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Yellowstone National Park: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone – South Rim

This 4.4-mile out-and-back traces the south rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone for postcard-worthy views of Upper and Lower Falls.

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One of Yellowstone National Park’s classic landmarks, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone extends roughly 20 miles from Upper Falls to the Tower Fall area and drops 1,200 feet, at its deepest point, to the Yellowstone River. Walk the south rim of this immense gorge on this 4.4-mile out-and-back that leads to a classic view of Upper Falls.
From the Wapiti Lake Trailhead, cross the road and pick up the South Rim Trail just east of the bridge. Ahead, the partially paved trail follows the Yellowstone River to the north past multiple rocky bluffs. After half a mile, stop at a point overlooking Upper Falls for views of the Yellowstone River plummeting 109 feet into the canyon. At mile 0.7, continue straight at a 3-way junction, heading north toward Lower Falls.
One mile into the trail, turn left onto Uncle Tom’s Trail for the route’s most challenging section: 328 grated metal steps that descend to a vantage point overlooking Lower Falls. You’ll get a front row seat of this massive wall of water—Yellowstone’s biggest waterfall—as it plunges 308 feet to the canyon bottom.
After ascending back up the steep staircase, turn left at the top and head east along the edge of the canyon. Less than half a mile later, prepare for a steep switchback climb flanked by lovely woods. At mile 2.3, the route culminates at Artist Point, a popular lookout with picture-perfect views down the length of the canyon to Lower Falls. Snap some photos before turning around for the return trip to Wapiti Lake Trailhead.

GUIDEBOOK AND MAP: Yellowstone Treasures, by Janet Chapple ($24, Plan other trips in the park using BACKPACKER’s Yellowstone National Park page.

CONDITIONS: For current conditions and updates, go to
PERMIT: Overnight camping in Yellowstone National Park requires a backcountry permit. Check out the latest fees and more details at
MORE PARK INFO: Yellowstone National Park, (307) 344-7381;

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-Mapped by Jeff Chow

To Trailhead

From the NE Entrance, head south on the NE Entrance Rd. In 26.3 miles, turn left onto Grand Loop Rd. In 20.5 miles turn left into the parking area.

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