by Joseph A. Sprince – Photography by Gerald B. Allen
The Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks Travel Guides are a resource for those planning to tour Yellowstone National Park and/or Grand Teton National Park. The adjacent national parks are typically visited at the same time and offer very different experiences. Yellowstone offers the world's largest concentration of thermal features such as geysers and hot pools. Grand Teton features one of the world's most spectacular mountain ranges. Both parks offer outstanding opportunities to view wildlife.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River is the highlight of the Canyon area. The canyon, varying in depth from 800 to 1,200 feet, runs about 20 miles from the Canyon Village area to Tower Fall. The canyon’s colorful rock walls originate from ancient lava flows hundreds of thousands of years ago. However the present canyon is thought to be only about 10,000 years old.
The highlights of the Grand Canyon are the Upper Falls, 109 feet in height, and the spectacular Lower Falls, at 308 feet in height, the highest waterfall in the park. Both falls are a short drive from Canyon Village. Roads access popular vista points on both the north and south rims of the canyon. The most notable are Inspiration Point on the north rim and Artist Point on the south rim. The Inspiration Point overlook juts over the canyon and offers especially impressive views. The Brink of the Upper Falls is accessible by a very short walk from a spur road. A longer trail reaches the Brink of the Lower Falls. Check out the Glacial Boulder on the road to Inspiration Point.
Even more impressive vista points are accessible by a network of trails which work into the canyon. The trails are no more than a few miles in length but can be strenuous due to the elevation drop and gain. Uncle Tom’s Trail reaches a spectacular view of the Lower Falls. Another trail reaches the Brink of the Lower Falls. Longer trails reach the Silver Cord Cascade and Silver Cord Cascade Overlook. Here Surface Creek pours into the main canyon. Point Sublime is reached by trail from Artist Point.
Canyon Village and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Day Hikes in the Canyon Village Area
The are many good hiking trails in the area, ranging from three to over 20 miles.
- Clear Lake/Ribbon Lake Loop. Round trip 3 to 6 miles (4.8 to 9.7 km), easy. Start at Wapiti Trailhead on South Rim Drive to Artist Point 2 miles/3.2 km south of Canyon Junction on the Grand Loop Road. This relatively level trail winds through meadows and forest and passes by three lovely backcountry lakes. You can hike the entire loop 6 miles (9.7 km), or you can turn around at Clear Lake 3.0 miles (4.8 km) round trip, or Lily Pad Lake 4.0 miles (6.4 km) round trip. Caution: Clear Lake is a hydrothermal area. Stay on the designated trail at all times.
- Cascade Lake. Round trip 5 miles (8 km), easy. Choose from two trailheads for this easy hike:
- Cascade Lake Trailhead, 1.25 miles (2 km) north of Canyon Junction on the Grand Loop Road
- Cascade Creek Trailhead, 0.25 miles (0.4 km) west of Canyon Junction on the Canyon–Norris Road
- Mount Washburn. Round trip from Dunraven Pass 6.2 miles (9.9 km), from Chittenden parking area 5 miles (8 km), strenuous. From an elevation of 10,243 feet (3,107 m), Mount Washburn offers panoramic views of about 20 to 50 miles (32 to 80 km) in all directions. During July, wildflowers carpet the slopes. Look for bighorn sheep. The southern trail starts at the Dunraven Pass Trailhead and the northern trail starts at the Chittenden Road parking area. Both climb steadily about 1,400 feet (425 m). Conditions at the summit are typically colder and windier than at the trailheads, and afternoon storms are common. Carry an extra layer of warm clothing and wind/rain gear.
- Detailed Map of Canyon Village area.
- Online Tour & Map of Upper and Lower Falls area of Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Shows trails and vista points.
- Things to Do in the Canyon Village Area. Official NPS guide.
- Day Hikes in the Canyon Village Area. (PDF File).
Services in area
Food and Lodging at Canyon Village
- Canyon Lodge and Cabins. Early June to mid-September. Located at Canyon Village, 16 miles north of Yellowstone Lake. Two model lodge buildings with motel style (modern western-themed lodge furniture), with private bath and either one or two double beds. Western cabins with private bath with modern furnishings and two queen beds. No telephones. Televisions, radios, and air conditioning are not available. Full-service restaurant, as well as a cafeteria, deli shop and gift store.
Camping at Canyon Village
- Canyon Campground. Early June to early September. Located near Canyon Village, 16 miles north of Yellowstone Lake. Large campground with about 273 sites. No hook-ups, dump station nearby. Flush toilets. Restaurants, stores, pay showers, and coin laundry nearby. Very short drive to Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and the Upper and Lower Falls. Site are all wooded but many are uneven. Convenient but congested area so privacy is limited. Generators are allowed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Reservations are available.
Nearest Visitor Center
The Canyon Visitor Education Center is open late May to October. The center’s exhibits focus on the Yellowstone volcano and interprets the park’s thermal features. Includes a room-sized relief model of the park, a large globe showing world volcanic activity, and more. Also, information center and Yellowstone Association bookstore.
Other services in area
Food services, general stores, gift shops, gas station, and post office.