The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

The first time I saw the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone was the summer before Ed and I got married. I had never seen the Grand Canyon in Arizona before, and while the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone was smaller than the Grand Canyon everyone knows about, it was still very impressive. Now that I have seen the Grand Canyon in Arizona, which is so massive and amazing that it defies description, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is still so impressive and so amazing that it, too, defies description! But I will try to describe it for you the best that I can.

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The Yellowstone River flows through the canyon. The canyon has two waterfalls; the Upper Falls and the Lower Falls.

Upper Falls
Upper Falls

The Lower Falls, the highest in the park, gets a lot of attention and is photographed often. There are a lot of trails to view both of the falls. One of the most strenuous trail and yet rewarding is Uncle Tom’s Trail. It’s actually a long staircase that goes down the side of a cliff to view the falls. Just like all of Yellowstone’s trails, going down is easy; climbing back up is hard!

lower-falls-rainbow
Lower Falls

To access Uncle Tom’s Trail, we were walking on the South Rim of the canyon. The next day, we hiked along the North Rim, and we could see Uncle Tom’s Trail on the side of the cliff.

Uncle Tom's Trail; look carefully, and you'll see steps going down the cliff with a platform at the bottom left.
Uncle Tom’s Trail; look carefully, and you’ll see steps going down the cliff with a platform at the bottom left.

When looking at the canyon from the North Rim at Grand View, the cliffs are so yellow, you are positive that is how Yellowstone National Park got its name. But you would be wrong! A ranger told us that Yellowstone is named after the Yellowstone River, which is named after yellow cliffs in Billings, Montana, a couple hundred miles away. Hmm.

grand-canyon-yellowstone

While on the North Rim, we also spotted an osprey’s nest, perched on top of a rock pinnacle. We watched the osprey for a long time through our binoculars. We don’t own a camera with a good enough lens to capture the osprey, so I’ll show you this picture instead:

family-selfie

We stayed in a cabin in Canyon Lodge for two nights, and each night we were so happy to get to our cabin so we could fall into bed! The cabins are very basic; no TV, no phone, and no wifi. But they are very clean and very comfortable, so staying in the park suits us just fine!

canyon-lodge-1

Keep up with our road trip:

The Great American Road Trip: Badlands National Park
Leaving the Badlands and Entering Wind Cave National Park
Not National Parks: Mount Rushmore and Devil’s Tower
Driving Through Wyoming
Struggling Upward: Climbing Mount Washburn
Downs and Ups: Tower Fall

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Downs and Ups

We had finished our hike up Mount Washburn and back, ate our picnic lunch, and it was time to explore more of Yellowstone National Park.

There is one thing that all the amazing photos of national parks don’t show you; they are very, very crowded, especially during the summer months! We stopped at Tower Fall, and due to the amount of people there, I couldn’t get a good view or a picture of the falls. I saw some steps going down, and I thought they would lead to the bottom of the falls. So I started walking down. Ed and the girls are always up for exploring, so they followed me down. We kept going down and there were a lot of switchbacks going back and forth and back and forth. You know what that means, right? When you go down, you must come back up. Eventually.

At the bottom of the trail was the Yellowstone River. A big, beautiful river. But no waterfall to be seen. The river curved in such a way that the steep bluffs hid the water falls from us.

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river-2

After looking at the river, it was time to go back up the trail. Ed and the girls bounded ahead of me. I always keep in mind that Aesop’s tale about the tortoise and the hare; slow and steady wins the race. Well, I never win any races, but slow and steady will get me to the top of a mountain, or a bluff, or whatever I’m climbing. The day had gotten quite warm, and remember, we had already walked 3 miles up to the top of Mount Washburn and back down again that morning. By the time I reached the top of this trail, I was hot, tired, red-faced (literally) and a little cranky. I had to go search for my family in the gift shop, and I was not happy about going into a crowded and hot gift shop feeling the way I felt!

All I can say is thank goodness for my mini-van with air-conditioning! I was soon back to my pleasant self after cooling off.

But the day was not over yet! Why yes, that seems like enough exploring for just one day, doesn’t it?

On our way back to our cabin, we spotted our first bison in Yellowstone! We had been wondering where the bison were hiding, since it’s not easy for them to hide.

bison-1

For this section of our trip, we stayed in Canyon Village and we explored the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, which I will share more about tomorrow. Yes, more hiking was involved! I was a very tired mother….

Keep up with our road trip:

The Great American Road Trip: Badlands National Park
Leaving the Badlands and Entering Wind Cave National Park
Not National Parks: Mount Rushmore and Devil’s Tower
Driving Through Wyoming
Struggling Upward: Climbing Mount Washburn

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