The site I remembered most from my last trip to Yellowstone was the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. A powerful waterfall down a spectacular cayon filled with yellow rock and a few trees growing shocking on the steep cliffs. While most think of geysers when they think of Yellowstone, the canyon is where the park got its name.
The canyon actually has two sets of falls, the lower falls and the upper falls. The upper falls are much smaller and further up the stream. But the lower falls are more dramtic, falling into the deep chasm. These are the falls you see in all the iconic pictures.
We hit up the sight from two angles this trip. Our first stop was Artist Point. A short walk down a nice pathway and stairs takes you to a breathtaking view of the lower falls. Set further back, you can see the powerful falls and hear the roar. But in front of you is an amazing panoramic of the yellow cayon. My husband and I took turns going out to see it because our kids were napping in the car. But when I came back, my son had woken up, so I made him come out and see the view, knowing he was now old enough to both remember and appreciate it. (While he did appreciate it and did the appropriate ohhing and ahhing, he was just as excited to discover benches made out of logs.)
Our next stop was on the other side of the river, to see the Brink of the Upper Falls view point. It was a short 1/8 mile treck, but down a steep set of stairs. By this point my daughter woke up, but was still sleepy so she insisted on a ride down in the Ergo. Navigating the stairs with 28 lbs on your back can be tricky. But at the bottom was a lovely view of the smaller upper falls, falling into the river, creating dramatic water dancing, and a beautiful rainbow.
My son also discovered all the boulders here and did climbing that would make his godfather** proud. He discovered by climbing he had a better view of the falls so he kept going higher and higher. Unfortunately, we didn’t notice until he got scary high and we panic called him down. Thankfully, he was able to come down on his own without too much trouble.
Afterward, we went to the visitors center and rewarded the kids and ourselves with ice cream (because, hey it’s vacation, who makes nutrious choices). Then we made the mistake of taking our sugered up (and now well rested) kids inside the visitor center to see it’s exhibit. The exhibit was an interesting one about the volcano that is Yellowstone and how powerful it really can be. I would have enjoyed it more if i hadn’t spent every five minutes stopping the kids from climbing the fountain and tables, hitting all the buttons, and touching each exhibit as much as possible. (Indira was particually excited to find the exhibit that had drawers, which she proceeded to open and slam closed repeatedly). If you have time, and well behaved children, you should stop in and see it.
Once my husband saw all he wanted to see of the exhibits, and I accepted the fact that I was not going to get to read or see anything, we went out and let the kids run a bit before we strapped them to the car seats for the ride to West Yellowstone. We were all sad to be finishing up our final stop in the park, and lingered a bit. But we were happy to end on such a high note, and know this is a trip my children will not soon forget.
Artist Point: For the panoramic view of the canyon, river and upper falls, head to Artist Point at the end of S Rim Drive. Short 1/4 a mile walking path out to platforms that open up to a spectacular view.
Brink of the Upper Falls Trail: A 1/8 a mile trail (but steep steps) on the other side of the river. At the bottom is a platform that allows you to overlook the waterfall from a top view.
Canyon Visitor Education Center: Open 8 AM to 8 PM in the summer and 9 AM to 5 PM in the winter. Exhibits on the volcano within Yellowstone.
* Stared photos taken by Atma Photography
** My children’s Godfather is an avid climber who would have easily climbed up that wall, and encouraged my son to do the same.