One of my favorite stops in Yellowstone National Park is the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The large canyon, with the river, waterfall and views are so peaceful. You can sit for hours just taking it all in. Artist Point is a short walk. It is well worth the views from the East end of the canyon. You will also want to do the falls hikes. These will get you right up to the top of the falls.
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is roughly 20 miles long. This is measured from the Upper Falls to the Tower Fall area. The canyon was formed by erosion, as Yellowstone River flowed over progressively softer, less resistant rock. There are several stops you can make here, but it is VERY busy.
If you have to choose, Artist Point is incredible. The short hike down to Uncle Tom’s Trail is worth it as well. This offers a great view of the lower falls. If you can fit it in, do the Brink of the Upper Falls. Each of these will probably take about 30-45 minutes. This depends on how much time you want to spend in the area. I would estimate about 15 minutes of walking for each one.
Of all the stops we made while in Yellowstone National Park, The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is one my kids remember well. There are a lot of fun places to take pictures. Several places to sit, and a great viewpoint with different platforms you can climb to for better views.
How The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park was made
The Yellowstone River is the force that created the canyon and the falls. It begins on the slopes of Yount Peak, south of the park, and travels more than 600 miles to its terminus in North Dakota where it empties into the Missouri River. It is the longest undammed river in the continental United States.
The canyon below the Lower Falls was at one time the site of a geyser basin that was the result of rhyolite lava flows, extensive faulting, and heat beneath the surface (related to the hotspot). No one is sure exactly when the geyser basin was formed in the area, although it was probably present at the time of the last glaciation.
The chemical and heat action of the geyser basin caused the rhyolite rock to become hydrothermally altered, making it very soft and brittle and more easily erodible (sometimes compared to baking a potato).
Evidence of this thermal activity still exists in the canyon in the form of geysers and hot springs that are still active and visible. The Clear Lake area (Clear Lake is fed by hot springs) south of the canyon is probably also a remnant of this activity.
Learn more about The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone on the NPS website.
Be sure to check out our guide to the Top Attractions at Yellowstone National Park! It is packed with all of the best places to stop and visit while you are there.