The grand canyon of Yellowstone is a must-see when visiting the national park.
Hiking along the rim of Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon gives a great perspective on how everything here is on a grand scale.
It’s a 20-mile long valley carved out by the Yellowstone River that is as deep as 1,200 feet.
You can get right on top of the lower falls by hiking down a dirt trail that switchbacks down the mountain for 600 feet. It was not a hike for the fainthearted. But at the bottom, we stood right on top of the falls as it tumbled over a cliff.
Looking the other way, we saw how the river carved out the canyon (see the picture below).
Things to Do at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
Scenic drives and hikes are of course the best things to do in the area. We'll tell you about the best drives and trails in just a second. But first, it's best to learn about all the amazing things you'll see…
The first thing to do near Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon is to explore the Canyon Visitors Education Center.
Here you can learn about the Yellowstone supervolcano, its geysers and hot springs, and how the geologic history of Yellowstone has shaped the park, as well as the flora and fauna found within it.
Other interesting exhibits include a 9,000-pound rotating globe that illustrates volcanic hotspots found around the world. Plus, a room-sized relief model of Yellowstone shows the locations of volcanic eruptions, lava flows, glaciers, and earthquake faults.
After you’ve experienced the Visitor Center, there are two scenic drives to overlooks of the canyon, the North Rim Drive and South Rim Drive. These are a must to see the full grandeur of the grand canyon of Yellowstone.
North Rim Drive
To get to the North Rim Drive of the grand canyon of Yellowstone, head south from the Visitor Center until you see signs for the entrance. Note that this is a one-way road that will loop back around to Canyon Village.
Both waterfalls are visible from Brink of the Lower Falls, you can also descend the Brink Trail (it is steep) to see the Lower Falls up close.
Further on in the drive, you can view the Lower Falls from Red Rock Point, Lookout Point, Grand View, and Inspiration Point.
South Rim Drive
To get to the South Rim Drive, continue past the turnoff for the North Rim Drive and take the road across Chittenden Bridge.
From here you can view the Upper Falls from two viewpoints at Uncle Tom’s Point. And you can see the Lower Falls at Artist Point.
Be aware that there is a multi-year restoration project happening to restore the many viewpoints here, you can see different closures that are in place here.
To experience the full grandeur of the canyon’s charm, we would recommend picking a few short hikes to go on while you’re doing the scenic drives around the North and South Rims.
There are many trails along both canyon rims, here are a few of our favorites:
From the parking area and overlook you can take a series of ~300 steps that lead you 500 feet down into the canyon. At the bottom is a platform where you can feel the power of the Lower Falls up close.
This trail begins at the Wapiti Lake Trailhead on South Rim Drive near Chittenden Bridge. This trail follows the southern rim and connects to Uncle Tom’s Point as well as Artist Point (if you want to take it that far).
You’ll wind in and out of forests between striking viewpoints of both falls and the canyon. It’s about 3.5 miles roundtrip if you go all the way to Artist Point.
NOTE: There’s also a North Rim Trail that begins in the same trailhead but follows along (you guessed it!) the northern rim. This trail is about 3 miles and hits all the same viewpoints as the North Rim Drive.
From Uncle Tom’s Point parking area, this trail takes you through large rolling meadows and forested areas to Clear Lake, a hydrothermal area.
It’s about 2.25 miles roundtrip.
Near the beginning of North Rim Drive you can take this steep trail descending 600 feet to get an up-close and personal view of the Lower Falls in all its thundering power.
Campgrounds Near the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
There are several RV campgrounds near Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon but be aware that there is a lot of demand here and they can fill up very quickly.
When we stay in Yellowstone we try to have a “home-base” campground and then make our explorations from there. Or make sure to book ahead and have a reservation.
That way we know at the end of the day we have a spot to come back to, otherwise, you could be out of luck.
Canyon Campground is the closest you can get to the grand canyon of Yellowstone. There are 273 sites here, flush toilets, and generators are allowed from 8am-8pm.
The Tower Fall Campground and Bridge Bay Campground are both about 40-50 minutes away from Canyon Village, in opposite directions. Bridge Bay Campground has 432 sites, so you might have the best luck finding a site here compared to Tower Fall.
Tower Fall only has 31 sites. Plus, only rigs 30′ or less are permitted as the loop has a hairpin curve that larger rigs can't make.
Have You Been to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone?
We'd love to hear about your experience. Please share in the comments below!
Mike and Jennifer Wendland's Yellowstone Travel Guide
At the top of every RVers bucket list, it is a place so majestic, so wild, and so big that it calls us to return, to explore, to get to know the diversity of its land and animals over and over again.
Everywhere you look are waterfalls, fast-moving rivers, geysers, sheer rock faces, towering lodgepole pines, all framed by mountains under the bright blue cloudless sky.
It’s spectacular for those who love the wilderness and getting up close and personal with it. Enjoy Yellowstone for RV travel.