so choose the one that suits your preferences and budget.

There food & beverage options at the Canyon Lodge are nonexistent, so you find all the food options at the Canyon Village. There is a shuttle that picks up guests from several locations and takes them to the village where the Visitors’ Center, General Store, and dining options are located. You can rent bear spray at the general store. A gas station is at the corner of Grand Loop Road and North Rim road.

Pine Forest Yellowstone (Pixabay)-Yellowstone National Park
Pine Forest Yellowstone (Pixabay)-Yellowstone National Park

Camping in Canyon Village: Embrace the Great Outdoors in Yellowstone

The campground is in a thick lodgepole pine forest; there ample is shade for those hot summer afternoons. Camping facility is wonderful with hot showers, laundry, knowledgeable staff, and excellent camping equipped with bear boxes for storing your food. Large sites with convenient access to the bathroom. The campground is very quiet at night and no issues with quiet hours enforcement. 

Sunrise Brink of the Lower Falls Selfie
Sunrise Brink of the Lower Falls

Exploring the Canyon Village Complex Area: Your Start to Yellowstone’s Wonders

The Canyon Village Complex is extremely crowded with a general store, sporting goods, grocery store, gift shop, dining options, and visitor center. Canyon Village provides a lot of parking for travelers.

The General Store incorporates a huge gift shop with a 1950s diner. Grab-and-go items are available for hikers headed out for a day. We got our breakfast since nothing else opens early before 7 am.

Canyon Complex, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
Canyon Complex, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Dining options include the 50s diner, pizza, cafeteria-style food, and a full-service restaurant. The complex was undergoing some renovation. We had a drink at the small bar area while we waited for the dining room to open. No reservations in the full-service restaurant, so arrive early. It is a first come first serve, so we got in line at 5 pm. Luckily, we got seated immediately. I had the game meatloaf sandwich and hubby had the Buffalo Burger. Both were very good. Service was excellent were in and out in good time before the dinner crowds. Canyon Lodge’s Dining Room was semi-rustic, looking inside except for the contemporary lighting fixtures. They have updated the restaurant since we visited.

Yellowstone River through the trees, YNP
Yellowstone Canyon through the trees, YNP

North Rim Trail: Exploring the Scenic Beauty

The North Rim offers a spectacular view of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Today we rise early and immediately drive to the Brink of the Lower Falls to start the North Rim Trail. We wanted an early start to see the sunrise over the valley and avoid the crowds. On the Grand Loop road, we had to wait for a bull bison that occupied the roadway, but he hurried on. North Rim Drive off of Grand Loop Road in the Canyon Village area and this leads you to the trail from which you can get four exceptional views of the waterfalls and the Yellowstone River as it flows through the canyon. 

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park Credit: Pixabay

The North Rim drive (1.2 miles) is a one-way spur that gives you access to Brink of the Lower Falls, Lookout Point, Grand View, and Inspiration Point. You can access the trail in two ways: either walk it from Canyon Village or drive south on the Grand Loop Road.

Capturing Majesty: Viewing the Upper Yellowstone Falls

There is a spur road to get to the Overlook of Upper Falls (1.6 miles south of Canyon Junction on Grand Loop Road. If you follow the paved path, you will see a spectacular view of the Yellowstone River as it enters the Canyon by going over the Upper Falls. The Upper Falls tumble 109 feet, creating lots of mist, as you are right on top of the falls, just a few feet away.

Upper Falls View, YNP
Close up Upper Falls View, YNP Credit: Pixabay

Hiking to the Brink of the Lower Falls: A Thrilling Yellowstone Adventure

The trail to the Brink of the Lower Falls, although paved, requires sturdy shoes and remember to bring plenty of water for the trail. We arrived early. Be prepared by dressing in layers. There was a chill in the air. I had a hooded fleece that I remove as the temperatures warmed. The Brink of the Lower Falls trail descends 600 feet along ten switchbacks, the air pleasantly scented with pine resin.

Brink of the Lower Falls
Brink of the Lower Falls

The challenge is not going down. It was coming back up that had me huffing and puffing. Ugh. Do not think about the hike back up. Just know that the views at the bottom are so worth it. We did not see a single soul on the way down. The view was spellbinding!! We had the overlook to ourselves, not a soul, as we watched the sunrise over the Yellowstone River-Lower Falls. I never understood what people meant by “breathtaking views” until today.

Lower Yellowstone Falls
Lower Yellowstone Falls-Credit: Beth Delpidio

Not to Be Missed: Red Rock Point Trail in Yellowstone

From the Lower Falls Lookout Point, you can take the steps down Red Rock Point Trail to get further down into the canyon. This is a hidden gem that often gets missed! We tackled the Red Rock Point trail. I figured the elevation was not an issue (it was an investment of energy). The trail is not clearly marked; it is a mix of stairs and dirt paths. The trail 1-mile round-trip has a 490-foot descent. It takes about 30 minutes round-trip. it was so refreshing to be greeted by the sound of water at the various turns of the switchback. It’s a very peaceful setting. There is a huge red rock outcropping beside the observation platform. The views of the lower falls and river are mesmerizing, and you can hear the roar of the falls. 

