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Grand Canyon South Rim

Intermediate
 4.3 (14) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A must-do trail with iconic views of the Upper and Lower Falls and the Yellowstone Grand Canyon!


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Map Key

2.6

Miles

4.2

KM

Out and Back

7,793' 2,375 m

High

7,669' 2,337 m

Low

321' 98 m

Up

319' 97 m

Down

5%

Avg Grade (3°)

15%

Max Grade (9°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Birding · Hot Spring · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall

Family Friendly This portion of the South Rim Trail from Upper Falls Overlook to Artist Point has some of the best views of the canyon without as many dangerous drop-offs as the North Rim Trail.

Overview

This out-and-back leads you along the edge of the spectacular Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and affords some of the best views of Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls. While others scurry from their cars to the edge for a quick look, you can take time to study the intricate beauty of the canyon walls or listen to the roar of the falls and, thus, truly experience the Canyon.

Need to Know

This is a great out-and-back route. It's enjoyable both directions, and you'll likely notice something different on the way back that you missed on the way out. It can, however, be done as a shuttle, if you leave a car at Artist Point or have someone pick you up there.

Description

The trail begins at the parking area for Uncle Tom's Trail/Upper Falls Viewpoint. Follow the walkway from the left side of the parking area to the Upper Falls Viewpoint. Although you are likely to experience crowds here, it is still the best place to view Upper Falls. The falls spills 109 feet over a dense rhyolite lava flow that is resistant to erosion. Immediately downstream, a much softer rhyolite, containing larger amounts of volcanic glass, was more easily eroded by the river.

From the viewpoint turn right and follow the South Rim Trail as it skirts the canyon’s edge. As you follow the trail, look carefully through the trees to the opposite side of the canyon. Cascading through the lodgepoles, down the far wall, is the lovely 129-foot Crystal Falls. The trail loops back to the right an at the 0.4- mile mark you reach the turnoff for Uncle Tom's Trail. This optional side trail descends more than 300 feet in 0.3 miles to the bottom of the canyon. It is the oldest and most famous trail into the canyon, and the closest trail to the face of Lower Falls. When originally constructed by Uncle Tom Richardson in the late 1800s, it included a series of rope ladders that scaled down the canyon walls. Today these have been replaced by an incline stairway containing more than 300 stairs.

Although heavily traveled, the next section of the South Rim Trail, between Uncle Tom's Trail and Artist Point, is truly spectacular! Picturesque views of the canyon and Lower Falls await you each time you break out of the trees. As you continue to Artist Point, take a moment to contemplate how this magnificent canyon and falls were created. Hundreds of thousands of years before the canyon was formed, an ancient thermal basin existed. The hot waters altered and weakened the hard rhyolite lava in the area, allowing the river to cut this deep canyon. Today, Lower Falls tumbles 308 feet over a hard, thermally-unaltered rhyolite flow.

At 1.2 miles you reach the parking area for Artist Point. To reach the point follow the hordes of people northeast through the large parking area, down a few cement steps, and veer left out to the viewpoint. There is a reason this is the most popular spot in the canyon -- it has by far the best view! Similar views from the opposite side of the canyon inspired Thomas Moran in 1871 to make sketches and take notes from which he later painted his famous oil of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Lower Falls.

To finish the route, retrace your steps to Uncle Tom's Trail parking area. Enjoy the trip, you'll be amazed how different things will appear when heading in the apposite direction.

Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone.

Contacts

Shared By:

Tom Carter

Trail Ratings

  4.3 from 14 votes

#1701

Overall
  4.3 from 14 votes
5 Star
43%
4 Star
43%
3 Star
14%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#37

in Wyoming

#1,701

Overall
162 Views Last Month
3,753 Since Apr 29, 2016
Intermediate

15%
0%
77%
0%
8%
0%

Photos

Rainbow over the yellow canyon, and the steep stairs on Uncle Tom's Trail.
May 19, 2016 near Canyon…, WY
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Sep 10, 2015 near Canyon…, WY
The South Rim Trail has great views of the Grand Canyon and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone!
Mar 5, 2016 near Canyon…, WY
Lower Yellowstone Falls from Artist's Point.
May 18, 2016 near Canyon…, WY
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from Artist's Point.
May 18, 2016 near Canyon…, WY
Looking down river toward Artist Point.
Mar 5, 2016 near Canyon…, WY

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Check-Ins

Jun 30, 2020
Nikhi Sundar
Jun 24, 2020
Mike Nugent
Jun 23, 2020
Graham Mayfield
Great hike to see falls & canyon. 1mi — 1h 00m
Sep 8, 2019
Michelle Peralta
Aug 31, 2019
Caleb Joyce
Aug 27, 2019
Vicki K
Aug 23, 2019
Michael Prevatt
Jul 24, 2019
Irene Makropoulou