Yellowstone National Park: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone: North Rim

Walk the rim of Yellowstone National Park's Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone on this 6.4-mile hike that showcases five-star views of Upper and Lower Falls.
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Walk the rim of Yellowstone National Park's Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone on this 6.4-mile hike that showcases five-star views of Upper and Lower Falls.

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 north rim of this immense gorge on this spectacular 6.4-mile out-and-back that passes numerous overlooks and in-your-face views of Upper and Lower Falls.

The route starts at Inspiration Point, a natural outcrop that offers views into the inner depths of the canyon. Leave the parking lot and follow the path as it briefly travels northwest and enters the woods. The trail varies from paved sidewalks to spongy, ash-like rock as it follows the contours of the canyon's edge and passes a series of popular viewpoints, including the aptly-named Grandview Point and Lookout Point.

After 2.2 miles, turn left at the 3-way intersection and descend a set of steep switchbacks that lead to a platform overlooking Lower Falls, the biggest waterfall in Yellowstone. From this dizzying vantage point at the brink of the falls, you'll feel the full force of the Yellowstone River as it plunges 308 feet into the depths of the canyon.

Next, climb back up the switchbacks and turn left for the 0.7-mile stretch to Upper Falls. Although this 109-foot waterfall is the baby brother to Lower Falls, it still puts on an impressive show. Soak up more views of the Yellowstone River plummeting into the canyon, then turn around and follow the same route back to the Inspiration Point parking area.

MORE PARK INFO Yellowstone National Park, (307) 344-7381; nps.gov/yell/

-Mapped by Jeff Chow

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 10.3

Waypoints

NRM001

Location: 44.7250582, -110.4699272

Inspiration Point: From this natural outcrop, you can look down into the inner depths of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Leave the parking lot and follow the path along the edge of the canyon.

NRM002

Location: 44.7290924, -110.4763752

The trail ducks into the woods.

NRM003

Location: 44.7244408, -110.4834831

Grandview Point: Stop at this aptly-named perch for dramatic views of the canyon and the Yellowstone River.

NRM004

Location: 44.723526, -110.4843736

Hike through the Lookout Point parking area and bear left onto a spur trail to Lookout Point.

NRM005

Location: 44.7226151, -110.4839391

Lookout Point: From this nicely shaded overlook you can see the full spectrum of colors on the pale canyon walls. Get a sense of scale by trying to find the ant-sized visitors at Artist's Point (nearly half a mile away). Look down: The Yellowstone River cuts through the canyon bottom far below.

NRM006

Location: 44.7214621, -110.4861814

Look for osprey gliding along the thermals in this area. The inaccessible perches along the canyon walls make for ideal nesting habitat away from the predation of wolves and bears.

NRM007

Location: 44.721483, -110.4879409

Turn left to find sweet views of Lower Falls, the biggest waterfall in Yellowstone. Afterward, continue west along the canyon rim.

NRM008

Location: 44.719762, -110.495621

The trail skirts the edge of the Lower Falls parking lot while offering multiple lookout points of Lower Falls below.

NRM009

Location: 44.71952, -110.497275

Leave the Lower Falls parking area and head southwest.

NRM010

Location: 44.719074, -110.4987663

Trail to Lower Falls: Turn left at 3-way and descend steep switchbacks for up-close views of Lower Falls. Hikers can rest on benches that line the trail.

NRM011

Location: 44.7182469, -110.4963952

Brink of the Lower Falls: From the viewing platform, hikers will feel the full force of the Yellowstone River as it plunges 308 feet into the canyon.

NRM012

Location: 44.7170538, -110.5014968

Cross Cascade Creek just 800 feet before its confluence with the Yellowstone.

NRM013

Location: 44.7152545, -110.5026233

Turn left at the road and head southeast to the parking area.

NRM014

Location: 44.7143701, -110.5008316

Pick up the short trail to Upper Falls and follow it south to the Brink of the Upper Falls.

NRM015

Location: 44.7127309, -110.5003595

Brink of the Upper Falls: Although this 109-foot waterfall is the baby brother to Lower Falls, it still puts on an impressive show. Soak up dizzying views of the Yellowstone plunging into the depths of the canyon. Retrace your steps back to the Inspiration Point parking area.

View of Lower Falls

Location: 44.7209265, -110.4885954

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Location: 44.7227713, -110.4843199

The Yellowstone River

Location: 44.7226189, -110.48388

View of Lower Falls

Location: 44.7209456, -110.4886061

The Yellowstone River

Location: 44.7209075, -110.48859

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Location: 44.720877, -110.48859

Lower Falls

Location: 44.7182545, -110.4963309