Red Rock Point Trail-Yellowstone Canyon
Red Rock Point Trail-Yellowstone Canyon NPS Photo-Neal Herbert
Red Rock Point-Yellowstone
Red Rock Point-Yellowstone

The dramatic, 1,000-foot-deep Grand Canyon of Yellowstone rewards visitors with dazzling views of multi-hued rock walls. The colorful canyon is a natural work of art: streaks of red, orange, gold, black, and even green decorate the canyon walls that are ever-changing with the shifts of sunlight. Remember, if you hike down, you have to hike back up. We could feel the burn on the return trip, yet it was worth it as we watched the sun slowly climbing; changing the colors of the valley. If you want to get away from the crowd, take this trail.

Magnificent Grandview Point: A Breathtaking Yellowstone Experience

The next stop is Grandview Point. This viewpoint has signage that explains the history of the falls. The vantage point offers a very fascinating perspective from which you can see the river winding sinuously between the reddened walls of the canyon. This is a good point to watch the sunrise. The walls of the canyon below showcase different colored soils. The eroded walls are a timeline of history. I couldn’t imagine what the landscape looked like when explorers first laid eyes on it.

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone Sign

Lookout Point: A Scenic Overlook in Yellowstone

This was a popular lookout for many early visitors to the park. In 1880, Superintendent P.W. Norris noticed it had got regular visitation. The superintendents built railings at this location. He preferred calling it Lookout Point.

Sunrise Lower Falls Yellowstone
Sunrise Lower Falls Yellowstone

Inspiration Point: Finding Inspiration in Yellowstone’s Natural Beauty

Glacial Erratic
Glacial Erratic

Inspiration Point had the walkout closed. A young couple told us it used to extend about 100 feet out into the canyon, but an earthquake had caused the walkway to plummet into the canyon. Recently refurbished Inspiration Point now has new, wider stairs with sturdy handrails and there is a handicap ramp to the right of the stairs. With the closure, the view was not so grand. Still, the Canyon views were beautiful. Approximately 80,000 years ago, a gigantic glacial erratic that was plucked by a glacier from the Beartooth Mountains and deposited here. It has always fascinated me how powerful nature can be. Hard to imagine the size of the glacier that picked up such a huge rock and moved it to this location.

1Barry-Yellowstone-Canyon View-River Canyon
Yellowstone-Canyon View-River Canyon

The Spectacular South Rim Trail: Hiking Along the Yellowstone River Breathtaking Scenery

The scenic South Rim trail goes about a mile from Uncle Tom’s trail to Artist Point, along the south rim of the canyon, with the Yellowstone River below. The trail along the South Rim is mostly level and paved. Lots of good vantage points to take in excellent views of the lower falls and the canyon below.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin View
Uncle Tom’s Cabin View Credit NPS-Jim Peaco

Daunting Uncle Tom’s Cabin: A Thrilling Adventure in Yellowstone

This trail takes you down to great up-close views at the base of the Lower Falls. This trail begins with a series of switchbacks before you reach the well-known stairs. Uncle Tom has a very steep climb down into the canyon. A metal staircase traverses twothirds of the canyon wall. Tough going in places, but there are benches along the staircase to stop for a breather. Going down is not that hard. Coming back up all those stairs can be a struggle. Uncle Tom’s Trail is a truly unique experience. Rainbows form where the sunlight reflects off the mist and where the falls hit the river, with snowbanks in the background. Yes, snow is still at the base of the falls in the summer.

On your return along with the trail, look for evidence of the old rope trail. Tom Richardson was a trail guide who in the early 1900s opened up a rope tow to haul people down and up from the depths of the canyon to the top.

Artists Point View
Artists Point View Credit: Flickr Bernard Spragg. NZ

Famous Views at Artist Point: Capturing Yellowstone’s Natural Masterpiece

Artist Point is one of the busier parts of the part. It is probably the most visited of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon viewpoints. Iconic postcard views of Lower Falls in the background. The cliffs are beautiful: a palette of reds, whites, and yellows in the sunlight, surrounded by forests of pine trees, emptying into the rapids of Yellowstone River. Artist Point was by far the best. Stunning views in both directions. The trail leads 1.3-miles from Artist Point to Point Sublime.

Lower Falls View
Lower Falls View Photo credit: NPS

Point Sublime: Reveling in the Grandeur of Yellowstone’s Scenic Wonder

Continuing along the trail, you notice the crowds begin to diminish approaching Point Sublime. The dirt trail provides some solitude from the crowds early in the morning. There are panoramic views of the river canyon from this viewpoint. If you plan to continue the trail on to Clear or Ribbon Lake, use caution and carry bear spray. We were told that bear activity had increased along this trail. The trail passes through a lowland swamp. I can imagine later in the season mosquito repellent may be necessary.

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Planning Resources: Your Comprehensive Guide to a Yellowstone Adventure

Canyon Views Inspiration Point
Canyon View Inspiration Point

Final Thoughts on Our Trip to the Awesome Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

A trip to the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is a journey into the heart of natural wonder, where the forces of time and geology have sculpted a landscape that leaves a lasting imprint on your soul. As you stand on the edge of this magnificent chasm, you’re reminded of the Earth’s incredible beauty and the power of nature to shape the world around us.

So, if you’re considering a trip to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, don’t hesitate. Embrace the adventure, stand in awe of nature’s artistry, and let the beauty of this place leave an indelible mark on your heart. It’s a journey you’ll treasure forever, and a reminder that the world is filled with places of astonishing beauty waiting to be explored.

Have you been to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone? What trail did you like the best? Let us know in the comments below.